Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

03
Oct
18

Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff

 

Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff

Lunchbox Productions

QPAC Playhouse

October 2 – 7 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward and Poppy Eponine

 

 

Discover your Hogwarts house here

 

It’s not essential but it’s nice to know which house you’re in prior to seeing the smash hit Potted Potter, an unauthorised parody of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts’ experience, attempting to condense all seven Harry Potter books live on stage in 70 minutes. Actually, it’s just two funny British guys telling us what we already know about the boy wizard defeating the evil Lord Voldemort, and unashamedly failing to fill in the gaps. That’s it! That just happened!

 

Because we’d missed Potted Potter at the Powerhouse a few years ago, we walk in not knowing what to expect and walk out loving every bit of whatever irreverent clever comedy that was. 

 

The first thing to realise is that it doesn’t feel like 70 minutes because it’s so much fun. And the second thing to realise is that it’s so much fun because what seemed a solid plan, to recount Harry Potter’s adventures as they occur chronologically in J.K. Rowling’s famous series comprising seven books, is thrown out the window when it’s revealed very early in the piece that one of the two performers hasn’t actually read any of the books. Nor did he secure any actors to play over 300 roles, or get the set and props required to accurately represent the story on stage for a discerning audience of Potterheads and their parents.

 

While Scott is a legit Potterhead, the authority figure to Dan’s little boy persona, super serious at first and intent on sharing his knowledge with us, all Dan wants to do is play quidditch. He’s obsessed! Like a kid who’s been promised a trip to the beach after a week of rain, he can’t let quidditch go. For Dan, quidditch is the answer to everything. Interestingly, without reading the books, and without being familiar with the characters, quidditch-obsessed Dan manages to nail a Powerpoint presentation summarising Book 3 (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), before the quidditch World Cup has even occurred! It’s a mystifying muggle miracle! 

 

Dan’s quidditch match, played live in the theatre with the audience divided into Gryffindor and Slytherin fans, is an absolute highlight for most, it’s so much fun. As silly as it is, there’s just something about a big inflatable ball being shared with the audience, isn’t there? And a special side note from Dan to everyone seated above in the balcony might have them booking earlier in future, in order to secure seats in the coveted stalls where all the action is! These offhand comments, obviously irresistible, and usually coming from naughty, distractible Dan, are typical of the frequent funny hooks for the “casual fans”, who may miss some of the actual Potter references. Rather than admonishing him, Scott just about falls about laughing with him, which makes the whole experience even more relatable and enjoyable, although we’re quite sure there are some cynics in the crowd thinking, “Get on with the storytelling!” and “I thought this was a Harry Potter show!” 

 

 

Other hilarious meta-references are at the expense of teachers and Trump’s America. After Dan questions the greatest wizard in all the world choosing to become, of all things, a teacher, an awkward silence follows and he fills it by innocently observing, “Who knew there were so many teachers in Brisbane!?” We all remember when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the Americans, giving Dan licence to admit that it’s a pleasure to be back in an intelligent country. Further political references ensue, including a dire warning that “Donald Trump is coming for you, Australia!” These jokes (however terrifyingly too-real!), are met with cheers and applause from an appreciative audience. The prepared improvisation is exceptional, and exceptionally funny. These guys gain the respect of the Potterheads and the casual fans, appealing to all ages and sentiments. 

 

 

Dan’s interpretations of the characters are deliberately at odds with the original characters, which is very funny. Ron becomes Gangsta’ Ron in a bright orange wig and Hermione sports blonde schoolgirl plaits beneath a straw hat, more Hanging Rock than Hogwarts, and a baritone voice; there’s room for a Priscilla style drag queen act here. (Of course, no spoilers re the finale, but we also enjoy plenty of Priscilla-playing-next-door references, ie. “You won’t see that in Priscilla“)! Lord of the Rings, Narnia and even (the “inappropriate, Scott!”) Fifty Shades of Grey get a nod, as do Star Wars, Shrek, Wicked and little orphan Annie – not Ginnie – introduced as the youngest of the Weasley family. Unsurprisingly, Scott recoils when Dan-as-Ginnie-not-Annie tries to give him a kiss.

 

The running joke, repeated ad nauseam (almost too often, just as the set up appears to run too long before the show really starts), remains stubbornly focused on the amount of production money spent not on actors or scenery or props, but on the fire-breathing Hungarian Horntail dragon featured in Book 4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), not an enormous animatronic King Kong creation but a hand puppet accompanied by Dan’s vocal effects and sweeping gestures. Scott Hoatson is the perfect foil to Daniel Clarkson’s ridiculous antics throughout, always trying to get the show back on track and simply tell the story. We love his Scottish accent, his undying trust of Dan and the constant deferrals to him, and his determination to honour his “close friend” J.K. Rowling’s storytelling. These guys are a super talented pair and it’s a delight to see them work so effortlessly at this style of comedy. It’s even funnier to share the jokes and the happy accidents with them, as they lose it and laugh on stage. It makes the whole experience special, just for us, and totally relatable, as if we’re sharing our favourite Harry Potter moments amongst friends.

 

The clever incorporation of props at precisely the right time helps to punctuate the most dramatic or poignant moments from each book. When Dan opens the coffin on stage to take two hats for our quidditch seekers (willing volunteers from the crowd), from a skeleton’s hand, he addresses the skeleton as Cedric, thanking him as he takes the hats. Complete silence follows. “Too soon?” he asks. More uncomfortable silence. Still in shock, we miss the Twilight reference that follows but others laugh hysterically. We always notice that we like to laugh during uncertain times, don’t we, and this show is just the thing. Whether or not you’re a Potterhead is irrelevant; the laughs are in the polished-unpolished, superbly confident and cheeky, transparent performances more than in the content.

 

Nevertheless, our own memories of reading the books for the first time, of seeing each film, of sharing our favourite moments with family and friends who are just as obsessed (or not!) with Harry Potter as we are, come flooding back during the show and afterwards, as we recall the funniest scenes on stage, either very loosely handled or very precisely manipulated – who can say? – by Director, Richard Hurst. 

 

Potted Potter relies on a relaxed sense of humour and our knowledge of Harry Potter’s world, or at least the knowledge acquired through osmosis by those who live with Potterheads, and follows a deceptively simple formula of broken expectations. It’s the sort of childlike, improvised, never-to-be-repeated genius that you might expect to see in the living room around Christmas time, a play put on by the kids, involving every stuffed toy and unassuming adult in the house. This show is so crazy it just works. You can’t help but love it and laugh out loud.

17
Sep
18

Stalin’s Piano

 

Stalin’s Piano

Robert Davidson and Sonya Lifschitz

Brisbane Festival and Griffith University

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

Friday September 14 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

I think everyone is a composer, at the very least through endless spoken melodies

Robert Davidson

@robcomposer

22 Jan 2015, Twitter

 

You and I may not have noticed before, but there is music in everyday speech. According to Brisbane composer Robert Davidson, we are all composers, creating and performing music every time we speak.

 

Davidson is fascinated by politics, the connection between politics and art, and by the music of speech. These preoccupations fuse in Stalin’s Piano, a multimedia work developed in collaboration with pianist Sonya Lifschitz, and premiered at the Canberra International Music Festival 2017. Together, Davidson and Lifschitz uncover the music in the speech of 19 famous artists and politicians, creating musical portraits of them in a powerful piece of theatre.

 

The 19 range from Bertolt Brecht, to John F Kennedy, Joseph Stalin, Robert Helpmann, Mao Zedong, Gough Whitlam, Percy Grainger, Ai Wei Wei, and Jackson Pollock. Particularly memorable were Percy Grainger, with his astringent description of music as ‘the art of agony’ and ‘derived from screaming’; EE Cummings, with a lyrical reading of one of his love poems; Robert Helpmann, with stories about his early life; and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, with the surprising and stirring music of her anti-misogyny speech to the Australian Parliament.

 

Lifschitz is centre stage at the piano, with video clips playing on a large screen behind and above her. In this performance lasting just over an hour, she is playing or speaking almost constantly.

 

She gives an awe-inspiring performance of great warmth, playing music of varying styles, from lyrical to frenetic, martial to Latin jazz.

 

Her timing is uncannily precise, with the piano exactly echoing the musical notes of speech from the video soundtrack. The listener feels a sense of discovery and illumination in response. At other times the piano is in counterpoint to the voice and connects with the images on the screen, or it elaborates on or accompanies the music of the speech.

 

 

The composition, the images and the performance of Stalin’s Piano arouse many emotions: it is by turns lyrical, fierce, horrifying, funny, chilling, sad, and nostalgic.

 

The film clips are often sampled and looped, with the repetition and rhythm reflected in the music. This has been used to create comic effects, for instance in the portrait of JF Kennedy, with exhilarating Cuban-influenced rhythms and choppy film echoed by the piano, and contrasting with the tension of the Cuban missile crisis.

 

As part of her spoken performance, Lifschitz talks about Stalin, Shostakovich, and Russian pianist Maria Yudina. The story of Yudina and Stalin is central to the work, as reflected by its title. The story is of two absolute opposites: the dictator who destroyed millions of lives, and the pianist who championed artistic freedom and openly defied Stalin’s regime, yet survived.

 

Stalin loved Yudina’s playing and demanded a recording of her performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, which was made especially for him in a late-night recording session by terrified conductors and musicians. This recording is said to be the last music he listened to before he died.

 

Yudina was revered in Russia, and a huge influence on Lifschitz and her contemporaries as students. In a poignant tribute during Stalin’s Piano, Lifschitz plays some Mozart along with the recording of Yudina.

 

Davidson and Lifschitz both spoke in a relaxed and friendly way to the audience about the work beforehand, and took part in a Q&A after the show (chaired by Brendan Joyce, Artistic Director of Brisbane chamber orchestra Camerata). The show certainly stands alone without the Q&A, but this added some fascinating insights (such as revealing that Gough Whitlam spoke in B flat major, and explaining how Lifschitz manages to synchronise her playing with the spoken words and moving images).

 

 

 

In discussing the comedy of Stalin’s Piano, Davidson said that manipulating sound and image, as in the JFK portrait, is only one element of the comedy in the work. Sometimes comedy lies in what the person is saying, as in the portrait of Percy Grainger, with his spiky response to an interviewer echoed by the piano. Humour also comes from the realisation that there is inherent melody in speech, which was borne out in the frequent laughter from the audience.

 

Davidson said that while music isn’t as precise as words, it enhances what is underneath them, ‘where the real punch comes in’. Stalin’s Piano certainly does that, amplifying the feeling in the spoken words of 19 people. The show is intense, entertaining, and completely absorbing.

 

There was only one performance of Stalin’s Piano at Brisbane Festival. If it ever comes back, or you can see it somewhere else, don’t miss it!

 

14
Sep
18

Biladurang

 

Biladurang

Joel Bray

Art Series Hotels –The Johnson

September 12 – 15 2018

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

 

Melbourne-based artist and Wiradjuri man, Joel Bray, gives audiences a uniquely immersive and intimate encounter with his work, Biladurang, which is part of the 2018 Brisbane Festival.

 

From the bar of The Johnson in Spring Hill, we’re told that Bray has invited us all back to his room. He meets us at the door, scantily clad, and clutching a white towel to himself, coy and filled with false modesty and playfulness. Asking us to wait 10 seconds, he returns slightly more modest, and is at once gregarious and effervescent.

 

And as we enter, he continues to fawn upon us, handing out glasses and tumblers into which he pours for us champagne, branding it ‘student chic’. Urging us to don white bathrobes and be seated across the lounges and chairs of the intimate hotel room, we quickly take up the role as his would-be props, and no doubt co-performers.

 

 

The hotel room’s iconography is deliberately unremarkable. Cold off-white walls and prosceniums of hotel curtains and shades lit by warm lamps all create a lonely resort mise en scene interrupted later by a blinking neon city light from outside – a hint of the urban desolation Bray’s character is seeking solace from. He is charming, witty and welcoming; at pains to ensure our comfort and that we are connected to him.

 

Once settled our host abandons social pleasantries. His body twitches and relaxes and moves through a series of subtle and expressive rhythms, glitches, and representations as he attempts, through dance, to inhabit the socially awkward clichés and superficial strata of a “hook up”. We, the audience, are the objects of his desire. The choreography, while beautiful and transcendent, draws on mannerisms of coyness and seduction and as the dance takes over in its growing complexity, the hotel room is immediately transformed.

 

 

As the audience, we are also an element in his design, and he uses us, too, playing with our self-consciousness, our laughter, drawing us out of our shells as the colours of his palette. And despite the unpredictable improvisation, the work also maintains a structure. The audience is receptive to this, and we’re entreated to answer his questions; flirt even. He’s able to stage manage our social dynamics effortlessly, as if he’s directing us while playing his part, again emblematic of the engineering that goes into a first date, or the preluding foreplay to a one night stand.

 

 

Bray shares an engaging series of fractured narratives, punctuated at times by reveries of dance and movement. He shares his stories, which are sometimes funny, endearing coming-of-age tales, sometimes candid disclosures of grotesque sexual encounters hinting to a loss of self and escape into a hedonistic pleasure culture. The stories are sometimes foregrounded as profound reckonings, which explore themes of digital isolation, queer sexuality, shame, voyeurism, consumer culture, Indigeneity and lost ancestry.

 

Bray’s work is loosely based on the dreamtime legend of Biladurang, in which a displaced duck, subdued by a villainous water rat, gives birth to a platypus: a hybrid creature whose genetic legacy belongs to neither origin. Similarly, Bray’s character – a fair-skinned Indigenous man living in a post-colonial society – draws connections with the parable as a displaced cultural hybrid himself who uses the hotel room as a private space to reconcile inconsistencies within himself. And he successfully creates a third language, which is deeply engaging, entertaining and graceful.

 

Hand-in-hand, Bray leads the audience down his difficult path, and we come along willingly.

 

The choreography and text work well together, and some multi media and social dynamics further enrich audience experience. The show is innovative as it is experiential, funny, but also a deeply serious work of fantastic realism, and human vulnerability.

 

Biladurang TEASER from Joel Bray on Vimeo.

14
Sep
18

Memorial

 

Memorial

Alice Oswald & Brink Productions

QPAC Playhouse

September 7-9 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

our tragedy is everything, and yet nothing…

 

Only during Brisbane Festival would we have the opportunity to experience a deeply moving and heartfelt piece as grand in scale and as poetic in nature as Memorial, involving accomplished musicians, large scale, event style, precision choreography and 215 local community choral members in the staging of, not the retelling of (it’s an important distinction: we know the story), the staging of the atmosphere of Alice Oswald’s Memorial: An Excavation of the Illiad.

 

Oswald’s epic poem, to which she herself refers to as an “oral cemetery”, shares the human aspects of death and dying during the ten-year war that famously ended in Troy, located just 75km from Gallipoli. Two months out from the centenary of the Armistice that ended the First World War, we are plunged into the imagined memories, and shown the shallow graves of those who fought and fell in ancient battle. In any battle. Director, Chris Drummond, successfully translates the atmosphere of Oswald’s poem to the stage, inspired by critics’ appraisal of The Illiad, in terms of its ‘enargeia’ – its bright unbearable reality. How I love the images conjured by the use of this word!

 

It’s the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves. This version, trying to retrieve the poem’s enargeia, takes away its narrative, as you might lift the roof off a church in order to remember what you’re worshipping. – Chris Drummond, Director

 

 

Consider the roof lifted. Our beloved Helen Morse is poet, actress, enchantress, finding the breath and sinew of Oswald’s text, drawing on masterful vocal and emotional work, harnessing all the human aspects and the elements of the earth, conjuring the vivid images and wrought emotions of the battlefield and the aftermath of war as powerfully as if we were there, sitting and shedding our tears over the bloodied bodies of the fallen, or opening our arms and offering our embrace to the shaking, or silent and still, desperately empty shells of those who loved them, left behind.

 

There are other opportunities to pause and ponder but the most beautiful, memorable moment of intimate connection occurs when an ensemble member steps across the stage bearing a small bowl of water from which Morse will sip. She stands close, patient, reserved and respectful, pleased to simply serve – such an effortless act of kindness – and before taking the bowl away, holds the gaze offered by Morse: deep gratitude and mutual respect in this single moment. It’s so intimate an exchange we feel privileged to have had a part in it simply by being present. Other exchanges of energy, some languid, others frenetic, create poignancy or excitement. A number of brief, fluid segments are certainly not intended to be as accomplished technically as the Royal Ballet, of course, yet feel vaguely reminiscent in terms of energy and floor patterns, entrances, exits and frozen time, of Wayne McGregor’s time-bending Orlando act in Woolf Works.

 

 

Macedonian and Bulgarian vocals (Tanja Tzarovska and Belinda Sykes) weave beneath and in between the complex layers of a rich musical tapestry brought into living, breathing, haunting existence by an orchestra seemingly suspended above the mortals on stage, thanks to Michael Hankin’s design lit by Nigel Levings, then soar beyond that negative space and into the skies above. The original transcendent score composed in response to the text by Jocelyn Pooklifts us into whatever heaven we perceive there to be above us, with exquisite strings and reeds, and given additional gravitas by the combined voices of Exaudi Australis and the Queensland Festival Chorus, Vocal Manoeuvres Academy Youth Ensemble, and singers from Access Arts and Emma Dean’s Cheap Trills, coordinated and coached by Alison Rogers. The music is truly something else. 

 

 

Movement conceived and coordinated by Circa’s Yaron Lifschitz (the world premiere of his En Masse next week is a must-see) features some superb complex sequences performed by just a few ensemble members. The last of these seems particularly significant, shared via a dancer on either side of the stage, building on familiar gestures and morphing them into a strange and mesmerising dance of love and loss. A jarring hip movement juxtaposed against fluid, sweeping arms and the natural curves of the body speak volumes about the discombobulation of those lost in their longing, and the getting-on-with of their life. The large-scale choreography is designed to move hundreds across the space and freeze in more geometric formations to support the images from Oswald’s text and direct our attention back to Morse, and to the individuals representing the soldiers of whom she speaks. The Soldier Chorus used in this way, within the vast space of QPAC’s Playhouse stage, is a powerful reminder that the inescapable reality of war, its horror and its desperate sadness imprints on us all.

 

 

 

 

Somehow, magically, time is stretched and we may have been sitting here, in a dream, for three, or four or six or eight hours, but in fact it’s just 90 minutes and we remain fully present and at times, hyper alert. Intriguingly, with each gentle lull in the action, during more descriptive passages, there might be a tendency to sink deeply into a meditative listening state, a similar state common in audiences of the durational performances of other ancient cultures; think of the Ramayana or Mahabharata, or Japanese Noh theatre, where we surrender to the power, and ebb and flow of all the elements, transfixed over hours…or days. And we come out of this 90-minute-decade-long experience with a semblance of awareness that we’ve been changed somehow, and now our heart is murmuring its own condolences and gentle comfort to the world.

 

Memorial is an epic production with a humble heart. Truly, incredibly, transcendentally magnificent. Helen Morse, with her otherworldly musicians and 215 barefoot strangers, in a masterful performance supported by every detail of Chris Drummond’s production and ably assisted by Benjamin Knapton, brings us to our knees in the face of death, dying, and that smallest and simplest of human kindnesses, remembering, in the event of their death, the details of a person’s life.

 

 

13
Sep
18

FAG/STAG & BALI

 

FAG/STAG & BALI

The Last Great Hunt

Theatre Republic La Boite Studio

September 11 – 15 2018

 

Reviewed by Anthony Borsato

 

 

It is not very often that we get to revisit the same characters again in theatrical work, but that’s what you get in this double bill from Perth’s The Last Great Hunt. It is also not often that shows in which actors predominately sit and monologue at the audience hold my attention for long. But that was not the case with FAG/STAG and BALI written and performed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs. These are pieces that show you don’t need much to make good theatre, or tell good stories.

 

Staged in La Boite’s small studio, these performances use basic chair and table settings, simple lights, and well timed and chosen sound, and hold the attention of the entire audience.

 

 

Both pieces follow best friends, Jimmy, a gay man, and Corrigan, a hetero man. Jimmy (Jeffrey Jay Fowler) and Corrigan (Chris Isaacs) tell the same stories from their own points of view. Both unreliable narrators of their own stories – both representing themselves as their best selves. We often see unreliable narration in one-man or narrated theatrical pieces but both FAG/STAG and BALI plays exceptionally with this trope and it is only through others’ retelling that we learn some of the hard truths, omitted by the friend. They try, like all of us, to hide their flaws only to be called out by their best mate. This is a source of great humour and poignant reveals as this fast-paced narrative unfolds from both perspectives.

 

 

FAG/STAG follows the duo in the time leading up to the wedding of ex-girlfriend Tamara. Jimmy has just broken up with his boyfriend and Corrigan is still clearly still in love with Tamara. It is slice of life realism – no convoluted plot, just the ups and downs of life. The audience is taken through a trying time in both of their lives and in their friendship. There is conflict and drama like in all good theatre but even a big fallout between the boys, after Corrigan calls Jimmy a ‘faggot’, feels natural and not forced or overplayed. But the narrative throughout is entrancing. It feels like you are being told a story by a mate – all we needed was a beer in our hands and you could almost forget you were seeing theatre.

 

The script is fast paced, witty, and at times poignant. The loneliness the two feel resonates with the audience. Both Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs are superb in these roles, sitting wholly in their emotions and allowing them to play out.

 

 

As a queer artist myself, it was refreshing and heart-warming to see a piece that I could identify with so strongly. Jokes that were relatable to my experiences, heartbreak that hit close to home, and a friendship that I feel is often overlooked. Gay men and hetero men can be friends – GASP! Shocking but true. It is often that gay men are shown as the best friend, exclusively of women or other gay men. It is uplifting to see this close friendship in all its glory – struggles and all. Even as best friends Corrigan is still uncomfortable with some aspects of Jimmy’s homosexuality. Especially when Jimmy is hanging out with his ‘the boys’ and the judgement Corrigan has for Jimmy’s sexual encounters. It shows a true struggle that many gay men face with friendships with heterosexual men – that even though it is usually subconsciously, there is a judgement or a perceived judgment by the heterosexual man, and that they think less of us.

 

The subtleties and nuances of this friendship as a vessel to explore toxic masculinity and homophobia had me thinking for a quite a while after the shows. Where Jimmy is able to explore his emotions more vocally and open up to the audience in both shows; Corrigan doesn’t. Corrigan describes his surroundings and you feel his emotions through Chris Isaacs’ performance, but the character keeps a tight lid and doesn’t name his feelings. Even though it may not register with all audience members, I loved this nod to the status quo of men and their emotional intelligence, especially amongst heterosexual men. Jimmy as a gay man has more ‘permission’ to express his emotions, where Corrigan doesn’t, because it threatens masculinity.

 

 

Even though BALI didn’t live up to the stellar script, performance, and impact of the first show of the night, FAG/STAG, I still found myself having a great time with the continuation of Jimmy and Corrigan’s story. It felt like I was catching up with friends. I still laughed, listened intently, and recoiled in my seat as the hard-hitting moments resonated with my own experiences. BALI finds the boys travelling, as the title suggests, to Bali for Corrigan’s mum’s 60th birthday. There is a clear strain in the friendship that both want to fix but are stubborn about. Jimmy has a holiday romance with a younger man and Corrigan struggles with communication with his girlfriend back in Australia. The humour, like in FAG/STAG, was found through contrast in situation, mood, language, and pace.

 

BALI is a great performance as a part of a double bill however as a standalone show it lacks. I don’t think I would have enjoyed BALI as much as I did if I hadn’t seen FAG/STAG immediately before. See both.

11
Sep
18

Hamnet

 

Hamnet

Dead Centre

QPAC Cremorne

September 8 – 12 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

To be or not to be…

 

There’s a problem when you try to understand big things by looking at small things. You get lost.

 

Hamnet is too young to understand Shakespeare. And he is one letter away from being a great man. We are too old to understand Hamnet. We meet in the middle, in a theatre.

 

A 60-minute monologue from an 11-year-old boy in the guise of Shakespeare’s forgotten son? GOT ME.

 

I love what Brisbane Festival AD, David Berthold, has to say about Ireland’s Dead Centre, this “most alive” of theatre companies. “They approach so-called ‘great’ works from the winking edges, not the sinking centre…”

The winking edges…

 

 

You haven’t heard of me. You’ll think you have at first, but then you’ll realise you were thinking of someone else. It happens every time. 

 

Hamnet is the most ordinary, adorable, unassuming, innocent, curious, quietly grieving, reading, friendly, tech savvy, confident, hoodie clad, backpack carrying kid, convinced that by the time he bounces a ball against the wall infinity times, it will penetrate the wall. This is a concept vaguely known to me as something unfathomable within quantum physics. Hamnet simply continues to pursue the possibility that such a notion might be true, hoping that he will gain access to another dimension. Maybe tomorrow. Hmmm… Maybe in my meditation. In the meantime, he has many questions, which he puts quite candidly to us and later, just as candidly to the ghost of his father, William Shakespeare. When he doesn’t get the answers he wants, he asks Google. In this play we get very few of the answers, and all the questions, about selfishness, sadness, career, choice, pride, parents, absent parents, art, sacrifice, siblings, death, grief, growing up, greatness, and the way we communicate (or not) with our children.

 

Aran Murphy’s manner on stage is completely and utterly relaxed. It’s hard to believe that this is his first professional production. (He loves acting and football; he’s a Liverpool fan). It’s not an easy gig, and Murphy’s performance is flawless.

 

It’s been a little while since I’ve seen an audience so intrigued and delighted and invested in a one-man show, but we’re curious from the outset, seeing ourselves on Andrew Clancy’s mirror-wall behind Murphy, the feature of a necessarily simple design to facilitate the coming and going of the ghost of Hamnet’s father via video, and hearing from Hamnet that a) he shouldn’t talk to strangers  and b) he’s not a great man, before he goes on to tackle the bigger questions in life, and that famous speech…out of the mouth of a babe.

 

Murphy is at ease communicating directly with the audience as well as with the actor playing Shakespeare, and manages a number of props, precisely placing each on the stage in the position we see them on screen, another vital aspect of the video’s authenticity, projected onto the same wall as the live stream of the very performance we’re at. He moves and speaks in perfect synchronicity with his own image and with that of his father. In this live theatrical liminal space, the kid is incredible.

 

 

AV Designer José Miguel Jimenez has a fascinating litany of collaborative works behind him and brings wit, deft timing and a sharp eye to this project, allowing Hamnet and his father to commune, even connecting them physically, or so it would seem, due to the technical precision and astute direction of Bush Moukarzel & Ben Kidd (also the co-writers), the acting and AV.

 

This sweet, short show is surprisingly moving. It might make you consider your every kind or unkind thought, word and action. It might make you question the kind of human you believed you wanted to be, what lasting effect you want to have on your family, your friends, the people you meet. What sort of legacy you want to leave. What impact you want to have on their lives every day, while you’re still here. What you can choose to do and say every day to let those closest to you know you forgive them for their absence and that you love them…before having to test the theory of quantum tunnelling to reach them one day.

 

Adulting is hard. Being a kid is different hard. Dead Centre’s Hamnet gently and playfully peels the skin from our eyelids and invites us to look for a little longer at the thoughts and fears we thought we’d forgotten, or didn’t know we were ever going to have.

 

 

 

Production pics & Youtube footage feature Ollie West as Hamnet

 

10
Sep
18

SÉANCE

SÉANCE

Realscape Productions & Darkfield

September 8 -29 2018

Treasury Brisbane Arcadia

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Step inside, take a seat, but don’t get comfortable.

The tension builds even as we wait outside the 40ft shipping container, alongside the explosion of colour, sound, story and art of the River of Light to be briefed about what not to do once inside Séance. I’d intended to experience it earlier in the evening but Hamnet was late to go on, giving us a good excuse to chat for longer in the foyer of QPAC’s Cremorne, catch up with MFAC & Queensland Conservatorium graduate, Rebecca Rolle, and find out what everyone is seeing this Brisbane Festival! A popular choice, but with a limited capacity of just 26 punters per show, and a big buzz about this unique piece might make it hard for you to get a ticket, but you must try. And if you miss out at the box office it’s worth waiting nearby in case someone doesn’t turn up (or opts out!). Séance is something completely, thrillingly different.

The UK’s Glen Neath and David Rosenberg (Darkfield) have designed an intense, immersive sensory deprivation experience, using 3D sound technology and sonic vibrations that eerily conjure enough auditory evidence to convince us that we’re in the presence of spirits summoned from beyond the grave. But it’s only suggested, making this as much an investigation into the psychology of an audience, as it is in theatre making. We might argue that that’s the same thing. By blurring perception and reality, the creators of Séance almost convince us that we’re communing with the dead. It’s terrifyingly real…

I’m not a horror fan. In fact, all things considered, I’m pretty okay to take off to Sri Lanka in the final week of the festival and entirely miss that other theatrical / psychological experiment, HORROR. What I mean is, I’ll actually be in Sri Lanka and miss it. Let me know how you go with it.

aretreat.com/” rel=”attachment wp-att-17501″> Where I’ll be instead of experiencing Jakop Ahlbom’s homage to the horror genre

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We’re seated opposite each other, in two rows of red velvet vintage theatre seats along the walls of the narrow space, a long timber table running down the centre, upon which we’re asked to place our hands. Noise-cancelling headphones are found to our left and we’re asked to put these on. If ever we’re super scared we can remove them but we can’t leave… I’m fine for a while, as the lights flicker and go out, leaving us in the blackest of black. We hear various aspects of a well considered, cleverly constructed multi-layered soundscape, placing us smack bang in the middle of the sort of traditional séance our mothers and grandmothers warned us about. Rather than sit for 20 minutes in a a state of high alert, I let the yoga breath kick in and allow my shoulders to drop away from my ears as I try not to frown (because frown lines), listening intently. I hope there’s no audience participation. A sense of dread fills me as I’m told in a whisper that I have a special role to play here. What!?

Alarmed, I close down my eyes.

It’s so dark it makes no difference to open or close them but it must be safer to close them?

How much time has even passed? I gradually become aware that I can feel the warm breath of the speaker in my ear………….

Whaaaaaat!?

Without giving too much away, our perception of reality is challenged by the power of suggestion and our imagination, and perhaps our fight or flight response is primed! I was rattled, but others will thrill at the suggested horror, and the strange, shared, intense and immersive sensory experience of Séance.