Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

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.

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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.

 

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.

15
Nov
17

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

 

 

La Boite Theatre Company has unveiled a trailblazing 2018 season, putting vital female voices at the heart of a season of new Australian works.

 

“It is no surprise that our 2018 season has a vital and strong group of female artists leading the charge,” La Boite Artistic Director and CEO Todd MacDonald said. “Throughout its 90+ year history, La Boite has been heavily influenced by formidable and talented women, from Barbara Sisley and Babette Stephens to Jennifer Blocksidge and Sue Rider. “In 2018, our season tackles global issues, personal narratives, innovative forms, and a host of exciting new collaborations, including four world premiere productions.”

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 season opens with The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek (10 February – 3 March); a new dark-comedy by acclaimed Queensland actor and playwright Kathryn Marquet (Pale Blue Dot), co-produced by Playlab. Set in the isolated wilds of Tasmania and described as “McDonagh meets Tarantino”, The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek stars John Batchelor, Julian Curtis, Kimie Tsukakoshi and Emily Weir (pictured), directed by PlayLab’s Artistic Director and CEO, Ian Lawson.

 

 

La Boite 2018 also sees the return of La Boite and MDA’s sell-out, participatory verbatim work The Village (30 April – 5 May), based on the real-life stories of refugees and asylum seekers. Featuring a fearless company of six sharing their life-changing true stories of survival in the face of adversity, The Village stars Cieavash Arean, Arwin Arwin, Silva Asal, Joyce Taylor, Lili Sanchez and Ngoc Phan.

 

Long-time La Boite collaborator Suzie Miller (Snow White; Medea) returns in 2018 with her highly-anticipated new work The Mathematics of Longing (2 – 23 June); a collaboration with internationally acclaimed Gold Coast based dance-theatre company The Farm. Also premiering is a contemporary feminist response to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, by 2016 Text Prize winner Claire Christian, set on 21 January 2017 when women all over the world amassed to protest a Trump-led free world. Led by a fierce female chorus of women including Brisbane’s own Amy Ingram and Hsiao-Ling Tang, Lysa and the Freeborn Dames (21 July – 11 August) features some of Queensland’s brightest emerging talents, with QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts Final Year Acting students completing the QUT Creative Industries co-production.

 

 

Rounding out the main stage season is Neon Tiger (27 October – 17 November); a roaring new Australian play with songs by Julia-Rose Lewis (Samson), composed by Gillian Cosgriff (pictured). Directed by Kat Henry, this world premiere production, in association with Brisbane Powerhouse, stars Courtney Stewart, fresh from her star-turn in 2017’s runaway hit Single Asian Female.

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 offering also sees two of the company’s most-loved works from recent years on tour around the country, including Future D. Fidel’s smash hit Prize Fighter, which returns to south-east Queensland in a special presentation at Logan Entertainment Centre in September. Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female, which premiered to universal acclaim at La Boite in 2017, receives its interstate premiere at Belvoir in February. Also returning is La Boite’s popular HWY (12 – 24 March); an annual festival of readings, showing, workshops, masterclasses, conversations and pitches. Since its inception in 2016, HWY has proven a vital pathway for countless artists and championed several acclaimed new works including Single Asian Female and The Mathematics of Longing.

 

MacDonald said the 2018 program continued La Boite’s ongoing commitment to the development of new work and artists. “2018 is the year of extraordinary collaborations and brilliant local talent,” MacDonald said. “We hold a special responsibility to not just entertain and challenge but to listen and make space, so we will continue to do just that in 2018.”

 

Playwright Suzie Miller said she was proud to be part of this pioneering season of new work. “To be part of a season that’s led by female writers is such an incredible experience,” Miller said. “I remember when I first started my career in 2000 noting that there were very few women playwrights in main stage seasons, so to have come this full circle where that’s the predominant voice in the season is incredibly exciting.”

 

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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.

07
Nov
17

Elizabeth 1 – a chat with Emily Burton

 

Elizabeth 1

A Chat With Emily Burton

 

 

 

Ascending to the throne at age 25, Elizabeth I of England reigned for 45 years.

 

What you might not know is that she secretly considered herself an artist.

 

A ghost-like vision of The Virgin Queen takes her audience on a shamelessly theatrical trip into her deep dark artistic pursuits, poems of pugs, a knack for knickers and mountains of makeup.

 

Part historical fan fiction, part stand-up comedy, and part late night slow dance – welcome to the strange and wonderful world of one of history’s most powerful women.

 

Emily Burton is an actress, theatre-maker, and teaching artist. Her past main stage productions include: Single Asian Female and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Boite Theatre Company; and The SeagullOedipus Doesn’t Live Here AnymoreA Tribute of Sorts at Queensland Theatre.

 
Since graduating from University of Southern Queensland in 2010, Emily has collaborated on numerous independent theatre projects including the multi award-winning A Tribute of Sorts, for which she won a Matilda Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Premiering at La Boite Theatre Company, A Tribute of Sorts was then awarded a return season at the Queensland Theatre in 2014 which boasted a second sell-out season.

 

Emily has toured nationally with acclaimed theatre companies, Dead Puppets Society on The Harbinger, and Grin and Tonic Theatre Troupe. Emily has worked as a teaching artist across Australia with numerous companies and organisations and has a particular passion for bringing the arts to isolated, regional areas of Australia.

 

Emily says ‘When you’re dealing with a character like Elizabeth I, who is so familiar to many people, the challenge becomes about finding a way of portraying her that
hasn’t been seen before. Luckily Ben and I have stumbled on a very strange version of the story, one that also humanises her in a funny way. We go to many different places and periods in the show, it’s ridiculously fun’.

 

How do you tackle a role such as this, one of history’s most powerful women?

The more I learn about Elizabeth I, the more I’m amazed by her contradictions, her courage, and her public vs private persona. I’d be more intimidated, I think, if I was taking on a Cate Blanchett-like interpretation of the character. The brilliant thing about working with Ben, however, is that we’re just jumping whole-heartedly into our own interpretation – which means things can get a little wild and weird. And Elizabeth I isn’t the only character we’re dealing with in this show…

 

What drew you to her, and to this production?

Ben came to me with a rough concept and these poems that Elizabeth I had written. We found them hilarious because some of them are so….well, awful. They reveal Elizabeth as a very normal, flawed person. You don’t often see this version of Elizabeth in the history books. That’s what started it all.

 

How did you prepare? (do you watch all the films or none of them?)

I watched the Blanchett films and parts of some TV shows, but what proved to be the most helpful thing was a massive collection of Elizabeth I’s prayers, poems, speeches and letters. She truly had an incredible intellect. She was writing letters in Latin at the age of twelve. When you immerse yourself in someone’s personal writing you begin to pick up unique traits. For example, I noticed she gave some people she cared about nicknames. All the nicknames are animals – Frog, Little Crow, Ape (poor soul who got given the nickname Ape!). These kinds of discoveries are absolute gold as an actor. Little clues and ideas as to how you might choose to portray them on stage.

 

Have you co-created and co-written with Benjamin?

Yes, this show has been a collaboration between the two of us. It’s being produced as a new work from Monsters Appear.

 

Are there any obvious or not so obvious parallels between women in Tudor England and now?

I imagine there’s a person far more qualified than me who’s written a PhD thesis on that topic! I certainly find that contemporary women (and men for that matter) have a lot more in common with historical figures like Elizabeth I than they might at first suspect. Elizabeth was a human (even if they thought otherwise back then – they considered her Holy).  She worried about whether she was doing the right thing, she didn’t want to let anybody down, she was in love, she grieved her friends when they died – I can relate to all of that and I think audiences can too.

 

Are there any particular aspects of The Virgin Queen’s reigning period that you have enjoyed bringing to light?

Without giving too much away, there’s some dancing in the show that I’ve found particularly enjoyable! However, it’s probably important to note that this isn’t an historical period piece; we don’t overtly look at specific events from Elizabeth’s life. We have integrated significant elements of her life far more subtly into a new story. There are plenty of films and television out there that focuses on major events of Queen Liz as an historical figure. We didn’t want to give an audience something they’ve already seen. We hope to reveal a more vulnerable version of Elizabeth, inspired by her poetry, letters, speeches and prayers. We’ve been more drawn to the strange facts and knowledge about Elizabeth’s life like how many dogs she owned and their names, and why she owned a brooch in the shape of a frog. It’s our attempt to humanise her in a really, well, daggy, unique way. Personally, I find that appealing and she becomes far more relatable as a character on stage.

 

Can you talk about the style of the show?

 

As one might expect from Ben and myself, it is a show that will look beautiful and sound strange. We’ve created the show for touring and festivals so it’s quite stripped-back and minimalistic. The show isn’t 100% about Elizabeth I – there’s another character too, a woman from a different time, who calls upon Elizabeth I for help in a time of crisis. The show is part comedy, part tragedy, part seance.

 

Can you talk about your vocal work in this show?

I did a lot of research into what kind of accent Elizabeth should have. Because there is no recording of her voice, no one really knows how she sounded. This allows some freedom, but there is a tricky balance to strike – Ben and I didn’t want to pick an accent so extreme that it becomes a distraction for the audience, but you still want something that represents her status and time period. Hopefully we’ve found that balance. With a second character in the show, I’ve been working on vocal transitions between these characters quite a bit. It’s a part of my job that I find particularly fun!

 

What are your top tips for performers to keep a healthy voice, healthy body, healthy mind?

 

Well, the voice and body are relatively simple (although certainly not easy!) – eat healthy and exercise. Sleep is absolutely vital for me and is something that I think a lot of people underestimate!

 

Keeping a healthy mind is less simple. Mentally, spiritually, self-compassion is incredibly important. Ultimately though, my best advice for other performers would be: Don’t try to be everything, just be you. That is your strongest asset. Use it in every moment.

 

Can you talk about working with Benjamin Schostakowski?

It’s been a series of ongoing disasters. In the best possible way. Strangely, we both became new parents within two weeks of each other, so we have been making a new show with the added delight of raising newborns. The scheduling has been interesting to say the least. I love working with Ben. It’s rare to find a creative companion where you collaborate so easily. When we’re working together the ideas seem to bounce along and flow very easily. We have the same unusual, warped, sick sense of humour. We make each other giggle, which is fun.

 

What’s your favourite part of the creative and rehearsal process?

Well, usually it’s getting to work with the other actors and finding that unspoken language within an ensemble, but considering this is a one-woman show, that doesn’t really apply here! I also particularly enjoy the process of pulling a character apart and searching for all their quirks and mannerisms, then slowly building them up again. I’m a perfectionist, so I love getting down to the nitty-gritty details.

 

What does down time look like?

Rare, now that my husband and I have a new baby. But overall pretty normal I think. Every day usually ends with me and my husband on the couch with wine watching television! We’re watching Star Trek at the moment. Stranger Things next. Ooooo, and binging Selling Houses Australia…that’s normal, right?

 

Are you the person at the party who gets funnier as things get louder / quieter / later?

I’m the person who doesn’t go to the party. Or if I do, I’m with the other introverts in a corner giggling and talking about how much we’d prefer to be quietly drinking beers over some nerdy boardgames.

 

What’s the significance of presenting the show within Wonderland?

Wonderland’s a fantastic space for performers, and I’m really proud to be associated with a program that so strongly supports Queensland artists. That’s vitally important. There seems to be a dwindling number of roles for Brisbane/Queensland performers, so a festival that provides opportunities for us to show what we’ve got is exciting. Wonderland will be the premiere for this new Australian work. We’re planning to develop it more and tour it to festivals/other companies in the future, which is an exciting prospect.

 

Do you subscribe to a particular method/approach to acting?

No. Whatever works for you is the right way to do it. I do think there’s a danger in subscribing too much to one method and limiting yourself. I’ve learned a lot from my mentors that you’ve got to keep yourself open. However, having said that, I’ve studied/read nearly every acting method out there. I think it’s important to keep a wide range of tools in your toolbox, so to speak. Personally, I’ve found every show/character is different and I tend to use different methods according to what it needs.

 

What are your top three audition tips for actors?

 

When you can, read the whole play.

 

Learn your lines.

 

Don’t build your audition off what you “think” the director might want. That’s impossible to know. Build your audition as to how YOU would perform it. A director wants to see you, that’s all.

 

 

What do you love about performing?

Comedy is the best drug.

 

Live performance, connecting with an audience, all believing in the make-believe for a little while, is the greatest reward.

 

 

 

 

Can you tell us about your training and getting a foot in the door of a highly competitive industry? (What keeps you in it?)

I studied acting at university – and generally speaking, I still advocate for training at an institution. Mostly, for the community that it connects you with. Community is everything. Apart from that, it’s all about auditioning and saying yes. My connection with Ben came about because I did a super small reading at La Boite years ago that I just got through uni mates. Once you get a gig, be kind and be pleasant to work with. The more positive connections you make, the more work you tend to get – in saying that, I’ve just had over six months where I haven’t done much work, and you get patches where the tide goes out – but that’s true for everyone. You’ve got to find a way to be okay with that. That’s the job. It’s certainly hard, but I stay in it because I love it and I believe (perhaps rather romantically) in the power of theatre and it’s ability to move people and affect change in the world.

 

How do you feel about work / life balance?

It’s like a beautiful destination, always on the horizon, that I never actually arrive at. Like everyone else, I’m still figuring it out.

 

What would you be doing if not acting?

A psychologist, probably. Or Speech pathology. Dog groomer? Although I must say I’ve enjoyed helping to write this show and other writing I’ve done this year. Or maybe I’ll just run away and open a fruit barn, get some bees and chooks and live in the country somewhere. 

 

How do you feel about arts awards?

They’re very nice, but not important.

 

What do you feel are the strengths and challenges of Brisbane’s performing arts scene?

 

In regards to challenges, Brisbane seems to mostly have the same challenges as the rest of Australia. Audiences are getting smaller and we need to get creative about how we solve that. I don’t think the answer is solely in getting more funding from the government. Often it feels like we look to that as the answer that will solve all our problems, but in my experience, more money doesn’t mean more work OR better quality work.

 

In terms of strengths, Brisbane has some of the most creative artists in the country, even in the world. As a state, we generate a LOT of new work. We’re very good at that. While we aren’t necessarily always accepted down south, (for reasons that are unknown to me) internationally, we are incredibly successful.

 

What’s your next challenge?

I’m thrilled to be performing in the Opera House with the Dead Puppet Society as they take their show The Wider Earth to Sydney Festival next year. I’ll also be reprising my role in Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female when it’s remounted at Belvoir Street Theatre next year.

 

What’s your next treat/trip away/special event/break?

Christmas! My family lives at Coffs Harbour, so very much looking forward to the beach, beers, and fresh seafood!

 

 

Emily Burton stars in Elizabeth 1 during Wonderland Festival 2017 (November 23 – December 3) at Brisbane Powerhouse December 1 – 3.

Book here.

 

26
Oct
17

Containment

Containment

Directors of the Extraordinary

Brisbane Powerhouse

October 18 – 29 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

…technology is an agent of change

Robert LePage

 

You have 60 minutes to save the world.

 

When a mysterious epidemic breaks out in Atlanta, an urban quarantine is enforced, leaving those inside to fight for their lives as local and federal officials search for a cure.

 

Sound familiar? Directors of the Extraordinary cite Contagion and Resident Evil as inspiration for the narrative of a new live action adventure game, however; the above blurb comes from the Netflix Original series, Containment. It wasn’t a big hit, but this Containment can be.

 

If the technology were to fail, this production would fail overall, but the tech component is its backbone and ultimately, the hero of the show. It’s sensational. It almost makes up for the fact that I was prepared to be terrified and wasn’t… While this is disappointing on one level, on another I felt relieved that there was nothing I couldn’t cope with. I think it’s common knowledge that I’m the audience member you don’t ask to participate, so even showing up to experience this event can be considered a win for me (and for their PR). I was resistant too, to the fact that we were required to complete a series of tasks and actually think our way through, rather than passively watch something being played out on stage. Even some of the most “immersive” theatre companies around the world are simply putting their audience in amongst the action, and not necessarily assigning them roles or tasks to complete within a time frame OR DIE. I had to surrender disbelief, give over to the competitiveness of the game, and work with Sam to reach the end.

 

 

The platform is the strongest element. Audience members are issued with an iPad per “team” (2-6 players – pre-register for the same session so you can play together). The challenge is issued via video and a purpose built app allows participants to input their results as they accomplish a series of tasks that, hopefully, will lead them to success, i.e. saving the world from zombiefication.

 

The live performances are the least impactful element, which is strange, but not when you realise that they’re all volunteers. We see six zombies wandering around the Visy theatre and another couple as we walk down the corridor backstage to the Turbine Studio space. We assume they’re doing what they’ve been told they need to do.

 

With a professional cast comprising more experienced actors and the skills to engage in extended interactions with audience members, we’d enjoy the experience so much more. I was pleased to hear that a number of punters have sat in the corner to engage in conversation, a character named Mango, as we did, and with more of that happening throughout the game, we’d be super impressed with the live performance element as well as with the technology.

 

While the space is cleverly utilised, sending us across three of the four levels of the Powerhouse, all zombies (or “survivors” – can we call them that?) are actually contained already within three secure areas, which feels like the risk is lower than the brief had indicated. A more satisfying experience would allow performers to roam over the entire Brisbane Powerhouse space – and not be confined to the Visy and its backstage area. I imagined there’d be zombies roaming around the building, around its outskirts as we arrived, or lurching at us from behind walls and around corners, and hauling their rotting bodies past restaurant windows, frightening wedding parties (there are always several at the Powerhouse on a Saturday) and the drinkers and diners who don’t always realise (or remember) that they’re at a performing arts venue. Impractical. Perhaps. Memorable? HELL YES.

 

 

In the end, it’s really the attitude that determines the overall quality of the experience. Attention to detail matters – if we’re prepared to suspend disbelief the experience will be exciting and at the conclusion, satisfying, having fulfilled the requirements of the tasks in the time allocated. We’re sucked into the competitiveness of the game – the exquisite pressure of a strict time limit (a timer in the top right hand corner of the iPad counting down for sixty minutes) and high stakes – that Dr Winton, and the staff and visitors to the facility will perish if we fail to formulate an antidote in time.

 

After being welcomed and asked to leave jackets and bags and keys in a box (potential for another sort of super interactive take-home show right there) we’re briefed by Ash, a co-collaborator and performer. We’re asked to step into Hazmat suits and take a team photo, and the scene is set. Dr Alice Winton instructs us via video to find the details required to gain the security clearance we’ll need to discover the correct formula for an antidote that will save the world from infection and subsequent zombie domination. Game on.

 

 

Containment is the ultimate group fun, in simplest terms for the sake of an explanation, it’s the new skirmish, but it’s far more sophisticated than that. In other versions we could probably get messy, but as it is, this production doesn’t ask audience members to be accosted by performers or fluids. A whole different suit would be required (you can take these suits home if you desire!).

 

Unsurprisingly, the corporate training experiences are the bread and butter of the suite of services offered by Directors of the Extraordinary, but it’s the theatrical experience that obviously excites Director, Simon. Originally introducing Escape Hunt Rooms to Brisbane, after seeing for themselves the success of similar interactive experiences in Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York City, the company now offers three unique experiences for groups, with more on the way. Simon tells us that his brother, the tech head of the business, is currently in Adelaide delivering an entirely immersive and interactive experience to one hundred pharmaceutical industry members. This requires them to complete research and data input tasks, and bid against one another in a virtual business world. Without limits on this sort of training and technology, not to mention live theatrical gaming experiences in the style of Containment, it will be exciting to see Directors of the Extraordinary step more fully into this space.

 

Directors of the Extraordinary wanted a live, immersive and interactive experience in which everyone was “kept in the world” for the duration and had a great time. The response from participants has been favourable so far. It’s exciting to see such a sophisticated first-time gig, with massive potential to tour and take over festivals and spaces all over the world, starting right here in our backyard, at our favourite versatile venue.




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