Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

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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11
Dec
17

Elizabeth I

 

Elizabeth I

Brisbane Powerhouse & Monsters Appear

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

December 1 – 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

03
Dec
17

Love / Hate Actually

Love / Hate Actually

Brisbane Powerhouse & Act/React

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 30 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

25
Nov
17

There’s Something About Mary(s)

 

There’s Something About Mary(s)

Brisbane Powerhouse & Cassie George

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 23 – 26 2017

 

Reviewed by Amelia Walker

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

18
Nov
17

Spectate

 

SPECTATE

Counterpilot

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

November 7 – 8 2017

 

Reviewed by Amelia Walker

 

 

When you purchase a ticket to see a show, perhaps taking a friend or loved one along on a well-deserved night out, do you imagine that you’ve escaped the responsibilities of your day-to-day life?

 

Does a 90-minute production help you feel as if you’ve broken out of the shackles, the bars, or the straightjacket that locks you inside the monotony of a regular life?

 

Do you feel any guilt for your viewership?

 

Brisbane-based innovators of theatre, Counterpilot, have brought together elements of live performance, technology, and the flare of illusion in order create their trans media work, Spectate. Houdini, struggling through his final performance, is at the heart of the work, with intercutting flashes of his personal life, layers of commentary, and contemporary references framing his story.

Houdini may be known for creating spectacles of illusionary and wondrous feats, but Spectate unravels the mystery and reveals the trick: behind the smoke and mirrors is a man. A human man. And just like his audience, that man isn’t sure what to believe in either.

Counterpilot didn’t make the regular theatrical attempt to perfectly represent the narrative’s location through their set, saving the real ‘how did they do that’ reaction for their use of technology. This choice deflected focus from noticing how beautifully a costume was sewn, or how realistic a window appeared to be, and instead allowing me to observe the impressive nature of constructing a show like Spectate.

This use of technology has ensured that audiences not just consider what they are seeing, but evaluate why they are seeing it at all. Wearing headphones for the majority of the show, audiences are enrolled in layers of inner-dialogue from regular theatregoer characters. These people whose inner-thoughts I was privy to, had a life that could be physically interacted with. But whilst I could hear the coughs in the soundscape, and even text with an old friend of one of the characters, the show is an unusually isolating experience.

Journeying through the life of Houdini (Toby Martin) was a compelling look at how this man was at odds with his ability to create illusions but inability to believe in anything without evidence. However, this narrative didn’t capture me the way the inner-dialogue characters managed to. What kept me invested in the outcomes of Houdini’s performances was the evaluation of the role of an audience member escaping their regular life, who is ironically frustrated when the man regaled for his ability to escape, fails to deliver the magic.

The impressive optical illusions mainly constructed by Martin & Cameron Clark, in role as a stage technician, were all built onstage in plain view. Counterpilot weren’t trying to pull wool over eyes; they instead had me wonder why people wanted to be fooled in such a way in the first place. Where was the joy in seeing something you know is a trick?

 

I came to think that perhaps it is only human to want to escape a world where science leaves no room for doubt, no room for magic, and where the limitations of life can be despairing. This appeared to be the point of focussing on Houdini’s escape story; his obsession with dismantling faith with evidence only led him to despair.

 

Martin’s performance humanised a sensationalised man, and his depiction of surmounting stress was done subtly and effectively, rather than falling back on the descriptions delivered by the inner-dialogue character to carry the meaning. This wasn’t always the case with the illusions themselves, as the headset had to lead my experience of being discontent with the illusions Houdini was performing. The thread of the breakdown could have been woven into the set design so as to support Martin’s growing fatigue, but in all other facets the work dematerialised wondrously.

The project ambitiously interweaves live and pre-recorded sound and visuals throughout the on-stage performance not only to tell the story, but to point at what the artists are doing. Referencing the creation of theatre and the act of deciding to be an audience member may appear to be a message just for the arts community, but I would argue there’s a larger appeal.

 

 

Spectate suggests that it is not just an artist’s vice to want to escape the reality of life, but a human endeavour. Whether it be picking up a book, or watching TV, or creating art, we will find a way to leave behind our responsibilities, even at the cost of someone else’s’ safety and sanity. Perhaps we should feel guilty for this. Perhaps we shouldn’t ask a man who’s clearly swept up in his own issues to perform death-defying stunts so that we don’t have to think of the bills we have to pay later, or our work colleague we hate.

 

Although perhaps we can’t help ourselves.

 

I want more, and with Counterpilot’s promising body of work, I will certainly be looking to fill that desire.

12
Nov
17

The Wizard of Oz

 

The Wizard of Oz

John Frost & Suzanne Jones

QPAC Lyric Theatre

November 10 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.

– Marilyn Monroe

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s London Palladium production of The Wizard of Oz hits the right glittering rainbow tone for its Australian premiere in Brisbane. L Frank Baum’s beloved story, enjoyed by generations since 1900, is brought back to life in a revel of colour and rich scenery. While it seems remiss to miss making more of the famous field of poppies and the flying monkeys, particularly with such talented aerialists amongst the cast, we’ll remain focused on the otherwise visually arresting aesthetic and enduring appeal of the show!

 

 

However, we’ll also just take a moment to note that some of Jon Driscoll’s digital design appears to be used in lieu of  – or in front of – old-school scene changes during blackouts, which others love but by which I’m unconvinced. Without having the same effect as the original film’s black-&-white-to-Technicolor wow moment (remember when you thought the TV must be broken?), it lacks the edgy sophistication to put it at the same level as the rest of the design. The visual impact of both the Emerald City and the witch’s tower for example, reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, is more lasting. Perhaps, like a lot of things Lloyd Webber, it seemed like a good idea at the time and even just a few years later – this version of the show premiered in the West End in 2011 – the projections, including the pre-show scrim design – feel dated. Fortunately, none of these quibbles detract from the overall effect, which is supported by Hugh Vanstone’s cinematic lighting design.

 

 

Director and Co-Adapter Jeremy Sams has worked with Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to bring the YES vote boldly to the stage, which in and of itself is nothing new, The Wizard of Oz (1939) having been claimed long ago as a gay fave film, and Judy Garland the global gay community’s kween. The updates are witty and funny and apt. When the Lion (John Xintavelonis) declares, “I’m proud to be a friend of Dorothy,” he earns heartfelt applause from Brisbane’s loud and proud opening night audience. For some reason the Lion has become that camp character, and Xintavelonis gets the balance just right, without us feeling we’re being beaten over the head with a blunt object.

 

 

He’s an adorable, loveable Lion and with Alex Rathberger as the tap-dancing Tinman, and Eli Cooper as the vague, scrappy, very funny Scarecrow, these three make the iconic characters their own. The very definition of ensemble, they generously support Samantha Dodemaide in her breakout role. (Yes, you might argue that her breakout role was Kathy Seldon in Singing’ in the Rain but I’d maintain that more people will see and retain a lasting memory of her beautifully realised Dorothy).

 

 

Dodemaide is sweet enough and strong enough vocally to make this iconic role her own; she represents all the misunderstood little girls who run away from home and grow up into their big, full, open hearts along the way to their Emerald City. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is sincerely, superbly delivered to us in the most beautifully measured mix, to us and to Toto (this coveted role shared by the most well behaved and affectionate Australian Terriors we’ve ever seen, Trouble and Flick, trained by Luke Hura).

 

To sell a song that’s been over-sung for decades is a tough gig and Dodemaide, with perfect optimism, nails it.

 

 

The indomitable Jemma Rix reprises the green skin and ghastly cackle of Wicked’s Elphie, but this Wicked Witch is the original, and she’s comic book kind of nasty rather than really vulnerable and vengeful, her unforgettable lines delivered with fresh, fun, mischievous energy, and without a spit of sarcasm. In anyone else’s hands this could be the less meatier role and while it’s lacking depth on the page, Rix gives the Witch multiple dimensions and emotions, making her a proper James Bond movie worthy megalomaniac. Her black feathered gown is the fantastic creation of Scenic and Costume Designer, Robert Jones, reminiscent of Maleficent’s high fashion look, and with her conical high hairdo rather than the black peaked witches’ hat of old, this is a savvy and stylish design choice.

 

 

And is there a better fit in all the world for a good witch other than our beloved Lucy Durack? She’s as Glinda as Glinda gets, and again, reminiscent of the role in Wicked, Durack is just as sweet, but without being saccharine, and gentler and kinder from the outset. This role too contains less depth on the page and as testament to the skill sets of both these leading ladies, the characters are made just as relatable as their contemporary counterparts.

 

Also, Durack’s spectacular sparkling gown allows her to enter from above, in full flight, descending like some glorious faery queen, and then the length of skirt, part of the scenery only seconds before, is whipped away to allow her to step into Munchinland. It’s a dazzling effect, but then Durack’s appearance always is.

 

 

Anthony Warlow is in top form as both Professor Marvel and The Wizard, bringing us an original wizened man of many tricks, with a genuine attitude of concern and care for Dorothy’s wellbeing (and, eventually, for her friends). Warlow emanates a warmth that makes both Marvel and The Wizard absolutely loveable.

 

 

The company includes the Sunshine Coast’s Rachael Ward, which is not the only reason she gets a special mention (although we’ll continue to claim her!), but also because our eyes are drawn to her every time she appears on stage. This is an exceptional ensemble – every performer looking and sounding sharp – so it’s no easy task to be a standout amongst them and yet, the statuesque Ward shines.

 

John Frost continues to bring the biggest and best looking musical productions to our venues, and I’ll be genuinely surprised if there’s anyone who is left unmoved by The Wizard of Oz this time around, with its updates and upscaled set (obviously, such a sap is in need of a heart). It’s retained a sense of nostalgia and allowed a whole new generation to see the land beyond the rainbow, and the love that – we have to hope – surrounds them at home.

 

11
Nov
17

Nineteen

Nineteen 

Brisbane Powerhouse & Wax Lyrical Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 9 – 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Barry Stone

 

 

Barry maintains that he doesn’t write reviews, but I love hearing what he has to say about what he sees in Brisbane since he sees everything he possibly can, out of genuine support and passion for the Performing Arts. I’m so pleased he’s agreed to allow me to share his thoughts with you here. Feel free to add your own, below in the comments section. Xanthe

 

Award-winning company, Wax Lyrical Productions, presents the world premiere of Nineteen, a dark comedy about four young men, Noah, George, Adam and Josh, living in a share house. From the outside they seem like fun, loveable larrikins but underneath the bravado and binge drinking lurks something more sinister.

 

Nineteen – For me, a play that has been needed for a while. Young men deciding if they will make it to adulthood. The trials of insecurity, the passions of relationships, the recognition of urges and the deceit amongst friends and for one’s self. It is a scary world trying to be what you imagine you should be. Will you be ‘like father – like son’. What is love and what is sex. What is friendship and what is a man supposed to be. The obsession with the physical, the boredom and the drugs and alcohol. Escape or pleasure. A lot is there in the loneliness of growing up.

 

For many years I have bemoaned the lack of suitable role models for the young man. I have a particular abhorrence of several things proposed as that which should be emulated, such as ‘Be a man’, ‘Stand up for yourself’, ‘Did you fight back?’, ‘Did you win?’, Don’t be a girl’ and ‘Don’t be a poofta’. There is always that obsession – which sport do you follow, don’t dress like a sissy, you know nothing about the kitchen, back-slap but never hug, never show or declare your emotions… Add this to the image in American film and television that all is solved with a gun or a punch. Young men in most sit-coms are portrayed as immature idiots, and selfish like Bart Simpson. Some call it satire, but I bet the vast majority see it as an example. Just like 1984 was a warning not a user manual, as it is now seen.

 

This original play examines the inner workings of a house of young boys. Their closeted affections, homophobia, misogyny, disappointments, and how they cope, or fail to cope. It is about the need they have for each other, but never let it show. The anger is loud and flies rashly and the can or stubby is opened one after another. No, they are not the great successes in life, but our suburbs are full of them and largely they are ignored. Why are they like this and what is society teaching our young men?

 

There is a line and a common attitude propagated that all men are either ‘Rapists or Paedophiles’. Read your newspapers and listen to your media. Accusation alone is now guilt. Aspirational victims are everyone’s 15 minutes. Vigilante justice, trial by media and innuendo leave everyone feeling guilty. To me, all freedoms require a generation to sink in. Apartheid, recognition of indigenous importance, women’s liberation, gay liberation…all have been taking time and when the world swings from one to another it usually leaves someone else behind.

 

Kindness and understanding, acceptance and example are better than accusation and revenge.

 

I seem to have waffled but this is what for me came out of Nineteen. Writer and Director, Shane Pike, has begun a conversation that I hope is joined with true compassion. He has exposed the private life of some of the young Aussie male. The ignored and dismissed. Fewer trips to Bali and more trips to the theatre, where life is thought about.

 

Jason Glenwright gave a wonderful theatrical focus on the action, the narration , the asides. And the peak performances of the cast were gripping. The silences most effective, as I recognise that state of severe boredom and inability to articulate what I have seen in the flesh. Diverse as any group of people can be, the actors both differentiated the characters and united them in a common confusion, loneliness and simply being afraid. Scared little boys lashing out at each other because they are so disconnected with the reality of the world and exactly what a relationship should be, who they are and where they need to stand.

 

Bravo to to the great and gripping talents of Daniel Hurst, Leonard Donahue, Jackson McGovern and Silvan Rus, and thank you for a very fine evening which I do hope both lives on and provokes discussion and a real attempt at true understanding, for from truth will evolve genuine progress.

 

Queensland in particular needs this big discussion. Less talk about how a sportsman is a role model (no matter how many mistakes he makes) and a little less testosterone, greater respect for the arts and acceptance of the rich diversity we do have. The world or the media seems to be promoting a gender war to add to the class war, the race war, the religious war. Calm the fuck down and stop trying to find which persecuted minority you can join. I am over the victim mentality. Be human and cope. You need not be scarred for life. it is not a fate worse than death, it may be none of your business, you are responsible for your own actions. We all have problems but we are all born with the responsibility of developing a conscience. Choose which battles (not all) you want to fight but educate yourself with facts and then give it 100 percent.

 

As I have said over and over, I do not do reviews, but I record what comes to me by attending a performance. This is just how it affected me. This one really did provoke thought and unleashed me.

 

P.S. As if that is not enough there is also some nudity.




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