Archive Page 2

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.

08
Sep
18

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble

Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre

August 23 – September 8 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Presented in rep with Hamlet, directed by Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble AD Rob Pensalfini

 

the single assumption which makes our existence viable – that somebody is watching…

 

Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, about the misadventures of the messengers, two minor characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is treated with due respect, and new and delicious humour by Director, Rebecca Murphy, and the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble. Admittedly, I hadn’t seen a QSE production for some time; like Brisbane Arts Theatre, they suffered a period of sameness for a little while there, not that it ever appeared to hurt ticket sales (who doesn’t love Shakespeare in the park!?), and I think it’s safe to say that both companies are back now, with fresh energy and some new approaches to staging some of the most accessible theatre in Brisbane by considering carefully the work they produce, ensuring its broad appeal and affordability. Perhaps QSE have always taken this approach (their training has certainly remained one of the most highly regarded by performers).

 

In a contemporary context, as the director notes, QSE’s continuing work with their Shakespeare Beyond: Shakespeare Prison Project adds gravitas to the waiting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do. We feel the hopelessness of their situation. And the stubborn attempts to continually discover joy in tiny moments. Because, would we choose despair?

 

 

#teacherlyf in a delightful Drama Department means that I get to go with the kids to see the shows they have to review. Some of these are so insightfully written that I would like to share them here. Alana? Anyone? We took Year 11s and 12s to Roma Street Parklands to see R&G (not to be confused, when you see that, it’s an easy mistake, with R&J), and they loved it. Of course they love a night out together too so if you can host a whole bunch of them at your venue, do let me know. They’re great for business; they’re super polite, they eat heaps, they share amusing stories and they Snapchat it all. You’ll adore them.

 

Murphy’s production plays with the traditional casting, and while the gender-blind approach is nothing new (UM. SHAKESPEARE) it could be considered a diabolical error of judgement if the actors are not up to the task. Fortunately, our titular characters are played to the hilt by fine fellows, Ellen Hardistry (Rosencrantz, and in the BAT 2012 production, Hamlet’s mother) and Paige Poulier (Guildenstern). The other crowdpleaser/scene stealer/all-round charismatic and effortlessly funny guy here is Colin Smith (First Player and the English Ambassador), a long-time favourite of mine, and of this ensemble. You may have seen him recently in any number of QT productions. Is he a bit of a Brisbane darling? He can claim it. But everyone admirably plays their parts, injecting excellent energy with their highly physicalised characterisations and animated facial expressions juxtaposed against well considered dynamic stillness. The ensemble scenes are really great lessons in directing and sustaining focus. 

 

 

As the not-quite-as-bright Rosencrantz, Hardistry approaches the text lightly and sustains childlike commitment to every thought uttered aloud, while Poulier adds necessary weight to Guildenstern’s authoritarian manner. Their games are delightful and the wordplay is fast-paced and precisely directed, and so well practised there’s barely a stumble, even with the awkward pauses that allow for stifled giggles, snorts, whispered comments and LOLs from this student audience. These moments are also hilarious. At times it feels like LOLbar at Solbar (speaking of which, Josh Lyons, a special guest in our most recent production presented with Two Braids Collective, is a standout Player). We almost expect to hear a heckler’s comment from the crowd. But of course, everyone is very polite and well behaved, even when the witty references get a little bit naughty.

 

Hardistry and Poulier establish from the outset the kind of friendly intelligent/inane banter that drives a friend insane after long periods of it, and in fact this is what happens. It’s no spoiler, it’s Stoppard; there’s going to be conflict in the conversations, or where else? Guildenstern eventually takes umbrage with the innocent insistence of Rosencrantz to continue playing the same gorgeous, engaging, childish games, and discussing the same simple topics over and over and over and over…………. the very point, that there’s no point in insisting there is an end, until the end comes. And knowing their fate before they do, we feel some of the absurdity of life, and by the same token, the absurdity of wasting it by…waiting. 

 

 

The space, refreshingly reversed, means the audience is seated at the back and along the sides of the amphitheatre’s stage, and we see the scenes from Hamlet played out in the terraced seating bank. This keeps us appropriately distanced from these events, allowing us to consider our perception and/or judgement of Hamlet’s behaviour and how it is perceived by the Danish court, and that perhaps, as succinctly discussed in Jasper Jones, the greater the distance, the less we care.

 

The musicians are the versatile members of the company, and we find our way to our seats after passing them at the top of the stairs. The music is fantastic, adding merriment and a relaxed end-of-the-week (FRIYAY) mood before the fun and games even begin, even as we approach the amphitheatre, having crossed the footbridge to reach it and hearing the sounds long before seeing the band. Magical!

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a tough one to get right. Rebecca Murphy and QSE have created a highly entertaining and engaging contemporary production, succeeding in every aspect. Let’s hope it stays in the repertoire, giving us a chance to see it again sometime.

 

 

07
Sep
18

Rovers

 

Rovers

Belloo Creative

Maleny Community Centre

Sunday August 26 2018

 

Next:

Brisbane Festival

Theatre Republic

September 11 – 15 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

RECOMMENDED FOR

 

STRONG FEMALE LEAD

 

BECAUSE YOU WATCHED

 

How do you select what to watch? Without the Netflix prompts, do you consider the poster and PR for a live show, or the recommendation in print or online media, word of mouth or social media whispers? Do you follow the performers, the directors, the production company? What about all of the above? Belloo Creative’s Rovers featuring Roxanne McDonald and Barbara Lowing, written by Katherine Lyall-Watson and directed by Caroline Dunphy, looks to be one of the highlights of Brisbane Festival’s Theatre Republic this year. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. I saw it in its simplest form first, on a Sunday afternoon in Maleny, an inspired inclusion in Maleny Winter Theatre Festival within Horizon Festival.

 

 

Australia breeds its women tough – and adventurous.

 

What an absolute joy it is to see these theatre doyennes, Roxanne McDonald and Barbara Lowing, together again on stage after more than twenty years apart. Accomplished performers, completely at ease with each other and with their audience, McDonald and Lowing offer in Rovers a performance masterclass (a life masterclass, really) for re-emerged and submerged artists everywhere, and for Australians of all ages. 

 

 

You don’t need to be in the biz to appreciate that this all-female company holds a firm place now in the Australian theatrical ecosystem. Having been brought on board by Queensland Theatre as Resident Company for 2019 and with a string of award winning original productions behind them, including Sand, Hanako and Motherland, Belloo is one of our boldest, bravest, most original and transparent mouthpieces. 

 

The impetus for the creation of this rollicking storytelling adventure, the reunion on stage of two top performers, means much merriment of the meta variety as we’re let in on a few of the secrets of theatrical careers that have spanned decades. A couple of lifetimes of uncertainty in the arts, and self-realisation and determination applied in equal measure to artistic and everyday pursuits blur with the groundbreaking adventures of elders: the older and maybe wiser, maybe wilder – but not, not really, in so many ways – trailblazing women. Combining intriguing details and vivid characters creates a number of crossovers, in time and context, in a sophisticated storytelling style continually being honed by writer, Katherine Lyall-Watson (Sand, Hanako, Motherland).

 

 

 

Fascinating and often very funny outback tales, neatly shared using minimalist, multipurpose set pieces and props, are woven between real life fourth-wall-torn-down moments, challenging our expectations of the contemporary live theatrical experience, without any AV or…oh, wait a minute. There’s a haunting segment involving AV that will leave you either wanting more of it, or none of it. I’m undecided about it. I forgot to ask the girls about it. I need to see it again during Brisbane Festival with all the bells and whistles. Other than this short, dark break in the regular programming, Dunphy resists creating superfluous imagery, allowing in the most economical way the stories and connections – to the land and to spirit, each woman to the other and each to herself – to become clear through the simplest narrative device, the women switching between actor-characters and multiple story characters. With a hat or a scarf or a flourish they become the women who have inspired them, whose memories have sustained them in difficult times and driven them to succeed in so many areas in life. A series of engaging and entertaining vignettes is sensitively woven together by the wondering and whimsy of McDonald and Lowing in real life, sort of, under the playfully presented premise of our attendance at a wake, which is not a sad affair you understand, but a celebration.

 

 

 

It all seems rather relaxed and raw, and what a pleasure that is to be a part of! The form is so intimate, the theatrical tone swinging between a kind of nonchalance and rather grand, unapologetically indulgent drama. We feel embraced by the women, caught up in a big warm hug, gently and firmly reminding us that we have our bloodlines and our stories too, and don’t forget them! And don’t forget to tell them. 

 

Rovers is a sincere and completely charming, beautifully measured look at the strength and spirit of women trailblazers, a celebration of the sisterhood in its truest sense, pre-memes and inspirational quotes. At the same time, this is a show that manages to hold space for those we’ve lost and also, those parts of ourselves that we may have lost touch with from time to time. In the pauses there’s a sense of stretched time and open space, the quiet vastness of this country…of our hearts…and then it’s gone. The ephemeral nature of theatre. 

 

The stories that are meant for us somehow find us, don’t they? And the tales we’re meant to tell eventually find their way to the surface to be shared. In this is the essence of Rovers, a thoughtfully curated collection of the stories these women were always meant to share. Universal personal stories of strength, sadness, resilience, celebration, fear, grief, love, loss, legacy, memory and mad MacGyver survival skills… and always, the sweetest sense of stopping and breathing – really stopping and breathing – to recognise and appreciate everything we have to gain by sharing our experiences, and everything we might have forgotten we already had.