Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

17
Aug
17

The Hamlet Apocalypse

 

The Hamlet Apocalypse

The Danger Ensemble

Judith Wright Centre

August 9 – 19 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Danger Ensemble refuse their audience to be complacent. They demand you listen, give yourself over, interrogate, ask questions, and to leave the theatre with something burning in your gut – good or bad. The Hamlet Apocalypse has had seasons at La Mama, Adelaide Fringe and La Boite Theatre Company (2011), and now explodes into the Judith Wright Centre.

 

Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is used as a portal for the audience to observe the familiar, crumble it into dust, and seek out the truth. In the beginning each actor introduces themselves and their character(s). This show is about welcoming the end, following each person traversing their own path to inevitable doom. Shakespeare’s words are used to reveal the actor’s true self and expose their own personal regrets, fears, and secret longings. Counting back from 10, each section shows the world of Hamlet disintegrating and the character’s fighting to utter their last words as the actors burst forth to have their say.

It wasn’t all depressing. There were moments of lightness and hilarity, embracing the absurdity of the Bard’s language, and poking fun of the process of making theatre and (yes, sometimes you can’t afford to have a horse on stage) its limitations. If you’ve ever witnessed a Danger Ensemble show, you know the movement is meticulously precise and beautiful. A favourite moment for me was when someone sat down too late or moved at the wrong time, only to be scolded by the rest of the company and insisting they repeat said movement before continuing. GREAT, YES!

 

 

The essence of this show is about discovering what or who you value the most at the end of all things. Who is your last thought? What is your last defiant act? The audience is privileged to hear the actor’s whisper or scream out their confessions and this is what makes the work powerful. I can only say I wanted more stillness in these moments. Wait! Slow down. I didn’t hear what you said. Stay with me! As the countdown continued, the delivery of the text quickened as the madness of the apocalypse was taking hold. I was lost in the blur between fiction and reality and grappling with the meaning of it all. That was the point. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always get what we want. We are caught up in moments, wishing time would slow down.

The Hamlet Apocalypse is stunning, and will shock and surprise you. It may take some time to figure out what it means to you personally. For me, the experience is a fist punch to the heart. It’s the moment you see an ex-lover on the street and your stomach lurches. All the memories flood back. The first kiss, those last words. It’s beautiful and harrowing, and in a flash, they pass you by.

Artistic Director Steven Mitchell Wright continues to deliver captivating productions that keep you up at night questioning everything, perhaps yearning to live a little more dangerously. His creative team are courageous and it was clear that the performer’s left their hearts and souls on the stage opening night.    

 

 

 

10 years ago, The Danger Ensemble was founded and named such – not to demonstrate an aesthetic or overt risqué attitude but to remind the company to always be uncomfortable, to be in danger of failing. This last decade has provided much opportunity and support for the company and Brisbane has been a wonderful home for us.

As our birthday rolled around the company asked itself big questions, including are we relevant? does our investigation sustain us? should we continue as a company? is Brisbane the best place for us to be? are we still uncomfortable?

We have grown and changed in this last decade too. We have made works that we vehemently stand behind, we have made works that we would prefer to never speak of again. We have always tried to uphold an ambition in the work and risk failure. We have been supported and funded by almost every organisation or venue we could have been – we have always had great audience numbers and good support from local media. We have worked with incredible artists, producers, creatives and it was amazing. was.

The ecology here has changed dramatically, this is true nationally also – we are now in an era of increased conservatism in programming, in funding and in audience attendance. This is a reality. Money is difficult, it always has been. Opportunities are fewer for everyone. The avenues for independent organisations have dwindled. This is hugely problematic as often they are the ones that provide genuine opportunities for emerging artists – investing in their artistry, and provide work that sits in counter to main stage commercialism. Brisbane City Council and Arts Queensland need to take a very serious look at the way they are supporting local artists as well as young and emerging artists through their funding and venues as right now, independent companies are being forced to grow like weeds out of the cracks in the concrete. It’s not healthy and these companies may not survive, let alone thrive. Our theatre is boring and dying. We would be remiss if we didn’t call these things out but they are secondary to our announcement.

Brisbane, despite being our home and such an incredible supportive city – we have become too comfortable here – and it is time for us to leave you.

It is with smiles slapped across our mouths and some tears in our eyes that we announce The Hamlet Apocalypse will be our final major theatrical work* as a Brisbane-based company. In 2018, we will be making the pilgrimage that many artists have before us and planting roots in Melbourne: to be inspired by a new place and new artists, to force ourselves to redefine who we are and what we do, to reunite with old lovers, introduce ourselves to new ones and to make ourselves nervous and uncomfortable again.

Brisbane, thank you – we love you and we will be back – you will always be our home but no longer our house.

Photo by Morgan Roberts. The Hamlet Apocalypse rehearsals – East Brisbane Bowls Club.

*keep eyes peeled for a limited ticket event-come-goodbye party in November.

 

 

 

     

13
Aug
17

Mozart Airborne

 

Mozart Airborne

Expressions Dance Company & Opera Queensland

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

August 4 – 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

We imagined a collaboration where music, voice and movement are equally valued and which brings our artists and our respective audiences together in celebration of all the flaws, foibles and magnificence of the human condition.

Directors’ Note, Lindy Hume and Natalie Weir

 

It was an inspired decision by artistic directors Natalie Weir and Lindy Hume to join the forces of Expressions Dance Company and Opera Queensland in interpreting some of Mozart’s electrifying and beautiful arias and piano works.

The result, Mozart Airborne, opens QPAC’s newly refurbished Cremorne Theatre, a perfect space for this intimate and emotion-filled performance.

The six EDC dancers and six OperaQ singers (all recent graduates or alumni of the Queensland Conservatorium) perform pieces by six choreographers. The brilliant and expressive playing of pianist Alex Raineri, onstage throughout, is the heart of the performance.

The twelve pieces making up the program include a variety of music and combinations of performers, proceeding without a break for just over an hour. No narrative thread connects the pieces: rather, they present a variety of emotions and energies, likened by the artistic directors to an anthology of short stories. The choreographers were asked to interpret the music of the arias, and, while understanding the words, not necessarily literally interpret the text.

The order of the pieces and changes in mood keep the attention engaged. The building intensity of the final third of the program, culminating in the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem, provides an emotionally satisfying experience, resolving in the Lacrimosa’s final amen.

Choreographed by Natalie Weir for the whole cast, the Lacrimosa is solemn and unearthly. The shifting patterns and groupings of the ensemble evoke religious ritual. In repeated surges of movement, one dancer is lifted above the whole group, echoing the soaring music and the final appeal for mercy.

The performance opens with the limpid, poignant Fantasia in D Minor K397, also choreographed by Weir. To this solo piano work, the singers and dancers move across the stage, EDC’s Richard Causer seeming to observe the others as they pass by. His hands wind around each other as if he is trying to hold onto something.

Weir’s third piece, Là ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni, represents a flirtation between a man (dancer Jake McLarnon and baritone Samuel Piper) and a woman (dancer Elise May and mezzo-soprano Melissa Gregory). While the duo is playful, the exultant and passionate movement, with its spectacular lifts, matches the richness of the music and the voices.

Richard Causer has choreographed a riveting piece on Das Lied der Trennung K519. For tenor Dominic Walsh and dancer Michelle Barnett, it is about the anguish of two lovers forced to part. Walsh stands still, in a shaft of blue light, pouring out a stream of beautiful, heart-wrenching sound, while Barnett winds around him. The intensity and power of her movement within a restricted space compellingly convey grief and desperation.

Mozart Airborne is a very special experience. The concept of the collaboration between the two companies is beautifully realised, with total integration of the music and the movement—and of the dancers and the singers, whose movement and acting blended seamlessly. This performance made me oblivious to everything else, suspended in multiple expressions of Mozart’s sublime music.

04
Aug
17

Blackrock

 

Black Rock

La Boite & QUT Creative Industries

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

July 26 – August 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

Cast your memory back to when you were young(er). Was there a secret you kept for someone? A secret that twisted your insides, and opened your eyes? You saw a person you thought was your best friend in a different light. And you told their secret…

Black Rock is a beachside suburb where Jared (Ryan Hodson) welcomes home his friend Ricko (Karl Stuifzand). Ricko is wild and speaks before he thinks. He’s the guy who walks that fine line of having a laugh, and throwing the first punch. There’s a history between Jared and Ricko. They’re mates, till the end of time, yeah? And the boys have each other’s backs. Toby (Tom Cossettini) is turning 18 and his party turns into a welcome back for Ricko. All the kids from Black Rock are there, and you bet the alcohol is flowing!

Tracey Warner was found dead on the beach that night. She had been raped and her skull bashed in. Toby’s sister (Jessica Potts) found her. Rumours were going around that Tracey was a slut. She asked for it. Three boys were questioned, and one of them was Toby. Who killed Tracey Warner?

20 years have passed since Nick Enright’s Blackrock was produced at La Boite. This show presented by the company and QUT Creative Industries AND directed by AD Todd MacDonald is spectacular. It not only introduces amazing performances by the third year acting students from QUT, but also three incredibly talented and established actors, Joss McWilliam, Christen O’Leary and Amy Ingram.

The revolving set, designed by Anthony Spinaze, looks like a mix between a lifesaver tower, a sun-bleached jetty and coastal lookout, giving the audience an intimate insight into a beachside community. It exposes the actors, though being in the round allowed the audience to capture different moments. A subtle touch, a look of guilt…

The entire cast is captivating and vulnerable, and though I know the play I delighted in watching the action unfold. I had forgotten how powerful this work is and how confronting the themes are. Victims today are still silenced, their stories scrutinised, forgotten in the mess of it all… Todd MacDonald did not steer away from the darkness, showing the cracks in relationships, the violence, but also the tenderness and heartache. You melt into the scenes with O’Leary and Ingram as they show raw human emotion without any frills. You believe them completely. McWilliam moves seamlessly from character to character, leaving you in stitches one minute and your stomach burning with rage (on purpose) the next.

There’s no question that it’s the QUT actors who bring this show to the next level with their adventurous physicality and youthful spontaneity on stage.

Yes, there are moments of melodrama but that’s teenagers, right? To see young people at the beginning of their careers giving it their all makes this show a cracker! Karl Stuifzand is a stand out as Ricko. He is both playful and menacing, leaving you on the edge, unsure of what he’ll do next. I look forward to following this young man’s career; he has something electric.      

After the show, I heard mixed reviews and opinions. Why are we watching this work now? It was written in 1995. Nothing has changed and it’s 2017. The power of theatre is to bring light to important issues and demand change. It’s disgusting how relevant the themes explored in this play still are; such as victim shaming and the “boys will be boys” attitude. Isn’t that the point of revisiting these iconic works, and particularly Australian work? We are making and watching this work to educate young people, to start a conversation with both young and old, to teach them (and ourselves) about the importance of self-worth, respecting others and speaking the truth. 

La Boite and QUT Creative Industries have presented a challenging and exciting production, throwing you straight in the deep end. Go and support the third year acting students as they make a tremendously loud and vibrant debut. 

30
Jul
17

My Name Is Jimi

 

My Name Is Jimi

Queensland Theatre

Queensland Theatre Bille Brown Studio

July 22 – August 13 2017

 

Reviewed by Ann McLean

 

 

 

The family story that expands on history and contemporary cultural knowledge brings a powerfully close connection and imbues greater respect, warmth and love. Jimi himself and two of his family take the stage, backed by support cast members that come from the top end.

 

My Name Is Jimi in part, tells of the legacy of an honoured Chief, Jimi’s father, and his efforts to repatriate the remains of his tribesmen and women. It is much more than a history lesson or a cultural demonstration. It isn’t a manufactured product either, for example, one that might be shown to any audience in any context. This is bespoke, funny and very specially crafted to be authentic, touching and strongly memorable. 

A simple theatre is transformed through visual effect and carefully crafted miniature sets, to transpose the whole theatre audience to Mabulay in the Torres Strait. We are in the tropical atmosphere of the islanders, visiting them. It is an honour. Through the bold presence of Jimi Bani (Mabo, The Straits, Redfern Now), the connection is genuine from beginning to end. 

This work communicates the way life plays out, how young folks challenge the authority of their parents and the demands of their cultural mentors to keep learning the dances, songs and stories. It is more that familiar though. This work is revolutionary. It allows in narrative and performance for the audience to immerse themselves in lore and the languages of the family, with the familiarity of matriarchal guidance (tea towel of authority in hand), while also letting us understand the fragility of the languages spoken by our elders and the sadness that brings. It lets us in, to see and feel the respect for this tribe. And it has its big bold moments. 

Strikingly familiar disco music delivered via hilarious portable speaker setup, dance moves straight out of 1982, ubiquitous footy shorts and island-associated shirts all bring the audience closer. We lean in, wanting to know more. And we aren’t disappointed. With amazing care, a terrifying fable for keeping children safe is played out for us, delivering the same vibrant shock that impacts the imaginations of children. And then we are sharing a camp fire lesson between father and teenaged son. 

These moments and plenty of lore through story, as well as music and dance with accessible explanations all comes together in a generous, honest performance. The fine art of My Name Is Jimi is very strong. It is pure joy to see to the work of the actors and crafts people who shaped My Name Is Jimi. It gently and warmly reminds us that in the time before archaeology, a long proud history took shape and there are strong families not far from our familiar theatre. Loving families that are bringing up their next generations of Chiefs, and keeping their culture close; people who deserve our respect.  

 

Caveat: As witness, and for perspective, reviewer, Ann McLean is a third generation great grand daughter of white (Scottish and Irish mostly) settlers, a person educated in Queensland in the 70s and 80s. Her enthusiasm for the respect of First Nation people is born of knowing and sharing time with individual friends and colleagues and their people whose family histories go back millenia. 

24
Jul
17

Short+Sweet 2017

 

Short+Sweet – the biggest little play festival in the world!

Launch Event 

Brisbane Powerhouse

July 26 – August 5 2017

 

Attended by Claire Harding 

 

 

The Short + Sweet theatre and cabaret festival kicked off in style this week, with an interactive collage of contemporary theatre bites that was some of the most entertaining theatre I have had the pleasure of attending. A mixture of short stories and moving movement pieces, the audience was engaged at every turn.

 

 

It was exciting to see the return of old talent and new, including cabaret and musical extraordinaire Emily Vascotto, expertly accompanied by Ben Murry, bearing her soul recounting past love and heartbreak in The Confession, direct from Melbourne Fringe Festival (and directed by Gabriella Flowers). 

 

This theme ran strongly through the entire showcase, including Jamie Kedal and Gina Limpus’ exquisite physical theatre piece, The Attachment Theory, a beautifully choreographed work that is sexy and violent. The pair explored the three phases of attachment, from infatuation through to separation. This was followed by a two-hander featuring Hannah Belansky and Paige Poulier performing a female duologue, which comments on the social expectations of women, and contrasted starkly with the very politically incorrect comedy duo, The Foxy Morons, known for their performances at Queensland Cabaret Festival, showing us through the Aussie country culture, that they are not fans of Pauline Hanson, whom they describe as more vicious than a cassowary.

 

 

Another funny fierce force was life coach, Kaitlyn Rogers, a fitness fanatic who idolises Shannon Noel and Whoopie, which is exactly what she did to the audience. It’s entertaining with enough serious moving moments and issues, addressing political correctness, racism, love and relationships, to give the performance purpose and meaning.

 

The opening night show culminated with a performance from the winners of last year’s event, having developed their work into a full-length show. Written and performed by Caitlyn Hill and Peter Wood, Boys Taste better with Nutella, lived up to the hype, taking the audience on a journey of relationship ups and downs including asking where do we turn to for love? Nutella and the internet! Frederick aims to make himself feel better by gaining popularity and turns a pleasure and pastime into a business eating things for viewers, which is popular in Korea; a trend which has him questioning his relationship with food and body image as he receives backlash for his imperfections and ‘must be cute not fat’. A string of lights, which the actors jumped in and out of, creates the set and shifts the focus from outer to inner monologue, between past, present and future. This tempo, along with the sound tracks and dance pieces, drives the piece and keeps the audience wanting more, remaining true to its Short+Sweet theatrical conventions.

 

 

With a different line up each week, this amazing and entertaining competition is now a global event! With shows across Brisbane and the Gold Coast venues for the next 4 weeks, get along, you won’t be disappointed. 

19
Jul
17

Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse

Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse

Opera Queensland

QPAC Playhouse

July 14 – 29 2017

 

Reviewed by Geoff Waite

 

Being a life-long fan of Gilbert and Sullivan after my introduction to their wonderful operettas as a high school lad performing in Trial by Jury, The Pirates of Penzance, and HMS Pinafore, and in later years The Mikado, I was excited to be attending Opera Queensland’s production of Ruddigore. Perhaps one of the least-known Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, Ruddigore has not often been performed here, so this was a welcome opportunity to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did.

 

While the original opening night of Ruddigore on 22 January 1887 was less than successful, after some modification it went on to be well accepted. Of all the G&S operettas, Gilbert later declared Ruddigore to be one of his three favourites, the others being Utopia and The Yeomen of the Guard.

 

 

In a satirical take on the Victorian Melodrama genre, Ruddigore’s farcical plot employs curses, witches, and disguises, and the intricacies of this bizarre and convoluted plot can be difficult to grasp.The Baronets of Ruddigore are subject to a terrible curse placed on them by a witch long ago – each of the successive Baronets must commit some kind of a crime every single day or they will die in terrible agony. Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, the Baronet of Ruddigore, has been living as a farmer, Robin Oakapple (Bryan Proberts), for years, working up the courage to ask a beautiful village maiden, Rose Maybud (Natalie Christie Peluso), for her hand. Rose is also keen on Robin but as a woman she is bound by the etiquette of the day and cannot tell him of her feelings. In the village in which they live, a group of professional bridesmaids who are desperate to officiate at a wedding, any wedding, none having been celebrated for six months, are encouraging this union. Robin, who was supposed to have died but has been hiding in disguise while his younger brother, Sir Despard Murgatroyd (Jason Barry Smith), assumed the title and the curse, is hiding the secret. His foster-brother, Richard Dauntless (Kanen Breen), a sailor, wins Rose’s ‘affection’ after undertaking to woo her on behalf of the timid Robin. Richard later reveals Robin’s existence to Despard, and Robin then must take his place and the responsibility of committing a crime every day in order to abide by the terms of the curse and continue to live. In the meantime, Mad Margaret (Christine Johnston) who has been driven to madness by her love for the lost Sir Despard Murgatroyd, has appeared and is reunited with Despard, who is now free.

 

 

In Ruddigore Castle, Robin (now Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd) has difficulty perpetrating suitably bad crimes, annoying his ancestors who emerge as ghosts from their portraits in the gallery to berate him. After complying with the direction of his uncle, Sir Roderic Murgatroyd (Andrew Collis) to abduct a lady from the village as a suitable crime, the lady abducted happens to be Dame Hannah (Roxane Hislop), Sir Roderic’s former love and fiancé. They are reunited in love. Robin then submits to Roderic that under the terms of the curse, a Baronet of Ruddigore can die only by refusing to commit a daily crime. Refusing would therefore basically lead to suicide, but suicide is itself, a crime. Thus he reasons, his predecessors “ought never to have died at all’. Roderic agrees with this logic and Robin is freed of the curse. All ends happily with the various couples together again.

 

 

From the light, bright opening, set in an outdoor tea-house by the sea and later in the dark depths of the Ruddigore Castle where the current cursed Baronet and his ancestors’ portraits dwell, the set (Richard Roberts) is nicely complemented by the lighting and effects of Andrew Meadows, giving a modern feel to a piece first performed in 1887, when one feels, the production would not have been so ‘light’. And a few modern terms thrown into the dialogue fit well. The emergence of the baronet ghosts from their portraits in the gallery is a special moment. The acting is tops and I particularly enjoyed the Frank Spencer-like attitude and reticence evident in Robin’s first encounter with Rose. As expected, the singing is exceptional, from leads and chorus alike, with The Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Roland Peelman providing exhilarating accompaniment with Sullivan’s music.

 

 

This is a comedy and much of the credit for the expression and impact of Gilbert’s libretto is due to the Director, Lindy Hume and her assistant and Choreographer, Rosetta Cook. The portrayal of Despard Murgatroyd and Mad Margaret as Salvation Army officers touting timbrels on their return to normal life is classic. And the extension of those timbrels to the whole cast for a rousing timbrel- shaking finale made a fitting end to a most enjoyable show that you should see.

18
Jul
17

Wogs In Love

Wogs In Love

4Stage Productions

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

July 6 – 14 2017

 

Reviewed by Claire Harding

 

Wogs_in_Love

 

Two star-crossed lovers from different backgrounds are destined to be together, but there’s problem… Anna’s father Niko.

 

Wogs in Love premiered at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane this month, the first offering by Brisbane playwright Greg Andreas. Originally written in 1986, it was lost and then rewritten for today’s audiences, which explains why it feels somewhat dated, although the topics of racism and assimilation into multicultural Australia are still relevant. It is the third offering by newly established Brisbane Theatre Company, 4 Stage Productions, and it’s an ambitious piece, which could have benefitted from further work to help refine and carve out the golden moments, as the actors seem to struggle to find the motivation for their characters. Given the general high standard of Brisbane theatre at the moment, this leaves the piece feeling less than the polished and professional product expected.

The story is centred around a Greek family who are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their culture in a modern Australian setting. The younger members feel constrained by their patriarchies expectations; that Greek is better and that they are expected to associate with, and in Anna’s case marry someone from their own culture before moving back to the idealised mother land. Anna (Melanie Bolovan) has other ideas and is in love with a ‘Skippy’ David (William Toft). Both performers bring their youthful energy to the piece. Anna’s father Nico (Colin Smith), despite his best efforts, is unable to change and allow his children to have control of their own destiny. His love for his homeland and his frustration at losing his traditions and control of his family, builds to a climactic racist rant against all other cultures.

There are humorous moments with Costa, Anna’s simpleton brother (Carl Figueiredo) and her mother (Katrina Devery), who had good comic timing and some funny asides to her family. David’s Australian parents (Andrea O’Halloran and Tony Nixon), were just as simplistic and racist towards anyone outside of their own ‘bogan’ culture, which added to both the comedy and tragedy of the piece.

Most of the laughs were for the silent Greek grandmother (Johansee Theron); a permanent fixture on the couch whose slight movements and observations throughout the piece made for some funny moments. However, the anticipation to hear her speak was dashed, as her musings were not as profound or impactful as expected, leaving the audience disappointed at a lacklustre conclusion.    

The costumes, setting and split staging invited the audience into the period and the character’s homes, but failed to capture the vibrancy of the time, and was confused by the addition of the 1950’s fridge. With further work, this production would improve, but in its current state, it’s an ambitious choice for a fledgling company who have had so much success until this point. Let’s see what they offer next.