Posts Tagged ‘brisbane arts theatre

01
Jul
14

The Breakfast Club

 

The Breakfast Club

Brisbane Arts Theatre

June 28 – August 2 2014

 

Reviewed by Maree Butterworth

 

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WHAT do you do if you’re caught in detention on a Saturday morning? Cause a ruckus of course!

 

Brisbane Arts Theatre’s The Breakfast Club gives a glimpse of what detention should be like…well in an American, eighties-fashioned-way as students serve their long Saturday sentence.

 

Contrary to many of my 1980s born mates, I hadn’t seen the John Hughes cult-classic film released in 1985. When provided the opportunity to see the opening of the show on Saturday, I was faced with the decision – Do I watch the movie prior, or go with a fresh mind? Knowing a great deal of potential ticket holders would contemplate seeing the show because of interest fuelled by the film 29 or fewer years’ ago, I decided I’d go ahead and watch the film first.

 

Brisbane Arts Theatre’s version was adapted for stage by Drew Jarvis and directed by Susan O’Toole Cridland. I was drawn into the five characters representing high school stereotypes – the jock, the princess, the basket case, the criminal and the nerd.

 

The main set is effective, obviously not the massive library in the film, but a smaller imitation to fit the Petrie Terrace stage, with the teacher, Mr Vernon’s office upstage where he (played by Jarvis), thought he could watch each student’s move.

 

While some accent slips in the beginning are distracting, the actors seem to settle into their characters quickly, enabling the audience to relax and be sucked into the 1980s, where all that seemed important was wrestling, the prom, grades, and for some, just getting by. I enjoyed the quirks of all characters. There were, however, two moments that made me sit up, and by looking at fellow audience members, the same moments seemed to get their attention as well.

 

The first is Bender’s monologue, in which he (Jeremiah Wray) describes what home life must be like for the nerd, Brian (Jonty Martin) and compares it to his own. The second moment is Andrew’s monologue, in which he (Christo Barrett-Hall) describes why he has been subject to detention. These were the “shit just got real” moments when I started believing what I was seeing unfold on stage, despite just enjoying often humorous incidents in sequence. I guess it was because at that point we started seeing the actual conflict within each character rather than the conflict between each character. And that’s what the play is ultimately about; the internal struggles and journey of each character and what manifests externally when they’re brought together.

 

Wray and Barrett-Hall are standouts, but are strongly supported by the princess (Rochelle Nolan), the nerd, the basket case (Liv Wilson) and of course, the highly short tempered, veins-in-neck-popping-red-faced, power-tripping teacher, Mr Vernon.

 

Some down points of the show, which may be sorted as the season progresses, included the flow being jeopardised by clumsy scene changes. A main one was in the first act when the set (including tables and chairs) needed to be moved back to accommodate the subsequent school hall / locker scene. Two people were brought on stage to do this and unconvincingly played the roles of the school’s janitors. Perhaps the solution is blackening the stage to do this, or making the janitors more completely characterised with cleaning trolleys. I can imagine them whistling a well known eighties tune while they clear coke cans and rubbish, and could even cameo later in the play. There were also some scenes that worked well in the film, which I don’t believe transferred well to stage. For example, some scenes when the characters danced came across to me as fillers. Each act was relatively short, so perhaps the action could have been snappier, and placed in a juicy one-act play.

 

In saying that, overall I enjoyed The Breakfast Club and the audience members surrounding me seemed to as well. The down points mentioned cannot overshadow the fantastic work by the cast. With most of the cast on stage for the duration of the play, it’s great to see their focus and dedication to their roles. They bring to life a story that resonated with teenagers in the mid-eighties, which is still relevant now.

 

So should I have watched the film first and should you if you haven’t? It doesn’t make a difference. If you haven’t seen it, you will understand the characters and the storyline easily.

 

If you have seen it, you’ll recognise many of the iconic moments from the film and be pleased to revel in nostalgia.

 

The Breakfast Club runs at Brisbane Arts Theatre until August 2.

 

NB:The Breakfast Club contains explicit language, drug use and sexual references.

 

 

28
Jul
13

A New Way to Pay Old Debts

 

A New Way To Pay Old Debts

Brisbane Arts Theatre

26th July – 24th August 2013

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean & Bil Heit The Drama Mumma

 

A classic tale of what really matters in life; money, love, and the odd beer or two.

 

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Upon entering the theatre, I was immediately captivated by Chancie Jessop‘s set which was obviously multi-locational. Various environments were imagined effectively throughout the play with use of minimal props and Michael Sutton‘s lighting and of course the actors realisation of the space. This helped the action to flow smoothly (for the most part on opening night) as the performers’ storytelling was the focus. – Bil

 

Brisbane Arts Theatre certainly has an eye for versatility. Their season showcases a whole spectrum of theatrical archetypes.

 

A New Way To Pay Old Debts demonstrates nothing of a new way. But under the direction of Ron Kelly, this team of actors do their best to bring this classic into the modern era.

 

The play was written by Philip Massinger, one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. The initially broad, expositional nature of the character’s language took a little getting used to for some members of the audience. Soon enough the laughs were rolling in, the result of clever puns and physical commitment from some of the performers (notably Cameron Hurry and Natalie Ridoutt). Ron Kelly has assembled an impressive cast for the production, his directorial debut as Artistic Director of the Brisbane Arts Theatre. – Bil

 

There are some disparities in the show between the line of new and old. Though the dialogue is, as far as memory recalls, unchanged, the costume design varies greatly. Taking into account that Brisbane Arts Theatre doesn’t have the financial backing of other theatres in Brisbane, the attire of the characters nevertheless could’ve had a little more consistency. A full line of 17th century regalia is probably out of the question, but it was hard to determine within the first few scenes whether or not there was genuine intent of modernity.

 

On the topic of disparities, distracting at times are the accents of the characters. Though some performed magnificently, enunciating each word and projecting beautifully written language to the audience, a few ocker accents also graced the stage. A united front on how to present the language would strengthen the overall performance.

 

In spite of these shortcomings the merits of the play uplift the performance. A New Way To Pay Old Debts, besides being a melodrama and a good-hearted comedy, falls under the more specific category of a Villian Play. And what would this performance be without Steven Tandy as the dastardly and horrid Sir Giles Overreach? Tandy was both menacing and hilarious at the appropriate moments.

 

As lead villain, Sir Giles Overreach, Steven Tandy provided a little evil and a lot of laughs. His interpretation of the language was most impressive. Veteran Shakespeare performer Vanya Matula was comfortable and commanding as Frank Wellborn and Jessica McGaw was beautiful in the role of Lady Allworth. – Bil

 

The arc of the story is typical of the play’s era, wrapped up neatly with the lovers serenely smiling, but we knew THAT was coming. Perhaps the ending is easy to foresee simply because we are so familiar with new versions of the old greats such as this one. In that sense, it makes this comedy easier to enjoy, despite some of its more challenging language. There is as much wit as there is slapstick to this charming little production, and it’s worth a look if you haven’t yet stopped by Brisbane Arts Theatre this year.

 

Despite some minor opening night jitters from some of the younger actors and the lighting, I was thoroughly entertained by the company as a whole. All performers are to be commended for their commitment to the storytelling and the enjoyment of its delivery. The hilarity experienced in the rehearsal room was evident from the audience and was infectious. 

 
The good vibes continued after the show in the courtyard, as the audience, cast and crew celebrated another successful offering from B.A.T. in 2013. – Bil

 

Check out Bil’s blog The Drama Mumma here

 

10
Jun
13

Delicacy

Delicacy 

Brisbane Arts Theatre 

24th May – 15th June 2013

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

Delicacy, by Melbourne playwright Julian Hobba, is a two-handed drama based on the joyless true story of two German men – Armin Meiwes (“Der Metzgermeister”) and Bernd Brandes – who met in an internet chatroom devoted to cannibalism. Meiwes advertised to meet a “well-built man who wants to be eaten”. Brandes posted a reply that said: “I offer myself to you and will let you dine from my live body.”

“It leads us to the place where thinking stops.” Investigating Officer, Wilfried Fehl

Delicacy was first seen in 2006, at Melbourne’s Trade Hall, directed by Wesley Enoch and featuring Luke Mullins & Paul Denny.

 

This is by far the strangest play I have seen yet. What makes it even more chilling, is the knowledge that this story is based on real life events. The depravity of this production’s characters is horrific, and terrific to watch.

 

Unexpectedly, more often than not, some moments came off as comical. I still can’t decipher if this was the director’s, or the cast’s intention. If so, then they were successful. If not, I can only say it is within human nature to cope with things of such morbidity by resolving that it is humourous. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to process some of the content if I didn’t think it was in jest and intentionally bizarre in order to make me laugh.

 

Another reason for finding some moments to be comical might also fall upon the cast themselves. All the elements were there. I just couldn’t believe it. Perhaps that’s not them, that’s me and my reading of it; as audience members we’re protecting ourselves from fear. Then again, Greg Scurr, as the meek Denny, just wasn’t selling it. The character himself seemed contrite, like a bad homage to Norman Bates. Difficult to do convincingly, the old thespian art of fake blood spill has been mastered. I couldn’t see the source of the fake blood at all, which gave me the shivers.

 

Despite the comical moments, there were still many times when I was unsure of my emotion. Fearful isn’t exactly the right word. The phrase, “Oh My God, is that his…?” was murmured a lot. As was, “What the hell?” whispered most likely too loudly. There aren’t many shows that can achieve that sort of reaction without any full frontal nudity involved. Merely by their darkness, these characters transported us to a world of inevitable death and outlandish horror.

 

Also noteworthy, was the fact that everything (except the blood and drugs), was real. Something you rarely see on a community theatre stage; Rachel Cherry’s design included a real functioning kitchen with a real fridge, with real food served and consumed on stage. I suppose I should assume for my own comfort that the masturbation scenes were acted. Those perhaps went on a bit too often and unnecessarily. The crudeness of it made it intriguing to begin with, and then it became comical. But finally I found it to be nauseating and over done.

 

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Delicacy is a bizarre and unexpected discourse of a play if ever I saw one. Bring a friend along if you do care to see the show. Be wary and open minded, and leave the children at home.

 

WARNING: Delicacy contains adult themes, graphic violence and coarse language. Not recommended for those under 18 years.

17
Sep
12

The Last Hero

The Last Hero

Brisbane Arts Theatre

15th September – 13th October 2012

Reviewed by John McMahon

 

Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde may well be over pension age, but that won’t stop them being Heroes.  They’re heading to the home of the Gods, to give back what the first Hero stole – fire.  The genius inventor Leonard of Quirm and steadfast watchman Captain Carrot are on their way to stop them blowing up the Discworld.  They’re certain to succeed – except that they’ve brought the wizard Rincewind with them…

The BAT’s popular Discworld series continues with this premiere adaption of one of Sir Terry Pratchett’s most popular stories.

 

This is their fifteenth Discworld play since 1998 so obviously Brisbane Arts Theatre have some sort of a niche audience that really appreciates this genre.

Much about the production was excellent and this started with the comprehensive and attractive programme. The sets were simple but really effective and clever and the quality of the lighting added to the performance. Large flat screen TVs were mounted on the wall to bring  another dimension and it worked. Costumes were of a highly professional standard as were the clever props and special effects.

In the acting department the men were uniformly good. John Grey as Lord Vetanari and John O’Connor as Boy Willie along with Daniel Grey as Rincewind and Greg Stiff as Captain Carrot all gave very believable performances. The barbarians were all well cast physically and worked well off one another. They really looked like the Barbarians that time forgot.

In the females the only stand out was Angela Indemaur as Valkyrie, a Harridan.

With a running time of three hours and ten minutes the show needs a heavy pruning. I lost count of scene changes but it must have been in excess of thirty. Many of these involved moving the twenty cast on and off an overcrowded  dais in the half light or moving a complicated piece of set only to move it back a minute or two later. As the sets were changed, backstage was revealed to my side of the audience in  all of its blue lit glory.

I did laugh as there were some funny lines and situations. I got the impression that the cast were loving what they were doing but I also got the feeling that no one had actually watched the show from out front before the opening night.

The Last Hero needs at least 45 minutes pruned off the running time.

The Last Hero

13
Aug
12

The Body Snatcher

The Body Snatcher

Brisbane Arts Theatre

11th August – 8th September 2012 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

The title it self had me ready for something big. Something terrifying; something whimsical in a macabre way. I was ready for old-fashioned mystery. I had worked myself into an excited state, ready for doctors and detectives, unsuspecting criminals and stifling chills. The only problem is the playwright, Scott Barsotti, had brought us a snaring story but it is the wrong story being told.

He ticks all the boxes as a playwright with horror themed leanings. Cadavers, check. Graveyard, check. Grave robbers, check. Ambiguous relations between the young and the old (or perhaps older is the appropriate word), check. He even kindly provides us a slightly cliché opening scene with a beautiful, blonde haired beauty who carries with her a soon to be beautiful child. Singing a sad Irish ditty nonetheless, check!

But it was misleading, and though I did indeed have a satisfactory night of mystery and medical madness, I did not have the night I had hoped for. The promo will tell you “And as the wind bites and nights grow colder, who’s going to miss a few ladies of the night anyway?” In fact, the play, adapted from ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON’s short story, is based around the true tale of Burke and Hare, who murdered in the name of medical advancement. Though they did also make a profit off these “advancements”.

That was the tale I was anticipating and though the Barsotti’s dialogue is bewitching and lyrical the tale he has depicted was stale at times. Too much implied and not enough applied perhaps? Kate McKenzie, played by Libby Glasson whom, despite her smaller quantity of dialogue in fact dominated the stage quite well, could have easily been removed from the script all together. Leaving the final summation still as seamless as it was. But I’m glad she wasn’t; I found her to be one of the highlights of the play.

The entire cast combatted well with the somewhat predictable course of the narrative. I believed them to be medical professionals of the 19th century. The costume design by Caitlin Rowe made me feel like I had fallen into a Victorian Gothic novel. The stances and the way they pronounced each well-worded line is what brought the play back to the audience.

Despite moments of melodrama, there was some crackling phases of tension. Alex Lanham, who undertook the role of Gray, brought a strange power play to every scene he engaged. The arrangement and secrecy between himself and Dr. McFarlane, played by Stephen Smith, as well as the ambiguous relations between himself and Hood, played by Sophie Schoenknecht, were not just a wash over of conflict. I wanted to know more, I wanted to see more. And he would pull away off the stage into the shadows just before I’d had enough every time.

I guess there is a give and take relationship to this production. The costumes are wonderful. The lighting and stage direction is eerie. The actors of the Brisbane Arts Theatre bring all that they can; they are the give in this scenario I believe. Despite the somewhat lilting moments of the play, if you find yourself invested in the characters the narrative will be a satisfying undercurrent for you. The season is still young yet so do not shoot the messenger. Attend this dark, cold night by yourself or with friends and whatever you do, don’t walk off the path in the graveyard!

The Body Snatcher




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