Posts Tagged ‘anywhere theatre

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.

 

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.