Posts Tagged ‘brisbane festival

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

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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!

21
Sep
16

Snow White

Snow White

La Boite, Opera Queensland & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 3 – 24 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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My mother just spent more than 50 days in hospital – two hospitals actually, between two ICUs – and she continues to recover at home from complications following surgery, all due to a bug that travelled with her from one of the 5 Stans. I’ve also been sick since Brisbane Festival opening night and have stubbornly attended as much as possible, in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, where people forget I’m based, without managing to keep up with the follow up, i.e. writing about what I’ve seen. I have, however, perhaps as some sort of procrastination, insisted on (mostly successfully although the place could be tidier) running a household with two extra people in it, getting to some social engagements, camping at North Shore despite coughing up a bigger storm than the one to hit us on the day we came home, and before that, finishing a 5-week teaching contract because unlike reviewing Brisbane theatre, teaching pays. An exhausting term, physically and emotionally. I’ve missed yoga and coffee dates and drinks and events. Everything online needs an overhaul, the garden needs love, and I’ve been postponing the spring cleaning since this time last year. I need new writers, I need new clothes and I need a new focus. But more on that later.

Luckily, most of the shows I see stay with me. And let’s quietly appreciate the archival value of even a late response. Here’s the first in a succession of catch ups, well overdue. Sorry about that.

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We enter The Roundhouse to a Disney soundtrack and chirping birdsong, eliciting an eerie sense of foreboding and at the same time, a false sense of security. This is a grim tale, much more so than the Grimm tale.

For the record, Disney’s classic animated Snow White unnerves me to this day.

The forest is inside, on the ceiling. The darkness is broken by fairy lights. Mirrors, the autumn leaves, the branches, a blood stained timber floor, musical instruments and kitchen chairs hanging from the forest canopy. Later, rose petals, sparkles… A tree house, the stairs running up the middle of it, musicians beneath it (the evocative space designed by Sarah Winter & striking lighting designed by Ben Hughes). I recognise Kanen Breen, like a lithe, glittering, corseted Cabaret Emcee, swanning around with his glass of red until it’s drained and settling next to a member of the audience for an intimate chat. He grins like The Cheshire Cat and moves on to the next victim, seated in front of us. I love Breen’s sparkling red nails and mouth, the essence of the infamous red apple, a reminder of the inherent evil and glamorous violence of this fairytale. He’s The Mirror. Of course he is.

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The Queen (Silvia Colloca) epitomises everything we love to loathe and fear and admire about the evil stepmother stereotype / ancient mother archetype. She’s sophisticated and sexy, intimidating, alluring…actually, she’s intoxicating. Colloca’s voice is a fallen angel’s, her lower register particularly rich and warm. Scintillating in black and red lace like a Spanish lady of the night, she’s exquisite, a Diva, seducing us effortlessly. As per the original version, without differentiation between biological mother and stepmother, she is one, she is all. Mother. Woman. Crone. Queen. Her tango with The Mirror is a luscious, almost lascivious affair. Choreographed by Rosetta Cook and Gavin Webber it’s the perfect vehicle to set these two up early as the stars of the show.

Zulya Kamalova’s compositions – enchanted swirling, pulsing, living, breathing things – take us out of ourselves and into this dark, dangerously glistening, shifting world of elegance, innocence and broken trust. A waltz spells out the mother-daughter relationship more clearly and succinctly than a few shouted lines of dialogue can do. We feel for them both. None of us actually want to grow old and weary and weathered, after all. Suzie Miller’s libretto succeeds in capturing varying perspectives on the power and fragility of women and the way we can examine our potential, our power, our perceived limitations, our ambitions, and what it is we’re prepared to do to be “happy” when we dare to look at ourselves in the mirror.

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This Little Lolita Snow White, the fairest of them all, is an innocent princess turned teen seductress. An innate talent, an inevitability; the product of her environment, perhaps… In her last desperate attempt to escape the clutches, and the axe, of The Hunter (Michael Tuahine), this Snow White becomes every mother’s worst nightclubbing, shame-walking nightmare. Steph Pickett gets the mix just right – she’s ingenue and expert, and sings like Fiona Apple/Jesska Hoop/Katie Noonan (and I see Katie in the bank of seats opposite us but miss her later to say hello to). It’s Act 1’s most contemporary piece, reminding me of the first 16 bars of Katzenjammer’s Hey Ho On the Devil’s Back in both its shape and tone. This is the moment the little girl becomes a woman, beautifully, frighteningly, authentically captured. The most amazing, game-changing piece of the show though is The Queen’s lament, truly exemplary vocal work, which must be heard to be believed. Colloca’s wailing resonates with us no matter how great or small our individual losses, and becomes a cry of utter despair for all mothers everywhere, for all humanity. She wails and groans her immense grief, singing over the unmoving body of her daughter. Singing over the bones. Lost. Empty. Willing her flesh and blood, her little Snow White, to come back to life, even when it will bring about her own undoing. This extended moment in time holds us in collective stillness, breathlessness, until the final haunting note fades. It’s the greatest Medea moment we’ve seen yet. This is an indescribable ache, which I’ll retain from this show for years yet. 

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The production continues past its perfect end though, redundantly taking us ten years into the future, when Snow White is with child and we see the pattern repeating. The story goes on… I would love to have left the story to go on unseen, leaving us hanging, after the devastating look that is exchanged between the two once the girl has realised her mother has tried multiple times to kill her. The rest amounts to the beginning of a poor sequel and undoes a little bit of the brilliance that is this new extraordinary work, so funny and lovely, and witty and gritty and gory.

I also enjoyed less than others may have, the opening of Act 2 involving Colloca-as-performer-as-The Queen, wrapped in her iconic cape, gliding down the stairs and moving through the audience to offer an apple to bemused audience members – “It’s not poisonous” – and sitting on stage to share a story from between the pages of Grimm’s Fairytales before morphing back into The Queen proper to go on with the tale. A gimmick that seems unnecessary in a work of such quality but one that must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Think about it. Do audiences need these breaks from the narrative to connect, to relate, to remember they’ve come here to experience another world? To help them recognise their world? Despite my questions, I see the opening night audience embrace every element of the production and so I muse, again, who am I to find fault with any tiny thing? Snow White is truly a work of art and I hope we see the original cast recording soon, if not a beautifully filmed version of the show at some stage.

Masterfully directed in this space by Lindy Hume, Snow White is an important, potent new work that reflects our enduring obsession with beauty, power, the mystical feminine and the wonder and majesty, the vital lessons of storytelling. An accomplished piece for a world premiere and perfect festival fare, Snow White is destined for lands far, far away. I hope you saw it here at least once. 

21
Sep
16

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

September 9 – 17 2016

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

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It is a rare thing to be an hour into a show and still have no idea at all where it is going to go. And in the case of Filter Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this is a very good thing, given the absurdity with which the group has taken what is arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play and transformed it into a giddy and gleeful postmodern romp.

That said, it does start a little slowly with, like so many Shakespearean works, a prologue, delivered with true Irish charm, but of frantic pace by Peter Quince (Ed Gaughan). Drifting into tangents about the Royal family, for example, he tells audience members that they are about to enter the Ancient Athens of ‘fantastic architecture and thriving homosexual culture’. He promises that the part of Bottom is meant to be played by a famous actor, but a technical hitch means that an ‘audience volunteer’ may have assume the role. It is all in keeping with the clumsy craft of the play’s Mechanicals’ amateur dramatics, and, as the curtain rises on the Athenian court, Shakespeare’s society is represented in the play by three distinct class groups, lovers, mechanicals and fairies. A series of mix-ups orchestrated by king of the fairies Oberon (Harry Jardine) causes lovers’ quarrels between Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena, frantic chases and general chaos that needs to be resolved before King Theseus’s fast approaching wedding.

What the audience sees, however, is no ethereal forest setting, with set design placing the action within a run-down public bathroom of white tiles, water leaks and paper-walls through which characters literally burst on to the stage. Staging is chaotically creative as pieces are destroyed and as Puck (Ferdy Roberts) flings blue liquid gel love juice around, to instant aphrodisiac effect. Oberon, dressed as superhero in all-in-one suit and cape, flies, falls and is covered in flour as part of an epic food fight (with audience involvement). Rather than unruliness, this makes for a hilarious experience that flies by without realisation of its near two hour duration. It’s not all froth and frivolous bubble, however, for as contrast to the mania of the Mechanicals, the lovers, speak only Shakespeare’s words.

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This is a high-energy and physically-demanding show and all the performers deliver accordingly. Francesca Zoutewelle is solid as Hermia, Cat Simmons is an initially dignified Titania and John Lightbody is sensationally smooth as the lustful Lysander, once transformed entirely from his former unassuming self in reaction to the love potion. And Demetrious (Karl Queensborough) makes music out of the Bard’s iambic pentameter. Another standout is Ferdy Roberts as grumpy, tattooed and mischievous rocker roadie/stagehand Puck, from his commanding entrance to the dignified delivery of his final wishes of good night unto all. And Fergus O’Donnell makes the scripted chaos of Bottom’s ascension to stage seem spontaneously improvised. Together, they provide a refreshing interpretation of the characters.

Despite its anarchy, in many ways, this A Midsummer Night’s Dream keeps with Shakespeare’s original text though its weave of comedy through all three of the plot strands and, in particular through the ridiculous mirth of the working class Mechanicals and their presentation to the audience of an abbreviated Pyramus and Thisbe, making us laugh at them rather than with them, in a way different to many other of Shakespeare’s jesters and clowns.

Every comic device is evident in this fast-moving funny-fest. There are moments of stand-up (showing that apparently 20 years is in fact too soon for a Michael Hutchence suicide joke), celebrity impersonations, spontaneous songs, slapstick, clowning and innuendo. The greatest laughs come, however, from notice of the little details, like the lameness of a lion costume and Oberon and Puck’s pull up of picnic chairs and crack open of drinks to watch the lovers battle it out.

Filter Theatre have made their reputation mainly for inventive takes on classic plays and this is especially evident in their sound innovation, and Chris Branch and Tom Haines’s sound design and original music is masterful . Music is effectively integrated into this production and the live band, doubling as Mechanicals, in break from their play of retro kitsch Barry White and The Ramones numbers, add the necessary magic to assist the audience in imagining the invisible fairies to life and suggesting Bottom’s transition to donkey by the sounds of coconut-shell hooves clapping. And a fight between Lysander and Demetrius is enacted as a video game, with Puck at the console, with the noise of gunfire and explosions.

Although a modernisation of a Shakespearean classic is hardly a ground-breaking idea, Filter Theatre manages to bring something truly unique to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Characters and scenes are presented with new purpose, freshly realising, in particular, the text’s sexual innuendo. It’s not always cohesive, but it is superlatively funny in its gleeful irreverence. Cutting and adding so much text is filled with risk, but it is risk that exists at the foundation of all exciting art. And, in this instance, the liberties taken with the text make for not only a highly-entertaining, but a genuinely accessible version. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much in the theatre.

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A scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Created by Filter and Directed by Sean Holmes and Stef O’Driscoll (Opening 25-02-16) ©Tristram Kenton 02/16 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

 

 

29
May
16

The Tragedy of King Richard III

 

The Tragedy of King Richard III

La Boite Theatre Company

La Boite Roundhouse

May 21 – June 11 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

After a questionable start to the 2016 season, La Boite triumphs with The Tragedy of King Richard III – affectionately referred to here as Dick3 – the most intriguing, challenging and satisfying theatrical event of the year so far. An exhumation, a thorough examination by brilliant minds, Queensland Premier Drama Award winners, Marcel Dorney and Daniel Evans, this production not only brings together two of the country’s best writers, but gathers together on stage and off, a truly formidable team of creatives.

Undoubtedly our most fearless director, Evans is able to find compassion in raging fury and irreverent fun in serious ethical and political discourse, creating a new form of theatre; a new style of conversation that challenges and rewards deeply, actors and audiences.

This is the sort of show we expect to see come to us direct from an acclaimed season overseas, and perhaps premiere at Brisbane Festival (September brings Snow Whitethis Shakespeare, and a whole lot more to the table). It’s the sort of show that makes us question everything we thought we knew about theatre and history, and the way we continue to look at the world. It’s a show that turns you inside out, slams you upside down and spits on you, laughing, before reaching out to help you get to your feet again, asking with genuine concern, “Do you want a Milo?”

It’s lucky/exciting/apt for Queensland that our top two companies are starting to make a habit now of giving wings to slightly more unconventional ideas and the support to help them take flight. This one soars and I won’t be at all surprised if, just as La Boite’s Edward Gant did, Dick3 attracts the attention of some of the nation’s other major players. In fact, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t.

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Dick3 is one of the most designed productions we’ve seen in this space (Designer Kieran Swann, Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright, Composer Guy Webster), utilising the very air that exists between light and rain, and the cold, wet ground, surrounding the raised floor with a black catwalk containing hidden trap doors storing a stash of props and wardrobe pieces inside each space, and having performers take hold of lights for good reason, rather than as a token effort to involve them in the meta layers of the storytelling. 

Because this is certainly not Shakespeare. This is very un-Shakespeare – next level Shakespeare – and it comes with the confident “fuck you” of a generation of genuinely passionate theatre makers who strive for a little more than mediocrity (unlike the next), brilliantly combining box office appeal with original experimental storytelling, questioning far more than they end up divulging and forcing us to reconsider the known “facts” of the history of the world and, in this case, one of the most infamous of Shakespeare’s historical characters. 

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I’m gazing into blue space when Naomi Price appears in front of me, in a Kate Middleton inspired ensemble, with a hand held mic, which she raises to her mouth after pronouncing very loudly and clearly and properly and powerfully and Shakespearingly, “NOW…”  She firmly, politely tells us to turn our mobile phones to Off not Silent and asks that those who insist on leaving their phones on Silent, raise their gadget in the air and admit it. She asks those who didn’t decide – neither switching to Silent or admitting doing so – WHY? There is laughter and we are immediately relaxed and somewhat thrown by this direct address…

Price proceeds to stride around the catwalk and paint a picture that is so vivid, so real, we feel as if we’re in the carpark in Leicester in 2012, standing, shivering, wondering what’s come before us, and looking down upon the reviled bones of King Richard III.

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There is the smell of burning rubber, steam rising, mist swirling, rain falling, blood pooling, blue pouring and splashing and emptying across the stage, the concrete that becomes marble before our eyes, the sponge hump, the gnarled hands, the buckets, the handhelds, the dagger, the sword, the paper crown, the tarp, the blank pages of the book – it could be Harry Potter, an empowering choice for a child actor (he’ll take what he can) – and there is us. Always us, purveyors and interpreters and interlopers; I actually feel unwelcome at times, as if I’m at the wrong dinner party. And this is deliberate, because ultimately, who cares about so much of the history we’re told is true? Is it? If it is, what of it? If we’re sitting there, attempting to intellectualise or justify or reframe in a postmodern context anything that comes from the annuls, it’s shot down in flames and we’re offered an alternate view that suddenly seems more reasonable than our originally held belief. 

Always surprising, this show is the one extra Tequila shot at the end of the night that sees us agreeing with someone we’d presumed would never even make the guest list. Dick3 is an equaliser, a game changer. If the national culture leaned more towards arts than football, this is the match of the season, and could just as easily be seen in a stadium. Imagine that!

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It’s difficult to understand the reluctance to more reasonably support arts and culture. More Australians go to art galleries each year than go to the AFL and NRL combined. The creative industries employ more people than agriculture, construction or even mining, and indeed contribute as much as 75% of the economic benefit of the mining sector…

Let’s talk about STEAM rather than STEM. Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics should all be key parts of our education curriculum. Decades of research shows that artistic engagement nourishes all learning, so if we want an innovative, imaginative and well-rounded nation, let’s have one…

People have a right to arts and culture.

 

David Berthold, AD Brisbane Festival

 

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Price is so powerful in this space, with the vocals and stage presence to knock you flat. She sets the scene and establishes the connection with the audience, which the performers maintain throughout. We connect with each of them. We’re part of this story, part of history. Amy Ingram is a seductive, deliciously wicked delight, and Helen Howard an articulate, elegant, fearsome creature, just as she should be. In Howard’s hands, the act of lifting a chainmail sleeve from a bucket of blood and putting it on, blood dripping down her flesh and soaking into the fabric of her dress, becomes a fine art, pure (horrifying, mesmerising) seduction. Pacharo Mzembe is a prince, giving everything in this performance, which, having now seen so much of NT Live, appears to have come directly from the West End, such is his mastery of voice and movement, particularly in the thrilling fight sequences choreographed by Nigel Poulton (Assistant Fight Director Justin Palazzo-Orr). These are Poulton’s best bloody, sweaty routines to date, executed with ferocious intent by Mzembe and MacDonald. Todd MacDonald commands the space, his return to the stage a triumph in itself. When he’s not fighting or plotting or spilling blood he’s bringing to life a previously unknown version of William Shakespeare – a very funny one – and allowing himself to be directed by the actors who sit, watching critically, in the corners.

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But it’s 14-year old Atticus Robb, in his professional stage debut, who stuns us with a performance that is mature beyond his years, bringing passion and ambition, sincerity and vulnerability to multiple roles, including that of The Actor, Atticus. His is thrilling natural talent, most evident in a Richard III rockstar monologue that steals the show. This kid’s got it.

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The Tragedy of King Richard III is bold and brilliant, death-of-theatre-defying stuff, giving the Australian theatrical landscape permission to change again, to carry on evolving, despite its current challenges.

Without bringing Shakespeare to the stage, Dorney and Evans have brought Shakespeare’s essence and centuries of society’s most deeply held beliefs about ambition and power and connection and the human condition to an audience who thought they’d seen everything. Everything that is, until Dorney and Evans’ astute take on anything at all.

NOW… We’ll see if there are others who can keep up with the exhilarating pace set here.

Production pics by Dylan Evans

 

21
Sep
15

The Theory of Everything

 

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The Theory of Everything

Brisbane Festival & Nuala Furtado

La Boite Studio

September 15 – 19 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Ants have had a bad wrap in this show.

 

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I’ve been listening to Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators, a fascinating account of some of the greatest minds of our pre-digital age. This has everything and nothing to do with the show I saw on Friday night.

 

It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens. What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?

 

I raced down to Brisbane Festival’s Theatre Republic on Friday evening to see the sold-out The Theory of Everything instead of staying at school to see a student’s debut cabaret production that night. I was seeing The Theory of Everything instead of sending another writer to review it because the show’s creators wanted to be considered for Matilda Award selection. Originally, I’d planned to see it on the Wednesday night but it clashed with another consideration, ACPA’s SOUL cabaret at The Coffee Club in West End. (To clarify, student productions are ineligible for the Matilda Awards but we are looking at entertainment options for the Awards evening in March). So I went and enjoyed some great company and a relaxed evening of soul music, a mixed bag of performances, directed by their groovy tutor and Music HOD, Nathaniel Andrew, and ended up at The Theory of Everything on Friday night.

 

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Thomas Quirk’s The Theory of Everything sold out before it opened and on the strength of the artists involved, and due to its inclusion in the Brisbane Festival program, I had high expectations. Others may not be quite as disappointed but I feel this production misses the mark. I also feel really, really old in saying so because younger people will likely love this show and say I’m on crack. I know the artists involved love this show because it comes through without exception in their delightful, vibrant performances and that, at least, is something. This collective represents the next wave of talented and hardworking performing artists in Brisbane. They’re honest and bold and brilliantly ambitious, but despite their individual and collective readiness to bring us something new and amazing, the show falls well below expectations.

 

It’s enjoyed a development phase already and this season is perhaps necessarily its second. At worst, it’s prime material for a culminating event at a senior drama workshop and at best, an interesting theatrical experiment. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable, it just isn’t mind blowing.

 

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Staged in the intimate surrounds of La Boite’s rehearsal studio within the partial timber framework of an unknown structure, the performers mill around as the audience enters, stretching, preparing, and shredding what appears to be the pages of the script…

 

We’re actors. Standing in a line.

 

Actors standing in a line in an array of Mix Apparel style pastels (Yvette Turnbull). Um… Anyway, in a Horrible Histories/Epic Rap Battles of History segment, we hear from famous historical figures including Aristotle, Einstein, Freud, Warhol and Hitler about their theories on life and the universe. In what I thought was sure to be a segment inspired by the opening number in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, we get a painstaking re-telling of Cain and Abel, which would be unbearable if it were not for the comical request from one of the actors to stop, clarify, and repeat the entire scene from the start! N.B. no singing happens during this segment. This reminded me of the absurd nature of Sunday school tasks, having to learn the books of the Bible in the correct order. There were stickers and bookmarks and other prizes up for grabs. I don’t remember winning them or not.

 

 

Can we just go back? Back to the beginning?!

 

The most memorable moments of the show come from Katy Cotter, during an eloquently penned and delivered monologue contemplating language (this is one of the more accomplished of the written pieces), and later, a light-hearted and yet deeply soulful dialogue with Chris Farrell, sitting on the floor in near darkness discussing the speed of light and eternal happiness. These moments carry more weight than the earlier extrapolation on any theory in particular, and are genuinely affecting.

 

The use of sound (Wil Hughes) and light particularly (Daniel Anderson) is simple and effective. Anderson’s design uses caged light bulbs manipulated by the actors, and headlamps worn by the actors in an otherwise dark space. Outer space has never been so simply created, with the employment of slow motion lifts and a well choreographed sequence of headlamps flicking on and off to shift focus. Again, an interruption, and the consideration and verbalisation of the theatrical devices in use – the meta-chat – incorporated to make us feel…something.

 

The Theory of Everything certainly works on some levels and it’s an excellent example of a near pitch-perfect ensemble but it was probably a mistake to make sure Matilda Award judges got to this version of it. It’s so important that we support new, experimental theatre, but it’s not essential that we award it or rave about it. When the raves come unwarranted it can do more harm than good. The Theory of Everything will have divided audiences and there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, it was an appropriate end to a week of student theatre, which included yr10 theatresports, yr12 absurdist assessment and SOUL. There’s another week of Brisbane Festival events to come but I presume my experience this year has finished with Quirk’s undercooked production.

 

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There is always such a fuss over Brisbane Festival tickets. The venues, companies and individual presenters all year round are very accommodating; everyone appreciates a timely and thoughtful review. But the Brisbane performing arts scene becomes a vastly different landscape each September when one publicity agency holds all the cards and deals them indiscriminately.

 

I don’t begrudge the interstate writers being accommodated – of course their voices are a vital part of the broader landscape and a bigger conversation, hopefully attracting further interest in the program and greater numbers of attendees from outside Queensland. But for the past three years, despite a number of shows professing to be “sold out”, we’ve seen many empty seats in venues rather than reviewers or Matilda Award judges filling those seats. It’s astounding. Considering the amazing publicity the same company does to promote the festival there should at least be some truth to their “sold out” claims. It just doesn’t make sense to have empty seats.

 

The Theory of Everything genuinely, actually SOLD OUT. If it comes around again, better book early and let me know what you think.

 

20
Sep
15

Hot Brown Honey

 

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Hot Brown Honey

Brisbane Festival & Briefs Factory

In Association with Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

September 16 – 26 2015

 

Reviewed by Amanda Murrell

 

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After paying tribute to the traditional custodians of country, and deeply honouring ancestors and the great women who have come before us to light the path, the Honeys deliver radical anti-racist entertainment that smashes the alabaster pedestal of privilege and would have made old Aunty Judy Wright, whose namesake is the theatre in which they perform, very proud.

 

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The show treats the crowd to the full effect of “Honey posse”, with more costume tear-aways than Ru Paul’s Drag Race and equal amounts of pride. From hip hop garb to cultural dress to work outfits, showcasing a dozen different flavours of glamour and varying degrees of undress, this production is a visual feast. But more than that, it’s a call for respect; from the first number, which incorporates the graceful shedding of the Union Jack to the Honeys’ final cavort through an appreciative audience.

 

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Highlights include an ensemble dance number to a soundscape that uses excerpts from the savvy and insightful Unpacking the Knapsack of Privilege (Can I get a “hell yeah!?”), the full-tilt boogie Don’t Touch My Hair, Darwin’s Indigenous drag diva’s perfect impersonation of Peter Garret’s dance moves, beatbox songs of hope, and a chilling rope performance prefaced by a recording of a domestic violence call to emergency services.

 

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The Honeys pull no punches in creating a strong, proud, perfectly executed performance that celebrates brown girl strength and breaks down ignorance.

As hard hitting as the show’s message is, the blows are soothed by humour, humility and the performers’ vulnerability. If you don’t catch their next shows, you’re too white for words.

 

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HOT BROWN HONEY BURLESQUE taster from polytoxic on Vimeo.