Posts Tagged ‘andrea moor

22
Aug
17

Queensland Theatre Season Launch 2018

 

Queensland Theatre Season Launch 2018

Queensland Theatre

Monday August 20 1017

 

Attended by Nicole Reilly

 

Sam Strong Leading From Queensland –

Including four world premieres and six new Australian stories, eight extraordinary plays headline Queensland Theatre’s Season 2018.

Leading from the stage, last night QT Artistic Director Sam Strong unveiled the season to a capacity crowd, as the company’s current season experiences a record-breaking artistic and commercial wave of success. The selection of plays on offer next year traverse centuries of time, the breadth of our country, the expanse of the globe, and the inner workings of diverse and brilliant minds. To quote Australia’s preeminent storyteller, David Williamson, during his introduction, “I don’t think you’re going to be bored!”
Black is the New White + The 39 Steps + Twelfth Night + The Longest Minute + Good Muslim Boy + Jasper Jones + Nearer the Gods + Hedda
The most equitable and diverse season yet features a roll call of theatre greats and emerging stars, the likes of Matthew Backer, Jimi Bani, Liz Buchanan, Leon Cain, Danielle Cormack, Tim Finn, Jason Klarwein, William McInnes, Joss McWilliam, Andrea Moor, Rhys Muldoon, Veronica Neave, Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker, Bryan Probets, Osamah Sami and Jessica Tovey, as well as continued commitment to no male-only design teams and more opportunities for female directors and playwrights.
The crowd was especially excited by director Paige Rattray’s introduction to Hedda, where she expressed her intent to take ownership of the female voices in the canon and “throw them up in the air and spin them on their heads”, reimagining them for continued relevance in contemporary theatre. This adaptation of Ibsen’s classic promises to be a highlight of the 2018 season.
The year opens on February 1 with the Queensland premiere of Black is the New White, followed by The 39 Steps. In April Twelfth Night opens featuring a suite of new original songs by maestro Tim Finn. In May Queensland Theatre presents the world premiere of The Longest Minute, a story about football and family and one unforgettable NRL grand final. The award-winning story Good Muslim Boy takes on the monumental question of faith, before Strong’s multi-Helpmann-nominated and winning Jasper Jones opens in July.
On October 6 the world premiere of acclaimed playwright David Williamson’s Nearer the Gods will take place, with Matthew Backer, William McInnes and Rhys Muldoon. To close Season 2018 Logie Award-winning actor Danielle Cormack will become the Hedda audiences have all been waiting to see in Melissa Bubnic’s local version of the Henrik Ibsen classic that is as dangerous and surprising as its heroine. Cormack is joined on stage by powerhouses Jimi Bani, Jason Klarwein, Joss McWilliam and Andrea Moor.
“Like all great theatre, the 2018 season transports us to places we wouldn’t otherwise encounter – or even imagine,” said Strong who will direct three of the eight mainstage plays. “In the coming year, audiences can be at the centre of a food fight at the Christmas dinner from Hell, evade pursuers across the Scottish highlands, wrestle with a Kafkaesque bureaucracy in Iran, help solve a 1960s murder mystery in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, become entangled in a 17th Century scientific feud, or sing melancholy love songs to the exotic Duke of a mythical realm,” he said. “In May, one of the most dramatic sporting moments of all time will form the springboard for a new play about football, family and faith and in November, Ibsen’s classic heroine Hedda Gabler will splash down poolside in a new version set on the Gold Coast.”
“All of this transportation will take place via the magic of theatre. And in 2018, our home venue will itself be the subject of a dramatic reveal. When it re-opens in August, the Bille Brown Studio will have been transformed – via a new stage, new seating and a new foyer – into the Bille Brown Theatre. The best thing about theatre is that the work is never finished. In 2018 we continue our exploration of what theatre does best. If somewhere extraordinary is the destination, the magic of theatre is the route.”
Strong said in 2018 audiences were set to experience:
  More Queensland exclusives, including David Williamson’s newest play, a new version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with songs by Tim Finn, a new play about the 2015 NRL Grand Final, and a re-imagined version of Hedda Gabler set on the Gold Coast.
  More national reach through relationships with Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse and State Theatre Company of South Australia among others.
  More leadership in equality, with gender parity of writers and directors for the second consecutive year – a continuation of the 2017 commitment; no all-male design teams; and Queensland Theatre working with more than a dozen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
  More commitment to North Queensland and its stories with a play about the North Queensland Cowboys to premiere in Cairns and Townsville before coming to Brisbane.
  More local stage stars including Jimi Bani, Liz Buchanan, Leon Cain, Jason Klarwein, Joss McWilliam Andrea Moor, Veronica Neave, Christen O’Leary Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets.
  More national cast coming to Brisbane including Matthew Backer, Danielle Cormack, William McInnes, Rhys Muldoon, Osamah Sami, and Jessica Tovey.
  More of the most successful work from around the country, including sell out hits from Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company directed by Sam Strong and Paige Rattray.
  More state-wide engagement through relationships with QPAC, debase production, JUTE Theatre Company and Dancenorth.
  More new stories, with four world premieres and six new Australian stories (2/3 of the season).
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31
May
16

Switzerland

Switzerland

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

May 20 – June 26 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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“She was a mean, hard, cruel, unlovable, unloving person…”

– Otto Penzler

“Writing is a way of controlling experience.”

– Joanna Murray-Smith

“I’m going to enjoy what I’ve got as long as it lasts.”

– Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

 

Patricia Highsmith was a difficult woman.

 

In Joanna Murray-Smith’s brilliant slow-burning two-hander, renowned US crime writer and recluse, Patricia Highsmith, meets her publishing company’s earnest rep, Edward Ridgeway, in a fictional encounter that demands of her a final Ripley novel to put her back on the bestseller list. Ridgeway won’t leave until the contract is signed and the two grapple with power, perception, deception and wit, and drink beers before breakfast (Highsmith hated food) before a sly twist turns the situation on its head.

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Steve Toulmin’s creeping cinematic score and Ben Hughes’ moody lighting contribute to the feeling of isolation in Highsmith’s haven near Locarno, Switzerland, where she lived for the last thirty years of her life. The play takes place during the last three days of her life. Despite warm accents in the weapons on display, the soft furnishings and timber pieces (Highsmith had enormous hands and feet, and proudly carved some of her furniture herself), Anthony Spinaze’s design, incorporating cold whites and steely blues, complete with raked ceiling and false proscenium, creates an uncomfortable, open space for Highsmith’s unwelcome visitor, and for us too. Tension seeps into the room with the shadows that stretch across the floor, moonlight leaking in, sneaking in, from beyond authentic French doors. We’re flies on the wall, keeping a safe distance from the intricate web being woven, knowing there is something awful to come, knowing the end will be dire.

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When the French doors are thrown open to reveal the contrasting darkness outside, the mood and pace of the piece is dramatically altered. A moment suspended in time sees Highsmith here, moonstruck, moving to music (although we can’t be sure if she’s hearing what we’re hearing or something else entirely), oblivious to everything but her innermost thoughts, having dowsed the rest of her soul and her insecurities with Johnny Walker Red.

Andrea Moor has stepped into Highsmith’s loafers and into this difficult woman’s head, embodying the imagined real-life character and all her complexities. She’s witty and impatient and caustic, rising like a snake in the face of her antagonist, ready to strike, but often taking her time to do so while she sizes up the opposition, considering perhaps, with which weapon she’ll finish him off. Highsmith meets her intellectual match in Ridgeway and Moor meets her on-stage equal in Matthew Backer. In every aspect of his communication Backer encapsulates the initial timidity and gradually gained prowess of a ruthlessly ambitious admirer. He needs few words to make his position known.

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It’s thrilling to see two accomplished actors simply acting. Having said that, the greatest compliment we can pay the actors is to not have seen their acting; to know that the work has been done and not see them doing it, only the effects of it, and that is the case here. Murray-Smith’s complex characters are perfectly realised by Moor and Backer, under the watchful eye of Director, Paige Rattray. Deftly fashioned suspense, created by Rattray’s superb manipulation of the text, timing, design features and plot twists, builds a little like the dark, lilting, recurring Norma Desmond theme of Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. Toulmin’s score balances this mysterious and sombre mood with interludes of Hitchcock style high stakes, and to further elevate the mood in that weirdly comically nightmarish horror movie way, we hear the innocent, joyful, slightly absurd strains of South Pacific’s Happy Talk.

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The end is not altogether unpredictable but it comes as a shock nevertheless. We’re drawn toward unimaginable horror; the writer’s reality, the inevitable, the loss of control. The actual end.

Switzerland is compelling and richly rewarding. It’s darkly funny, provocative and ultimately terrifying. It’s highly accomplished humble theatre; the strongest we’ve seen from within QTC’s walls this year.

Production pics by Rob Maccoll

Want to learn more about Patricia Highsmith?

Read THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar.

15
Feb
16

QUARTET

 

Quartet

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

January 30 – February 21 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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QTC’s production of Ronald Harwood’s Quartet coincides with the passing of a great artist and industry leader, the much-loved Carol Burns. This production is dedicated to Carol, “matriarch of stage and screen”, honoured last Monday night in a moving tribute, which took place on the Playhouse stage, beneath Bruce McKinven’s beautifully realised conservatory set. The industry – our close-knit arts community – came together to celebrate her life and her craft, at which she worked tirelessly until December last year. Many friends generously shared their stories about working with Carol. You can read what Kate Wilson shared with us here.

Carol Burns – was one of the most uncompromising, truly alive human beings I have known. To have known her is to have experienced a force of blazing energy that came from deep inside her – on stage and in person. At times, she seemed almost to glow.

– Kate Wilson

Quartet brings together on stage four extraordinary artists – Kate Wilson (Soprano, Jean), Trevor Stuart (Baritone, Wilfred), Andrew McFarlane (Tenor, Reginald) & Christine Amor (Mezzo-Soprano, Cecily) – to remind us of so many things… Director, Andrea Moor notes, “The themes of Quartet are acutely in focus for the Queensland theatre community right now, resonating with the universal nature of Ronald Harwood’s writing. We expect a rich and brilliant cultural life and yet how much do we support those who give us this experience?” As a show of the utmost respect and support, Moor has enveloped this play and its players in a big, warm embrace to emanate the sort of gorgeous feelings you get when you walk into Grandma’s kitchen and smell the cookies she’s baked especially for you, just because.

There is a “peculiar fascination some opera lovers have for superannuated opera singers who still perform before the public. Their frailty and artistry combined with a reluctance to see their careers end is part of what is so touching about these rare people.”

Opera lovers will realize that Harwood and, perhaps, Hoffman took inspiration from the marvelous documentary, “Il Bacio di Tosca” (“Tosca’s Kiss”), about the life of real retired musicians at the Casa di Riposo in Milan that Giuseppe Verdi, who conceived of it, paid for its construction and is buried there, called “la mia opera più bella” (“my most beautiful work”). I have visited this home often and have had the pleasure of meeting and listening to performances by these wonderful old artists. 

A recent development at the Casa di Riposo is that young musicians from foreign countries also live there, studying with the older artists and providing company and a loving ear for recollections. This is a wonderful place for opera lovers to support. The institution counts among its past supporters Renata Tebaldi and Luciano Pavarotti, whose names are carved into a wall in the atrium.

– Fred Plotkin

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Quartet celebrates the individual – our talents, our quirks – but more so, community and connection, drawing attention to the unlikely friendships we form and lose and rediscover…

Harwood’s text is tightly, neatly penned, pulling together the stories and precious memories (as well as those that are less precious and best forgotten) of four retired opera singers who have been put out to pasture – imagine the most elegantly appointed pasture if you will, romantically lit by David Walters – and in doing so, opens our eyes and awakens our senses to the simple joys and frustrations of every day, elderly lives. (You might remember the 2012 film, directed by Dustin Hoffman). We recognise the strength and fiery spirit of independent souls still very much alive inside frail, failing bodies. Balancing wistful glances into the past with bright-eyed glimpses of the future (or what’s left of it!), this show is a strange, sweet comfort, directed and delivered with full, glowing hearts. It’s easy to forget, after all, that one day, given good health and good fortune, in just no time at all, we too will be old…er.

The grace and wisdom and wit and pensiveness of old age comes across beautifully, as does the dry, mostly gentle humour of those who were once “great” in the eyes of their peers and the public, and some more comfortable now than others in their new state of grace. With each performer displaying various physical ailments, and the unique qualities of his or her character, these fascinating people become fully realised on stage (there are no simple stereotypes, nor any over sentimentality), earning our admiration and heartfelt sympathy. Hilarity comes with their wry observations and the relentless sexual references from Trevor Stuart’s character, Wilfred, which are more often than not directed at Cecily, brought to life with gusto and child-like joy by Christine Amor. She’s rather forgetful and fidgety, and I bet you know – or once knew – someone just like her. 

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Stuart might be that odd and slightly creepy ageing guy who steals a look at legs and breasts when you stop at the library or the IGA if it were not for his delightful grin and rapid-fire delivery of all things a workplace or public place or shared living space should now be proudly void of. His comic timing is impeccable. For Wilfred, a cheeky pinch on the bum isn’t sexual harassment, it’s simply friendly, and persistent efforts to bed Cecily are light and funny, despite our acknowledgement from the stalls of his rather old-fashioned and increasingly tiresome behaviour. Had it been seen in real life, he might be the uncle or the father-in-law who misses out on a return invitation to the Christmas dinner table. Wilfred is THAT GUY. Stuart’s second act costume takes the cake and he clearly relishes every opportunity to draw our attention to it.

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Kate Wilson’s Jean is the disregarded diva, a woman of substance and immeasurable talent but with few real friends left in life and so little self confidence that when the mask drops we see at first only a shadow of her former self. She hides a deeply realised fear and the private shame of letting a vital relationship dissolve into nothingness. Andrew McFarlane’s Reginald, a true gentleman, all class, is debonair and adorable to watch. The connection created on stage by these two is that magical thing of theatre, an intimacy that transpires as something we might seek ourselves if only we’re brave enough and true enough in our everyday lives.

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Act 1 feels limited by a garden terrace design utilising the narrow space in front of a lush green curtain, which allows very little room for movement, however; it’s a text focused play, and there are four back stories that must be established early on to make this fine character piece ring true. Each story is gradually revealed through the insights (and snipes) of the other personalities on stage as much as it is by the individuals themselves. Act 2 opens up splendidly, putting us inside at last, the stunning atrium of the establishment, a living and entertaining space that also serves as the dressing room (ladies on one side, gents on the other) before our four stars step forward into their light to perform the famed Quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto. They lip synch it (does anyone expect them to actually sing?), and so well studied is the technique that we are quite convinced of their past success in the opera world. Sound design by Tony Brumpton is on point throughout, down to the last pretty twitter of birdsong.

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Quartet is a beautiful, lingering, lovingly crafted character piece boasting great moments of quick, witty comedy and rare insight into the whimsy and reality of the elders of our tribe, perfectly suitable for all ages. Continues until February 21 at QPAC before touring.

CHECK THIS OUT! QPAC Membership – be part of our heart

Production pics by Rob Maccoll

 

04
Aug
15

Grounded

 

Grounded

Queensland Theatre Company

The Greenhouse Diane Cilento Studio

July 29 – August 22 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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If you want to see this year’s best performance and be part of the crowd who’ll say, “I saw her first” when she accepts an Academy Award one day, don’t miss Libby Munro in Grounded.

 

It’s an intense slow-burn one-woman drama and Munro is thrilling in it.

 

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2013 WINNER of the Matilda Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

 

You might have missed her in Venus In Fur – directed by Andrea Moor in 2013 – and wondered why ever since, since it’s one of the productions we haven’t stopped talking about.

 

Wesley Enoch explains simply, “A diva is a celebrated woman of outstanding talent…and Libby Munro is such a woman.”

 

George Brant’s brilliant insight into drone warfare from the female fighter pilot’s perspective is the best kind of contemporary poetry, without much of the punctuation you’d expect to see on a page, allowing the actor to find the natural cadence of the piece. On many levels it’s a quietly political piece but Grounded will endure and enjoy greater global success because it keeps the human story, like the heartbeat of Tony Brumpton’s soundscape for this superb production, at its core.

 

We walk into the Diane Cilento Studio – used for the first time in performance mode for Grounded – and hear the low hum of either the air con or the soundscape (it’s impossible to tell) and then see the indelible image of a woman in fetal position at the top of a small raked stage, a flight suit set below her. The suit, just for these opening moments, enjoys the most light. When she puts it on she doesn’t want to take it off, and says so. It’s part of her, her identity. It’s how she knows who she is. Later, she admits to having had sex in it. But only once.

 

The body becomes electric, the face becomes animated, almost like a child’s as she tells us with stars in her eyes, and Maverick arrogance and religious reverence, about the thrill of soaring through “the blue” in her Tiger, and laughing and drinking beer with the other Top Guns, her boys, at the end of each shift.

 

Then suddenly there’s the shock, surprise and delight that comes with love and the pink stripe of pregnancy, and the birth of a beautiful baby girl…who needs “attention”. We feel her confusion and commitment to both the family and the air force as she tries to adjust to the military’s version of “work-life balance”. We watch, dismayed, as she takes her place behind a screen every day for 12 hours at a time to become one of the Chair Force, wirelessly controlling a death-dealing reaper drone from a dark trailer in the Nevada desert. You can’t make out their faces but from their movement you can identify, without any doubt, The Guilty. Suddenly, we miss the blue too.

 

Through vivid description, though without morbid graphic detail (the economy of words and the measured pace saving us from the darkest corner of our imaginations), we see body parts flying through the air and what remains of the bodies merging with the grey sand on the screen as The Pilot “lingers”, safe from death, in her $11 million “eye in the sky”. The threat of death has been removed.

 

Can you imagine? The vivid pictures Munro paints with Brant’s prose will sweep you up and along on the journey so be ready; it’s one hell of a ride. You might feel your stomach turn – it’s the G-Force effect – or feel the need to shake it off and get your land legs back after such a tumultuous storytelling event.

 

Testament to the lasting impression this production leaves, on opening night there were many in the audience who stayed sitting in their seats after the curtain call, just sitting…perhaps hoping to be offered something stronger than champagne.

 

In what must constitute the acting masterclass of the year, Munro expertly shows us every tiny detail of her world, just as a “world builder” novelist does. We get a sense of the vastness, the magic of “the blue”, the comedy and tragedy of trying to schedule TV time, sex, sleep, and daycare drop-off “special time” in between 12-hour shifts surrounded by military males (staring at “military age” male targets). And all of this without the aid of over-zealous production elements, which are wisely kept simple, completely unfettered, thanks to an unassuming and super talented creative team, who have allowed the actor to take centre stage. No fancy projections here, just the blue-turning-grey of a quietly commanding abstract design to literally frame the actor…and the perfectly timed sound of a beating heart. (Designer Georgina Greenhill. Lighting Designer Ben Hughes. Sound Designer Tony Brumpton). Not that we can take our eyes off Munro for long to really study anything else in the room…

 

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A flawless brunette beauty, tall, slender and strong, even in the most sensitive, vulnerable moments, Munro has the striking looks and arresting presence of a supporting actress envied by leading ladies who fail to cast a similar spell over captivated audiences and can’t for the life of them understand why. The rich, nuanced vocal work is superb and the pace, as we leap across the hours, days, years, is as real-time as it gets. The performance is beautifully shaped and layered by Director, Andrea Moor. The repetition is almost too much at one point, but it serves to help us appreciate the strange routine of virtual warfare, which allows a fighter pilot to get the job done and make it home in time for dinner.

 

When you see Munro’s tour-de-force performance in the intimate space of the Diane Cilento Studio you’ll understand I’m not exaggerating. You’ll come under her spell and know too that she’s something special. She must be the spunkiest, sexiest, most compelling actress on an Australian stage right now. Hers is a sublime performance of a hard-hitting, game-changing text that could mean we won’t see Munro on a local stage for a little while after this season closes on August 22. Better be quick to book. Grounded is not to be missed.

 

03
Feb
15

Boston Marriage

 

Boston Marriage

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

January 24 – February 15 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

AD LIBITUM

towards pleasure

 

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“Acting, which takes place in front of an audience, is not as the academic model would have us believe. It is not a test. It is an art, and it requires not tidiness, not paint-by-numbers intellectuality, but immediacy and courage…

 

In life there is no emotional preparation for loss, grief, surprise, betrayal, discovery; and there is none on stage either.”

David Mamet

 

Did you know? Despite the fact that Massachusetts, in 2004, became the first American state to legalise same-sex marriage, a “Boston Marriage” didn’t originally imply only a sexually active relationship, but also a platonic one between two women of independent means.

 

You might not know this either (I tend not to tell people so there’s no reason you would), but I’m not fond of flying. I KNOW. I don’t love it. In fact, I really don’t like it at all. I LOVE CRUISING. But I hate flying. I hate the hold-your-breath moments of the take off and the landing and I remember crying once all the way through a bit of bad turbulence. It was a flight to Hobart, a really looong flight, for a funeral. Typical. Way to set the mood, Universe…

 

This probably helps to explain why I’m not quite as well travelled as I would like to be (that, and my penchant for fine food and wine). On a plane, as soon as I’m seated, I click the belt closed, and check it, and tighten it to make my waist approximately size 4 (I’m already holding my breath in case something bad happens so no probs there), and all my energy goes into surviving enjoying that flight. I try to think I’m not even on a plane! Usually I try to do this by reading. I read A LOT. FAST. I read the safety chart, the papers, the in-flight mag, the script that Sam is supposed to be reading, the pages of whatever the person in front of me is reading (no, it’s not creepy; it’s resourceful) and at least one novel before we get to where we’re going. But the other week, coming home from Auckland, a movie caught my eye and I watched it. And I forgot I was miraculously supported in mid air by a complex set of mechanical and aerodynamical MIRACLES. It was Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, starring Colin Firth. I was completely absorbed. And not entirely due to Colin Firth’s presence (yes, I’m a fan, which also explains Hugh Parker’s appeal, doesn’t it? I’ve mentioned that before). It’s a sweet, funny film.

 

Magic in the Moonlight follows Firth’s character as he attempts to unmask Emma Stone’s character. She claims she’s a mentalist, and runs around the country hosting séances with her MOTHER. ANYWAY, hosting or attending a séance was once A THING and it’s A THING that is used by David Mamet in Boston Marriage to a) add a presumably highly amusing plot twist and b) take away any sort of sense that he had almost begun making before any mention by his leading ladies of a séance. Magic in the Moonlight is really A LOVELY FILM. And Colin Firth and Emma Stone are really LOVELY. LOOK…

 

 

 

 

Now, what a very interesting conversation we can have about QTC’s production of Mamet’s Boston Marriage. This is the first show of the year for our state theatre company, and it’s certainly difficult, but it’s also quite delightful! (It was Mamet who said we come to the theatre to be delighted!). I say you’ll come to Boston Marriage and be delighted, and perhaps, well, possibly slightly disenchanted… Oh well!

 

 

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While Mamet is not always for everyone, this production, directed by Andrea Moor, a massive fan of Mamet and a Practical Aesthetics aficionado, offers an especially inviting point of access in her exceptional cast; strong performances that give us whole, hilarious characters. With a B-Grade plot (yes it’s Mamet but not as we know him), and characters and devices to distract us from the fact, Boston Marriage is an intentionally pretentious comedy of errors set in one lavish room featuring three female performers. It’s unique in Mamet’s repertoire, as he wrote mostly ghastly male characters; you’ll know the fast-talking guys in Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo and Speed-the-Plow (the latter was given new life at the cinema as Wag the Dog). Although there was something intriguing to Mamet about the power of a woman in a man’s world, this is the one play in which he explores women’s power over each other (and their support for one another), in an undeniably “feminine” chintz covered New England drawing room.

 

And the set is exquisite. It’s not as intimate as we might have expected, and nor should it be, the imposing columns standing as the rest of society might – just out of reach and privy to every word and deed from the fringes, if only for the entertainment of their highly critical self entitled social circles.

 

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Designer, Stephen Curtis, has created an ancient temple of love sans decay and crumbling stone because everything here has, of course, cost a pretty penny. Of course, not one cent of it is Anna’s (Amanda Muggleton); she has attracted the attention of a married man who “keeps” her. He doesn’t know it, but the bargain Anna has struck with him is part of her attempt to re-snare her lifelong friend, Claire (Rachel Gordon). Claire stops by to ask if she may bring her young friend to the apartment and if she may have Anna’s assistance in the seduction of the pretty young thing. Anna, being the cheeky c…. cat that she is, agrees to assist her, er, dear friend, as long as she may watch.

 

A maid from the Orkney Islands (Helen Cassidy) bears the brunt of the couple’s learned upper class malice and, it should be said, their ignorance about anybody other than themselves. Insert mistaken Irish heritage banter and plenty of potato famine jokes here. The plot – what little there is of it – takes a turn when it is discovered that the young friend and the married man are connected, and the maid is accused of stealing an emerald necklace gifted to Anna by the gentleman.

 

 

“It is the writer’s job to make the play interesting. It is the actor’s job to make the performance truthful.”

David Mamet

 

 

These women are aggressive, they are written that way and many lines are delivered in bold, brassy, sassy terms. Some are shouted. Sometimes it’s effective and sometimes it ain’t. These well-heeled Edwardian women know what they want and they know they can have it…or can they? There are lovely moments of vulnerability and tenderness, giving us glimpses into another side to these beautifully crafted characters, but they are short-lived and ultimately, we see the women as Mamet sees them, through a man’s eyes. Interestingly, each is aware – of course she is – of the other’s immense suffering but even under the guise of refinement and polite conversation (not to mention the intimacy and respect of a long-standing relationship), some comments and criticisms cannot be undone. But they can be accepted…

 

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Helen Cassidy, as the Scottish maid Catherine, delivers a nicely measured performance of physical comedy and tempered timing (although there are a couple of times when the pause following most entrances is a touch too long). To her merit, Cassidy’s performance prompted after the show the story of a production elsewhere, in which the long-term subscriber telling the tale HAD NOT ACTUALLY REMEMBERED THE MAID IN THE SHOW. In stark contrast, Cassidy’s performance is unforgettable. If we were going to do old-school character arcs with secondary students, we’d look at Cassidy’s maid. Hers is quite the journey.

 

 

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Rachel Gordon is truly radiantly beautiful (she could have been a face of Lancome…she might be yet!), and there are times when her lusty, wanton manner of speaking drops to a delicious purr, up there (down there?) with Eartha Kitt and Meow Meow. She’s the perfect foil for Amanda Muggleton, who is just as fabulous as we had expected her to be, perhaps more so. In sharpening the edge of every word and playing up every nuance between them, Muggleton creates a character better than even Mamet might have imagined. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and I can’t help feeling I wish I’d seen more of her recent touring work.

 

QTC Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, spoke after the show about David Walters’ lighting design in terms of a fragrance. He was spot on. He explained that it has its base notes, heart notes and top notes. I would go so far as to say Walters’ lighting lends an oriental woody feel to the production: woody, honey base notes, patchouli, lily and pine heart notes, and jasmine and rose top notes. It’s a work of art. It all feels as if IT’S VERY EXPENSIVE.

 

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I think this is the best way to look at Boston Marriage overall – it’s a loud, lovely looking work of art, a savvy contemporary collector’s piece, brimming with ascorbic wit and some very obscure references (by all means, glance at the glossary in your program but don’t spoil your evening by poring over it!). It will appeal to some and be a source of irritation for others. Unfortunately, it has to be said, the final moments are disappointing; the ending is surprisingly droll rather than superbly passionate. I feel it’s misjudged, or underplayed. It doesn’t need to be salacious, just delicious enough to make us leap to our feet for a shaky standing ovation after we’ve taken a moment to gather ourselves. Instead, the final moments are like a terrific third date that inexplicably ends with the same awkward car-side kiss as the first! Oh well!

 

Boston Marriage has so much good and gorgeous going on (you simply must see Amanda Muggleton at the top of her game) that it’s well worth experiencing this one yourself, no matter what anyone says.

 

Images by Rob Maccoll

31
Jan
14

Australia Day

 

Australia Day

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

January 25 – February 16 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

“It’s about respect.” Marie in Australia Day

 

 

Wow! Committees! Right? I LOVE THEM

 

 

I’m on three arts committees this year, and Sam is President of the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance so I sit in on the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival committee meetings. We confer with local councils and sub-committees to support community events, and once (and only once) I went to a P&C meeting. You’ve gotta’ laugh, haven’t you? And in the end, you’ve just gotta get things done! If you’ve ever been on a committee you’ll love this play. Here’s an extract, which totes sums up the tone of the show.

 

 

Brian:   Item six. The sausage sizzle.

Wally:   What about it?

Brian:   Councillor McInnes has a few queries.

Wally:   Now there’s a surprise.

Helen:   I was just thinking that a sausage sizzle is a bit monocultural.

Wally:   Mono-what?

Helen:   Are we reflecting the cultural diversity of the shire?

Wally:   What’s more Australian than snags on a barbecue? You think in China on Chairman bloody Mao Day they serve up pavlova?

Helen:   This is a country of many cultures, Wally – not everyone, thank God, looks and thinks like you. We should be serving kosher food, vegetarian, Asian …

Marie:   (to Chester) Would you like us to do some satay sticks?

Robert:   We can’t serve satay, there’s the issue of nut allergies.

Brian:   Fried rice?

Chester:   Why does everyone look at me as soon as we start talking about minorities? No offence, Marie, but you’re the endangered species.

Marie:   What do you mean?

Chester:   Well they’re not smuggling boatloads of CWA ladies onto Christmas Island, are they? Helen’s right – the demographic is changing.

Wally:   And if the demographic doesn’t like a sausage they can piss off home.

 

– Australia Day. Jonathan Biggins.

 

Inspired by his amusing experiences as an Australia Day ambassador in regional communities, Jonathan Biggins uses his satirical comedy Australia Day to throw all the sacred cows on the barbecue, pour lighter fluid over them and burn them with the glee of knowing we’ll smell the acrid smoke, wrinkle our noses and protest, “You can’t DO that!” whilst laughing out loud along with him. Under fire are Australia’s national identity, our small town stereotypes, and their (our) political persuasions. You probably know these folk. You’re probably sitting next to one of them RIGHT NOW. WAIT A MINUTE. YOU’RE ONE OF THEM. SO AM I.

 

 

This fast paced, clever contemporary comedy is about each of us. It’s about where we’ve come from, where we’re going, and the awkward place we find ourselves in now. Basically, Biggins has put everything on a Bunnings Marquee Folding Trestle Table for our consumption. And it’s not all palatable. The issues here are the nation’s hottest topics – there are plenty of racial slurs, and the typical misogynist, sexist and bigoted comments that induce the kind of laughter we feel terrible about (so should we stop laughing?) – they are all the things “unsaid”, the ugly, undeniable truths of our current cultural and political climate.

 

Australia Day is a raw wry look at our national identity and sadly (and comically) it hits home.

 

Director, Andrea Moor, whom you’ll recall from last year’s (very palatable) Venus in Fur, is a Resident Director at Queensland Theatre Company this year (the other is Jason Klarwein, whom we’ll see on stage in March as Macbeth). It’s terrific timing. Moor has hit her stride in the Playhouse with this production, her first in this space, and she’s always been a bit of an actors’ darling, well respected for her approach to actor training, challenging performers on many levels, letting the story play out between them and inviting us to watch the fun. It’s wonderful to see such consistently strong work recognised and rewarded by our state theatre company.

 

#cheers #onyaqtc #bonzamate #youlittleripper

 

On stage, you’ll recognise some favourite performers and welcome a new one. Australia Day marks Lap Phan’s QTC debut as Chester, the Australian born Vietnamese primary school teacher who might just be the most patriotic member of the Coriole Shire’s Australia Day Organising Committee. The other members are your typical small town folk, everybody’s favourite matriarch, the CWA doll, Marie (Barbara Lowing), the racist, misogynist Wally (Chris Betts in his best damaged shocker ocker role yet!), the super organised and quietly conservative Robert (Bryan Proberts), the Greens candidate single-mum-city-slicker-snake-in-the-grass-newbie, Helen (Louise Brehmer) and the ambitious and slightly misguided mayor of Coriole and real-life Redland City Councillor, Brian (Paul Bishop).

 

lapphan_australiaday

 

With the exception of Lowing, who never fails to give us a Master Class in character (also, connecting voice to character; thank you Paul and Barb for resisting joining the initial shouting match on stage), we don’t see too much of each personal journey, though there are some lovely moments, particularly in the smaller scenes, during which we get a glimpse at the full hearts and the beaten spirits beneath the tough exteriors. I would love to have seen more of Brian – yes, of course, we do get to see Bishop get out of his robe & civvies and get into cricket whites but that’s not what I mean – I expected to get to know him a little more, considering the references to his dubious Internet search history and early innuendo hovering like a heat wave between he and Helen; both utterly delectable threads leading nowhere. There’s not too much an actor can do about that if there’s nothing there to begin with, or to continue with.

 

Australia Day by Queensland Theatre Company_Paul Bishop_4

 

difficulttostriptohits

 

This is a cast who clearly adores their characters and can offer them up fully, lovingly, and without any judgment whatsoever but even so, for me there seems to be something lacking in the writing, as if the play was penned in a jiffy, in a moment of True Blue inspiration, and unable to wait for each character’s gestation, to grow and become a fully realised human being, because the message just had to be OUT THERE. Generous chunks of the play are devoted to slightly laboured political points that lose out a little to the many witty one liners, astutely observed micro commentary, appropriately placed here, there and everywhere to help drive the pace and encourage us all to “LIGHTEN UP!” The couple of jovial transitions between scenes reinforce this aspect of the message before it’s verbalised, as the cast dances and moves chairs and tables around in a semi-choreographed scene change while we listen to the evolving voicemail messages of the committee, effectively creating something like an ad break each time. Like Eddie Perfect’s The Beast (MTC 2013), Australia Day is wickedly funny for all the right reasons, and we can’t help but consider which chunks of our short history might help us move forward already.

 

Australia Day by Queensland Theatre Company_Lap Phan_4

 

So it’s not that it’s too heavy going or too long (well, perhaps it IS a little too long at two hours), just that it’s so funny because it’s true, and I’d love to walk away thinking not just that I’ve seen the most amusing, most politically incorrect piece since Williamson’s Influence and Perfect’s The Beast, but that I actually know these people, and because I’ve gotten to know them I can feel confident that they – we – can make better choices about the things we say and the things we celebrate in this country.

 

 

The publicity for this show is bang on. It’s really funny…it just shouldn’t be.

 

A bang-up-to-the-moment barbeque-stopper of a comedy, Australia Day follows a mob of bumbling bureaucratic battlers as they debate the minute details of the national day in the small country town of Coriole. Will their Australia Day be a little ripper, or go off like a bucket of prawns in the sun?

 

 

You’ll find out when you see Australia Day and laugh out loud, and be appalled that you did so.

 

 

Now, throw another sacred cow on the barbie, will ya?

 

 

 

 

29
Oct
13

Design For Living

 

Design For Living

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

19 October – 10 November 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Design for Living

Noel Coward’s Design For Living is Queensland Theatre Company’s final production for the year and I think it’s safe to say they’ve saved the best for last!

 

I loved QTC’s last offering, Other Desert Cities, and this final show is a sophisticated chaser, and a fitting finish to the 2013 season. Design For Living leaves nothing wanting; it boasts a terrific cast, an exquisite design aesthetic, a swellegant soundtrack and – of course – a laughing-til-you’re-crying typically witty and wicked text from the scandalous banter meister, Noel Coward. No, no relation, Sam’s family were Vikings (no surprises there!).

 

This is by far the best we’ve seen from Director (and Artistic Director of QTC), Wesley EnochDesign For Living is fast, fun and so cleverly contained that nothing is too OTT, despite some outrageous moments that, in less capable hands, would draw rolled eyes and sighs of exasperation rather than giggles and guffaws.

 

Jason Klarwein, who we’ll see in the titular role in Macbeth next year (it’s a co-pro between QTC and Grin & Tonic), is perfectly cast as Otto, who is in love with Gilda, played by his real-life wife, Kellie Lazarus. And oh, what a glorious role for Lazarus! She effortlessly embodies Gilda’s energy and effervescence. (Yes, a bit of the Year 5 alliteration coming into play there!), but it’s Klarwein and his antics that fuel the comedy and pace of the play. His is the role that drives this piece, though only by a little. Academic, actor and director, Tama Matheson, is Otto’s partner in crime, the ever-so-slightly more subtle Leo. Perfectly underplayed, I’m reminded (and I had to find it again so I could link to it here) of something Matheson told the SMH earlier this year about directing opera… “You never let the audience off the hook; you never let them sit back.” Matheson’s compelling stage presence ensures this is the case in a straight play too…well, in fact it’s not THAT straight, is it?!

 

Matheson and Klarwein are perfectly matched and make the greatest theatrical comical duo Brisbane has seen in a long while. Directors and actors alike, do go see these two do their very best “drunk acting”, to spectacular comic effect!

 

So both gentlemen are in love with Gilda, and she is in love with them both. This makes for a most elegant and exuberant, and ultimately satisfying, ménage-a-trois, with the play traversing years in the lives of these three bohemes, as a tryst becomes betrayal and indecision (or denial, largely due to society’s expectations that one should end up with one other person only) eventually leading to marriage….and its rapid dissolve. The themes, of love and art and freedom, and living by one’s own rules, are timeless, and if it were not for the society manners and sophisticated 1930s style conversation, and the exquisite set and wardrobe by Richard Roberts, one might assume the play had been written only recently.

 

There are, of course, several additional characters, including Ernest, Gilda’s other-other-other male friend, brought to us by Trevor Stuart, and in a strange sort of gesture, we see Fez Faanana play both Miss Hodge and Matthew. I think Miss Hodge works very well for him. Matthew, not so much. I loved the reporter, Birbek, played by the incomparable Andrea Moor; it’s a comprehensive character study and a coup for the transgender casting effort, which, a little like neon, should not be worn by everyone just because it’s once again become the current season’s trend. It certainly suits some better than others. Just saying.

 

Speaking of the latest trends, if you’re seeing Design for Living on a Friday night, remember to frock up! FROCK UP FRIDAY is the follow up to FUR FRIDAY, which was enjoyed by so many during QTC’s run of Venus in Fur.

 

If all the world is a stage, then it must be a catwalk too…

 

Do frock up, drink up, and enjoy the swell party that is QTC’s splendid Design For Living. Be quick! This is one that you’ll be truly sorry to have missed!

 

 




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