Posts Tagged ‘brian lucas

15
Oct
18

Everyday Requiem

 

Everyday Requiem

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

October 12 – 20 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

I have tried to approach this work with a sense of nostalgia for the past, but even more, with a sense of what is important in moving forward for a 70-year-old man. Forgiveness, acceptance, love and family — surely that is what is important.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, EDC

 

 

In making Everyday Requiem, the singers and I have aimed for simplicity and beauty, interacting with jarringly everyday imagery.

Gordon Hamilton, Artistic Director, The Australian Voices

 

 

Everyday Requiem is choreographer Natalie Weir’s final signature work for Expressions Dance Company as Artistic Director. After 10 years, in which the company has grown and developed under her leadership, and in which she has created a string of outstanding works, she is moving on to a new phase of her life and career.

 

Everyday Requiem is the story of 70 years in the life of an ‘ordinary man’, reflecting the way our lives are complex mixtures of mundane routine, everyday joys and disappointments, ecstatic happiness and shattering tragedy.

 

 

Vocal ensemble The Australian Voices is an integral part of this work, performing an a cappella vocal score by their Artistic Director and composer, Gordon Hamilton. The six singers not only sing with a moving purity of tone and faultless diction: they also act, they engage with the dancers, and perform some demanding choreographed movement while singing. Isabella Gerometta, one of the singers, subtly conducts the ensemble.

 

Their vocal performance includes interesting effects and techniques such as harmonic chant, and singing while gargling. Snatches of text from the traditional Latin requiem appear in among more banal, everyday words, such as lists of items from a schoolbag, and pet names used by lovers. A song by Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal also runs through the work.

 

The focal point of Everyday Requiem is the Old Man, played by guest artist and veteran dancer, choreographer and actor Brian Lucas. He looks back on his life, seeing its progression from childhood to youth and first love, to maturity, marriage and fatherhood, and on to middle and old age.

 

 

Lucas is a tall and commanding figure, but projects great warmth and tenderness in this role, conveying a wisdom born from hard experience, and a yearning for happy moments in the past while appreciating the present. He has a powerful stage presence.

 

The choreography for dancers playing the roles of people in the Old Man’s past is intensely athletic, fluid and expressive, with duos full of inventive lifts that flow naturally out of the movement. Mixed in with the complex movement are repeated motifs of simpler, more everyday ones, such as slow dancing, and playing the child’s ‘hand over hand’ game.

 

Jag Popham is a playful incarnation of the character’s Infancy and Childhood, showing a strong bond with his Mother, Australian Voices member Sophie Banister, who evokes a tender affection that is one of the enduring themes of the life story. (There is no Father character.) Humour springs from the playfulness in the movement and music, the vocal text introducing the refrain of names of items in a child’s schoolbag.

 

Jake McLarnon is strong and intense as the Adolescent and Young Man, very much resembling a younger version of Lucas. His duos with Isabella Hood, as his Young Love, are athletically lyrical, showing an awakening passion. The duos become trios when the Brother (Scott Ewen), compounding earlier sibling rivalry, steals the girlfriend. Ewen plays the cocky, bullying brother with relish, and portrays a later reconciliation with great sincerity.

 

The Young Man marries The Wife, played by guest artist Lizzie Vilmanis. Vilmanis is EDC’s Rehearsal Director, a former company dancer, and also now an independent artist. Standing in for an injured Elise May, she is wonderful in this role. Technically strong, fluid and precise, she expresses all the emotions of the role without histrionics, but making a powerful impact.

 

As the Mature Man, Richard Causer projects a brooding physicality and frozen anguish on his return from war. While his relationship with his wife remains strong, the difficult relationship with his daughter (Alana Sargent) is a key part of the ongoing story. Causer and Vilmanis are well matched, and generate a heart-wrenching intensity of emotion. The daughter is the character most overtly expressing emotions, which Sargent does with speed and abandon.

 

There is a note of optimism and recovery all through Everyday Requiem, and it finishes with a moving 70th birthday party. The large group of nostalgic and happy party guests are older dancers from WaW Dance (a Brisbane ensemble of mature-aged dancers led by Wendy McPhee and Wendy Wallace).

 

The set and costume design (Bill Haycock) and lighting design (David Walters, assisted by Christine Felmingham) are simple and very effective: a dark backdrop is sometimes lit to glow dark gold, and tables and chairs are shifted around in different configurations.

 

The singers wear white, and the male dancers wear conservative pants, shirts and jackets in neutral colours with touches of black, and jungle greens for a war scene. The women’s costumes stand out as touches of colour: a salmon-pink cardigan for the Mother, a full-skirted 1960s yellow dress for Young Love, a dark-red plaid dress for the Wife, and a light denim blue for the Daughter.

 

 

On the first night, the performance was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm at a significant moment. However, this was soon forgotten as everyone involved in the performance drew us straight back into the story.

 

After the emotional and celebratory conclusion of Everyday Requiem, the first-night audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, clapping, whooping and cheering in response to the performance, and to Natalie Weir in particular. It was a well-deserved acknowledgement of a stunningly beautiful work that pierces the heart with joy, sadness, and ultimately celebration. It was also a fitting tribute to Weir herself and her achievements as a choreographer and Artistic Director.

 

02
May
15

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

 

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Brisbane Powerhouse & Metro Arts

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

April 22 – May 2 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

BPH_De_Profundis_1_20152-1180x663

 

 

WARNING: This work contains nudity, sexually explicit material and poetry

 

 

On opening night Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis was cancelled due to technical problems so I had to find another night to go back to see it. It was a Wednesday night, nothing unusual about that, except all was not well with the world. With social media and our heads and hearts full of mixed feelings for the events going down in Bali at the time, there was already a slightly tragic and fragile air to proceedings. Terrified of being locked out and missing the show completely – even Kris Stewart wasn’t allowed into the theatre when he got there late the previous night – I arrived early, having driven through sunset and drizzling rain to be there with time to spare and discover plenty of empty parking spaces. I love Brisbane Powerhouse parking. (South Brisbane, why must you charge us so much to visit your venues?).

 

 

A capacity crowd queued all the way up the stairs and back to Box Office (it seems everybody now knows about the strict lock out policy!), and it took an extraordinarily long time for bodies to find seats. Actually, it probably wasn’t a long time at all, but Brian Lucas was already standing, naked, in a corner of white canvas walls, which would be his prison cell for the evening. It must have felt like an eternity for him.

 

 

The words and images projected across the canvas are integral to the production, helping to stitch disparate thoughts together and reiterate particular points, thoughts, names, dates. Flowers bloom and swirl like psychedelic digital postcards of time-lapsed desert wildflowers and quotes thrown across the walls are repeated. And repeated. And repeated. Combined with lighting states lulling us into a false sense of security before brightening and making us face facts again, I can understand why the opening night performance didn’t go ahead. It’s a challenging text and I’m pleasantly surprised to see just how well the elements combine – nothing corny or gimmicky in the design or the performance – to give us multiple ways in to this production.

 

 

I was worried that any contemporary adaptation of De Profundis would be the wrong sort of gritty; impenetrable, all doom and gloom, making us feel miserable, desperately hopeless and ultimately alone. Instead I was able to tell industry friends after the show that I’d enjoyed it! They looked at me strangely… #whatevs

 

 

Since seeing the show and actually stopping to write about it the question of what a reviewer should offer to artists and audiences has come up again across multiple social media platforms. Does it ever go away? I hope not. It’s a necessary conversation and one which, I’m pleased to say, the artists I know are always willing to continue.

 

 

I asked Lucas what he would hope to get from somebody responding to his work in any sort of formal, official sense. So, for current and future reference…

 

 

1. An honest response

 
2. An informed response

 
3. Constructive criticism, and

 
4. A sense of the “big picture” context (both in the immediate ecology of the sector, and in the on-going history/future of the sector).

 

 

Wilde was imprisoned and initially deprived of his books and writing materials so you can imagine the outpouring that occurred once he was given pen and paper towards the end of his incarceration. The 50 000-word letter to his ex-lover became De Profundis, and the musings and imaginings of Lucas and Director/Co-Creator David Fenton became this very intense version of the work. The stars above and the 1970s Tupperware toned linoleum floor beneath place us quite succinctly, without any fuss, within two worlds, two eras not so very far apart.

 

BPH_De_Profundis_3_2015-1180x663

 

 

In the intimate Visy Theatre there’s no hiding from Lucas’s measured gaze or his (mostly) warm, articulate words.

 

 

It’s a very personal experience, as if he’s speaking just to me…to each of us. The audience vibe is open, admiring, appreciative, contemplative. The industry peeps are here with members of the general public. There is something profound if that’s what you’re looking for, and something very simple if you want to take away a simple, single message. There are moments of pin-drop silence and stillness.

 

 

Lucas wears his nakedness completely naturally and performs his slightly more gratuitous acts as if he were alone in the space, however; there remains a distinct knowing that someone is always watching. (We’re privy to every other move he makes so why not microphone fellatio and masturbation?!).

 

 

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis will return, there’s no doubt about that.

 

 

But I wonder how well it would ever work without Lucas? His movement, physicality and simple, raw realisation of the character without historical endowments or embellishments is beautiful. He’s an extraordinary performer. I just hope he’s cleared his schedule because this piece will surely bring Brian Lucas back to the Powerhouse before taking him around the world.

 

BPH_De_Profundis_2_2015-1180x663

 

03
May
14

Danse Noir

 

Danse Noir

Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre 

April 26 – May 3 2014

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

DanseNoir_KennyJohnson-YolandaLowetta

 

In both look and mood, Danse Noir harks back to film noir, with its haunted characters, and dark, brooding atmosphere.

 

Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, choreographer Penelope Mullen created this work centred on a voyeur watching the lives of people in an apartment building. (Perhaps it was also inspired by the night view of Fortitude Valley apartments from the Judith Wright Centre balcony, their lit windows revealing their occupants to people outside?)

 

The set (designed by Annie Robertson) resembled the foyer of a large, gloomy apartment building, with areas to the back and side suggesting segments of rooms. The 17 pieces of music included two songs sung live by Alinta McGrady (one a powerful interpretation of A Man’s World), four pieces by Icelandic composer/performer Ólafur Arnalds, three songs by Eartha Kitt, and Roxanne for the finale.

 

This show, presented by the Judith Wright Centre, gave seven emerging dance artists an opportunity to work with a choreographer in a professional production; six are graduates from the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA), and one is from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

 

At the same time, they were working with seasoned performers Brian Lucas (also the dramaturg for the show), and Sunday Lucia (also the rehearsal assistant). As the voyeur landlord, Lucas was skin-crawlingly sinister and menacing, particularly in a duo where his character assaults one of the women.

 

Tyrel Dulvarie and Jesse Martin had an intense, controlled duo in, on, and around a bath, where Martin’s character is alternately seduced and rejected, and finally abandoned. Red petals fall to the floor around him, resembling blood.

 

To This Bitter Earth (Max Richter and Dinah Washington remix), waif-like Yolanda Lowatta and Kenny Johnson dance another segment around an Egyptian-looking couch. Both dancers are striking to watch, drawing the most out of each movement embodying yearning and solace.

 

Tyrel Dulvarie - Danse Noir JWCOCA 2014 - Ali Choudhry

 

Tyrel Dulvarie appeared twice as an androgynous character on pointe. His awkwardness and the inelegance of the feet added pathos to the character, who at the same time intrigued and attracted the landlord.

 

Sunday Lucia’s role was as a burlesque or cabaret performer, accompanied by the Eartha Kitt songs. The three numbers were all similar in mood and movement, with much seductive walking and posing. The display of bare flesh and glamorous costumes were more important than the dance in these repetitive appearances. It wasn’t clear why this character was given so much emphasis.

 

The ensemble work in the show was weaker than the solos and duos, with the movement not well defined, particularly when it was more classically based. In Roxanne at the end, the power of the music did not appear to be matched by the dancers, although the revolving spotlights flashing across the audience made it hard for us to see what was going on.

 

The show was a series of loosely connected vignettes. It was sexy at times, and beautiful at times, but uneven in conception and execution.

 

Yolanda Lowatta, Brian Lucas - Danse Noir JWCOCA 2014 - Ali Choudhry

08
Jun
13

Blaque Bordello

 

Blaque Bordello

Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

6th – 8th June 2013

 

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

 

BLAQUE BORDELLO

Enter the faded velvet, smoke-and-mirrors world of the Blaque Bordello – a private and explosive environment of secret trysts, simmering jealousies and stark realities. You can have whatever you desire . . . if you pay the price. Concept and choreography by Penelope Mullen.

 

 

So if you kiss me,
If we touch,
Warning’s fair,
I don’t care,
Very much.*

 

*from I Don’t Care Much’- Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb.

 

Wow. Good things are happening at ACPA! Under the haze of a smoky cabaret lounge, Blaque Bordello, the newest production created by Penelope Mullen, exploded onto the Judy’s stage with fierce intention and a wealth of young talent.

 

BLAQUE BORDELLO

Joined by the incomparable Brian Lucas and ACPA alumni musician, Jonathan Jeffrey, the cast of Blaque Bordello tore aside the velvet curtain to expose passion, lust, seduction and the achingly raw truth of human relationships and desire.

 

An intimate cabaret set surrounded a catwalk stage, giving the theatre a voyeuristic feel and allowing the audience a greater connection to the dancers. Seeing sweat gather and eyes flash with emotion as one, then two bodies moved in a shared intention gave the performance a visceral beauty and humanity that was testament to the skill of the performers and masterful intent of the choreography.

 

Rather than an hour of continuous narrative, Blaque Bordello gave a peepshow of vignettes – depicting the various shades of love, lust, desire and innocence in a combination of ensemble and solo/duo moments- punctuated by projected quotes, like the one below, eloquently articulating the physical.

 

 

Life is a play that does not allow testing. So, sing, cry, dance, laugh and live intensely, before the curtain closes and the piece ends with no applause.

Charles Chaplin

 

 

Continuity was provided through Lucas’s constant pursuit for fulfilment (at a price) and a killer soundtrack that featured original tracks and a pulsing beat that reverberated through our chests like a heartbeat.

 

BLAQUE BORDELLO

As with any production that features individualised pieces, there were some standouts among the cast. Lucus’s double bass duet Pluck was one such moment, reminding me of the power of simplicity. The growth of what began as an exploration seemed to organically unfurl and become a conversation between dancers, music and the audience.

 

This was again the case with the mens duet in the bathtub. The balance of aggression and tenderness was breathtaking to watch, the honesty of this moment was so raw I found myself holding my breath as it unfolded.

 

The ensemble moments, the title track, Blaque Bordello in particular, were absolutely infectious and a force of energy; it is clear these young performers love what they do, and although I did find that some moments lacked the same level of sincerity of others, the commitment and energy poured into each and every moment and movement gave the production a momentum that left no room for concern. It is incredibly inspiring to see the talent emerging out of ACPA, and I for one will be sure to catch the next production.

 

26
Oct
12

Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety Brian Lucas

Performance Anxiety

Brian Lucas & Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

24th October – 3rd November 2012

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

It’s all a bit of a “heard it before” way to describe something but honestly the only word that fits the scene for me is a vibe. There’s a strange, unbending vibe upon entering the Turbine Studio. Like when you smell something and it seems so familiar but you just can’t put your finger on it. And this is all before the one man show, Performance Anxiety has even started. Submerged into a dimly lit bar scene ,people around me are already drinking and chatting. Some were laughing with friends, others appeared stoic with a glass of wine. The vibe in the room was a shaky static. Everyone knew something was about to happen. Why? Because a man lay quietly on the elevated stage in the middle of the room ignoring all of us.

 

Performance Anxiety Brian Lucas

Brian Lucas and his creation, Performance Anxiety, is a fascinating process to be taken through. Sometimes I felt it was a fictional, exaggerated Brian talking to us. At other moments it was a woman, or a deluded comedian or someone else all together. Then there were times I had no idea who we were communicating with. But he gave me chills nonetheless when he ran right up to someone’s face. His control of voice and the words spilling from his mouth reminded me of a sort of bald Nick Cave. What with the deep voice with the Australian twang to each word. Not to mention the words themselves. Talk of “shedding skin” and wondering when he might get a f*** out of his date. Very much a Bad Seeds revamp.

 

But beyond the words was the movement. Comparative to nobody I’ve met before. In fact Lucas is known for his distracting, disturbing and disarming all at once choreography. His experience with such companies as the La Boite Theatre and The Queensland Ballet amongst a slew of other companies helps it show through. The bizarre movement in his neck, his arching back and the distinctive way he shakes under the lights. Whether he be in the midst of a character’s reverie or during the transition to the next. The movement is so peculiar but potent.

 

The lights are another interesting journey you will take if you see Performance Anxiety. It is a case of “Look but don’t touch.” Unless you are Light Designer Andrew Meadows of course. From the hanging light bulbs that pulse along with the rhythm of Lucas’s emotions or the lights that flood from within the very stage. These effects alone fascinated me. Nobody is safe once they enter the dark and intimate room. The stage stretches from beyond the centre block, to the mirrors and curtains to the bar on the other side of the room. Before you know it Lucas will have his bright-as-lights stare hitting you hard and leaving you lost for words.

 

But buzz words like provoking, emotional, artistic etc are one thing. I could go on all night if I really wanted to burn your eyes out staring at a computer screen. Professionalism is another cup of tea that Brian Lucas and his team seem to be guzzling down. The rhythm between the sound desk and Lucas gets a little Meta. The desk becomes a presence in it’s own right. Answering questions for Lucas when we are clearly useless. Fueling his ego/rage/misery/joy. Take your pick; the sound team can do it. There was not a single moment where they were out of sync. Fronted by Brett Collery the sound is as lively or dark depending on the moment, as is the lighting design.

 

Performance Anxiety is not an accidental success. This is an established hit on its return season. And many are glad to see it coming back once more. Brian Lucas brings poetry, he brings comedy, he brings flashbacks and other worldly reflections. Whether he is pulling back the curtain or getting in the audience’s face. Performance Anxiety picks apart the insecurities of the “other guy”. The man in the cue, the woman you might know, the person you might be. Take a moment to put your anxieties and insecurities aside and listen to what Brian Lucas has to say.

 

Brian Lucas Performance Anxiety