Posts Tagged ‘anywhere theatre festival

17
May
18

Songs for Nobodies

 

Songs For Nobodies

Red Umbrella Theatre Co-operative

C-Square, Howard Street, Nambour

Sunday May 13 & Saturday May 19 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

How does the pursuit of success both define and restrain us? Find out as we join five nobodies on their journey of discovery. Walk the Nambour Vintage Theatre Trail and become immersed in the highs and lows of life in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Along the way be enchanted by the songs of Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas.

 

Songs for Nobodies was penned by award winning playwright Joanna Murray-Smith, who has captivated audiences around the world with her sensitive and heartfelt explorations of the human condition. This play explores how connecting with others has the power to heal and change us all.

 

Sunshine Coast based performer, Candice Hill, returns home from a guest appearance on the ABC’s Harrow to star as Too Junior Jones / Billy Holiday in Joanna Murray-Smith’s Songs For Nobodies, for Red Umbrella Theatre Co-Operative during Anywhere Theatre Festival. Hill performs a series of songs within an extended monologue, sharing the story of an imagined meeting between Billy Holiday and the ambitious journalist, Too Junior Jones, a “nobody”. This captivating performance, along with those by Claire Harding (competing with Majestic Cinema foyer noise to riff on Patsy Cline’s last public appearance and singing sensationally, not unlike the woman herself) and Sharon Grimley (sharing a poignant tale about Edith Piaf and singing fragments of her most famous songs, bringing tears to the eyes of some, sitting huddled together in a tiny op shop) make this 3-hour promenade production worth braving the cold for.

 

The production takes us on Nambour’s Vintage Theatre Trail, starting at Switch Cafe in C-Square, which is an over-crowded kitsch venue, in which sight lines are hit and miss, and acoustics are a little challenged towards the back/bar area. Having pre-ordered a light meal via email before arriving at the venue, we ate prior to the first monologue, delivered by Director, Lyn Johnson (Beatrice Ethel Appleton / Judy Garland). Those pressed for time would probably appreciate a no-dinner option, and be advised to turn up at 6pm for the start of the show.

 

A far cry from Bernadette Robinson’s award-winning touring production, in which she nailed all five roles, this version, featuring its five different women, is bookended by footage of the real-life performers rather than our local performers successfully singing the songs of the stars. Johnson’s monologue ends perfunctorily before black and white footage of Garland appears on a screen behind her, and Rebekah Ferguson (Orla McDonagh / Maria Callas) delivers beautifully, the final bold monologue (she has a knack for cheeky comedy), and even sings a bit before we hear Maria Callas herself, and look up to see the original performance of the aria in black and white on a wall in the final venue, an empty space located upstairs in C-Square. The use of this space confounds me; it’s almost cavernous, but oddly shaped and we are all – including the actress and her set pieces – cramped in the front quarter inside the doors and a strange, featured, cabin-esque entrance. I guess it must have looked vaguely like the cruise ship she speaks of. Anyway, I feel that to cast the five different women is wonderful, but to have only three of the five able to sing the songs convincingly could be considered a misstep, unless you’ve never seen or heard Robinson’s performance, or heard of her at all.

 

Despite these quibbles and the 3.5 hours duration (wear layers – it’s cold out!), Songs For Nobodies is still brilliant material, and Red Umbrella’s decision to offer the profits from their sold-out season to support services for victims of sexual violence has prompted Murray-Smith to waive her performance fees, making this show not only a brave choice, but also a successful fundraiser.

 

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17
May
18

Metamorphoses

 

Metamorphoses

BYTE Youth Theatre

Buderim Aquatic Centre

May 12 & 18-20 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

The most exciting inclusion in this year’s Anywhere Theatre Festival, BYTES’ Metamorphoses is performed entirely in a pool. Fortunately for the performers, and for those in the front row – the splash zone – the pool is heated! Testament to the imagination and sass of this creative team (Robyn Ernst, Jo Hendrie, Melissa Lanham and Travis Macfarlane), not even the Tony Award winning Broadway production used more than an ankle-deep body of water on stage. 

 

Evocative shapes and intelligent use rather than overuse of repetition and canons, seamless transitions and generally strong vocal work below an ever-changing series of gorgeous lighting states can be considered fairly standard now for this youth company. These elements, with Lanham’s touch all over them, combine to take us on a richly rewarding journey through a series of the ancient myths of Ovid, brought to life in the water using a combination of narrators, and characters particular to each story, as well as abstract configurations, using just bodies in and around the water.

 

 

Lanham’s choreography is always stunning and this time, like Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire could do, only backwards and in heels, she accomplishes it all in the waist-deep water of Buderim Aquatic Centre’s enclosed heated pool. The performers are tasked with swimming, diving and at one point (and it’s a highlight, and just one of many powerful and emotive images), almost death-rolling beneath its surface before coming together to create images of trees and corridors and ships. Performers swim up to play a leading role and sink away agin to re-join the company as their featured story draws to a close. The sense of ensemble is present at every moment, and the stillness that starts and closes the show is powerful; pure magic sub-surface energy and intensity, which informs well considered, economised action. The performers are strong and bold, and incredibly brave to commit to spending well over 90 minutes in the water during these cooler autumn nights. Costumes, conceptualised by Ernst and inspired by the water’s hues, are beautifully basic and effective.

 

 

Fragments of stories and commentary intercept the featured tales – King Midas, which feels cutely reminiscent of King Herod’s scene in Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, beautifully bookending the show, and Ceryx and Alcyone, Erysichthon, Orpheus and Eurydice, Pomona, Phaeton, Eros and Psyche, Baucus and Philemon – not all are well known but all are well told.

 

Metamorphoses is a coup for both BYTE and Anywhere Theatre Festival, which celebrates performances anywhere but in theatres. This is the most powerful and engaging production to fit the brief. Let’s hope we don’t need to wait until next year’s festival to experience this sort of inspired live entertainment again.

 

Press featuring students from MFAC

 

DURING Anywhere Theatre Festival in May each year, we see shows anywhere but in a theatre. In the most exciting production of this year’s program, Matthew Flinders’ Performing Arts students excel in a unique version of Metamorphoses for Buderim Youth Theatre of Excellence (BYTE), performed entirely in a (heated!) pool. Featuring Zahra Voss, Natalie Ferris, Sia Tamba-Lebbie, Dominic Graves, Romy Salmond, Holly Wiley, Louisa Travers-Jones and Ben McCullough, this stunning retelling of the ancient myths of Ovid, demanding rigorous physical and vocal performances, is testament to the training and commitment of these talented performers. Drama HOD, Melissa White, acknowledges that these performance experiences are vital for students, offering them the opportunity to work with Industry professionals outside the classroom. Artistic Director of XS Entertainment, performance coach and critic, Xanthe Coward, said the show is “pure magic; a richly rewarding, brave and beautiful journey.”

 

Anywhere Theatre Festival continues until May 27 but Metamorphoses has just three performances remaining, on Friday and Saturday night at 7:30pm, and Sunday at 6pm. Bookings: anywhere.is

 

17
May
18

Midsummers At The Lake

 

Midsummers At the Lake

Little Seed Theatre Company

Noosa Botanic Gardens Amphitheatre

May 12-13 & May 19-20 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

Little Seed Theatre Company, founded and directed by Johanna Wallace, continues to go from strength to strength, with this outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Anywhere Theatre Festival showcasing a couple of talented young performers in particular, largely due to great casting.

 

Admittedly, we experience this production in a slightly more traditional theatrical setting, and while Shakespeare in the park has its merits, when we add an immense body of water as the backdrop and frame the action with an amphitheatre inspired by ancient Greek design and gifted to the community, lakeside Shakespeare becomes the best sort. If you’ve never ventured out to this venue, here’s the perfect opportunity.

 

 

A light-hearted and entertaining production, this Dream features the comic talents of Oscar Long (Peter Quince), Luka Burgess (Nick Bottom) and QACI graduate, Alex Cox (Demetrius); each has a terrific sense of themselves in the open air space, a knack for slapstick and natural comic timing. Burgess in particular knows how to play the audience and as a result, he basically steals the show. The Mechanicals work energetically together, retaining their individual characterisations and appearing as a tight-knit ensemble at the same time, bouncing off one another (and into each other!) to the delight of the audience. Their play-within-the-play and the rehearsal scenes leading up to it could easily be considered a touring entity, and wouldn’t it be terrific for someone to sponsor such an opportunity for these enthusiastic young performers?

 

 

 

Nathaniel Knight (light on his feet without losing any of the weight of authority as Oberon) and Jack Miller (a lovely, lively Puck) embrace the same sense of spontaneity and mischief, and at times we see this in the Lovers too. Cox and Emily Potts (Helena) share some beautifully awkward moments. The over-the-top Potts also plays well with fourteen-year-old Virgo Nash (Hermia), who offers a surprisingly mature performance for one so young. In fact, it’s worth noting that as challenging as Shakespeare’s text and themes tend to be, there’s certainly a solid understanding of the play here, and only rarely do we miss a phrase. Some of the youngest members of this company have some vocal work to do, but if more mature performers such as Harper Ramsey (a firm, fair and distinguished Theseus) and Ayla Long (a stern Hippolyta and a playful fairy) are any indication of Little Seed’s training over the years, this too will come. 

 

 

A soundscape and a series of original songs by Heather Groves in collaboration with her musicians perfectly underscores the action, punctuates comical moments and sustains the magical mood, established early, when the fairies enter the amphitheatre from all directions. We’ve only seen this musical aspect of Shakespeare’s comedies bettered by Tim Finn, for Queensland Theatre’s Twelfth Night. I hope Groves continues this tradition and also, that other Sunshine Coast companies can feel inspired to make the effort to involve live musicians in their productions too; far too often now we lament aspiring and accomplished performers having to learn and perform their songs to click tracks, making the production cheaper to produce and often sounding cheaper and less professional as a result.

 

Little Seed creates a gorgeous atmosphere, using live music, and energetic and enthusiastic performers within the beautiful natural setting of the Noosa Botanic Gardens and amphitheatre, delivering a wonderful production of one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays.

 

 

 

17
May
18

Wilde Life

 

WILDE LIFE

3bCreative

Bloomhill Centre

May 11 & 12 / May 18 & 19 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

Posturing peacocks, adolescent chicks, old boilers, egg bound breeding hens and even old cocks feature in this ornithological study of a rarified species in a most “un” natural habitat.

 

Anywhere Theatre Festival celebrates art and artists, and their impact on audiences by activating ordinary and often extraordinary spaces, staging performances anywhere but in theatres.

 

Presented by Sunshine Coast company 3bCreative, in a room on a purpose-built stage complete with makeshift wings and the audience seated in rows of chairs, Wilde Life is perhaps an unusual inclusion in this year’s festival.

 

Walking into Bloomhill Cancer Care, renowned for its whole-hearted staff and beautiful natural bushland setting, the expectation – set high due to well-honed and widely distributed marketing material – was partially met by smiling eyes behind a terrific bar setup outside, the entire enclosed verandah decorated with calla lilies and fairy lights. With the exterior atmosphere established, we assumed the show would be delivered in the same space, or beyond, in the gardens. What the production lacks in imagination, in terms of its staging, is made up for by its costumes, beautifully designed and crafted, boasting peacock plumage and Victorian era shapes and textures that perfectly support the roles, created to highlight the similarities between high society and the natural behaviour of birds.

 

An outstanding performance by Alana Grimley (Juvenile Female) is reminiscent of some of the best Cagebirds ever seen on the Sunshine Coast, a company of senior drama students at my alma mater in 1989. Even without being familiar with that seminal piece, the posturing and preening of the characters in Wilde Life will make perfect sense to audiences. If not, there are always the program notes, which explain the parallel behaviour of the species and those well bred ladies and gents of the Victorian era upper classes, written about so wittily by Oscar Wilde.

 

Joining Grimley on stage to share excerpts from Wilde’s work are Helen Duffy (Breeding Hen), Libby Glasson (Juvenile Male – a breeches role), Joy Marshall (Mature Hen), Jody Collie (Mature Cock) and Kennedy Fox (Jack Dawe). Overly indulgent and slightly insecure narration from Fox as lecturer/emcee slows the pace for me, and the show feels longer than its 70 minutes, but for others appears to be highly amusing and engaging at every moment. Such is the broad appeal of live theatre comprising solid source material and committed performances. It’s an older audience on opening night, generous with their laughter and applause, enjoying this old-school style of performance. Some excellent scene work, particularly in excerpts from The Importance of Being Earnest, provided some of the more entertaining moments from Grimley, Duffy, Glasson, Marshall and Collie.

 

Created by Anne Grant and Julie Bray, and directed by Grant with musical direction by Stephen Cronin, Wilde Life is a more traditional theatrical production, delivered in a more theatrical setting, but if you love the wit and flourish of The Irish Peacock, you’ll enjoy this offer immensely.

 

20
May
17

Deal Or Ordeal

 

DEAL OR ORDEAL

Ms. Demeanours Theatre

Anywhere Theatre Festival

May 10 – 20 2017

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25
May
15

The Reality Event: Suicide

The Reality Event: Suicide

The Suicide Ensemble

Bean Cafe

May 12 – 17 2015 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

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SUICIDE forms the other half of THE REALITY EVENT – a double bill of work directed by Daniel Gough and devised by The Suicide Ensemble for Anywhere Theatre Festival. Performed alongside GAME, SUICIDE is an infamously controversial and provocative piece. As I made my way to Bean Café I tried to free myself of any expectations, but lurking in the back of my mind were stories I had heard about previous developments of SUICIDE – stories of audience members stopping the performance midway and people leaving the room in tears. This aside, I could not imagine anything that could possibly elicit such a strong reaction from me. I was proven wrong.

 

 

Like GAME, SUICIDE has a simple premise:

Five performers. Five simulated suicides.

 

 

The audience votes for who should die and how they should die. Despite its set-up, we are told from the very beginning that this performance is not about suicide. Instead it is a self-referential interrogation of where reality and construction meet in the context of theatre, art and more broadly, life. It is an open work that places the audience’s response at its centre.

 

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Over the course of an hour, I witnessed each performer take their life using bleach, pills, tape, a gun and a knife. Before the performance had even begun, masked individuals slowly revealed each fatal instrument from a leather bag. This magnetic moment carried enough gravitas to set the tone for the rest of the performance.

 

Once again, the performers (including the masked “minions”) could not be faulted in their commitment to the performance.

 

Each individual stood openly before the audience and inflicted imagined pain upon himself or herself without reason or resistance.

 

Each suicide took place systematically – there was a set up, act and deconstruction (For example, the effect of bleach on the stomach lining was described in vivid detail). This emphasis on the physical act rather than commentary on suicide reinforced that the performance was not aboutsuicide. In saying this, I argue that not only is it impossible for SUICIDE to avoid the issue of suicide itself, it is also necessary in their interrogation of reality vs. construction which takes place on two levels.

 

The first level exists where reality and construction are blurred on stage. For example, performer Remi was asked by the audience to commit suicide by placing tape over her mouth, nose and eyes. Before Remi was “pronounced dead” and wrapped up in a tarpaulin, she clapped her hands (strapped behind her back) several times. The tape was ripped from her face and both Remi and the audience took a deep breath. In this moment, I became confused as to whether this moment was an accident (reality) or pre-planned (construction). I also became aware of the very real risk inherent within the performance.

 

The second level exists where reality and construction are blurred in the mind of the audience. Here, what is being shown on stage meets the experiences, knowledge and ideas of each audience member. It wasn’t until the final suicide, where performer Esther stabbed herself in the stomach, that my own personal life experience and what I saw on stage fused together. Hearing her scream with pain, I felt sick to the stomach and unexpectedly began to cry. At this point too, several audience members got up and left.

 

I don’t think I have ever been so viscerally and emotionally affected by a performance before.

 

To feel something so strong in an age of widespread desensitization is quite remarkable. We are surrounded by death in movies, on the news and on the Internet, but how do we respond?

 

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This is only one of the questions raised by SUICIDE. It is a dense, multi-layered and thought provoking work, inciting plenty of post-show discussion and debate. For me, one of the most important questions SUICIDE raises is the ethics of performance: is it ethical to simulate death on stage, causing distress to the audience? Is it ethical to place performers at risk physically? I cannot answer these questions, but I must admit the performance didn’t sit well with me. And maybe that’s the point. As director Daniel Gough said at the end of the performance, it is these feelings of uneasiness that we should be left to consider.

 

Still, I am considering not only the performance but also my response to the performance. I believe the work has certainly realized its intent, but at what expense? I am intrigued and fascinated by the central idea of reality vs. construction, but wonder if there is some other vehicle that could be used to explore this idea.

 

Unfortunately the Anywhere Theatre Festival season of THE REALITY EVENT has now ended, however, The Suicide Ensemble is definitely a group to watch. The work they are making is important, unique and unapologetic. It’s work for the audience, which I believe relies on an ongoing discussion between artist and audience about its place in a broader context.

 

22
May
15

Who Is Dani Cabs?

 

Who Is Dani Cabs?

Kate McDowell

Boundary Street Markets

May 14 – 21 2015

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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Performed by Daniel Cabrera and presented by Kate McDowell as part of Anywhere Theatre Festival, Who is Dani Cabs? is an exploration of identity – of childhood, of being a first generation Australian and ultimately, of finding your place in the world. Part stand up comedy, part theatre; this performance reminded me of the notion that we are all playing the main character in our very own epic (and sometimes mundane) life story.

 

Cabrera is a charming and charismatic performer with more than enough energy to fill the small outdoor performance space at the entrance of Boundary Street Markets.

 

The show follows Dani Cabs’ life story, from growing up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney to his short-lived career as an aerobics instructor on the Costa neoRomantica cruise ship. The performance is full of dancing, shouting, cheering and all sorts of joyful movement full of bravado and passion.

 

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Over the 60-minute performance, the insecurities, hopes and dreams of Dani Cabs are laid bare for the audience to see. Assisted by a small projector and minimal costuming (not much was left to the imagination), Cabrera told stories of his Uruguayan background, and shared with the audience (quite literally) the traditional Uruguayan drink mate. He told stories of his childhood escapades, taking to the streets with his macho friend “caba” by his side. He also told the hilarious story of his family camping trip and how he was given the name ‘Dani Cabs’.

 

It is in these moments of sincere, heartfelt storytelling that both the performer and performance shines.

 

However, when the focus shifts away from the story and towards making the audience laugh or getting them physically involved, I feel disengaged. In these moments too, the pace and flow of the piece is disrupted and jokes fall flat. I believe this is a result of the structure, which could be tightened to fully showcase Cabrera’s talent as a storyteller.

 

Although a little rough around the edges, Who is Dani Cabs? is an enjoyable and personal performance. There are some great laugh out loud moments, such as the short films that play during transitions and the tongue in cheek jokes about the cultural melting pot of the Western Suburbs. While there is room for this piece to be polished and refined, I leave feeling as though I’ve had a special peak into the exciting life of Dani Cabs. 

 

 

Rumba-Robics (2013) from danicabs on Vimeo.




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