Posts Tagged ‘bastard territory

13
Apr
16

Bastard Territory

 

Bastard Territory

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

April 6 – 16 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Everyone I spoke with before attending this play was terrified by the thought of a 3-hour commitment! But Bastard Territory doesn’t feel too long, thanks to a reasonably fast pace and light-hearted moments landing amongst some heavy themes. Playwright, Stephen Carlton, explores thoroughly and fairly efficiently, identity, belonging, and not.

While Act 1 takes its time to establish the human context, the detail is probably necessary to give us a complete picture of Russell’s world and its inhabitants. He’s on a mission to find out who he is and who his biological father might be. He tells his story from within, and from just outside of it.

A different set of eyes on the text (or the luxury of a longer rehearsal period –  just two weeks were available for the remount of this production) might allow the time and space for Carlton or Dramaturg, Peter Matheson, to take to it with a red pen. Act 2 is the tightest and most engaging of the three, exposing the truth about complex relationships and identity. It seals the deal: if we’re not with Russell by now we never will be.

The final act deals with new and renewed alliances, the tatters of the old torrid relationships, post-independence political fragments and new possibilities, but a sudden ending leaves us unsatisfied. This is perhaps intentional. There’s a feeling that Russell’s quest must continue and yet…it feels rushed, contrived. In fact, the final scene undoes a lot of good, with the token reappearance of a suitcase Russell had packed when he was eight years old, and the gift of a CD, the original vinyl record broken by Aspasia in a fit of childish rage. But surely she would have thought of giving that gift already, when CDs first became available years before, and she, older and wiser, first felt inclined to replace it? It’s illogical. Following this clumsiness, I would like to have seen the mother return home, to simply appear at the door. An even bigger cliche? Well, she has her Nora moment, but honestly, who else but Nora actually leaves her children? (Lagertha always returns to hers)…

Lauren Jackson is a vibrant and emotionally vulnerable Lois, the mother of our narrator. At first forlorn, conservative and entirely dependent in Port Moresby, she embraces the freedom of a more bohemian lifestyle after dabbling in the local amateur theatre scene and art class.

Witnessed by Russell, she meets men whom, one after another, he supposes in hindsight could have been his biological father. She learns to live silently with her husband, Russell’s “dad”, Neville; the younger, Peter Norton & the elder, Steven Tandy. Norton is inconsistent in applying the after-effects of a tragic event he chooses to endure in the line of duty; he’s more convincing later, in the less obtrusive role of Russell’s boyfriend, Alistair. Tandy is a stern, self-righteous father at the end of his political career, conflicted, and stubbornly keeping a firm grasp on a long string of lies as it begins to unravel. By the end of the play he earns our sympathy as only Tandy can, with a single poignant line.

Bender Helwend makes a sincere, if somewhat insecure Russell, conversing directly with us and leaping in and out of his additional roles with aplomb. A drag act may come across more confidently by the end of the season (after all, he’s rehearsed it or performed it every Friday night since he was eight years old! It should be of Priscilla standard), and the references to Tennessee Williams’ work will probably sound less obvious and more natural in this time too. Additional roles (Cleo/ Tinneka/Aspasia) are played by Ella Watson-Russell, another Corrugated Iron Youth Arts (pre-drama school) product.

Nanette (Suellen Maunder) represents the unavoidable small town type and makes this character appropriately annoying. A caricature, larger than life, like the people from the past our parents tell us about; constructed memories, formed piece by piece from the stories told time and time again. Everyone knows a meddling, smiling assassin like Nanette.

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The style, sweeping across three eras, is very meta from the outset, letting us in on the making and staging of a play, with frequent reminders that it’s just a story being told and the details could be inaccurate, but it’s Russell’s story and this is the way he tells it. I love this relaxed style of writing, casually, persistently working its way around vital political and personal issues, the things we most often gloss over in real life.

It’s an epic story, spanning oceans and decades to remind us just how complicated real life – and the relationships that really matter to us – can be.

Sean Pardy’s warm lighting makes available every space, although the economic direction forgets sometimes there is an upper level, to which eight year old Russell sometimes retreats. Director, Ian Lawson, plays nicely with pace and handles with care the high stakes and political points, bringing our attention neatly to the plight of anyone under someone else’s rule, including the wives of colonial community military leaders. His respect for the work and the writer is clear. No red pen will have made it into his hand.

Penny Challen’s set design is immediately interesting: the 2-storey timber floored skeletal structure serves abstractly as the basic Port Moresby accommodation, the Darwin bones after Cyclone Tracy has hit, and the vaguely flamboyant renovated gallery and bar. Challen’s costumes are more authentic in form, with the men in shorts and long socks (the – a-hem – trend at the time, which my father adopted, day after day in the DPI. You’ll still see it if you’re lucky, in some government departments and state school staff rooms), and the women in floral frocks and later, the kaftans of the seventies. Guy Webster’s super cinematic soundtrack successfully takes us through the years.

Bastard Territory precedes another new Australian (and abroad) family and political saga, Motherland, written by Katherine Lyall-Watson and staged originally at Metro Arts. These essential tales are boldly told and not easily forgotten. It will be fascinating to see what has become of Motherland with the bigger state theatre company budget behind it. In the meantime, Carlton’s Bastard Territory is thoroughly enjoyable; well worth the three hour commitment to Bille Brown’s seats, which are much more comfortable than those elsewhere.   

Production pics by Stephen Henry

 

14
Sep
15

Queensland Theatre Company’s Season 2016

 

tales of change – 10 powerful productions – the best Australian writing – top Australian talent

 

 

 

 

Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has revealed its highly anticipated Season 2016 featuring 10 powerful productions, including the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a groundbreaking collaboration between QTC and Dead Puppet Society. From Molière and Shakespeare, to local stories from around the corner, international masterpieces and the best Australian writing, QTC is set to celebrate ambition and achievement.

 

In unveiling his final season before he departs for Sydney Festival, QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 would engage and challenge on the need for bravery and moral fortitude in shifting times, providing a forum for debate, diversity and the driving of change.

 

Art is nothing if it doesn’t make you feel.

 

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Season 2016 opens in January at the Playhouse with the devilishly funny comedy that journeys into old age, Quartet. Writer Ronald Harwood takes on retirement with tenderness, grace and hope – but no self-pity – in this moving and all too truthful tale of the frustrations and fears of getting old. Andrea Moor, fresh from directing the smash hits Grounded and Venus in Fur pulls the stage strings while actors Christine Amor, Andrew McFarlane, Trevor Stuart and Kate Wilson thoroughly enjoy themselves in this bawdy romp through the golden years. The show will then go on to tour regional Queensland.

 

He saw the smoke from the nearby ridge. He knew what it meant. Someone was coming.

 

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Based on the award-winning novel by Kate Grenville, the acclaimed The Secret River, winner of six Helpmann Awards including Best Play, Best Direction and Best New Australian Work, is a powerful story of the bloody beginnings of colonial Australia, when pardoned convicts clashed with the traditional owners of the land they settled. The Sydney Theatre Company production brings together celebrated Australian director Neil Armfield and adaptor Andrew Bovell, with actors Nathaniel Dean, Trevor Jamieson, Matthew Sunderland and Ningali Lawford-Wolf to tell the deeply moving tale of two families divided by culture and land in this showstopping Queensland premiere.

 

 

Here’s an interesting read before you go Googling those Sydney reviews…and this, which I thought I’d remembered reading at the time; an excellent piece from James Waites. In this case, I recommend reading the comments as well…

 

Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps!

 

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In April, QTC presents Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jason Klarwein, with Ellen Bailey and Tama Matheson as the young starry-eyed couple, leading an all-star cast featuring Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets. This romantic sparring is the tale of two pairs of very different sweethearts starring some of the best acting talent in the country.

 

Love is what interests me. And love is indivisible from murder.

 

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In May, QTC leaves the Playhouse until October, making its home in the Bille Brown Studio (BBS). From award- winning Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith comes Switzerland, a stunning new two-hander starring Andrea Moor, in an effortless move from director to on-stage lead. This is a theatrical thriller with famed author Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) centre stage, having to pen one last devastatingly brilliant book.

 

Send a trained naturalist into the field and every new discovery will reassure him of what he already thinks he knows. Send a young man who knows nothing, and there’s no telling what he might find.

 

It’s just a simple thing, but it might just explain the whole world.

 

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In July, QTC and Dead Puppet Society, in another ground-breaking collaboration, will stage the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a coming-of-age story about science and faith that recounts the tale of a younger Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle.

 

The Wider Earth will be a piece of visual theatre, placing strong emphasis on the staging and use of theatrical devices to paint our own vision of Darwin’s world. That means puppets – a lot of them. More than we’ve ever made before. At the moment, our plans for the production include more than 30. From tiny beetles to southern right whales, to the iconic Galapagos turtles. We’re excited that this work will bring human performers and our trademark puppet characters together in a meaningful way that isn’t often seen in mainstream theatre,” said David Morton from Dead Puppet Society, who penned The Wider Earth and will also direct and design.

 

Our story is one of breaking down barriers. Of inclusion, not exclusion……Because what you do is more important than what you believe.

 

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St Mary’s in Exile opens at the Bille Brown Studio on August 27 and is a tale that would be beyond belief if it wasn’t true. Gripping and inspirational, the play strikes close to home, telling the story of beloved priest, Father Peter Kennedy, excommunicated from St Mary’s in South Brisbane for preaching acceptance and equality. Written by acclaimed Brisbane playwright David Burton, the show will shock and inspire, with a star-studded cast that includes Chenoa Deemal and Caroline Kennison, under director Jason Klarwein, also moving from actor to director seamlessly in Season 2016.

 

It comes from you. Islam has no monopoly on fundamentalism. It doesn’t come from a text.

 

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Novelist and screen writer Ayad Akhtar’s dynamite theatrical debut, Disgraced, comes to the Playhouse from Melbourne Theatre Company in October. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is a stirring tale that poses challenging questions about identity, tribalism and the fragility of friendships and will be directed by Nadia Tass, and includes the wonderful Mitchell Butel.

 

True, it is something altogether scandalous. A stranger in the house with no idea how to handle us; He arrives with no shoes, his clothes not worth a cracker. No sooner in the door, than he starts to wag his tail.

 

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Proving that centuries old tales still have the power to resonate with audiences, Tartuffe is a bawdy play about power, hypocrisy and gullibility, pillorying religious fanaticism and moral weakness. Adapted by Justin Fleming from French playwright Moliere’s sinfully brilliant 17th century comedy, it demonstrates that perhaps modern attitudes haven’t changed as much as we think. Ribald and riotously irreverent, Tartuffe is a co-production with Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company and features stage darlings Darren Gilshenan, Hugh Parker, Rose Reilly, Steve Turner, Alison Van Reeken and Alex Williams.

 

The Territory’s like a bastard child. Everyone’s got an opinion on how it should be brought up, but no one wants to stick around long enough to do it.

 

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A little newer to Australian theatre is Bastard Territory, a confessional human drama about identity. This new Australian play from Brisbane-based writer Stephen Carleton, Bastard Territory mixes wry humour, raw insight and a killer 60s and 70s soundtrack, along with the talents of Benhur Helwend, Suellen Maunder and Peter Norton, for a powerful and affecting tale, directed by Ian Lawson.

 

When we left Russia, we didn’t look backwards. We held each other’s hands and we jumped, trusting we’d land safely.

 

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The finale for the 2016 Season is an elegant and sophisticated work. Based on fact, the epic and intimate Motherland is from Brisbane-based writer Katherine Lyall-Watson, and was recognised as a Patrick White Playwright’s Award Finalist. A tapestry of displacement and identity, it explores the casualties of love, ambition and politics.

 

 

Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 season was a collection of love letters to artists and audiences.

 

“There are shows that represent the plethora of conversations we have been having over the past four years and the wonderful rapport that we have been developing,” he said. “Theatre is a sacred place where opposing ideas are argued out to create drama, a place where audiences continue the discussion outside the theatre and where those ideas can take root in social movements. We all have examples of drama that changed our opinions, informed our positions or frustrated us. That is the joy of theatre; one of the last places where we can openly debate, be engaged and entertained.”

 

Now in its 45th year, QTC has a long history of performances that have engaged, entertained and sparked debate, and Season 2016 promises to celebrate diverse ideas.

 

The season announced today leads a full program of touring, education, children’s shows and more.