Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

21
Jun
17

Noises Off

Noises Off
Queensland Theatre & Melbourne Theatre Company
QPAC Playhouse
3 – 25 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

In all probability, an amateur theatre company near you has given Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, a red hot go, and perhaps they shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ve seen on a local stage for some time… Anyway, what a joy it is to fall about laughing at a full-scale professional production! This one’s a beauty, with a stellar cast, and a detailed two-storey set and full revolve (designed by Richard Roberts with lighting by Ben Hughes) to reveal the goings on of putting on a show called Nothing On; it’s all very meta.

Under the fearless direction of Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, and with many doors and sardines and rewrites involved (it’s all about doors and sardines), this cast tears through the text, slapsticks through the spaces in between, and quells any audience fear of having to lie through their gritted teeth at the opening night party to say we thoroughly enjoyed the three-hours, after it felt like we’d endured five. In bold defiance of the one-act-no-interval entree sized shows that have become popular, this feast is served up in three rich courses, each more complex than the next, and only as successful as each set up. Luckily, the hard work in setting up the many gags appears effortless, although we know it is not; with so many tiny details to remember to attend to, and never actually getting a break offstage, even when they are seen by us to be “offstage”, these performers demonstrate athletic endurance and artistic mastery.

 

It’s a uniformly excellent company. Simon Burke as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, leaps up the stairs from the auditorium onto the stage, but only when he feels he absolutely must make an appearance, to coax or console or clarify, as Zach does in A Chorus Line. We hear his voice first, the “voice of God”, a rich, authoritative tone that also captures his enduring kindness and patience, until he lets slip the weary tone of a repertory director who never made it to the West End. At times Burke’s pace is either slightly self-indulgent or beautifully realised – you decide – and when he disappears again, leaving the company in order to direct a highly anticipated production of Richard III (we get a surreal glimpse of the show within the show within the show), you might decide we all know directors like this and it’s the latter; he’s nailed it.

Ray Chong Nee is Gary, a vague actor when talking about the process, but a perfectionist within the process, so that when sardines and phones and bags and boxes are not where they should be, he flips out, unable to improvise or to take the cues from his fellow actors to get through a scene gone awry. We all know actors like Gary. And like Hugh Parker’s hilarious Freddie who plays Phillip, prone to nosebleeds brought on by the demands of being an actor. Steven Tandy is the most delightful elderly Selsdon, an alcoholic actor/bumbling burglar, the cause of much distress amongst the cast when he goes AWOL. Emily Goddard is the gorgeous and hopeless Poppy (ASM) and James Saunders is fantastically funny as Tim (SM).

Libby Munro is Brooke the brunette bombshell, who is credited in the program-within-the-program as being best known for roles such as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good, honest, natural froth’ in an unpronounceable lager commercial. Her fictional bio gives us an idea of the pretty, vacuous thing Munro gets to play as Brooke playing Vicki, proving her versatility after fierce performances in Disgraced, Grounded and Venus in Fur, and also the results of intensive physical training for her first feature film, recently wrapped in LA, Wild Woman. Louise Siverson is sensational as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett and Nicki Wendt as Belinda as Flavia adds a distinctly bohemian diva element to this dysfunctional theatrical family.

 

There really is nothing funnier, or more impressive, than witnessing such disastrous results so brilliantly orchestrated and delivered by skilled performers. Nigel Poulton (Movement Director) has had a field day with complex choreographed sequences of fast and furious physical comedy, and Strong’s attention to detail means that no plate of sardines is left behind…except when it is supposed to be left behind…or is it supposed to be? As well as executing some precision direction, Strong has promoted a generous sharing/mentoring culture throughout the process, having been ably assisted by Leith McPherson (Associate Director/Dialect Coach) and Caroline Dunphy (Assistant Director), with Emily Miller having been invited to share in the artful chaos (Director Observation). Our leading companies, becoming more transparent and accessible each season not only help themselves to promote the magic and wonder of the theatre, but also engage audiences earlier, earning loyalty through genuine relationships between patrons and creatives.

 

This production of Noises Off, probably the funniest meta-farce ever, while not a direct reflection of all that goes on in a theatre company (I guess it depends on the company!), certainly gives us a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, and why as creative types, we need to keep doing it, and guarantees all, whether or not you consider yourself to be a creative type or a comedy type or a trip-to-the-theatre type, an evening of raucous laughter and good old fashioned fun.

20
Jun
17

The Forwards

 

The Forwards

Brisbane Powerhouse, Shock Therapy Productions & Zeal Theatre

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 14 – 24 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

You may or may not be a footy fan but The Forwards is for everyone, no matter your feelings about sport or art, or the inconceivability of combining the two in any way in between opening ceremonies…

because it’s about people.

Stefo Nantsou’s latest show for Zeal Theatre and Shock Therapy Productions was originally written for high school audiences, and while there remains a made-for-school-curriculum quality early in the text, in its set up, this and its humour is what makes it accessible; it’s wide open, literally with something for everyone, and like The Apology, my other favourite work from this Gold Coast based collective, it deserves to go far.

The Forwards ticks all the boxes, but more importantly, it tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us, powerfully, of who we are, where we come from, and the reasons we might feel the need to escape. In this highly physical and confrontational drama, Australia’s small town mentality and a number of universal issues go under the microscope.

 

 

It might not have been you who grew up in a football obsessed town the size of the fictional Pintoon, but you must know someone who did. The stories we have after spending just three years in Mt Isa would make a disturbing evening too, but we’ll let those sleeping dogs lie a little longer. The panoply of Pintoon characters is impressive, and even more so when we realise that this show is performed in schools by three actors rather than five.

Despite each character coming dangerously close to being a Great Australian Stereotype, the immediate recognition (and the nicknames: Twerk, Hashtag etc), are vital, helping us to get to know everyone in record time. (It’s already a slightly longer than necessary show; we only need to see the first or second, and then the final quarter of the match, or each quarter can be a good deal shorter, more effectively applying the tableaus).

 

 

To return to each individual at the end of the play in a beautiful, extended, transformative sequence is a masterstroke, and a masterclass in nuanced physical performance.

Nantsou has shaped the story as if it’s already optioned for a television movie or mini series, and perhaps it might be; there’s certainly a broader audience for this story, and what a refreshing wake up call to see something so Australian, so unforgivably real on our small screens. Using slow motion and choreographed sequences to good effect, we’re sickened by the small-minded, heavy-handed violence throughout – implied and actual – and horrified by the inevitable end.

 

Spoiler alert: there hasn’t been a more terrifying car crash seen on stage since Fractal’s Anywhere Fest production of My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe (2015), which also benefited from mesmerising slow motion sequences and a lighting design by Geoff Squires. I’d LOVE to see these productions done as a double bill at Brisbane Powerhouse (…and Mt Isa Civic Centre). Can you imagine? And afterwards the drinking culture would continue, because we’re gonna’ need something pretty strong at the end of an evening like THAT. 

 

Sam Foster, Hayden Jones and Ellen Bailey bring accomplished performances to the Visy stage,  playing all manner of townsfolk as well as the main characters who harness our hearts and would have us take sides, only we can’t because we’re given all angles to consider and compassion is the only way through.

Bailey as both the jock and his girlfriend is inspired casting; it’s a demanding ask of the actor but she delivers, leaving us in the end with a heart wrenching image of desperate hollow grief. 

Rob Diley and Nantsou bring a number of additional roles to life, and from the outset, carry the garage band sound and energy. The original music played live by the entire cast on stage adds another raw, real element to the production. Without it we’d be left wanting.

With Foster and Nantsou’s simple set design, and Squires’ moody lighting, this school show has grown up and graduated to the main stage. 

There has been one other company to have the same powerful impact on audiences of all ages, inside and outside of the school setting. 

Only Nelle Lee’s Tequila Mockingbird has delivered a similar shock to the contemporary collective system. On one hand it’s surprising that there are not more like it, The Apology and The Forwards, and on the other, it’s possible that the code is just too hard for other companies to crack. Or perhaps the others think the scene is stitched up? Or they’re interested in other things. But there is great demand for these works, due to the desperate need in our secondary schools for real life issues to be brought to the table in powerful, transformative ways that teens can relate to.

If you know a teacher or a school administrator, can you make sure they know about this show? We see the impact of theatre on the whole school community; it should never be just for the kids who do Drama.

The Forwards offers a rare opportunity for our youth and the people who care about them to consider the challenging issues of belonging, leaving, the law, loyalty, love, loss, sex, secrets, pride, rules, respect, envy, violence, entertainment, youth, ageing, country towns, clubs, community, the lure of bright city lights and celebrity, alcoholism, addiction, football and rape culture, and what it means to be a man or woman or mother or father or figure of authority in this country. The jury’s still out on that one. Rather than being condescending or irrelevant to kids’ lives outside of the classroom, The Forwards will make them, and their teachers and parents, sit up and see familiar people and familiar problems in a way that demands discussion.

 

 

With deep insight, sensitivity and a necessarily light touch at times, Nantsou has written and directed an outstanding, hard-hitting theatrical piece to challenge its actors and audiences.

The Forwards is potent and it has the potential to change lives.

Production pics by Garth Ledwidge

17
Jun
17

1984

 

1984

QPAC, ATG, GWB Entertainment & STCSA 

QPAC Lyric Theatre

June 14 – 18 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Lyric Theatre is a venue I rarely visit and I’m always overwhelmed by its grandeur. I witnessed a spectacular and mind-boggling theatrical adaptation of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Co-creators and directors, Duncan Macmillan and Robert Icke found that interrogating the appendix of the book provided a new access point into the work, and helped them devise an exciting and terrifyingly current production.

 

 

For those who have not read the book, this show will have you falling down the rabbit hole, discovering a strange world with fresh eyes, and being confronted with characters you don’t completely trust. Orwell’s dystopian classic, first published in 1949, follows protagonist Winston Smith (Tom Conroy) a citizen of Airstrip One that was formerly known as Great Britain. The world is at war and the government is keeping a close eye on their people. A very close eye. Party leader of the state Oceania, known as Big Brother, has his city under constant surveillance and is swift to persecute anyone who steps out of line. This is a world where individualism is snubbed.

 

Freedom of speech, even the right to own your thoughts, feelings and ideas, will see you “erased” from existence.

 

 

The play opens with Winston writing a diary. To whom he is writing to, even he is unsure. The next generation? Is it a warning to remember the past and history as he knows it? Winston is aware the world he lives in is vile and unjust, eradicating that which does not fit with Big Brother’s ideology, providing a clean slate and obtaining total power. Winston wants to stand up against his oppressors and provoke change. He is also aware of being watched, and could be seized by the Thought Police at any moment. After a romance is kindled between Winston and another citizen, Julia, they decide to risk their lives and fight for freedom.

 

 

Macmillan and Icke intended to create a visceral experience, and they succeeded. There was a tension sustained that never allowed the audience to settle or become complacent. We were continually searching for meaning and truth. Or was that even important in the end? The sound (Tom Gibbons) and lighting (Natasha Chivers) was electric, breathing life into the ever-present and watchful Big Brother, and sending out shock waves, warning the audience to pay attention, “Where do you think you are?”

 

 

The physicality of the actors was next-level and helped blur the lines of reality and false-memory within the show. The “book-club” scene was repeated and each time a new discovery was made, unsettling the audience, as well as Winston who becomes increasingly un-reliable as time goes on. The cast hit every beat that ricocheted seamlessly from one to the other, showcasing how engrossing live theatre can be. A favourite performance of mine was Parsons (Paul Blackwell), whose comedic timing and honeyed vocals made him such a joy to watch. He was the bright light in contrast to Martin (Renato Musolino) who was deliciously menacing; you couldn’t let him out of your sight.

 

 

Winston and Julia met several times in a secluded room where they were free to be themselves, to love each other, and discuss how they could contribute to the rebellion. This room was offstage with a video camera inside that was projected onto the set, allowing the audience to see and hear everything. The lovers were unaware they were being watched. I must admit the use of the video projection for some reason did not work. I understand the intention behind it: Big Brother is always watching, but I felt disengaged. I was straining to connect to Winston, who in these moments had important and illuminating thoughts. I found it funny since we are so used to viewing things on screens nowadays, but I came to the theatre for a reason. Perhaps this was a conscious decision by the creators (and by extension, Orwell) for us as viewers to continue to question the norm.   

 

 

Spoiler alert: when Winston and Julia are captured by the Thought Police and interrogated at the Ministry of Love, the set is torn apart, and in this moment, I screamed inside. I absolutely love when sets are transformed, alluding to a shift of perception; a change in the fabric of the world to which we had grown accustomed. The ending reveals the true identity of Big Brother, who comes to question Winston and everything he thought he knew about himself, about love, sanity, war, the list goes on. Terence Crawford’s performance is supreme as he digs into Winston’s brain, into the audience’s brain. His voice sent me into a trance and I was complacent in watching him torture Winston into admitting he was superfluous. I sat in my seat, gob-smacked, overwhelmed with information, filling up with questions.

 

 

Something that stuck with me is that power will continue to corrupt. There will always be someone at the top and someone at the bottom. This is what makes 1984 a timeless story, and why it’s important to continue interrogating. It speaks to the oppressed and why it is paramount that people stand up for what they believe to be right. I left the theatre terrified with the realisation that everyone is so vastly different. There are numerous cultures, languages, ideologies that often divide humans instead of uniting them. Every individual believes they are standing up and fighting for the right reasons.

 

This adaptation is magnanimous on so many levels. It steam-rolls Orwell’s novel into the 21st Century where the same themes are painfully current and expressed with renewed vigour. It rips you from your seat and spits you back into the world to question everything you thought you knew.

 

This 1984 is a glorious example of the power of theatre.

30
May
17

Lady Beatle

 

Lady Beatle

La Boite Theatre Company & The Little Red Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

John Lennon

We used to sing a song to Poppy when she was little.

Ladybug, ladybug, landed on my stinky toe….. It was so funny; we would giggle and sing bits of it intermittently for days at a time. It still makes me smile (and if we’re honest, we still sing it from time to time).

Did you even know that lady beetles don’t see colour? They see only grey. Perhaps I knew this once, or I should have known it, since my dad is an entomologist and no doubt has told me this and many other fascinating insect facts, but I think I’d forgotten. I’ve never forgotten rowdy closing night parties and random days and nights throughout my childhood, singing The Beatles’ songs at the tops of our voices. There are things that contribute far more than other things to the grown ups we become, and if The Beatles were part of your childhood or adolescent soundtrack too, you probably turned out alright. Poppy, now eleven, agrees that The Beatles are timeless, for every generation, “even if not ALL of my friends have a favourite Beatles’ song.” Poppy’s favourite Beatles’ song is, appropriately, Here Comes The Sun. If you know Poppy, you know how perfect that is.

I’ve been thinking about Lady Beetle Syndrome a lot. A major aspect of our Master of Professional Practice Performing Arts is psychology and self care, and the way in which we, as artists, look after ourselves and support each other. And just as the lady beetles don’t see their own bold beauty, despite our strengths and reflective practice, we often fail to recognise in ourselves the things that appear obvious to everyone else.

 

This sensational show, the third and final in The Little Red Company’s trilogy of pop culture cabaret productions starring Naomi Price (following the hugely successful Wrecking Ball & Rumour Has It), depended largely upon La Boite’s recognition of the company’s previous success and their faith in the creation of new product, even before the creators knew what it would look like. With only the title to start the process, La Boite held space, gifting the luxury of time to the artists, who were able to immerse themselves in a truly collaborative development period in between the demands of touring, managing to keep Rumour Has It on the road while writing and rehearsing Lady Beatle. I don’t think any of our artists strive to be owned by a venue, but La Boite’s Todd MacDonald, like QPAC’s John Kotzas, and our other industry leaders (at Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and Metro Arts), has certainly provided the vital support that makes it less stressful and more enjoyable to be an artist, or a company of artists, creating new work in Australia. Sam Strong was right to insist we begin to recognise that we are, indeed, leading from Queensland in so many ways.

Premiering on the 50th Anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this production is the ultimate deep and meaningful feel-good show, with a guaranteed touring life ahead of it. It goes to Adelaide and Noosa next, and I’ll be surprised if we don’t see it back in town in September for Brisbane Festival. Imagine, in the Spiegeltent! But like Rumour Has It, when it moved to more spacious venues, this show is bound to take on a different vibe, and I do love the intimacy of this first version, using cabaret seating in The Roundhouse, and allowing us to feel as if the stories are special secrets shared between Lady Beatle and her closest friends, i.e. anyone who loves The Beatles as much as she does.

Co-creators, Naomi Price and Adam Brunes, just about perfected contemporary cabaret with the many incarnations of Rumour Has It, but this time they’ve made the experience more personal. Rather than taking on multiple roles or an iconic role, Price is a complex, compelling, mysterious woman from Liverpool who loves The Beatles. She loves them more than anything else in the world. She was there at the Cavern in 1962 for their first ever performance, and recalls watching them running, with nothing to lose, towards the light at the end of a dark tunnel, and into a crowd of hundreds of screaming fans. No fear. Just running towards it all. In the music and personalities of the lads she finds her escape and inspiration, and a way back to a world in which she thought she’d never belong.

With The Beatles in it, the woman’s grey world becomes kaleidoscopic and full of promise.

A rousing, crowd pleasing Yellow Submarine sounds just the way we thought it might (and yes, we sing along), but new musical arrangements allow for a raw, sweet, pure Penny Lane and a dark, sombre, somehow sadder than ever Eleanor Rigby. Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, The Camerata, play Andrew Johnson’s original string arrangement (recorded, mixed and mastered by Geoff McGahan). In true sharing culture style, The Little Red Company has made this stunning track available to download for FREE. The Lonely Hearts Club Band comprises four lads who are easily among our country’s best musicians; we’ve seen the proof of it in previous productions. They are Jason McGregor, Andrew Johnson, Michael Manikus and Mik Easterman. They scrub up well, in suits by Leigh Buchanan. Price wears knee highs and a mod woollen coat dress to start and a sparkling classic red pants suit to finish; very Elle Macpherson/Goldie Hawn/Celine Dion, and both outfits are just right with her black bobbed hair. Jamie Taylor’s sound design and engineering is first class, and Jason Glenwright’s tubular lighting is both practical and magical, retaining the focus on the singer and the songs.

Although I actually want to see Price singing it, it’s fitting that a rendition of Blackbird comes literally out of the dark. Let It Be wraps a proper rock medley, and it’s an ear worm of inspiration and comfort, a reminder of the present moment, to continue to “hurry slowly” through life from the place of stillness and self-love that’s easy enough to find in our quieter moments, but so difficult to carry with us as we go into our busy days and nights.

Lady Beatle is mostly upbeat, but it has some beautifully charged and reflective moments, and while it’s a tribute, with its focus firmly on the life affirming, world changing music of The Beatles, we’re invited to go deeper to consider everything that’s precious in our lives right now. Price is in fine voice; she can twist and shout and whisper and croon and rock! The ultimate entertainer, she opens (and closes) the show with a bang, settling into a friendly, intimate tone from the outset, simply inviting us to join her on a trip down memory lane, into a world of tangerine trees, marmalade skies, and strawberry fields forever. It’s a brilliant concept, a massively appealing and entertaining show, superbly delivered. We’re left with a sneaking suspicion that there’s more to come.

When the band plays and the voice soars, and the entire sold-out opening night crowd sings along, you know you’re at one of the best new shows of the decade. You know you’ll get to see it again.

 

28
May
17

Swallow

 

Swallow

Metro Arts & E.G.

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2017

Reviewed by Stephanie Fitz-Henry & Elanora Ginardi

Who said smashing things up was a bad thing?

 

The fragility and abrasiveness of the human condition is reflected in the glass themes of Stef Smith’s award winning play SWALLOW.

Swallow is vast in the complex themes it explores; ideas about mental health, broken relationships, gender equality, transgender, happiness and acceptance.

A bird flies away, shattered glass lies everywhere, and a door is almost closed. None of these things are particularly important in and of themselves, but I guess we have to start somewhere in describing this outburst by Steff Smith.

The simple art of the stage design – the door, the shattered glass – symbolises the fragile lives of these three characters, discovering in their journey the need to be loved and accepted.

Swallow explores the chaotic ways in which three women continue to survive in the face of psychological and emotional suffering. Each character begins in isolation, disconnected from each other and the rest of society. In their struggle through darkness and confusion they occasionally find a glimmer of hope to keep them going.

Anna (Elise Greig) hasn’t stepped outside of her apartment for two years and is smashing her way through all of her belongings until there is nothing left. 

Rebecca (Julie Cotterell) lives a lonely existence after being dumped by her fiancé, and spends her time drinking away the pain and her physical and emotional scars.

Sam (Helen O’Leary) craves genuine connection and acceptance in the world as a man trapped inside a woman’s body.

The play is raw and challenging for audiences who need to use their imaginations and work a little harder to form their own ideas of what is happening. The experience is a personal one for each audience member. As the play commences, the characters articulate every thought and action in real time. They tell us because they have no one else to tell. They move and speak in isolation as they deliver their fragmented stories. They move around the stage until their paths cross at a point where connection and change is possible. Much of the action occurs downstage, in close proximity to the audience, creating a confronting space. The performances are very physical within bodies and within the performance space, particularly the performances of Greig and O’Leary. Each character’s body is an extension of their minds. Greig gives an engaging and convincing performance as the unstable Anna.

The performances are enhanced by Tony Byrne’s intelligent and perceptive sounds. The narrative told by the soundscape informs the audience and taps into the human psyche.

The minimalist set (concept by Kate Shearer, realised by Jo Grieg & Michael Jones) contains barricades of bundles of timber and broken glass of various sizes around the edges of the stage. These boundaries of desperation surround a raised platform with an illuminated door turned at a 45-degree angle to the audience. There is a strong sense of apprehension, after having ventured into a difficult and unpleasant place, somewhere none of us really want to be, but curiosity kicks in when we get an opportunity to gaze through windows into the lives of others.

The shattered mirrored glass, the rearrangement of the broken glass, the bird, and the closed door. The snow flakes, which are actual bird feathers…  

There is beauty in the grotesque and of the physical interpretation of the characters.

Smith’s text is poetic and her characters are complex and despairing. There is warmth and humour, despite moments of awkwardness.

The play moves through spaces of light and dark, humour and pain, loneliness and connection, courage and vulnerability. The choice to bring the work of an independent writer from overseas to Brisbane audiences is a credit to producers, Elise Grieg and Metro Arts.

Directed by Kate Shearer, Swallow is anchored by the commitment of three well-accomplished Brisbane performers, courageous and vulnerable. It hits as hard as it can hit with its harsh truth of human barriers, and the difficulty to break through them and be accepted.

20
May
17

Blue Bones

 

Blue Bones

Brisbane Powerhouse & PlayLab

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

May 4 – 13 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

 

 

Closing night of Merlynn Tong’s Blue Bones saw the Visy Theatre packed with people. I had been not-so-patiently awaiting this co-production by PlayLab and the Brisbane Powerhouse, and there was much excitement in the room. I was proud as punch for my friend, Merlynn.

In 2015, I saw Tong perform her first play Ma Ma Ma Mad, a one-woman show about her mother’s suicide. She is such a generous artist, sharing true stories of her life that are equal parts heart-wrenching and hilarious. It amazes me, what this young woman has been through, and the light she continues to generate.

 

Blue Bones is a story about young love and the horrors of domestic violence. This is yet another piece of Tong’s heart she offers up, creating art to interrogate and make peace with her past. She conjures up characters on stage with amazing physicality and distinction that help us follow the story and envision her world. She plays friends, teachers, family, morphing from one into the next with ease and clarity.

 

The play is set in Singapore and a projection screen is used to transport the audience to different locations. From a stark school cafeteria, a grungy dark playground, to a stark and grey overpass, images flashed up and accompanied Tong as she revisited her adolescence in a desperate fight to wrench an old lover from the marrow of her bones.

 

 

Ian Lawson’s direction of this work was nuanced and gripping, allowing moments to hit hard when needed. A favourite image of mine was when lines of electric green light cut through the space and Tong transformed into her deceased mother, speaking and guiding her from the grave. That is, at least, what I took from it. It happened a few times throughout the play and it cast a murky haze over me. I felt as if Tong was searching for something…for strength from her mother? It was an entrancing effect, and perhaps it was open to interpretation. I would have to read the play again – and just letting you know it is available for purchase from PlayLab! 

   

There was something about this work that resonated with me, and it took a while for me to articulate. Blue Bones is certainly an emotional rollercoaster. It is beautiful, funny, yet shockingly confronting. There are lines blurred, bruises exposed, though an important message of hope and redemption shines at the end. This story is about a young girl learning about love when all the odds are against her. A girl who was broken, soul and body left for dead, and she learnt to dance again.

 

 

Tong is a captivating performer and one hell of a brave woman.

20
May
17

Deal Or Ordeal

 

DEAL OR ORDEAL

Ms. Demeanours Theatre

Anywhere Theatre Festival

May 10 – 20 2017

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

You know the Channel 7 show Deal or No Deal? What an afternoon delight full of bright wigs, gold cases and a host, it would seem, on copious amounts of speed. Just joking, Andrew O’Keefe is hilarious. But like many of those afternoon programs spending money that our government should be saving to pay back our national debt, the viewers know it’s all a bit of frivolous fun. You can sit back and relax, and trust nothing life-altering will happen.

The creative team behind Deal or Ordeal was very aware of what their consenting audience was to experience. They wanted to start a conversation about Sexual Harassment and Rape Culture in Australia. Ms. Demeanours Theatre explained, “With consent being reduced to a game, and victims being blamed and dismissed, we thought, why not take that concept to a new level?”

This show was a part of Anywhere Theatre Festival, and I arrived at a residence in Highgate Hill, to be seated in a garage set up like a TV studio. There was a shimmering gold curtain and bright lights, it was brilliant!

The audience was introduced to three hosts (Mikaela Hollands, Sophie Gliori and Maddi Romcke), all charming ladies that were loud and over-bearing in their cause to win us over. The games resulted in sharing shocking facts about sexual harassment and rape in Australia and involved audience participation, but only to those willing. Before we entered, we were given a card that said DEAL on one side and NO DEAL on the other. If getting up on stage was too terrifying a thought, then you’d show the NO DEAL sign and you were saved from being forced to do anything you didn’t want to do. The audience’s consent was cherished during the performance. 

The work runs a fine line of being annoyingly over-the-top and cringeworthy, as well as being confronting, honest and informative. This was an intentional choice to allow people to enjoy the “entertainment” side and immerse themselves in the “game,” yet remaining unsettled because of the horrible topic being discussed. There came gasps of horror at some statistics – this show packed a punch!

The ladies made sure to acknowledge their awareness that men are also victims of sexual harassment by female perpetrators, however; they chose to focus around their own personal experiences in the creative development of the show. The focus on men was tedious at times, though ultimately it was the right choice to go with. I did ponder afterwards, what it would be like hearing from the male perspective…? 

My favourite moment came at the end when the three hosts dropped character, removed the blue wigs, and the performers as themselves were revealed. They each stood before us and recited a poem about one of their most intimate experiences. I applaud them for their bravery and I will carry those stories with me. It put the whole show into perspective. A heaviness was left in the air, a weight each audience member now carried and were responsible for. We now had the power to make a change. I found myself reflecting on my own experiences and relating to the women in front of me. I left more informed and with a fire in my belly to speak out. 

Deal or Ordeal is an intelligent piece of theatre, clearly well researched, and each performer passionate about making their voice heard.

There is a stigma, a white noise, around sexual harassment and rape. This show urges its audience to break the silence and get talking. With open communication and education, we can start to move forward as a society. We have the power to stop the shaming and the abuse, and promote safe and consensual sexual practice.