Posts Tagged ‘bille brown studio

31
May
15

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

May 23 – June 13 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

INCEST ASIDE, IT WAS A GREAT WEDDING.

 

 

WHAT IF OEDIPUS LIVED NEXT DOOR?

 

 

MUTHAFUCKA

 

 

I never really liked Neapolitan icecream but when we were kids we would have it for dessert sometimes – a special treat – and now I’ll never eat it again.

 

 

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Daniel EvansOedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s an incredibly fast, funny, deeply affecting piece, which uses the ancient story of Oedipus to look at how we respond to unspeakable tragedy.

 

 

The winner of the 2014-2015 Queensland Premier’s Drama Award, the only writing comp in the country that guarantees a fully professional production of the winning work, this Oedipus is a disturbingly accurate contemporary take on Sophocles’ Theban plays. If you’ve never before been able to work out the complex plots, this production gives you all the clues to do so.

 

 

Transposed to an outer suburban neighbourhood somewhere in Australia (it’s one we might try to avoid visiting after dark), the unfathomable story suddenly becomes horrifyingly familiar – as familiar as any tragedy involving celebrities or royalty might seem via Facebook – as a chorus of four young actors rise from green plastic chairs and tell us simply and directly where they are and which role they’ll be playing in order to relay the shocking tale.

 

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is masterful writing, brought to vivid life by a brilliant team.

 

 

And speaking of teamwork, let’s not forget the Dramaturgs: Stephen Carlton, Saffron Benner and Louise Gough, who have helped to nurture the text through many stages of development.

 

 

I guess this doesn’t really require a mention either, but something about this production reminds me of another winner of this award so I’m going to remind you of it too. Marcel Dorney created an ancient world for his winning play, Fractions, directed by Jon Halpin in 2011. It had been in development for four years. “We all thought it was pretty special but were worried it was too hard, that the ideas were too difficult and too big and people would just switch off,” Halpin told Cameron Pegg. The boldness paid off, bringing us the big ideas and difficult lessons of an old story in a new framework. Halpin said of Fractions, “It’s set 1500 years ago but it speaks with an urgency and relevance to today’s world with more insight and profundity than any other new work I’ve come across.” I would say the same of Evans’ Oedipus.

 

 

The story is inconceivable, the stuff of the inescapable 24-hour click-bait news cycle but told this way, so cleanly and unapologetically, we believe it.

 

 

From the outset we’re drawn into a hilarious retelling of events (no really; it’s really horribly funny) with just a couple of amendments to detail, such as the pedophiliac father’s chariot becoming a car in a fatal crash.

 

 

A compelling scene toward the end of the play humanises things even more than the humour can do, in case we didn’t already feel something. To set it up, we live through the excruciating tension of a high school shooting orchestrated and executed by Eteocles and Polynices (the sons of Oedipus). The massacre is reenacted on top of a pulled-from-the-wall campus mud map. Again, as we’ve seen before, there is comedy in it that makes us feel inhuman for laughing out loud. It leaves me numb. I’m filled with dread in the moment before the final “bang” is voiced by one of the boys and then I feel sick to my stomach. This slow burn is a master class in tension and restraint, a perfect example of the restraint shown throughout by Director, Jason Klarwein. It’s his best work to date and it thrills me to think of what he might, as Director, be gifted with next.

 

 

The beautifully tragic scene-that-shouldn’t-work (and wouldn’t work in the hands of a less intelligent team) takes place in a deserted playground, in which Haemon (Son of Creon and Eurydice, engaged to Antigone, who is dead) sits silently on a swing while an unknown girl chatters away to him under the pretext of sharing the last can of rum from the carton at Haemon’s feet. Eteocles and Polynices have killed everyone else (BANG). The rum is…warm. The mood is…awkward. Burton is superb here, a gangly, desperately frightened teen unravelling for the longest time. She is mesmerising, expertly manipulating pace, pause and proximity. Suddenly, after his eerie extended silence, a single sentence tossed spitefully across the playground by Haemon destroys her completely and he exits and kills himself. It’s brutal, brilliant stuff.

 

 

The space is intimate and at the same time retains a vast, empty feeling, as if we are lost in time and space. Justin Harrison’s soundscape, comprising original compositions and precision theatre sound effects (is that even a thing? I’m making precision theatre a thing), matches the text moment-to-moment, beat-by-beat, leaving silences through which we can only breathe…or not dare to breathe. An intelligent lighting design by Daniel Anderson works like a spell to capture and focus our attention; it’s the best example I can offer to tech-obsessed students this year of the way in which the elements are used to enhance a production. That leads me to mention that although it’s a risqué show for secondary schools, that doesn’t mean students should stay away from it. While the school might not be in a position to take you, senior students, you should see this show. You’re welcome.

 

 

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The design, perfectly realised by Jessica Ross, is spectacularly simple, featuring fluorescent lighting to frame the action and a graffiti wall by Drapl, which is foreboding even in all its colour and humour, warning us like the Oracle and welcoming us like Laius into the cold, hard, clashing world of ancient and modern youth. The overall effect serves to focus our attention on the performers, an astonishing ensemble.

 

 

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Ellen Bailey, Emily Burton, Joe Klocek and Toby Martin are uncompromising in their multiple roles. If Bailey were a criminal she would be considered a master of disguise. Her ability to switch from one character to the next is impressive and always funny. Burton is a beauty, swinging from hysteria to thoughtful silence in a heartbeat. Martin sometimes shouts a little more than necessary but as Laius, King of Thebes, he successfully harnesses the craziest, creepiest kind of power imaginable over the young boy, Crysippus, and seers his image and evil energy onto our hearts. It’s Klocek we’ll keep an eye on though, because this 19-year-old achieves the same level of depth and nuance and variety with his characters as the others do with far less stage or screen experience under his belt. Here’s his bio:

 

 

Queensland Theatre Company: This Hollow Crown, Face It. Other Credits: QUT: Orphans, The Three Sisters. Film: Rome. Training: QTC Youth Ensemble, 2012.

 

 

THAT IS ALL. HE’S A NATURAL.

 

 

How exciting and frightening that the story of Oedipus who kills his father, sleeps with his mother and rips his own eyes out (the “professional opinion” here is a killer), can feel new and fresh and raw and completely relevant. I won’t give away the final moment but IT BITES. THIS PLAY BITES. WHO COULD WRITE SUCH A THING?

 

 

Well, Daniel Evans could and he has done, and if you miss it you miss bearing witness to a new, living, fire-breathing brand of Australian theatre that other writers are trying desperately to master.

 

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is an exceptional play and this is an electrifying production, which must be supported to have a life beyond its World Premiere run.

 

 

 

22
Mar
15

The 7 Stages of Grieving

 

The 7 Stages of Grieving

QTC and Grin & Tonic

Bille Brown Studio

March 17 – 31 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Time is linear and irreversible.

 

 

Everything has its time…

 

 

Indigenous history has been a long and complicated grieving process since colonisation.

Wesley Enoch

 

7stages_chenoa_eyes

 

The 7 Phases of Aboriginal History – The 5 Stages of Dying

 

Dreaming

 

Denial

 

Invasion

 

Isolation

 

Genocide

 

Anger

 

Protection

 

Bargaining

 

Assimilation

 

Depression

 

Self Determination

 

Acceptance

 

Reconciliation

 

 

We cry together, we laugh together, and we tell our stories.

 

 

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The Grin & Tonic Theatre Troupe has forged a brilliant relationship with our state theatre company, and testament to their determination to jointly bring Australian Indigenous stories to the stage; this production is a fine one. The 7 Stages of Grieving, penned by Deborah Mailman and QTC’s Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, enjoys its 20th year in 2015. This strictly limited (very nearly sold out) GreenHouse season is followed by a tour, which takes the show on the road and into schools. I’m looking forward to seeing it again, at Matthew Flinders Anglican College. It will be interesting to hear from the students, who’ll be viewing it through Brecht coloured glasses, and who obviously didn’t see the original Kooemba Jdarra productions, directed by Enoch and starring Mailman, in 1994 (a 25-minute version for the Shock of the New festival at La Boite) and in 1995 (at Metro Arts as part of Warana, which became Brisbane Festival). The show then toured nationally and internationally.

 

 

I remember Mailman’s sweet, deep-seated sadness, and her wicked humour, cutting unforgivingly through deceptively simple episodic storytelling. History’s a sinister thing, isn’t it? Those who tell it create it, and we can be grateful that this play gives voice to some of the lesser-told stories. Or perhaps I should say, lesser heard. I’ll compare productions only so far as to say that it was simpler then – low-tech – and also, Mailman’s power on stage was already astonishing. We experienced her expansiveness, as if her spirit filled not only the intimate Metro Arts space, but also the entire universe. Experiencing Mailman’s performance in this show was like reaching that state of meditation that allows you to see without seeing, and understand more than you feel you’ve ever been allowed to know.

 

 

The only thing black at a funeral should be the colour of your skin.

 

 

Chenoa Deemal (Mother Courage and Her Children) is the Aboriginal Everywoman who brings a fresh, light approach to the storytelling; it’s a completely new take, as it should be. She studied acting at ACPA and QUT, but comes from the Thitharr Warra tribe in Hopevale, north of Cooktown in the Cape York Peninsula. The language we hear is Deemal’s language and the traditional elements of this production are her people’s traditions.

 

 

Deemal takes centre stage after emerging from the darkness to pour concentric circles of rainbow coloured sand, its phosphorescence glowing eerily, discomfortingly, around a mound of red earth (the land, the source, the spirit, the core of everything) and a suitcase containing the photos of family members who have died. It’s poignant, it’s ritualistic, and the irony and deep sorrow is never lost, only veiled in more comical moments throughout the show. Deemal’s casual comedy shines in Nana’s Story (no matter what you were having for dinner there was always rice), and in Murri Gets a Dress, delivered in stand up comedy style, complete with a hand held microphone. Audience members on opening night shriek with laughter.

 

 

Have you ever been black? You know when you wake up one morning and you’re black? …”Hey, nice hair, beautiful black skin, white shiny teeth … I’m BLACK!

 

 

… I go to bed thinking, “Tomorrow will be a better day”, snuggling up to my doona and pillow. Morning comes; I wake up, I go to the bathroom. I look in the mirror. Hey, nice hair, beautiful black skin, white shiny teeth. I’M STILL BLACK! AND DEADLY!

 

 

Not 20 minutes in something gets me, though I can’t for the life of me recall what it is that sparks the tears, which I blink back, not wanting to miss the next chapter in this stark, raw look at our First People’s mourning traditions and daily struggles. Despite some business as usual moments, which could just as easily be perceived as inspired acting/directing choices, Deemal offers a natural, vulnerable, very real performance. There is grief and there is joy, which wells up and spills over into fierce pride and exultation during a vivid retelling of Sorry Day celebrations.

 

 

Oi. Hey, you! Don’t you be waving back at me! Yeh, you with that hat! You can’t park here, eh! You’re taking up the whole bloody harbour! Just get in your boat and go. Go on, get! Bloody boat people.

 

 

Director (and Artistic Director of Grin & Tonic), Jason Klarwein, has manipulated mood and meaning beautifully, assembling a terrific creative team to bring this 20-year old show up to date in bold cinematic style. Jessica Ross (Designer), Daniel Anderson (Lighting Designer) and Justin Harrison (Sound & Projection Designer) have created a galaxy of stars and souls and memories and words and hopes and dreams, and a sense of place that is both new and ancient. With its updated political references, and a new ending to raise the stakes, The 7 Stages of Grieving strikes me as The Mountaintop of Australian plays, asking us to consider what really matters, and challenging us to make the changes we want to see in our world.

 

 

They’ve written sorry …

 

 

… They’ve written sorry across the sky.

 

 

Are you walking across bridges yet? The baton passes on …

 

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24
Sep
14

The Button Event

brisbanefestival2014

thebuttonevent

 

The Button Event

Brisbane Festival & QTC

Bille Brown Studio

September 18 – 27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

A high-stakes, high-octane, multi-faceted one-man-show, performed and co-devised by award winning performer and Associate Artistic Director of QTC, Todd MacDonald, The Button Event is maybe missing…somebody. She’s there, in the centre of the front row on opening night. Todd’s wife, Bec, has been a force behind the scenes, and spent time in the studio but she doesn’t appear on stage. During the show we hear her voice and the voices of their girls, Lola and Ruby (they’re seated either side of her); the voices are integral to the storytelling. But strangely perhaps, I’d love to see Bec in it. Impossible for all sorts of reasons and completely unnecessary I hear you say. The show is already a family affair – it has to be – we’re being allowed a glimpse at the most difficult time of their lives.

 

The Button Event is the true story of one man searching for connections in chaos. Juggling the daily grind of home, work and family comes to an abrupt halt when one of his twin daughters is diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis. In the time it takes to push a button the future of his family hangs in the balance between beauty and fear, faith and science – and what it takes to cope with the messy and absurd things life hurtles at you.

 

With him, we catapult into a world of sleep deprivation, seizures, medication, trampolines and home renovations. This one-man tour-de-force fuses physical performance, wry humour, raw emotion and a few hundred tennis balls.

 

Devised by the multi Greenroom Award-winning artist Todd MacDonald and acclaimed director Bagryana Popov, The Button Event is a deeply personal and fearlessly honest work, which ricochets between medical minefields, acts of faith and family counselling.

 

This production mostly works just beautifully. I love the pace, and the changes in pace; the extended pauses while something heavy is left to sink in and the frantic physical effort as MacDonald simply DEALS. A wonderful performer, delightful to watch, MacDonald is honest to the point of matter-of-factness, delivering the facts of an impossibly difficult situation amidst the maelstrom of emotions and tennis balls. There is complex medical terminology to deal with, a marriage, Lola’s twin Ruby, and of course, the many-layered emotional responses to Lola’s diagnosis and the daily challenges that Tuberous Sclerosis presents. MacDonald’s boundless energy in the telling of his story draws us in early, offering a new, unique perspective on human suffering. There’s so much pain and suffering in so many lives, of course there is, but who is fearless enough to write a show about it and share it with the world?!

 

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) affects more than 3000 individuals in Australia and New Zealand and thousands more carers, families and friends who live with the impact of the disease.

 

TSC tumours can grow in any organ of the body, commonly affecting the brain, skin, heart, lungs and kidneys. TSC can cause epilepsy, developmental delay and autism. There is no known cure for TSC.

 

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Highlights include the highly physical feats of delivering intermittently, successions of witty lines about marriage, twins and the ongoing home reno (what else does a dad do under the circumstances? And is it ongoing still?!) whilst leaping madly about to catch tennis balls spewing forth from a machine, slowing down time to explain in darkness the appearance on the skin of the telltale white lesions, and chanelling Richard III beneath an awkward coat of strung-together tennis balls. The tennis balls, though a simple enough device, are extremely effective in conveying early chaos and later, in helping to shed eerie light on the mysteries of the brain as they are lowered into the space to represent Lola’s ECG. The collaborative efforts of an inspired design team should never be overlooked, and it’s thanks to Deviser/Director Bagryana Popov, Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes, and Composer & Sound Designer, Guy Webster, that this production looks and sounds as intriguing, and remains as compelling as it does.

 

The precarious situation in which the family find themselves is represented eventually a little too obviously, as if we had to have the symbolic for such intensity of emotion, by a “high wire” act, and boxes stacked one on top of the other to create a towering figure, like a Transformer or a Minecraft character. The construction is a little drawn out, my mind drifts, I watch Bec watching her husband recreate a truly intense part of their lives, and I begin to wonder what happens next. How does school work? How do careers fit in? Who makes the tea? Who takes out the rubbish? Perhaps, as Wesley Enoch mentioned after the show, we’ll see an update in another ten years.

 

There’s not the time and space within a festival piece to tell it, but there’s possibly another tale here if MacDonald is THAT brave. This is not that story. What intrigues me is that The Button Event is already an incredible story of trauma and survival and triumph. Theatre should change us, and the point of change occurs for me when out of frenzied energy comes Lola’s ECG wave on the wall. It’s as if her fate, compared to any “normal” child’s fate, for example, that of her twin sister, is literally written on the wall. The realisation that comes to us from seeing the medical evidence in white chalk across the black back wall, combined with Todd’s high-powered energy in explaining everything to this point, is a real knockout, a king hit. A series of ponderings about Lola’s future (she may never go to school, she may never have a boyfriend, she may never…) provides a similar punch. Perhaps even more so for parents, but who can say? We all know and love a child. Luckily there is lovely humour throughout, and the gentleness of a soft-strong hearted father.

 

It’s a strong premise, it’s a real story after all – it’s actually really still happening – and I want to care more, to feel closer and leave feeling even more moved, but I leave feeling a little frustrated, like I can’t get quite near enough to this beautiful, fighting family’s journey. Perhaps that’s the way they want it. It’s as if the dread of knowing the story itself is more affecting than hearing the telling of it. Get close, but try not to get THAT close.

 

There is perhaps some safety in not feeling too much.

 

What I’ve come away with is this: Todd MacDonald is an incredible performer, the production in any guise will have all the elements and all the support it needs to tour (and it should), and there is no stronger couple in the world than MacDonald and his wife, Bec. How lucky Ruby and Lola are to have chosen them.

 

 

09
Sep
14

I Want To Know What Love Is

 

brisbanefestival2014

iwanttoknowwhatloveis

 

I Want to Know What Love Is

QTC & The Good Room

Bille Brown Studio

September 4 – 19 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

CHECK BACK BEFORE THE END OF THE WEEK FOR GORGEOUS IMAGES

 

“Perhaps we are in this world to search for love, find it and lose it, again and again. With each love, we are born anew, and with each love that ends we collect a new wound. I am covered with proud scars.”

Isobelle Allende

 

We are a combination of a thousand different experiences (especially when it comes to love).

Deviser/Director, Daniel Evans

 

 

Everyone is here. Wesley is playing the role of Glassy and the foyer fills quickly around him with the chatter and laughter of friends, and the clink of glasses and the clatter of heels. I contribute to the clinking and clattering and chattering. I feel like I haven’t seen everyone for such a long time! This is the tribe I know and love! We’ve strolled across the road from Brisbane Writers Festival, where I’ve been hanging with a different tribe and hearing about how challenging it is to get published and get noticed, how courageous one must be to write, and how disciplined. I Want to Know What Love Is is a cleverly devised show, using the written submissions of the general public… YOU. You are the writers! But by giving this glorious little show such a short season within the Brisbane Festival program (it runs for this week only), I feel like QTC is challenging us to demand its return.

 

Dear QTC,

 

 

We all adored I Want to Know What Love Is.

 

 

PLEASE BRING IT BACK!

 

 

Cheers. x

 

So it’s a proper Opening Night, with all the bells and whistles (and all the red roses and pink champagne in the world), and all the Industry friends. It feels GOOD. It feels good like it must be the work of THE GOOD ROOM. We know we can trust this collective of creative heads and hearts to entertain us, to challenge us, and to make us leave wanting more. There’s no deprivation about it, in fact our hearts are full…we want more of THAT.

 

I knew this show would be gorgeous (I was told it would be gorgeous) but I wasn’t prepared for so much of the gorgeousness to be done and dusted before the half way mark. The pure joy of an early succession of exuberant scenes concludes with what I can only presume, is the end of the honeymoon period of the show. We’re left hanging in darkness, in some undefined sad sort of state. I guess it feels like loss. The shock of love gone. Yeah, you know it. The honeymoon period is over, man.

 

I spoke with Carol Burns after the show about the dramatic mood change; it’s a distinct beat, unmistakably sad; you can’t miss it. I assured Carol that it could be felt! Indeed, it’s a rare thing in the theatre, to feel so strongly, a collective response to a single beat. I joke that I recognise that beat, the turning point in a relationship after the cascades of rose petals have finished raining down and the kisses have stopped meeting you at the door and the fights start about who’ll take out the rubbish. After the extreme highs come the devastating lows. Or, day after day, the plain ordinary. Or, the break up.

 

It’s a tumultuous journey and no one apologises for the rough bits. We spend just as long as we need to, wallowing, relating, remembering, and commiserating… There are uncomfortable titters from time to time because REALNESS. RECONISABLE. RELATABLE. REALNESS. It’s not all bad; so much of the show is very funny and very moving. I Want to Know What Love Is tastes like a fistful of sticky, sugary, virtual cotton candy goodness, with a bit of harsh reality thrown in.

 

The stories come from the community. Over eight hundred randoms submitted their stories online via the specially built website wewantyourlove.com

 

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It’s the sort of verbatim theatre I love – not too verbatim – the words are painted in full colour, with layers upon layers of meaning between them and the canvas, the picture almost certainly improving on the telling of the tales. No offence, to you, the writers. Sometimes, the simpler the story, the greater the effect, as when there are no words and we are left to fill in the gaps; an awesome little device. The stories we hear range from love at first sight, I’ll love you forever, happily ever after tales to devastating blame games, plots for revenge and guilt-ridden admissions. Wow, we actually begin to feel like we know these people. We think perhaps we are these people. Not so random after all.

 

New work needs time and it needs space and it needs trust.

Amy Ingram

 

We know Amy Ingram’s comedy is excellent, and this production allows her a little tragedy too. It’s clearer, and sadder than ever before. Carol Burns, Caroline Dunphy and eighteen year old Tom Cossattini in his QTC debut, also manage to get the tone exactly right, seemingly effortlessly, taking us on a rollercoaster ride that starts out naively and joyously and finishes with sass and stubborn, glassy-eyed glimmering hope, in spite of the tumult and ugliness along the way. In this way, the show’s structure cruelly and accurately reflects the usual pattern of relationships. We still haven’t come to terms with the life-death-life cycle, have we?

 

Daniel Evans, not only a published writer and Premier’s Drama Award winning playwright (his work, Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, will be staged by QTC in 2015), is the sort of director who creates work you wish other directors would see. If they did so, perhaps we wouldn’t have to suffer through so much earnest work. Just saying.

What Dan does, with co-devisor, Lauren Clelland on board this time, is take a story, offer it to his actors, and with their help, he passes the story on to us. Dan’s a custodian of stories.

 

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Kieran Swann’s design is nothing less than stunning. He’s humble, paying homage to Feliz Gonzalez-Torres, Tracey Emin and Jenny Holzer in his notes, but what Swann does, just as Evans does, is create worlds that we can’t wait to step into. The simple images of flowers and garbage bags may have come from the punters but it’s Swann who’s conjured the delicate-bold lush effect they make on stage. Lights by Jason Glenwright and soundtrack by Lawrence English support the pace of the production and punctuate the stories, offering us time to breathe and no time at all. A bit like life.

 

What’s incredible about this production is that a very basic idea has been executed in the most effective way when it could easily have ended up a disaster; a shoddy, tacky, nauseating and seriously awkward and embarrassing high school collage drama. It is none of these things.

 

I Want To Know What Love Is is elegant, sophisticated, heartfelt, inspiring and uplifting; it’s delicious festival fodder. It’s original, beautiful and unfortunately, it will disappear after this week…or will it?

Go now, just in case. You don’t want to miss this. It’s gorgeous theatre.

 

iwanttoknowwhatloveis_xantheianjessicabianca

 

28
Jun
14

The Effect

 

The Effect

QTC & STC

The GreenHouse Bille Brown Studio

June 7 – July 5 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Depression and anxiety are common conditions.

 

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

 

On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives.

 

Anxiety is the most common mental condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety.

 

Women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the year following birth. Almost 1 in 10 women experience antenatal depression, and 1 in 7 in the postnatal period. Anxiety is likely to be as, or more, common.

 

At least six Australians take their own lives every day.

 

Source: beyondblue.org.au

 

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Dee and I have joked about our chemical imbalance; as if it’s a collective thing from which women-who-do-too-much suffer (of course it’s not just the women). When I remember the stats and think of everybody I know I have to wonder…which of us are NOT depressed!?

 

 

Act 1 of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect is upbeat, fun and funny. It doesn’t take long to establish the four characters that tell an amusing and then very moving tale about a highly controversial couple of subjects. Despite everybody being a little too sharply drawn to begin with, it takes just ten minutes for the production to settle and for the characters and their relationships to develop into warm and interesting enough stories. And I love getting not-quite-the-full-story. There is much to establish in the first act – the participants of a clinical drug trial, the trial itself, the clinicians, and the premise – can happiness (and depression) be attributed to an altered chemical state in the brain?

 

By the end of the production there are almost two plays at work, which seems to be a sign (or symptom) of new work. I wish I’d written enough to tell you that from personal experience, but it’s only through seeing the work of other new playwrights that I can safely say we’ve seen before, two tales in one.

 

Act 2 takes a (not entirely unexpectedly intense) turn, challenging us to consider more seriously our choices and the ensuing consequences. It balances dangerously between conversational and preachy tone, with an extended scene between the medical professionals almost giving us too much of the debate, and repetitively so. I notice myself beginning to turn off, tune out and think, “So when is the pedophile thing going to come up? (This is not my spoiler. It’s within a quote in Prebbles’s bio. This marks the first time ever I wish I hadn’t read the program notes before seeing the play). The debate itself is an oldie but a goodie: do we medicate for depression or not? If not, why not? Can we heal ourselves of the epidemic sadness sweeping the world? You could get depressed just thinking about it! Or you could come up with, let’s say, a lucrative online project and collaborate with a popular stationary line. Yes, of course I have the books!

 

 

The space is glossy; so glossy it’s highly reflective and we see ourselves in the sterile black walls. White floors are harsh, cold, and blue shiny chairs offer a false sense of security and a superficial level of calm around the edges. Cruel fluro light is emitted from above and a light box dance floor features below. I’d love to put it into my kitchen (we’ve always danced in the kitchen). But more on lighting later.

 

Eugene Gilfedder, in one of his strongest roles to date, gets the balance just right. He’s the once flirtatious, now serious, always ambitious professional medic turned motivational speaker, Toby (a phone call away from a TED Talk!), and he makes a good case for the sensitive, older, Noah style long-term love interest. If you ever picked up the sequel to The Notebook (no, it’s not a film; you’ll have to read the book), it’s to that Noah I refer, the Noah who quietly, persistently and courageously conspires to reignite his wife’s love for him after many years of a “happy” marriage.

 

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Toby’s foil is Dr James (Angie Milliken), who has endured childhood abuse and feels as if her old flame has done her a rather ironic favour by putting her in charge of the clinical trial of a new super anti-depressant. Her story, I think, is the second tale told and could be more sensitively treated under its own title.

 

Anna McGahan (always gorgeous to see her on stage) and Mark Leonard Winter (bringing gorgeous, lively new energy to this stage) are the unlikely punters who enter into an agreement with the imagined pharmaceutical company Raushen to trial for four weeks, a so-called happiness drug. Winter’s character, Tristan, has done this before – the money the drug companies pay him per trial allows him to travel the world – but for McGahan’s character, Connie, this is the first time, perhaps as some sort of escape or respite. But who is actually on the drug and who is given a placebo or some other concoction? How do we know if the emotions are real or merely the side effects of the drug? And if everybody is happy, in love, does it even matter?

 

What price happiness?

 

The relationship between Connie and Tristan comes across as a warm, immediate and very genuine thing, despite its corny start in the waiting room of the facility they share for the duration of the trial. It’s actually every girl’s worst waiting room nightmare, trapped in a small public space with a random trying to crack onto her. But love – or the effect of the drug – brings them together and we enjoy some lovely early dialogue to establish the attraction and later, a choreographed sex scene that depends as much on its lighting states as its posturing.

 

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These two handle it well and the scene becomes very cinematic, beautifully so, but it’s still so strange to watch even a slightly dressed sex scene, isn’t it!? I know, I know, what do you do? It kinda’ works!

 

Much of the effect of the drama can be attributed to Sarah Goodes’ astute direction and the collaboration with lighting designer, Ben Hughes, who creates with Designer Renee Mulder, a dream-like version of a hospital nightclub. It exists somewhere between a mental asylum and a sci-fi galaxy government headquarters, ideal in this studio space, especially after relaxing pre-show in the gorgeous, cosy new library area of The GreenHouse. Guy Webster’s soundscape keeps us in a perpetual state of nothingness, or as I like to think, openness, and I love it and loathe it, like Camille’s album. It’s fascinating that not everybody hears it – Dee didn’t until I mentioned it – it’s that inner ear vibration that exists behind everything else and if it’s the wrong pitch (for you) it might override everything else and become seriously irritating. There are times when I blame it for the onset of a migraine, but not this time.

 

As much as I love the fun and vibe (and Veuve) of opening nights, I don’t mind seeing a production a week or so into its run, when all the elements have settled and the actors are well and truly back into storytelling mode, rather than, “Aargh! It’s opening night!” mode. You have until July 5 to catch The Effect before it heads to Sydney and you should, not just for the challenging conversation it will spark during the days following but also, for the private thoughts conjured as you catch yourself in the mirror it holds up to each and every one of us.

 

03
Jul
13

The Lost Property Rules

The Lost Property Rules

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

02– 05 July 2013

 

Reviewed by Poppy Eponine & Xanthe Coward 

 

The Lost Property Rules is sure to have a long life after its premiere season at the Bille Brown Studio during the school holidays this week. From here the show goes to Perth, and it would certainly be an easy sell to schools and NARPACA venues all over the country, so I expect to see it again somewhere down the track.

 

601685_577173622334278_63845_nIt’s a cute combination of stories, told via that very simple, and lovely old-fashioned theatrical device, actual storytelling.

 

The audience is asked to use their imaginations.

 

  

In The Lost Property Box there are rules that must be followed…

 

 

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Alice and Isobel are lost. They are about to meet some new friends. Whether they want to or not, that’s another story.

From acclaimed Brisbane playwright Matthew Ryan (Kelly, Sacre Bleu! and boy girl wall) comes a tale of mystery, joy, fear and what it means to be brave. Under the imaginative direction of Lucas Stibbard (boy girl wall), three performers will weave a quirky story of two young girls about to embark on one of the scariest moments in a young person’s life:

 

moving house and moving schools.

 

I took two of Poppy’s friends with us to see this show on Tuesday afternoon – one of them had never been to a live theatre production before – and they loved The Lost Property Rules. It was exciting to get the invite, it was exciting to get up in the morning and get dressed for the theatre, it was exciting to drive ALL THE WAY TO BRISBANE, and it was super exciting to walk into the lovely, friendly space at QTC’s headquarters to see a show. Before the doors opened, the girls took the opportunity to write descriptions and stories on postcards about “lost things”, which were laid out on a table in the foyer. When it was time to go in, they proudly presented their tickets at the door and were invited to sit right up front with the other kids, already chatting with the performers on stage (Louise Brehmer, Stephanie Tandy and Thomas Larkin). I could mention that there were clearly some mums who would not have minded joining their kids on the floor at Thom Larkin’s feet but I won’t.

 

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This show is a winner because it combines all the elements in such a way as to make kids forget where they are. AND IT’S FUN! Poppy told me that she felt like she could jump into the pictures on the postcards. I love that this device worked, you know, like in Mary Poppins, when they jump into the chalk drawings on the pavement. No tricks, no gadgets, no high-tech stuff needed! Just as Dead Puppet Society did for Argus, the company relied on our imaginations, and recycled and reused props, and bits and pieces from out of storage to tell their story.

 

Under Lucas Stibbard’s direction, The Lost Property Rules has a distinct boy girl wall feel to it (Larkin’s phrasing and timing at times guarantees it!), and with Writer, Matthew Ryan, in the rehearsal room for the past three weeks, the show has developed to a point where it’s obvious everybody has had a great time playing. The sense of play, and the energy of these talented performers, fuels the kids, who laugh and cry out and gasp in all the right places. It’s as if we’re a part of some lovely global conspiracy – a brand new, genetically modified form of pantomime…and we’re lucky enough to get it first. Unlike Monsanto, Queensland Theatre Company is not out to reap profits without considering our health and wellbeing. This show is beautifully imagined, it’s well executed, and it’s been so well received already that I’m going to let Poppy take over, and tell you what it was like to be a seven-year old in the wonderful imaginary worlds of the lost property box.

 

My friends and I loved the show so much we actually did exactly what we promised we would do in the promising swearing. (Promising swearing is not bad language swearing).

 

This is what we promised:

 

I solemnly swear,
 To laugh when it’s funny and cry when it’s sad,
 To be scared when it’s scary and boo when it’s bad,
 I swear with all my heart through and through,
 That the story told here is completely untrue.

 

Eva and Tayla were very excited to sit on cushions at the front, which they’d set up for the kids. I knew Thom because he’s famous and we’ve seen him in shows before. We saw him in Treasure Island and after the show, Tayah and I went up on stage to have a photo with him. It’s probably on Facebook. Mum sat with Todd who is another famous actor, but not in this show, in the adults’ show, in Venus In Fur. She is making Daddy go see it, it is THAT GOOD!

 

Xanthe: Um. You don’t really have to say that. Is it relevant?

 

Poppy: Yes it is relevant. And you can link to it, Mum.

 

Xanthe: OKAY!

 

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Eva had NEVER been to the theatre before to see a real show! So it was a new experience for her. It was fun to go the theatre together. We felt like we were triplets and we didn’t want to leave each other but the girls wanted to see their mum and dad again of course. We went for cake and hot chocolate first. At The Three Monkeys, where we go after a show. We played I Spy and What Am I Thinking Of? all the way home.

 

The show got a bit spooky when the dog came out and it felt like he was going to pull a kid out onto the stage! (Just to let you know, it wasn’t a real dog, it was Thom acting as a dog, but it was so real you could imagine it was a dog!).

 

They were all amazing. The actors were so good that I felt like I was IN THE PICTURE. I actually got scared, and I was crying a little and laughing a little, exactly like I said I would! Louise is really good at accents, and she had a funny one for the cat. I think it was a Russian cat, but it wasn’t really, it was just a cat from the Sushi Train counter being a Russian cat with Louise’s voice for his voice.

 

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The stories were good and my friends liked the vet scene the best (it was the scary one, BUT the flying feathers from the parrot’s haircut were REALLY FUNNY! Luckily, we know the parrot wasn’t hurt because they told us afterwards it was just a haircut), but I had no favourite scene. I liked the sound effects and the props that they used. Eva asked about the props after the show and they are all found things, recycled and reused. I was a bit too shy to ask a question but my question is how did they get the show ready in just THREE WEEKS?

 

 

I would have nudged my friends to say it was so perfect that I would like to be in a show like that but I didn’t want to disturb the actors or my friends. I loved it! It was fabulous!

 

13
Jan
13

VALE Bille Brown

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I’m shocked and so saddened to hear this news. I spoke with Bille recently, at Zen Zen Zo’s Therese Raquin, and I know he will be dearly missed by many.

 

Today the arts community lost a shining light – acclaimed Queensland actor Bille Brown has passed away, after losing his battle with cancer. He was a distinguished individual and a superb actor, forging the way for so many and most certainly putting Queensland on the map.

 

Amongst the ranks of Geoffrey Rush (his dear friend, who was by his side this week), Deborah Mailman, and QTC’s Artistic Director Wesley Enoch, Bille Brown got his start through QTC’s Theatre Residency week at 18 years of age.

 

His work with the Company spanned four decades, following his first mainstage production in 1971, Wrong Side of the Moon. Clearly an audience favourite, QTC cast Bille in 29 productions and produced four of his own written works. In recognising his incredible contribution and support for the arts in Queensland, The Bille Brown Studio was officially opened on 5 July 2002 by the then Minister for Employment, Training and Youth and Minister for the Arts, Matt Foley.

 

The Bille Brown Studio today is home to QTC’s Greenhouse program, a space for emerging artists, new works, exciting ideas and constant debate – just how he would have wanted.

 

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QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said this was a time to remember and give support to each other. “The artistic community of Queensland and Australia has lost a true gentleman. We are part of Bille’s legacy,” he said.

 

“Every actor, playwright, director, stage manager, designer, musician and all the teams who work in theatre in Queensland owe Bille a huge debt. He brought a sense of adventure, love and respect. His talent and love survives in us all.”

 

Paul Dellit has written a beautiful obituary.

 

[obituary]

 

VALE: BILLE BROWN, AM – Actor / Director / Playwright (b. Bioela, Queensland Australia, 11 January 1952 – d. 13 January 2013, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)

 

Often referred to as ‘The Boy From Biloela,’ Australian stage, film and television actor and acclaimed playwright Bille Brown passed away peacefully on Sunday 13 January 2013 after a short illness, aged 61, in a hospital on Brisbane’s northside. He had been ill for some time but refused to let on just how serious his condition was until recently.

Last Friday the 11th January, he quietly celebrated his 61st birthday surrounded by family and a few close colleagues which included Geoffrey Rush and Bryan Nason.

William “Bille” Brown was born in Biloela, Queensland in 1952. Though he wanted to be a painter he became an actor. Bille Brown studied drama at the University of Queensland. He then began his career in the early 1970s at Queensland Theatre Company, working alongside actors Geoffrey Rush and Carol Burns, under Artistic Director, Alan Edwards.

Bille’s career took him abroad to Britain, where he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and was the first Australian commissioned to write and perform in their own play – The Swan Down Gloves. The show opened the Barbican Theatre (RSC’s Home theatre from 1982–2002) and had a Royal Command Performance. As a member of the RSC (between 1976–1982, 1986–88 and 1994–96) Brown toured with their productions throughout Europe, playing Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Munich. He also appeared in the RSC’s premiere production of The Wizard of Oz in the gender-bending roles of The Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch.

While working in the United Kingdom, Brown also performed in the West End, at the Aldwych and Haymarket Theatres, the Chichester Festival Theatre, English National Opera and Dublin Theatre Festival. While performing onstage at Stratford he was spotted by John Cleese, who cast him in Fierce Creatures, the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda.

In New York City, Brown made his Broadway debut as an actor in 1986 in Michael Frayn’s Wild Honey with Ian McKellen, directed by Christopher Morahan, and as a playwright with his adaptation of a benefit performance of A Christmas Carol in 1985, featuring Helen Hayes, Len Cariou as Scrooge, MacIntyre Dixon, Celeste Holm, Raul Julia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Harold Scott, Carole Shelley, and Fritz Weaver, directed by W. Stuart McDowell. He was also an Artist-in-residence at the State University of New York in 1982, and was a visiting Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Bille Brown returned to Australia to live permanently in 1996. He has had an outstanding career on stage and has performed for many leading Australian theatre companies including Queensland Theatre Company (QTC), Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Company B, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Marian St Theatre, La Boite Theatre Company and the Old Tote Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. He also appeared regularly in various guises with Bryan Nason’s Grin & Tonic Theatre Troupe.

During his years with the Queensland Theatre Company he appeared in 27 productions, and he played many Shakespearean roles, including: John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor; the title role of King Henry V in Henry V; and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.

During an open-air performance in the Albert Park Amphitheatre of a pre-World War 2 version of the Shakespearean play Much Ado About Nothing, Bille, in role of Benedick, commented to the audience (when an airliner flew over during his monologue), “Don’t worry, it’s one of ours, Alitalia!”.

In 1996 he directed the Australian stage production of Hugh Lunn’s popular novel Over the Top with Jim, for QPAC and the Brisbane Festival, which exceeded box office expectations. He had huge success with his role as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro, with Geoffrey Rush and Robyn Nevin, which opened the new Playhouse at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane in September 1998. In 1999 he also had major success in Sydney and subsequently throughout Australia as Oscar Wilde in the Belvoir St production of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss.

The same year he accepted an offer to be Adjunct Professor in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, and has given workshops and master classes for drama students.

Bille directed John Cleese in his solo show John Cleese: His Lifetimes and Medical Problems, the operas Don Giovanni and Samson and Delilah and various Shakespeare and Moliere productions.

In 2009 Brown wrote and performed in Queensland Theatre Company’s The School of Arts. The play followed the story of the old ‘College Players’ who toured Shakespeare through Queensland in the late 1960s.

Bille’s other writing credits include the plays: Bill and Mary, Springle, tuff… and Aladdin for The Old Vic, which starred Sir Ian McKellan.

In April 2012, Bille Brown commanded the stage in Melbourne while inhabiting Bruscon, a clapped-out theatre maker and bully who, in the Malthouse Theatre production of The Histrionic, brutalises his wife and children. Brown received united critical acclaim for his role in Thomas Bernhard’s play The Histrionic directed by Daniel Schlusser, which had sell-out seasons in both Melbourne and Sydney.

He was the recipient of a 2009 Live Performance Australia Helpmann Award (Australia’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards) as Best Male Actor in A Musical for his role as King Arthur in the musical Monty Python’s Spamalot, which had it’s Australian premiere season in Melbourne.

Bille Brown has also appeared in movies, including: Fierce Creatures (1997), The Dish (2000), Oscar and Lucinda (1997) and Singularity (2012), Killer Elite (2011), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

Whilst some of his more memorable television credits were: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries ,Rake, Wild Boys, Hollowmen and White Collar Blue.

Bille Brown was recognised twice in the Australian Honours System. In 2001 he was granted the Centenary Medal “for distinguished service to the arts” and in the Australia Day Honours List 2011, Bille was named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “for service to the performing arts as an actor and playwright, and to education”.

In 2011, he also received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland.

When the Queensland Theatre Company’s home venue opened at South Brisbane in 2002, they named their intimate 300-seat theatre space the Bille Brown Studio, in recognition of his enormous contribution to the Arts both in Queensland and abroad.

For the past few years Bille was the Industry Ambassador for the Actors’ & Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund of Queensland, a role he cherished.

Bille Brown’s legacy to the arts was enormous, and he will be remembered not only for his talent and the variety of roles and mediums he conquered, but also for his generosity in nurturing and mentoring younger performers all around Australia.

(Paul Dellit, President, Actors’ & Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund (Qld) Inc.)

 

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