Posts Tagged ‘brisbane festival

27
Sep
17

Limbo Unhinged

 

Limbo Unhinged

Brisbane Festival

The Courier Mail Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent

September 8 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

70 minutes of sizzling, sexy, adult circus and cabaret returns to the magnificent Spiegeltent at Brisbane Festival. Strut & Fret, it seems, can do no wrong; the formula and style perfected, the audience lapping up every moment. With only a slight dip in energy and drive, while Remi Martin, in the clown role (no, he’s not scary or silly), spends several minutes miming various approaches to opening an imaginary door. It’s the preset to one of the better pole routines we’ve seen in a while, a sensational display of strength and grace in the most masculine way. Other than this precursor, there’s no lull and we love the spectacle of circus trained sculpted bodies, Heather Holliday’s magnificent fire breathing, sword swallowing and light sabre swallowing (Will we see it glow? We see it glow!), stunning aerials, superb vocals and the graceful, swaying, verging-on-death-defying Chinese Poles. Is it any wonder that there are gasps from the crowd beneath, as the artists dip low enough to give someone a quick kiss on the cheek?!

 

 

Limbo Unhinged is everything we desire in circus right now – we’ve talked about this before – with so many offerings, the best of them in terms of content, style and audience appeal, are still Cirque du Soleil, Casus, Company2 and Scott Maidment’s Strut & Fret, since 1997, delivering on their manifesto to make artistic experiences “breath-taking, heart-gripping, unforgettable and entertaining”. 

 

 

And where their Blanc De Blanc fails to capture the imagination (others loved it but I’ve always found it slightly less tasteful), Strut and Fret’s Limbo and Limbo Unhinged both offer a level of sophistication and sexiness that we demand now in circus and cabaret – there’s no going back to cheap vaudeville stunts unless they can be sold as brilliant parody or a little nod to nostalgia.

 

Sxip Shirey plays a starring role on vocals and a variety of instruments, leading a fabulous band. He’s a quirky figurehead, the lively persona of all upbeat components of the work, which would be nothing without his original compositions and zany personality. But the acrobats also play, stepping in and out of the band to jam at this big, bold party while someone else takes a starring role on stage. 

 

 

There’s really something for everyone. Charlotte O’Sullivan and Nico Jelmoni delight with their daring balances, lifts and counter balances, defying gravity and all common sense. We won’t be trying this at home…without a spotter. The element of danger across all physical feats is just enough to induce a state of excitement and anticipation – we don’t fear for the performers. We’re in awe of their focus and strength and control. There’s the light-hearted, awe-inspiring pole routine, contortion and aerial contortion, a fire breathing counter balance, and the men strutting and dancing, Kinky Boots style, in an epic choreographed number that would put to shame many of the under-30s out for a dance on a Saturday night!

 

 

One of the more elegant moments, reminiscent of the rose petals and paper of Per Te, brings an artist in billowing white to centre stage – for not quite long enough – beneath beautiful lighting that makes her appear almost mystical, a muse. And then she disappears; she’s moonlight and then she’s gone.

 

David Berthold’s Brisbane Festival only brings in or brings back the very best, and Strut & Fret’s Limbo Unhinged is one of the highlights again this year, offering an exciting and erotic, enticingly exotic evening of pure escapism and entertainment we don’t see anywhere else for the rest of the year.

 

 

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25
Sep
17

Laser Beak Man

Laser Beak Man

Brisbane Festival, La Boite Theatre Company & Dead Puppet Society

In Association With PowerArts

The Roundhouse

September 9 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Laser Beak Man is a triumph on so many levels.

 

The mute titular superhero is the creation of Tim Sharp, diagnosed with autism at age three (now twenty-nine). His mum, Judy Sharp (Associate Producer), refused to believe advice from the experts – that her son would never speak or emote – igniting instead of ignoring, his passion for drawing. Sharp’s colourful world eventually became an 8-episode animated television series and now, thanks to David Morton and Nicholas Paine, the brains behind the award winning Dead Puppet Society, in close collaboration with NYC’s New Victory Theater, a 90-minute vivid and heartwarming stage show.

 

 

Known for their acclaimed productions incorporating beautifully realised puppets (The Wider Earth, Argus and The Harbinger), Morton and Paine collaborated with Sharp and Sam Cromack of Brisbane indie band Ball Park Music (Daniel Hanson, Dean Hanson and Luke Moseley). Sharp’s hilarious visual puns paired with Cromack’s original compositions, slightly reminiscent of the Beatles, create the technicolour world of Laser Beak Man, complete with the first free-flying Air-Orbs in the history of Australian theatre. One seems evil, like a Big Brother eye, and the other a friendlier vessel, for escaping and venturing off into the world. For Brisbane Festival and La Boite to premiere this family friendly, wholly entertaining and life affirming production is a coup.

 

 

The show is deceptively small and dark to start, contained within a black box built high on stage in the traditional orientation, without a hint of colour or drama or finesse. But suddenly, as the plot demands, the black is whisked away and like waking up in Oz, or stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate room, we’re treated to the digital visual spectacle of Laser Beak Man’s Power City (Design Jonathan Oxlade & Projection Design Justin Harrison with Sound by Tony Brumpton and Lighting by Jason Glenwright).

Power City was once the most beautiful city in the world – clean, pure, perfect – and local hero Laser Beak Man worked hard to keep it that way.

Drawing energy from the underground Magna Crystals that powered the city, his beak-shot lasers turned bad things to good. But now the city isn’t what it used to be and Laser Beak Man is thoroughly over it. That is until his estranged childhood friends Peter Batman and Evil Emily return and steal the Magna Crystals. Robbed of his super powers, Laser Beak Man has one last chance to reinvent Power City and save his oldest buddies before they destroy everything.

 

 

So the premise is a simple superhero story – Laser Beak Man and his friends must work together to overcome evil and save the world! – but the visual splendour and the cheeky characters inhabiting this place (and the talented artists who bring them to life on stage) are simply extraordinary. The cast comprises Nathaniel P. Claridad, Jeremy Neideck, Lauren Jackson, Jon Riddleberger, Betsy Rosen, Helen Stephens and Maren Searle, with a special guest appearance from Leigh Sales, her pre-recorded voice and her animated likeness anyway, as the Reporter. There’s not a weak link among them, and in a superior display of collective skill and connection, there are often up to three or four ensemble members manipulating a single puppet.

 

 

The script bubbles over with lovely silly comedy and some of our favourite puns include a series of terribly funny tomato puns, including the slightly vain hope after several minutes of them, that the projection designer doesn’t run out of tomato puns! Poppy forgets to continue reading the captions sliding by beneath the action and when I tell her later she laughs. She says, IT’S A KIDS’ SHOW BUT IT’S FOR ADULTS! There’s really something for everyone: while its innocence is refreshing, and totally fine for the kids (recommended for 8+), there are plenty of political references for the millennials and parentals.

 

Laser Beak Man, a Brisbane Festival highlight, is a delight for all the family, full of joy and optimism, and very obviously originating from the simple goodness of genuine hearts able and willing to turn their creative talents / superpowers into making the world a better place through good old fashioned high-tech theatrical storytelling.

16
Sep
17

I Just Came To Say Goodbye

 

I Just Came to Say Goodbye

The Good Room

Theatre Republic – The Block

September 13 – 23 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY.

 

Strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defences must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.

 

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt…

 

David Whyte

 

In 2002 a DHL cargo plane and a Russian passenger jet collided in Swiss-controlled airspace over southern Germany, killing 68 Russian school students, two pilots and Mr Vitaly Kaloyev’s wife and two children. This story is told plainly and simply, chillingly, in tiny pieces, using surprisingly little text. Intricately interwoven along the way are numbered anonymous apologies and offers of forgiveness (or refusals to forgive or to be forgiven) selected from hundreds of online contributions to The Good Room’s website for their newly devised show, I Just Came to Say Goodbye. All the elements come together perfectly, which is no surprise to those who know The Good Room’s previous productions. We know the formula works; we adored I Want to Know What Love Is, which premiered during Brisbane Festival 2014 and enjoyed a return season at Brisbane Powerhouse in 2015, and I Should Have Drunk More Champagne at Metro Arts in 2013.

 

The Good Room has never let the vampires get in the way of making an original show.

 

Directed by Daniel Evans and co-created with Amy Ingram, Caroline Dunphy, Lauren Clelland and Kieran Swann, this is the work that’s consistently disrupting Queensland’s arts’ ecology, demanding more from artists and audiences, and offering a richer, more complex, lingering and affecting theatrical experience.

 

I would like to have the time to sit in on the company’s creative process and tell you more about it because not enough theatre is being dreamed onto our stages in this way, and not enough of our theatre makers believe they can do likewise. This is largely because our training and our theatrical tradition is still so text-based. (We could argue that The Good Room’s trilogy of shows is text-based, but that would be over-simplifying the work and under-valuing the creative process).

 

 

The company’s next work (I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You) will involve young people in its creative development and performance. For some, it may be their first foray into devising from scratch. (Can we note, it’s simply not soon enough to be exploring the work of companies such as Gob Squad, Frantic Assembly and Complicite at a Masters level!). I hope The Good Room’s process becomes a preferred model of devising theatre with students especially, so we might see the process included in the curriculum for Years 10 – 12. Sure, something like it, within “physical theatre” vaguely happens now, depending on the awesomeness of the teachers involved and the cooperation of admin, however; even with an abundance of new work, we’re still seeing chasms in this country between theatre, physical theatre and dance. (Within an intelligently programmed arts festival the gap is less apparent).

 

The truth is, rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.

– Brené Brown

 

Despite closing with a burst of silver glitter and opening with an eighties’ daggy dance team dressed in Brisbane Festival hot pink (choreographed by Nerida Matthaei, hysterical!), I Just Came to Say Goodbye is necessarily dark. It delves into a place we don’t like to go, exploring the vulnerability that lies at the heart of our anger and our resistance to forgiveness. Can we ever really forgive another? Can we ever forget the things another has said or done to make us feel such anger/betrayal/bitterness in the first place? What happens when we choose not to forgive? In the case of Mr Kaloyev and – spoiler alert – the family and friends of his victim, there’s no happy ending.

 

 

To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.

 

The inability to forgive seems more often than not to lead to violence, a person lashing out against another, staged literally by The Good Room in an impressive extended fight sequence. Choreographed by Justin Palazzo-Orr it must be the longest continuous fight sequence we’ve seen on a Brisbane stage. It’s violent and tender and funny and tragic. Caroline Dunphy’s movement is always captivating but this performance is next level neo-butoh. She’s a wicked nymph, leaping and climbing and crawling all over Thomas Larkin (who has his own stunning image making moments at the beginning of the show), and hanging from him to create a disturbing, broken picture, to be read as a moment of grief, or the resolve of a ghost, or simply, and complicatedly, a reference to some degree of Stockholm Syndrome in the relationship. (Are there degrees of Stockholm Syndrome?). Or it’s something else entirely, depending, I suppose, on what sort of day/week/month/year/life you’ve had. The intimate moment that precedes this suffering though, is unmistakably a representation of the couple’s abject despair, beautifully, tenderly realised. This sort of intimate connection between performers takes time to develop and direct, and skill to replicate, or discover again, each and every night of the season. It’s so desperately sad. Meanwhile, Amy Ingram is a wildcat, and Michael Tuahine is both fierce and funny in attacking and being attacked. Satisfyingly, everyone ends up fighting everyone; it’s horrifying and highly entertaining. There’s certainly a little schadenfreude at work here.

 

 

Anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here; it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it. What we call anger on the surface only serves to define its true underlying quality by being a complete but absolute mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

– David Whyte

 

Jason Glenwright’s apocalyptic lighting comprises search lights and pin spots and a whole lot of blackness. At times, through the haze, we barely see faces but the voices and the silences between the words convey anything we think we might have missed with our eyes. And played in traverse with the audience seated on two opposite sides, we may well miss something from time to time. Just as in life, this is okay; we see what we want to see precisely the way we want to see it. At the other end of the technical spectrum and across the Theatre Republic at La Boite are the bright lights of Laser Beak Man, also designed by Glenwright. The guy is versatile to say the least! Underscored by Dane Alexander, I Just Came to Say Goodbye wouldn’t work nearly as well without its lights to pierce the darkness and a soundscape to scrape our souls (it’s absolutely terrifying, jarring; try not to be affected).

 

FORGIVENESS is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.

– David Whyte

 

I Just Came to Say Goodbye is a stunning result from what would seem a simple process on paper, but actually, in anyone else’s hands could be a colossal disaster. What Daniel Evans and Amy Ingram appear to do is to throw everything onto the floor – a vast collection of ideas and feelings and responses to real events and crowdsourced verbatim material – pour fuel over it, and set it on fire to create a spectacular event and food for thought, for a life outside the theatre that demands our burning presence.

 

15
Sep
17

Orpheus

 

Orpheus

Brisbane Festival & Datacom

The Tivoli

September 12 – 16 2017

 

Reviewed by Stephanie Fitz-Henry

 

 

What do you get when you cross a 1930s jazz music club in the middle of Paris with a tragic tale of Greek mythology? A delightfully whimsical and uniquely entertaining theatre experience that is sure to remain with you for a long time.

 

As I enter through the doors of The Tivoli for the Australian premiere of Little Bulb Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre’s production of Orpheus, it feels like walking through the clubs of 1930s Paris after midnight. The instantly recognisable French accordion melodies fill the space and set the tone for laissez-faire. French fashion adorns the floor. The staff and many of the guests have embraced the invitation to dress in feathered headbands, strings of pearls, pinstriped vests, braces and berets.

 

 

The allure of the Tivoli is intoxicating with the anticipation of a night of fun and frivolity, which intensified with the show starting almost half an hour behind schedule in true French style – not that anyone seems to notice. The main auditorium is set in true cabaret style where groups can enjoy table service. The rest of the audience is seated in rows around the periphery. The performers encourage the audience to move around the room and to enjoy the wine and French inspired food throughout the duration of the show.

 

 

From the moment this company steps onto the stage until the final curtain call, the show is peppered with a myriad of laugh-out-loud moments that carry us from one action to the next. The moments of hilarity will tickle the funny bone of even the most cynical of spectators.

 

The performers are so hilarious and tragic that you can’t help but laugh and cheer them on. It’s like watching a silent film of the same era. The music takes centre stage and steers the direction of the piece for the duration of the show. The intentional choreography of simplistic movement and gesture, and melodramatic facial expressions, is like watching Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom and is just as hysterical. The cast are all highly trained musicians who play double bass (Clare Beresford), violin (Miriam Gould), accordion (Shamira Turner), Piano/Organ (Charlie Penn), clarinet (Alexander Scott), percussion (Tom Penn) and guitar (Dominic Conway), who are led by the very funny and Peron-esque qualities of Eugenie Pastor (flute/swanee whistle). They skilfully use their comedic talents, physicality and harmonious voices to entertain us. The acts, scenes and settings are projected onto the stage to guide our journey amid the amusing commotion. 

 

The marriage of Hades and Persephone receives loud applause when re-enacted by 2 male cast members.

 

There is beauty and power in simplicity and this is one reason this production is so good. Clever use of striking costumes, props, puppets and masks (Max Humphries & Cheryl Brown), stunning lighting (Michael Odam) and an emotive set design (Mary Drummond) enhances and envelops the show. The focus is on the detail; its specificity brings authenticity to every moment of this production and conveys the company’s professionalism. The cast doesn’t take themselves seriously and performs the roles with incredible generousity, earning 2 curtain calls and a standing ovation.

 

All the way from the UK for the Brisbane Festival, this fabulous production is totally exclusive to Brisbane audiences for two final performances on Saturday at 2pm & 7:30pm. Orpheus is not just a show – it is an all-encompassing experience. Turn off the television and forget about the footy. This is the most fun you can have in 3 hours at the theatre and the best value ticket in town at Brisbane’s most cherished venue.

 

 

The Company

Double Bass: Clare Beresford

Guitar: Dominic Conway 

Violin: Miriam Gould

Piano/Organ: Charlie Penn

Percussion: Tom Penn

Flute/Swanee Whistle: Eugenié  Pastor 

Clarinet: Alexander Scott

Accordion: Shamira Turner 

 

The Orpheus Team

Written and Devised by: The Company
Directed by: Alexander Scott
Designer (Set & Costume): Mary Drummond
Sound Designer: Ed Clarke
Lighting Designer: Michael Odam
Mask and Puppets: Max Humphries and Cheryl Brown
Scenic Artist: Rebecca Chan
Production Manager: Daniel Palmer
Sound No.1: Thomas Wasley
Company Stage Manager: Laura Hammond
Deputy Stage Manager: Laura Page
Tech Swing: Mitch Hargreaves
Tour Producer: Rosie Scudder
Little Bulb Producer: Fiona Baxter

In association with Farnham Maltings

 

The VAN DIJK 3

Jan Van Dijk: Violin
Miranda Deutsch: Guitar
Rick Caskey: Bass

11
Sep
17

PER TE

 

PER TE

Brisbane Festival & Aurecon

QPAC Playhouse

September 9 – 16 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

She could tell a story through her eyes…

 

PER TE (Dedicated to you, dear Julie) is an astonishingly beautiful and tender production featuring charismatic acrobats with all the skills, and a circular set up of wind machines on stage to lift inanimate things into the air, creating breathtaking moments for little more reason than that it can be done. It’s perfect festival fare, a feast for the senses without making perfect sense. An Australian premiere, exclusive to Brisbane Festival thanks to David Berthold’s relationship with Compagnia Finzi Pasca (Switzerland), PER TE is almost a show and so much more than one. Can I even explain it? Do I even need to? I just want you to experience it.

 

Dramaturgically challenging for those looking to find a narrative thread through it, PER TE is unashamedly a work of sheer beauty, complex memories and raw emotion, dedicated to writer and director Daniele Finzi Pasca’s late wife, the visionary Julie Hamelin Finzi, who died last year after a long illness at the age of 43.

 

NEXT YEAR I WILL BE 43.

 

 

The profundity of this production is not in its circus tricks but in its arresting images within the aesthetic of a dream, or a dream of a dream, or of several dreams woven together over decades, with sheaths of white plastic floating and dancing above the stage, red and gold silks billowing and becoming fire-breathing dragons, frolicking, fighting…newspaper pages whirling, snowflakes swirling, an aerial hoop descending chillingly like a noose, and in the same instant containing all the beauty of the world, a thousand red rose petals twirling around it, tiny dancers in the air.

 

An entire sequence will stay with me forever, an extended anime fight, private, child-like – SCHOOM! – until the performer’s exhaustion sets in and she continues to fight – what? The world? Herself? – despite physical, mental and emotional fatigue, causing real tears to spill down my cheeks as I ache for her.

 

The second act opens with a plate spinning spectacular-spectacular, the stage filled like a field or a forest of light, or a jungle if we go by the sounds the acrobats make, with poles upon which the plates are placed and spun until they’re suddenly gone, and I don’t notice when they’re struck, or how, or by whom…the angel’s story has me captivated.

 

 

PER TE’s meta-premise lets us in on the secrets of creating a show and paying tribute to a life. With only a box of memories and a garden bench we are three months out from opening night, so things can change and there are members of the stage crew still moving props and set pieces about in plain sight, but basically the show exists, right? Why? And for whom? As the performers explain to the audience the way a show comes together, they reflect on their practice and the creative process. They play games, childlike in their glee, and they remember the things that Julie had said or done. The live music and vocal work is integral to the melting, sweeping, changing moods of the show. This “show” is in fact a love letter, a memoir; an homage to beauty, passion, love, belonging and longing.

 

 

When we begin we are in a garden, with a red garden bench and a darkened doorway, its edges lit. (Finzi Pasca’s Icaro also features a darkened doorway, which opens to the light). It reveals the performers, wearing suits of armour that weigh 30kg each, inhibiting movement, but not much, and adding clanks and creaks to the soundscape. At times it seems like something more will be made of the armour – at one point the tiniest female performer offers a guy his breastplate to put on, but there is no deeper meaning other than what we ourselves read into it, no extra moment there unless we ourselves choose to languish in it. At the end the armour is removed, piece by piece, and each performer lays it on the stage in front of them. This meaning is clear. But with a number of moments that seem less specific we can decide that either there are missed opportunities or that we have missed something that probably wasn’t meant for us in the first place. When such a deeply personal work is shared, we can either embrace it and find morsels we wish to keep forever for ourselves, or simply let it wash over us and look forward to the next festival piece.

 

PER TE is a private place of grief and glee and reverie and community, or a strange and visually stunning circus piece.

 

PER TE for me, more than a secret garden, is the distant memory of a series of decadent grown-ups’ dinner parties, which we would catch a glimpse of for years before being sent down the hall to bed; it’s magical, elusive and it might make more sense next time, or never.

 

23
Sep
16

Chekhov’s First Play

Chekhov’s First Play

Brisbane Festival & Dead Centre

Brisbane Powerhouse Powerhouse Theatre

September 21 – 23 2016

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

chekhovsfirstplay4

 

From its at-door sign warning of loud, sudden noises, coarse language, nudity, sexual references, pyrotechnics and smoking on stage, it is easy to recognise that Dead Centre’s Chekhov’s First Play is going to be take audiences far from the usual Chekov places. Yet still, in its disassembling of the great Russian playwright’s work, as well as theatre itself, the play takes its audiences to some surprising but ultimately superb places.
The show begins somewhat traditionally, apart from the fact that audience members are all wearing headphones in order to obtain Bush Moukarzel’s audio director’s commentary. This allows, he claims, for him to unclutter the complicated work and, accordingly, his words include snippets of explanation of its play’s subtext, highlight the universality and thus modernity of its metaphors about property and clarify the dramatic concept of Chekhov’s gun… providing the cast don’t muck it up by accidentally skipping a few pages of dialogue. There is humour too as he makes metatheatrical observations regarding the actors, such as in reaction to their underplay of lines, moving towards offer of his opinion of them, including their flaws.

 

chekhovsfirstplay5

 

The soap-opera story of Anton Chekov’s first play, Platonov, which he started writing ‘before he was Chekhov’ at just 18 years of age, is of the widowed Anna Petrovna who can no longer afford the upkeep on her giant house (represented by Andrew Clancy’s imposing and immaculate redbrick set) and the benefactor trying to woo her despite her love belonging to another, already married man. At five hours in unadapted form (thanks to 83 scenes) and with a 20 character cast and multiple themes, the ambitiously complicated play is generally accepted as unstageable.

But this is far from a traditional telling, and not just due to the headphones. Things begin to change towards the abstract when the obscure Platonov arrives on stage, with the actors slipping in and out of character. As they await and then laud Platonov’s arrival, the Chekhovian language begins to breakdown; as Chinese takeaway is ordered, mention of traditional superstition is Googlised and talk even turns to Kim and Kanye. Chaos soon ensues as the show’s stately staging is wrecked (literally) and the gun reappears. And it works… mainly due to Platonov, the central character, who does not utter a single word as the world implodes around him. To say more would be to ruin the impressive imagery and pack-a-punch impact of the work’s modern application of its after and always themes of ownership, translated too within a feminist discourse. All cast members are impressive, whether performing the naturalism of Chekhov’s original script or when within the heightened melodrama of later lip-synced sections.

 

chekhovsfirstplay3

 

Chekhov’s First Play is a hugely inventive work, not just in the realisation of its rebuild from the broken down fragments of its source material, but its concept of modern examination of a classic, and shows that the leading character can be any one of us. Like An Oak Tree and Gob Squad’s Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good), with a bit of last year’s Confidence Man, Chekhov’s First Play creates a truly memorable and though-provoking theatrical experience through its insightful reconciliation of Chekhov’s trademark naturalism with the commotion of our everyday world. Go for the comfort of its classic premise but stay for the challenge of its shattering of preconceptions. And then share your thoughts so that others might also join in the incredible privilege we have to be seeing such acclaimed work from this year’s ‘Irish Rebellion’ Brisbane Festival Artists in residence.

 

chekhovsfirstplay1

22
Sep
16

Rainbow Vomit

Rainbow Vomit

Brisbane Festival, Channel Nine & Dancenorth

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

September 21–24 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

rainbowvomit2

We … set out to create a low-fi phantasmagoria – a world in which dream, fantasy, illusion and play were funnelled through unreality …

Kyle Page and Amber Haines

Dancenorth’s Rainbow Vomit was created to appeal to a young audience, but also to people of all ages. With its sense of fun and play, its colour and ingenuity in design, and unfettered naturalistic movement, it engages everyone. On opening night of its Brisbane Festival season at the Judith Wright Centre, it was lovely to hear the reactions of children in the audience, laughing and showing their surprise, delight and curiosity.

The title of this piece, directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Kyle Page and Artistic Assistant/Rehearsal Director Amber Haines, is intriguing. Does it refer to the overload of information and entertainment from electronic media? Or the gushing forth of creative ideas? Or creativity unleashed in the medium of dance, away from the realm of the iPad, the smartphone and the computer?

Rainbow Vomit starts off quietly in black and white, and through various scenes, builds to a frenzy of colour, sound, imagination and movement. Lighting and set designer Govin Ruben, costume designer Andrew Treloar, and composer Alisdair Macindoe have created an incredible rainbow world, full of surreal creatures, with a soundtrack combining voice, sound effects (such as watery slurping and gurgling), clapping, drumming, bells, and simple, repeated tunes.

At first, the dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd) are plainly dressed in black and white pyjama-style tops and pants, and sitting on clear, colourless plastic exercise balls.

They at first appear to be watching TV, their synchronised reactions and exclamations showing the contrast between the excitement of what must be on the invisible screen, and their own relatively passive state. Then they move to gazing down and swiping at invisible iPads, while the soundtrack plays children’s voices, electronically blurred, describing how they feel when using these devices.

The exercise balls become objects to play with instead of sitting on. The dancers fall on them, bounce on them, tumble over and around them, and dribble them. It is exhilarating and fun to watch, and you feel yourself wishing you could do that too.

The style of movement is established in this segment. It is at the same time very natural-seeming, yet athletic; relaxed and flexible, yet powerful.

The dancers move fluidly and through every plane without pause, apparently effortlessly. Their energy, expressiveness and prowess are phenomenal.

A large exercise ball morphs gradually into a pingpong ball for the next segment, provoking shrieks of joy from the younger audience members. The dancers now appear to be robots, with pingpong balls in their mouths, like some alien kind of teeth. They blow the balls out of their mouths at the audience and each other.

Next, in multicoloured costumes, and with their long hair flung forwards over their faces, Jenni Large and Georgia Rudd form a segmented creature, moving as one. In ‘plank’ position, with their heads pressed together, they form a bridge, and then entwine, roll and jump together. Harrison Hall flies through a solo in this scene, leaping with abandon.

A silver virtual reality helmet is the focus of the next scene. The electronic flashing, buzzing and crackling emitted when a dancer puts on the helmet contrast with the twittering of birds and joyful expressions of the other dancers when the helmet is removed.

Ashley McLellan’s character is fascinated by the helmet, and while wearing it she is manipulated by a dancer behind her, waving her arms and body like a sea creature moved by underwater currents. The changing colour of the light – red, green and purple – leads into the colour extravaganza of the final scenes.

For these scenes, the audience (and the dancers at first) don ‘fireworks glasses’ made of holographic diffraction film. These multiply images and refract light into myriads of rainbows. The green rims glow in the ultraviolet light, creating an eerily comic effect when the dancers move in a close group (multiplied many-fold by our glasses).

The psychedelic wonder is cranked up even further when, on a darkened stage, the dancers each hold two small lights. As they move the lights, we see an explosion of moving rainbows in very intense colours in an almost out-of-body experience.

When the main lights come on again for the final scene, there is a riot of colour. At first just hanging between columns at the side, and then filling more and more spaces across the stage, are multicoloured strands of UV-reactive rope (7.6 kilometres of it altogether). The colours glow in the UV light, as do drifts of coloured pingpong balls on the floor.

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The final incarnation of the dancers is in the form of surreal imaginary creatures, including two unicorns (with flexible over-head masks and glowing lips), while the dancer wearing the magic helmet is on a swing, swooping through it all.

This show is a joyous and uplifting experience, full of wonderful dance and magical effects.

And you get to keep the glasses! To prolong the magic, if you are NOT driving (!) try them out after an evening performance. The smallest intersection with traffic lights becomes a wonderland, while travelling along a six-lane road is mindblowing!




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