Posts Tagged ‘anywhere theatre festival


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.


The Reality Event: Suicide

The Reality Event: Suicide

The Suicide Ensemble

Bean Cafe

May 12 – 17 2015 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris










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.




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?




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.



Who Is Dani Cabs?


Who Is Dani Cabs?

Kate McDowell

Boundary Street Markets

May 14 – 21 2015


Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris










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.




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.


The Apology


The Apology

Zeal Theatre Queensland & Shock Therapy Productions

Boggo Road Gaol

May 12 – 23 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward











People think I run away after a show if I’ve hated it but that’s not always true. It’s sometimes true, but not always. On Tuesday night I was so affected by The Apology that I ran away so no one would see how upset I was. I was overwhelmed, on the verge of tears…






Unfortunately, we’d been locked in. The gate through which we’d entered Boggo Road Gaol was locked and barred from the inside (keeping inmates safe since 1883?), so I composed myself for a moment while the lovely box office girl raced up to let me out. I had to smile and say something so I thanked her and said I’d email Sam the following day. (And I did so because PRODUCTION PICS!). And then I let the tears fall, all the way to Aspley before I knew where I was. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at navigating Brisbane at night during Anywhere Theatre Festival, I can tell you.



I wasn’t sobbing, don’t worry; it wasn’t a desperate outpouring of something so intense or personal only live theatre could unlock it (but that’s happened before). It was an overwhelming feeling of responsibility (well, it’s impossible to teach kids without investing emotionally). Also, contributing factors including I was really tired and feeling fed up with driving and road works and well, young men in utes on the freeway are just so RUDE sometimes, aren’t they? And I’d been to dinner the night before with the awesome Matty Anderson and his Melbourne Storm Development Academy boys and I looked up at those young faces and their wide eyes full of high hopes, and talked with those who have been around a bit longer than they have been about footy, bullying, rape culture, human trafficking, daughters and… I HAD A LOT ON MY MIND.



ANYWAY, I suddenly felt really strongly that everyone everywhere needed to see this show.






Well, thanks to Artslink Qld it’s been happening, during an extensive schools’ tour since 2004. I hadn’t realised, having not heard about it, which is unusual and adds weight to the discussion about the need for a Sunshine Coast secondary drama teachers’ network-not-just-panel.



So students and teachers from Weipa to Warwick, Mt Isa to Mackay, and Gladstone to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast have already experienced (Writer & Director) Stefo Nantsou’s hardcore two-hander, The Apology, but somehow I’d missed it until now. Other Zeal Theatre Queensland productions have been touring and winning great acclaim for years too. Who knew?






The Apology is an example of Zeal Theatre’s signature style of doing as much as possible with as little as possible.



The infamous Brisbane Prison features in the show – it’s the setting for an incident that occurs during a Year 9 excursion, a terrifying experience that alters the course of a young boy’s life. What was intended as a cruel “joke” ends up having horrific repercussions…repercussions that we know really happened. The Apology is based on a true story.






The text is fairly authentic without being offensive; the language, including those relentless and so-called “innocent” jibes uttered “just for fun”, which kids learn from somewhere (where do they learn to speak to each other that way?!) are delivered slowly and tauntingly, like a knife being removed from the spleen, or as quick, sharp stabs straight to the heart, depending on the character involved.



Just two actors, Sam Foster & Hayden Jones, perform all the characters (and Foster plays a pretty mean guitar too, the compositions and volume ideal in this haunted, haunting space).



This accomplishment is so much more impressive than I can write about here. The mastery with which these two employ the slightest change in vocal and facial expression, posture, gesture and gait (or adjust the angle of a baseball cap) to keep the story moving at a rapid pace will win over even the most skeptical non-theatre-attending fourteen year old!






As exhilarating as the pace might feel at times (and not forgetting it’s very funny), there’s not an empathetic moment missed. And this is the magic. A less confident team might gloss over critical moments but instead we are left sitting in silence and stillness for juuuuust long enough to start to feel uncomfortable…and inexplicably guilty.



Shouldn’t we be doing something?! Somebody tell him to stop it! STOP!



I’ve never sat in an audience and felt so conflicted about sitting still and paying attention without interjecting. Well, there have been committee meetings that have come close but…there were times when I wanted to sit “the Eneme” (Foster) down and tell him, “You don’t need to be that guy” and times when I wanted to give Ray Bones (Jones) a big hug and tell him, “You don’t need to be that guy!” by which he would have been discomforted and unresponsive, walked away. I know this because we feel as if we know the characters well enough to do this; to intercede, to protect, to prevent harm… N.B. At no point did I feel compelled to punch the Eneme in the head. I think that’s important, don’t you?






The personality and family history brought to the story by Ray’s character is typical and really worrying. His parents are continuously fighting and repeatedly splitting. He has no friends and no sense of self-worth, and his dad’s one hot tip is to pick the right time and fight back! WTF?! And then there’s the downward spiral at school and the principal’s completely inappropriate lectures, the adult behaviour demonstrating the insidious bullying that happens systemically from the top down. Who can even consider getting near enough to him to be able to help Ray? It’s heartbreaking. And then, even more heartbreaking, he picks his moment.



Within a cleverly styled satirical segment, which is surprisingly upbeat, though it’s just as hard-hitting, we are given the opportunity to stop and consider how we feel about this story and its stakeholders when a television journalist presents the “facts” of the case. A similar device is employed in The Stones, when the boys stand on trial and the audience becomes the jury. To frame the case and recap the story in this way makes it easier for teachers to talk about the themes of the show with their students but it’s probably not necessary to include it for the general public…or is it? Do we need a framework such as this, using comedy and the familiar news report or reality television format, to be able to talk about the too-hard issues? Is it in fact precisely the way we need to frame these serious issues, which are not being treated seriously enough by so many people in authority and in roles that require the care of children?






And what about those adults who are speaking to each other in this manner? What about workplace bullying and “mates” who won’t let up? What about the jostling and hustling in the locker room and on the sports field? What about the graduation party that becomes a dangerous game of Truth or Dare? What about the tough guy or girl who doesn’t like what you’re wearing (or “misinterprets” what you’re wearing)? This show could be the precursor to a whole series of hardcore shows that challenge us to reconsider the way we communicate with each other. Perhaps we could have each play filmed and available to download or purchase on DVD. Perhaps we might see the ABC produce a series of episodes for prime time viewing. I’m not kidding. Can you help to make that happen? Let me know if you can.



Imagine if actually believable stuff using our most talented actors, writers and directors became the new reality TV. (I have wide eyes and high hopes too. Let’s change a culture, kids).



So now I’m looking out for those other productions in Zeal Theatre’s repertoire, including The Forwards, coming soon to The Arts Centre, Gold Coast. The season runs during the intense lead-up to Noosa Long Weekend Festival (I think it’s actually during my rehearsal week!), but Sam and I are determined to see what Lowdown Magazine says is the company’s “most powerful play”.





The Apology is by far the best that Anywhere Theatre Festival has to offer this year, not only because of its perfect placement on the lower floor of Boggo Road Gaol’s historic Number Two Division but because it goes where other shows fear to tread. The writing is unwavering, the direction insightful and unapologetic, and the acting fearless, focused and intelligent.



I’d love to see this production again if I could, and you shouldn’t miss seeing it at least once.



You could let a show like this change your life…



Images by Peter Cabral Photography



My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe


My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe

Fractal Theatre Productions

The Hut, Jean Howie Drive

May 13 – 23 2015


 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward










Love me, love my Holden.


Cars and Australian suburban culture go hand in hand. In 1973, author Henry Williams was working in Brisbane’s Acacia Ridge when he wrote the novel, My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe, an ode to the Holden Monaro centred around a racist, misogynist bully named Ron who’s more than a little obsessed with his dream set of wheels.


Fast-forward to decades later, and the lost Australian classic has been doing the rounds on stage for a few years. If you’ve previously missed what amounts to a black comedy of circus, mime, body percussion, film and car-porn poetry, here’s your chance to check it out. You’ll laugh, and you’ll see the iconic Monaro presented as a living, breathing organism.




Refreshingly, My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe doesn’t contain too much obscene language or the graphic sex and violence that so many writers and directors insist on shoving down our throats at the moment (yes, until we’re gagging on it #sorrynotsorry), yet it’s hard-hitting enough to challenge us on all levels.


Brenna Lee-Cooney’s adaptation of Henry Williams’ classic ode to a car is hardcore Australian theatre at its best. Just as well it’s an intelligent company staging it, or we might miss the awful truth behind its bleak, blokey humour and be left with too-obvious crass nothingness.


Deeply entrenched in our culture, and highlighted by the black comedy in this piece, is the insidious dislike of and blatant disregard for anyone who is not regarded as one of our own. Migrants and the wife (and women in general) cop a hiding in this production, and we never see them get their own back because the revenge plot revolves around racist, misogynist Ron and his need to maintain his unique worldview.


Eugene Gilfedder played the multiple roles at La Boite in 2002 as part of The Holden Plays for the Brisbane (Energex) Festival, with Ian Lawson in the directors’ chair. I suspect this production is slightly different…




It’s a tough little show with moments of fluid, silvery, abstract perfection (in case we weren’t getting the correlation between car bodies and womens’ bodies). The physical theatre is at once strange and perfectly suitable, executed with skill and precision by Vanja Matula, Zoe DePlevitz & Beth Incognito. There’s an element of mime, which brings the action at times to a slow dream-like state – is this really happening?! Hot tip: sit towards the front of the room because there ain’t no tiered seating in the hut on Jean Howie Drive.


Colarelli is in fine form as the abhorrent Ron (don’t call him Ronald!), beautifully weighing up some difficult choices in life, like whether or not to ever speak to the “commo” neighbour again, after he’s unable to identify a 5 / 8 ring spanner. I love Ron’s private moments of contemplation, bathed in deceptively soft white light, little philosophical soliloquies (some are pre-recorded and come across with even more menace as he glares at us), which lead us to gasp or groan aloud at his ignorance and intolerance of others – OH MY GOD. Did he really say that?! Yes. Yes, he did.


Having never read the original text by Henry Williams, the end comes as a complete surprise. The lengths to which the man goes to to exact revenge upon the poor souls who don’t fit his worldview… Really, we should have known. But who could imagine? In the first five minutes of the show we see exactly what sort of man Ron has been taught to be. He’s truly appalling but what the WHAT? WOW.


A lesser actor would make a dog’s breakfast of this role, rushing through the crass comparative comments and hurling rather than snarling insults, or indulging in the wrong moments, missing the point entirely.


The violence of the text is juxtaposed against pure poetry in the movement of DePlevitz, Incognito and Matula. Matula is at his best here, in multiple roles, but especially as that annoying neighbour, Mel Moody.




The ensemble’s strength and poise, and their ability to work in perfect synchronicity (in fantastic shiny speedway gear) underscores some of the most beautiful (and comical) moments in the show. Yes! Despite the dark content and shocking conclusion, My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe is, in parts, actually hilarious…well, horribly so.


Side note: Since I finished feeling sick to my stomach through much of Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe, in the car now I’m listening to Jon Kakauer’s Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Some of the accounts send shivers down my spine. It’s the same discomfort I experience while watching Ron run his hand down the torso of his wife, Rose, as the actor backbends into position to become the car’s gearstick.


DePlevitz is wholly Rose and whatever else is required, in terms of car parts, machinary parts, etc, which gives her reading of the role of Wife-with-a-capital-w a deeply disturbing underlying awareness that maybe, just maybe, she deserves more. Have I ever seen this actor in anything before? If not why not? DePlevitz’s performance is heart-achingly on point.




I can’t imagine what this production would be like without its hardcore garage party soundtrack (with voice/guitar/lyrics & additional music by Finn Gilfedder-Cooney), the sound effects and pre-recorded soliloquies, and strangely colourful lighting states (Sound by Michael Bouwman. Lighting by Geoff Squires. Design Nicole Macqueen). I can’t picture a one-man show now that I’ve seen this ensemble’s polished body percussion and streamlined movement applied in the most imaginative ways I’ve seen outside of an actors’ workshop.


As we realise with horror what’s going to happen, and the play accelerates to reach its inevitable grisly end, I forget for a moment where I am. I’m surprised to find I’m exactly where I started, I haven’t moved, perched on the top of my seat with my feet on the actual seat in order to better see the performers who had begun on the black & white linoleum looking floor. I’m gripping the metal top of the chair.



“I watched my Monaro move off like some proud, doomed galleon…”



Terror. Horror. Unspeakable. I CAN’T EVEN. And then the epilogue. And then a rousing curtain call. And then the cold air outside.


I’m so impressed with this slick production. Lee-Cooney has assembled a stellar cast and turned some old-school theatrical tricks to create a deeply affecting, genuinely thrilling production, which I feel should be re-staged in front of the towering brick walls of Brisbane Powerhouse, filmed professionally and distributed to schools and theatre groups everywhere as an example of LOOK WHAT CAN BE CREATED WITH BODIES AND VOICES AND SOUND AND AN EMPTY SPACE.


Be one of the lucky few to see My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe during Anywhere Theatre Festival and you’ll be hearing for years to come about how so many others regrettably missed it.






The Reality Event: GAME


The Reality Event: GAME

The Suicide Ensemble

Bean Cafe

May 12 – 17 2015


Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris











GAME represents one half of THE REALITY EVENT – a double bill of work directed by Daniel Gough and devised by The Suicide Ensemble for Anywhere Theatre Festival. The premise of THE REALITY EVENT is simple, and the result chaotic…


“This is theatre for the people. Two performances: SUICIDE and GAME. Each plays a part in finding out what your world is really made of. We’ve made something big. But it’s time to burn it down. Come be destructive with us.”


It had been a long time since I’d been this excited for a performance.




As I walked through a dark alleyway on my way to the venue, performers donned in rubbish bags greeted me and directed me to the entrance of Bean Cafe. I knew I was in for a gritty night. The underground café, while small, proved to be an inviting and energetic space – the perfect venue for an “underground” performance. Back in the alleyway, the hosts laid down the rules, the performers were introduced, and inside, the game began. Over the next hour, five performers, supported by their team of audience members, battled it out for the title of winner. I witnessed as balloons were popped with a large rubber object, eggs were thrown at dancing performers and a mix of yoghurt, spam and gherkins was hesitantly consumed.


At this stage you may be having trouble imagining all of this, and that’s because GAME is a work that needs to be experienced.


It’s important to acknowledge that its origins lie in the tradition of performance art more than theatre, with clear influences from international companies such as Gob Squad. GAME has no characters, no set and no script. And without you (the audience), it would not exist.


This emphasis on audience participation and improvisation means that not only will each performance be different, but each audience member’s response to the performance will be different. I get the sense that this individual response is what GAME is all about.


For me, GAME was a playful experience made possible by the vibrant energy and personality of each of the performers. Their commitment was admirable, and their sense of fun infectious. The whole performance felt like an echo of my generation – the type of perverse thing that I’d watch on YouTube with my friends and laugh. While physical audience participation was relatively minimal, I felt engaged and involved throughout, cheering for “Team Pavle” from the sidelines.


As the game progressed and the tasks became more cringe-worthy, I found it difficult to watch. But still, I couldn’t look away. What did this say about me? About my generation? These were interesting questions but I’m not sure they were the ones The Suicide Ensemble was asking. In fact, for all its moments of brilliant fun and dark play, I felt the intention of GAME was unclear. I left the performance questioning the significance of my response in light of their intent: what was the point of this game?


There is no denying that the audience has been considered when creating GAME, however; this type of work, which relies so heavily on the audience’s involvement can reveal a gap between intent and reception in performance. As the ensemble itself says, “In truth, we’re never sure how it’s going to go…because you aren’t there yet.” While GAME is a well-considered and carefully structured piece, I feel there is potential for it to be developed further, incorporating audience feedback from this first development.




GAME has the potential to ask more, to push the boundaries further and to include the audience more completely. But in this underground cafe are the beginnings of a new work that is young, fresh and ambitious.


It’s fun. It’s rebellious, and most importantly it’s the type of work you really don’t want to just hear about second hand.




The Fever


The Fever

A to Z Theatre

West End Markets Warehouse

May 8 – 17 2015


 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward










You might not recognise the name but you’ll certainly remember Wallace Shawn’s presence in Vanya on 42nd Street and The Princess Bride – brilliant! Also a brilliant writer, Shawn has been performing his extended monologue, The Fever, since 1990.


Zac Boulton has brought it to vivid life in a most amusing and disturbing way for Anywhere Theatre Festival.



While visiting a poverty-stricken country far from home, the unnamed narrator of The Fever is forced to witness the political persecution occurring just beyond a hotel window. In examining a life of comfort and relative privilege, the narrator reveals, “I always say to my friends, We should be glad to be alive. We should celebrate life. We should understand that life is wonderful.” But how does one celebrate life—take pleasure in beauty, for instance—while slowly becoming aware that the poverty and oppression of other human beings are a direct consequence of one’s own pleasurable life?


There’s a new breed of performer emerging in Queensland and I’m gonna’ give a shout out to the agency who represents a few of them because people often ask us who they should approach about management. BMEG’s Directors, Rowena Mohr and Mary-Ann Vale, must have recognised a little while ago what we’re seeing now on stage and screen. Some of the names on their books include Dash Kruck, Emily Burton, Amy Ingram, Erica Field, Cienda McNamara, Lizzie Moore, Sam Plummer and The Fever’s Zac Boulton…performers with an entirely different energy, who each have a very real sense of leaping, whole body and voice and heart and head and soul, into a role.


(If you’re a performer with an industry referral you can contact BMEG here).





Zac Boulton’s performance of The Fever, Wallace Shawn’s detailed and dynamic text, is intense and excellent.



It’s physically, vocally and emotionally demanding, challenging the actor firstly to seduce us and gain our trust, which he does by making direct eye contact and introducing us to the imagined insects in the room, and then to hold our attention and entertain us for a full 75 minutes. Around the three-quarter mark it becomes difficult to stay focused. Perhaps the piece is 10-15 minutes too long. Perhaps it’s early onset Festival Fatigue.


Boulton has worked closely with Director, Anatoly Frusin, to create a whole world within a room, a West End space I hadn’t known existed. The performance space is literally a black box with a string of fairy lights, a couple of strategically placed reading lamps, a table and a ceiling painted, like Mr Plumbean’s house, with brightly coloured figments of someone else’s imagination. There’s an octopus and a red and white circus tent… I forget to keep looking for anything else. It’s a good find, a building almost hidden behind food stalls in the Boundary Street Markets, like a poor man’s Metro Arts. It’s the perfect space for this feverish and at times very funny one-man show.


Look at yourself. Look. You walk so stiffly in your kitchen each morning, you approach your cupboard. You open it, and reach for the coffee, the coffee you expect to find on its shelf. And it has to be there. And if one morning it isn’t there—oh, the hysteria!—the entire world will have to pay! At the very thought of the unexpected, the unexpected deprivation, you begin to twitch, to panic, to pant. The shortness of breath! Listen to your voice on the telephone, listen to the tone that comes into your voice when you talk to one of your very close friends and you talk about your life and you use those expressions—”what I need to live on . . .”—”the amount I need . . .”—solemn, quiet, no histrionics—the tone of hysteria, the tone of the fanatic—well, yes—of course—it makes sense. You understand your situation. Without a place to live, without clothes, without money, you would be like them, you would be them, you would be what they are—you would be the homeless, you would be the comfortless. So of course, you know it, you will do anything. There are no limits to what you will do. Without the money, your face would become the face of a rat, your hands would be paws—sharp, nimble, ready to scratch, ready to tear.”


Unsettling much?


To experience this show is to step inside the dark, gritty picture painted by Wallace’s words, which come so fast at times from Boulton’s lips that I notice I’m not the only one leaning forward in my seat to catch them. This is a precarious act of commitment to the performance, considering we’re sitting on bar stools in the back row, like late-night gatecrashers to a private party at a random inner city dingy and unidentified location, probs because every other venue in the vicinity applied lockout at 3am. There’s an alluring sense of secrecy and mystery and possible lowbrow criminal activity, as if the regulars at that inner city bar party have suddenly procured drugs to convince us to stay… Well, haven’t you ever accidentally walked into a place you know you shouldn’t be in? I almost feel like I’m still listening to Christos Tsiolkas’ Dead Europe. Yeah. You know it. Some similar moral and ethical questions there. A bit scary. Scary road trip/travelling listening, ideal for late night home to the Sunshine Coast drives through infuriatingly frequent (STILL) roadworks. Not. At. All.


Boulton’s physicality is bold and very disciplined, allowing us to see him sitting in a chair when there is not one beneath him. His use of a single table – upside down, sideways, back to front and right side up – provides almost all the settings required to tell his tale (a portion of wall and a change in lighting states provide yet another). Frusin’s hand in all of this, I suspect, has been light and sure.


We can actually envisage the blood in the streets, the sweat, the stench, the immense suffering on a daily basis, and what are we thinking? Well, you know, I sponsor a child, I click to donate, I support the bake sale to raise funds for African orphanages, I buy Fairtrade tea, I post via Instagram a picture of me wearing my slippers/white shirt/whatever it is to support a worthy cause this month…. WOW. How pathetic am I???


Sympathy for the poor does not change the life of the poor…


And artists who create works of art that inspire sympathy and good values don’t change the life of the poor.


The Fever is 75 minutes of intravenous Viagra. It forces us to take a good hard look at how we conduct ourselves every day. What choices are we making and how do those choices affect the lives and wellbeing of others? You might not want to think about it for too long. Except you have to. You can’t walk out the door and down the stairs and shrug off this stuff!


The ending is not necessarily satisfactory – let’s say if you hadn’t considered your behaviour before you came in, you will do on the way out – and there’s a little bit of hard work involved, in terms of staying focused on the big issues for over an hour, but it’s a compelling performance with enough lighter moments to break up the tough stuff (only there are times when you’ll wonder whether or not it’s appropriate to laugh out loud!).


Don’t let a little bit of hard work discourage you from seeking out this seriously confronting, extremely physical and beautifully self-assured solo performance by one of Queensland’s most exciting and ambitious actors.





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