Archive Page 2

11
Nov
17

Nineteen

Nineteen 

Brisbane Powerhouse & Wax Lyrical Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 9 – 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Barry Stone

 

 

Barry maintains that he doesn’t write reviews, but I love hearing what he has to say about what he sees in Brisbane since he sees everything he possibly can, out of genuine support and passion for the Performing Arts. I’m so pleased he’s agreed to allow me to share his thoughts with you here. Feel free to add your own, below in the comments section. Xanthe

 

Award-winning company, Wax Lyrical Productions, presents the world premiere of Nineteen, a dark comedy about four young men, Noah, George, Adam and Josh, living in a share house. From the outside they seem like fun, loveable larrikins but underneath the bravado and binge drinking lurks something more sinister.

 

Nineteen – For me, a play that has been needed for a while. Young men deciding if they will make it to adulthood. The trials of insecurity, the passions of relationships, the recognition of urges and the deceit amongst friends and for one’s self. It is a scary world trying to be what you imagine you should be. Will you be ‘like father – like son’. What is love and what is sex. What is friendship and what is a man supposed to be. The obsession with the physical, the boredom and the drugs and alcohol. Escape or pleasure. A lot is there in the loneliness of growing up.

 

For many years I have bemoaned the lack of suitable role models for the young man. I have a particular abhorrence of several things proposed as that which should be emulated, such as ‘Be a man’, ‘Stand up for yourself’, ‘Did you fight back?’, ‘Did you win?’, Don’t be a girl’ and ‘Don’t be a poofta’. There is always that obsession – which sport do you follow, don’t dress like a sissy, you know nothing about the kitchen, back-slap but never hug, never show or declare your emotions… Add this to the image in American film and television that all is solved with a gun or a punch. Young men in most sit-coms are portrayed as immature idiots, and selfish like Bart Simpson. Some call it satire, but I bet the vast majority see it as an example. Just like 1984 was a warning not a user manual, as it is now seen.

 

This original play examines the inner workings of a house of young boys. Their closeted affections, homophobia, misogyny, disappointments, and how they cope, or fail to cope. It is about the need they have for each other, but never let it show. The anger is loud and flies rashly and the can or stubby is opened one after another. No, they are not the great successes in life, but our suburbs are full of them and largely they are ignored. Why are they like this and what is society teaching our young men?

 

There is a line and a common attitude propagated that all men are either ‘Rapists or Paedophiles’. Read your newspapers and listen to your media. Accusation alone is now guilt. Aspirational victims are everyone’s 15 minutes. Vigilante justice, trial by media and innuendo leave everyone feeling guilty. To me, all freedoms require a generation to sink in. Apartheid, recognition of indigenous importance, women’s liberation, gay liberation…all have been taking time and when the world swings from one to another it usually leaves someone else behind.

 

Kindness and understanding, acceptance and example are better than accusation and revenge.

 

I seem to have waffled but this is what for me came out of Nineteen. Writer and Director, Shane Pike, has begun a conversation that I hope is joined with true compassion. He has exposed the private life of some of the young Aussie male. The ignored and dismissed. Fewer trips to Bali and more trips to the theatre, where life is thought about.

 

Jason Glenwright gave a wonderful theatrical focus on the action, the narration , the asides. And the peak performances of the cast were gripping. The silences most effective, as I recognise that state of severe boredom and inability to articulate what I have seen in the flesh. Diverse as any group of people can be, the actors both differentiated the characters and united them in a common confusion, loneliness and simply being afraid. Scared little boys lashing out at each other because they are so disconnected with the reality of the world and exactly what a relationship should be, who they are and where they need to stand.

 

Bravo to to the great and gripping talents of Daniel Hurst, Leonard Donahue, Jackson McGovern and Silvan Rus, and thank you for a very fine evening which I do hope both lives on and provokes discussion and a real attempt at true understanding, for from truth will evolve genuine progress.

 

Queensland in particular needs this big discussion. Less talk about how a sportsman is a role model (no matter how many mistakes he makes) and a little less testosterone, greater respect for the arts and acceptance of the rich diversity we do have. The world or the media seems to be promoting a gender war to add to the class war, the race war, the religious war. Calm the fuck down and stop trying to find which persecuted minority you can join. I am over the victim mentality. Be human and cope. You need not be scarred for life. it is not a fate worse than death, it may be none of your business, you are responsible for your own actions. We all have problems but we are all born with the responsibility of developing a conscience. Choose which battles (not all) you want to fight but educate yourself with facts and then give it 100 percent.

 

As I have said over and over, I do not do reviews, but I record what comes to me by attending a performance. This is just how it affected me. This one really did provoke thought and unleashed me.

 

P.S. As if that is not enough there is also some nudity.

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07
Nov
17

Elizabeth 1 – a chat with Emily Burton

 

Elizabeth 1

A Chat With Emily Burton

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

What drew you to her, and to this production?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Can you talk about the style of the show?

 

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

 

Can you talk about your vocal work in this show?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Can you talk about working with Benjamin Schostakowski?

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

 

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

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

 

What does down time look like?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

What are your top three audition tips for actors?

 

When you can, read the whole play.

 

Learn your lines.

 

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

 

 

What do you love about performing?

Comedy is the best drug.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

How do you feel about work / life balance?

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

 

What would you be doing if not acting?

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

 

How do you feel about arts awards?

They’re very nice, but not important.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What’s your next challenge?

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

Book here.

 

26
Oct
17

Containment

Containment

Directors of the Extraordinary

Brisbane Powerhouse

October 18 – 29 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

…technology is an agent of change

Robert LePage

 

You have 60 minutes to save the world.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

19
Oct
17

Rhinoceros

 

Rhinoceros

heartBeast Theatre Company

Spring Hill Reservoir

October 13 – 28 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Spring Hill Reservoir is such a diverse and beautiful space, and heartBeast Theatre Company never tire in utilising this underground chamber to transport their audience to a different time and place. The last show I saw was an immersive production of Hamlet, where the audience literally followed the actors and the action of Shakespeare’s tragedy to different sections of the reservoir.

 

Rhinoceros, directed by Steve Pearton, was performed on a raised square stage, intimate and inclusive. The set was stark and minimalistic, though the ensemble of colourful and absurdist characters brought the show to life.   

 

Eugene Ionesco wrote Rhinoceros in response to the uprising of Nazism and fascism before and during World War II, commenting on how easily people succumbed to a way of thinking and being. The play opens in a café – though with the Irish music filtering in from outside the reservoir, it turned into quite the jovial pub scene – where two men witness a rhinoceros stampede down the street. As the action unfolds and speculations arise, a most peculiar thing happens. People start turning into rhinoceros’ and suddenly being human is an unruly concept. Tis the age of the beast!

 

Patrick Farrelly (Jean) had a strong presence and played a hilarious drunk, though at times his eyes betrayed him. It was as if he was waiting on a cue and not reacting to his partner Brian Bolton (Berenger). There were unnecessary pauses and it took a while for the two leads to relax into the play. Bolton, whose character fights hard against mediocracy and running with herd, delivers a heartfelt performance. The audience sympathise with him on his journey from being a narcissistic, Trump-like know-it-all to a desperate man trying hard to hold on to his sense of identity.

 

 

The ensemble cast were brimming with an exciting and youthful energy, bombarding onto the stage then leaving a trail of dust and confusion in their wake. There’s a method to Ionesco’s madness within this work, making the listener think and reflect about the correlations between what is happening on stage to what is happening in the real world.

 

It is a wonder to think how relevant this play still is; how easy it is for those in power to persuade, to manipulate, to corrupt, and how willing some are to follow these so called “leaders.” And how dangerous and isolating it is for the voices of a minority to revolt against injustice. A line from the play that rocks me to my core is, “People who try to hang on to their individuality always come to a bad end.” This will resonate differently with each person, but to me it rings true, and exposes a cycle humanity must break.  As Bolton delivered this line so passionately, I thought of all those who have stood up and fought to nurture and embrace diversity, celebrate culture, and live a life of compassion.

 

The ensemble is the driving force of this production; there is a much-needed lift in energy when they barge on stage. This play is provocative and entertaining. It will leave you bedazzled and thinking, “When in my life have I turned into a rhinoceros?”   

 

 

 

19
Oct
17

One The Bear

 

One the Bear

La Boite Theatre Company

Campbelltown Arts Centre and Black Honey Company

Roundhouse Theatre

October 10 -21 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

One the Bear is a magical journey about identity and discovering your true self. It is fun, unexpected, loud and proud, and full of heart. Growing up, pursuing your dreams and learning who your real friends are is hard, and some of us get lost along the way. This show presented by La Boite Theatre Company, Campbelltown Arts Centre and Black Honey Company validates the importance of remembering your history and where you came from, and celebrates individuality.

 

The story follows the friendship of two grizzly bears named One (Candy Bowers) and Ursula (Nancy Denis), who live in a grungy alleyway next to a dumpster, spending most of their time keeping out of sight from the “Hunters.” In this dystopian world, capturing bears is paramount for humans to survive. They are skinned, even their organs are used in medicines. One vividly remembers the day when her mother was killed in front of her. It fills her belly with rage, but this little cub has hope, and dreams of a better future where bears are free to return to the forests. One has a passion for hip hop music and she and Ursula rap about their trials and tribulations.

 

 

When One is discovered by a hot shot producer, she walks a fine line between using her fame as a platform to give voice to the discrimination and torture of bears, and losing herself completely in the bright lights and screaming fans. She alters her appearance, gives into vanity and pride, and worse she abandons her friend Ursula. One finds herself being consumed by a world that takes advantage of the weak to make money. She finally hits rock bottom, roaring out against it all, and returning to the dumpster. Ursula is there waiting and ready to help One find her purpose again.

 

 

Written wholly in rhyme by Candy Bowers and accompanied by an incredibly fresh and funky sound design by Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, this is a must-see show for young people. It delivers important messages regarding our time and how we view fame. People are urged to present the best version of themselves, and yet the media, the internet, Facebook and Instagram are filling our heads with idealistic and often unachievable ideas of happiness and success. One the Bear is a beautiful reminder to have the courage to define yourself and carve your own path.

 

 

Walking into the show, I was unsure what to expect, though I was pleasantly surprised at how invested I became in the story. There were moments the sound was loud and overpowered the performers, making it difficult to hear what they were saying. All the production elements ensnared the senses, particularly the stunning video projection by optikal bloc and Sarah Seahorse’s bright and bold costume designs.

 

 

Candy Bowers and Nancy Denis were next-level, never dropping their energy for a second. Their physicality was outstanding, you couldn’t look away for fear of missing something. Even though it was a tale of two bears, the message about friendship, identity and empowering women, were all too clear.

 

One the Bear is for the cubs, the next generation of strong, opinionated and passionate young feminists who will change the world. The audience fell in love with One and Ursula, and it was thrilling to see so many young people enjoying themselves. The emotional arc of this work is superb, and the reason you’ll leave the theatre filled with hope and a big smile on your face.   

   

14
Oct
17

Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

 

Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

QPAC Presents A Barking Gecko Theatre Company Production

QPAC Playhouse

October 11 – 15 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

How does a story write itself?

 

It only takes a wish…

 

How weird theatre is, or my head while I’m in it. The ancient Greeks recognised the River Styx as the point between this world and Hades, and this with its ferryman, Kharon, is the image that fills my head as we watch Bambert, an impossibly small man with an enormous love for writing, cross over to the other side of the dream.

I cry, and usually I can brush away any tears before the house lights come up but something is different and I let them fall. Poppy hugs me – she’s almost as tall as me and as skinny as my grandmother, her great-grandmother, Ena; I’ve been thinking about her – and we don’t hang around, even though my friend knows this cast and I could race around with her to Stage Door to give every one of them a huge hug to say thanks for stopping by and stopping other things happening in my life for a little while. Katie Noonan’s exquisite cover of River Man, from Elixir days, haunts me for the next few hours, despite Poppy’s insistence that we listen to Next to Normal all the way home – I will keep the plates all spinning – and then, when we get home, the noise of the neighbours’ parties pervades our house, and our little street. This used to be a neat street…

 

 

Children’s stories make us think of other children’s stories, and this one, a Helpmann Award winner in 2016, brings up all sorts of stuff, including my hero, Mr Plumbean, and for some reason (because we get a sense of how simple and complex death is?), a favourite Little Golden Book about the changing of the seasons, The Four Puppies. And always, The Neverending Story. ALWAYS The Neverending Story. Some stories stay with us…

 

Child-like, old man Bambert lives in the tiny attic above Mr Bloom’s grocery store, writing his stories beneath the gaze of his friend, the moon.

 

 

“He realised that all his stories were just words on a page. All these years he thought he was writing himself into the world but the truth was, if Bambert knew nothing of the world then the world knew nothing of him.”

 

One day Bambert sends his stories out into the world, tearing the pages from his book and attaching each to a balloon, with instructions for the reader to send the story back so that he may use the postage stamp to give each story a location.

 

Bambert’s stories are rich with meaning. I enjoy the first one the most, about a headstrong, and socially, politically and environmentally conscious princess looking to appoint the next leader of her kingdom. She sees through the gimmicks of potential suitors who have been asked to give her the key to truth, exposing their flaws and fake news, and we are left to assume that she herself will take the reigns. Frightening tales follow this one, in which a pigeon woman in London, Lady Brompton-Featherly-Poselthwaighte-Huntington-Moore the Third, finds lost and hungry people to add to her collection of living wax figures, another in which two writers will have to put their faith in an imaginary child to escape their prison cell on a ray of light, and a brother and sister who will have to find their way through the stark winter forests of Poland before the Dark Angels (no, not those who frequent the fetish club, but something more like Dementors, or…Nazis), find them and force them into a deep hole in the freezing earth. And finally, it’s the tale of Taruk, whose drawings come to life as he completes them, reinforcing Bambert’s wish that creativity and good choices will change the world.

 

Directed by Dan Giovannoni and Luke Kerridge, who came across a copy of Reinheldt Jung’s book in a London bookstore and carried it with him for years of backpacking around the world before returning home to turn it into this show. (Kerridge’s other favourite book is The Little Prince). In these sophisticated stories, Kerridge recognised Jung’s simple storytelling device, that it’s the children who are the protagonists and the children who can save the world.

 

It’s a much darker show than you might expect to be seeing with the kids, but here are 5 things I noticed during the Friday night performance at QPAC’s Playhouse, which makes me consider how much we need darker stories told in a theatrical context, and how much we need kids to continue taking their parents to experience live theatre.

  1. we need darkness to see the light
  2. kids are more prepared to hear difficult stories than their parents appear to be
  3. kids are more comfortable hearing difficult stories than their parents appear to be
  4. kids and parents experience similar difficulties trying to quietly consume hard candy in boxes
  5. theatres should resist selling hard candy in boxes if they would like to maintain a particular quality to the storytelling and audience experience
  6. parents should resist accompanying their kids to the theatre unless they are going to follow their own advice, including not speaking or using phones during the performance because as well as being distracting to those seated nearby, the performers, who all real people exisiting in real time in front of you, can hear you and see you.

 

Of course most of the kids work out how it works before the house lights have dimmed.

 

 

The magic of Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories is not only in the allegorical tales themselves, but in the telling of them. Igor Sas is the thoughtful, gentle Mr Bloom, who intercepts Bambert’s stories in favour of seeing his small friend’s delight rather than disillusionment with the world. A talented ensemble play the roles required to bring the story characters to life. Tim Watts is Bambert’s gibberish voice and head and heart (and also, Lord Byron and the princess’s tall, gangly, funny father, the king). Amanda McGregor, Jo Morris and Nick MacLaine are exceptional across multiple roles demonstrating their versatility and flair for comedy and Bunraku puppetry.

 

 

Designer, Jonathan Oxlade, has created a beautiful, intimate two-storey set of intricate detail, which we would ideally have seen in the Cremorne Theatre, only somebody probably thought they could sell every Playhouse seat to any production from this award winning company (I would have thought so too). With ever-changing evocative lighting by Chris Donnelly, and a cinematic soundscape and original music by Ian Moorhead, there’s nothing about this show that’s not perfectly crafted and polished for audiences of all ages and sensibilities. I’ve seen nothing on this scale, of this calibre, for young children since Slava’s Snowshow and Wolfe Bowart’s suite of works. We miss so much as adults (and with an older child now), not even trying to get to similar work at QPAC’s Out of the Box festival for under eights or so-called “children’s theatre”. If only we could get to everything, and if only everything was this sweet and enthralling and entertaining. 

 

While you’re at QPAC, drop in to see Puppet People, a free exhibition in the Tony Gould Gallery with extended opening hours during the Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories season:

Saturday 10am – 6.15pm and Sunday 10am – 1.30pm

13
Oct
17

The Last Five Years

 

The Last Five Years

Wax Lyrical Productions

Visy Theatre Brisbane Powerhouse

October 7 – 14 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

Within the first ten minutes of The Last Five Years we know whether or not we’re up for hearing this story and watching heartbreak happen. Wax Lyrical’s production, directed by Zoe Tuffin, and starring Kurt Phelan and Lizzie Moore, is exquisitely sad and beautifully crafted to let some light shine on the perfect imperfections of two people who were once in love.

 

During the opening three minutes we’ve already had our hearts crack irreparably and we realise we’re in for a relentlessly emotional 90-minute ride. If you’re coming in with real, raw, brand new wounds, or savage old ones that you’re not ready to let heal, take a drink or two in; you may feel the need to self-medicate.

 

Jason Robert Brown’s contemporary song cycle boasts a neat structure that sees the two performers share the stage throughout, and yet meet and connect only once, for a moment when they marry (The Next Ten Minutes, ever so delicately crafted and delivered). Despite the clever chronological device, and their continuous comings and goings, these gifted performers retain a deep connection with the material and with each other throughout.

 

 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it pays to know this much: A novelist, Jamie (Kurt Phelan), shares his story from the start to the finish of a five-year relationship with actress, Cathy (Lizzie Moore), who tells us her side of the same story in reverse, from the end of their relationship to its beginning. The characters are complex, the relationship complicated and it doesn’t end well.

 

 

 

As Phelan and Moore settle into their challenging roles, on opening night of a too-short season in the intimate Visy Theatre, we begin to sense what these two can really do. Phelan (Boys of Sondheim, Dirty Dancing) and Moore (Kiss Me Kate, On a Night Like This) know each other from way back, having met in a bathtub at a surprise party for mutual friend, Lucy Durack. There’s no doubt they’ve attracted attention as individual performers, but if they can perfect Moore’s first couple of numbers (Still Hurting & See I’m Smiling) – and perhaps she’s hit the mark after opening night, letting the emotion drop in, and going to the edge from the outset, as she does a little later – this two-hander will be the smash hit of next year’s national touring circuit.

 

You get to be happy…

 

 

In his most honest and searing work to date, Phelan embraces Jamie’s narcissism, ambition and shifting affection, offering a bold and precise physical performance, buoyed by a deeply committed energy that could be bottled and sold to most undergraduate (and some professional) performers. He’s effervescent, irresistible in this challenging role, which is the perfect vehicle for Phelan, with an impressive vocal range and a cavalry of emotions. From Shiksa Goddess to If I Didn’t believe in You we get the full gamut of emotions. The Shmuel Song – that track that might use a Spotify skip to miss – works so well that I’d happily see Phelan perform it again; he keeps us fully engaged (although the literal aspects, which are mimed, could go). His Nobody Needs to Know is, unsurprisingly, completely devastating. Phelan’s a busy, busy guy, but I hope this role is one he can keep smashing for some time.

 

I open myself one stitch at a time…

 

 

Cathy is one of the more demanding high belt roles for any female vocalist, asking of the performer a massive emotional range, difficult to keep in check, and it’s up to the performer to resist pushing vocally without the inner life to back up the big sound. When Moore settles into the role she nails it, embodying the sweet, insecure Cathy, and able to bring home the big brash open notes (Anna Kendrick doesn’t sell them like that!), as well as more thoughtful, gentle moments. Moore’s comedy is superb, it’s her thing; she’s so funny and cute, and yet, within the world of the show, she gives us reason to understand why Jamie might look the other way. I’d love to see her contain more, especially to begin with, to sit with the shock and immediacy of Jamie’s departure before the hilarity – the Climbing Uphill sequence later, and the little moments and glances that have us giggling during A Summer in Ohio and I Can Do Better Than That. We have to laugh out loud during the multiple failed auditions. We’ve all been there. Fucking shoes. Poor Cathy.

 

I have been waiting…

 

 

Shannon Whitelock (MD and piano), leading guitar (Joel Woods), violin (Ruth Donovan), cello (Wayne Jennings & Ruby Hunter) and bass (Conall O’Neill), plays with conviction and coaxes from his on-stage 5-piece the rich sounds of a much larger assembly of musicians. When I speak to Jennings, with whom I train on Monday nights in Zen Zen Zo’s Dojo, he modestly dismisses what he does so well outside of the training room. But if it were not for the sweet, desperately sad sounds and contrasting upbeat and humorous numbers (and with the hold these musicians have on JRB’s challenging score), our hearts might still be in tact!

 

Zoe Tuffin’s poised direction hones in on the detail, the specificity of each intimate moment. Her use of the sparsely configured space and contrasting lighting states, designed by Jason Glenwright, draw us into two completely different worlds, which collide for just a little while, for just as long as they need to, to tell the common tale of two people who are just not meant to be together.

 

The Last Five Years is quite a journey, for the cast and for us.

My head spins. My heart hurts. The hawk soars forth from my chest.

 

All I could do was love you hard and let you go…

 




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