Posts Tagged ‘brisbane festival

21
Oct
19

I’m A Phoenix, Bitch!

 

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch

QPAC & Brisbane Festival 

QPAC Playhouse

September 18 – 21 2019

 

Reviewed By Shannon Miller

 

 

Shrieking melodramatically and pursued by God only knows, co-writer and performer, Bryony Kimmings enters the stage in a gold sequinned dress and blonde wig, frantic and helpless. She is pursued ridiculously by herself, a creature of her own making, as she flips between the damsel in distress and the hunting beast; an introduction lampooning Hollywood clichés, scream queens, slasher films and creature features.

 

However, the damsel turns the tides and defeats the monster, triumphantly shooting invisible fireballs from her loins! Kimmings is victorious and turns to the audience posing the meta-theatrical proposition, “Imagine if I started the show like that.”

 

Surrounded haphazardly by set pieces covered in sheets, Kimmings sheds the bling and levels with the audience, donning active wear and embarking on a heartbreaking personal monologue of a much darker time in her life. She meets her partner, Tim. They fall in love, and move into a quaint cottage out of town of which they’ve been warned by the agent of a pastoral stream having the potential to swell and flood the property.

 

 

They move into the cottage nonetheless; part dream-home, part Evil Dead/cabin in the woods. Kimmings soon discovers she is with child and everything couldn’t seem more perfect. However, the stream rises inevitably as it has been foretold, and the story delivers a child plagued by medical issues, born in the midst of a relationship breakdown, while Kimmings’ character is flanked by a crushing post-natal depression.

 

Along the way, she reveals the set pieces, which appear shambolic at first but soon become a curated visual psycho-sphere, items of the symbolic order which join the dots to this quickly harrowing tale: a kitchen, a back window, a miniature of the cottage, metonymic icons of the limited roles she is expected to play in a patriarchal society.

 

 

She puts the book into song, too, at times channeling Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, the yes girl, the bimbo, the damsel, the siren, Lorna Jane, the psycho – stereotypes that seek to sum her up and limit her as the gathering plot begins to unravel her in synchronicity with the rising stream.

 

Kimmings has written a sharply targeted one-woman show, and she draws the audience so tightly under her control. Every second of this work is deeply felt, beautifully rendered and at times utterly exhausting. It’s funny, whimsical and a serious commentary on not just gender inequality in the domestic sphere, but it’s a personal anecdote in which the audience is voyeur to a working practitioner’s creative, self-healing process.

 

 

This is a grim modern fable daringly funny and with darkly uncompromising feminisms echoing Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion and Jeanette Winterson. The story twists in the direction of mother-shaming, anxiety-driven perfectionism, and self-flagellation as the new currency of excellence, honing in on the pressures to be a strong and independent woman, girl, and lady – to become everything: the lover, the caregiver, and the breadwinner.

 

With stunning multi-media and set design, and a dénouement so unexpectedly dramatic and nuanced, this remarkably redemptive narrative set within a current movement of self-care and mental health awareness is buoyed ultimately by hope. A truly compelling theatrical experience.

31
Aug
19

The Cold Record

 

The Cold Record

Horizon Festival

Brisbane Festival, The Old Ambo, ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann

Black Box Theatre, The Old Ambo, Nambour

August 28 – 30 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Kirk Lynn (Rude Mechs) wrote a story about a 12-year old boy who tries to set the record for the most days leaving school sick; during the process he falls in love with the school nurse and punk rock. Director of The Cold Record, Alexandra Bassiakou has fine-tuned Eli Weinberg’s sensational performance without losing the raw edge of reality. There’s an immediate and intimate connection between actor and audience, which comes from Weinberg’s easygoing manner, and our proximity to him, but also from the headphone verbatim approach to the production. In this country at least, Roslyn Oades is probably best known for this evolving performance form (her headphone verbatim piece, Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday toured extensively, and received critical and audience acclaim). We sense the same spirited energy here from just one dynamic performer.

 

Weinberg greets us in the foyer of The Old Ambo and leads us to the show’s secret location. We’re invited to enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage or local craft beer – Larry’s from Your Mates – and create a mix tape together, sharing the long-lost stories of our pre-selected punk rock song. Our mixtape on opening night comprises hits from the likes of Blondie, The Jam, The Sex Pistols and Blink 182. There are satisfied nods and some cool modified mosh pit moves, some long-lost memories that spark some other memories (LIVID 1994 in Davies Park, anyone?), lots of laughter, especially about the patience, and the intricate timing and precision required to record our favourite childhood/teen era radio tracks on old-school cassette recorders with the simultaneous push of two buttons, and general agreement that post-punk is a legit choice, as is Blondie. We’re thrilled that our listening and life choices have been validated, and that we’ll get to hear the mixtape in its entirety after the show, when the link appears in our inbox. The question arises, “What about all the other mix tapes from all the other shows?” Can we look forward to a Rude Mechs Cold Record Spotify playlist at some stage? The conversation is relaxed, and fun – but there’s more to the show, in fact, it hasn’t really started yet. Except it has… The nostalgic, casual lounge party vibe puts us at ease, almost dulling us into a false sense of security before Weinberg begins throwing us curve balls. And then there’s the ending.  

 

 

 

Weinberg is super relaxed and personable throughout, expertly manipulating the mood over the 28-minute arc of the show to take us on his rollercoaster ride through the final year of elementary school. We rally with him against the world of adults and unreliable friends. The group’s support is something of a special communal theatrical thing; people are visibly affected and because of our close proximity we can properly sympathise. Our eyes rarely stray from Weinberg’s, his 12-year old innocence a piercing gaze, challenging us to respond honestly to his musings about life, death and love, or not at all. Throughout, Weinberg wears the headset with the sound of Lynn’s voice in his ears, in real time telling the entire story a beat ahead of his own performance.    

 

The lasting impact of this performance is something interesting. While the story belongs to one young boy, the intimacy of its telling gifts his lived experience to each of us. We’re given the time and space to recreate, in minds and hearts for a moment, our own private version of first love, lost love, friendship, family, victory, grief, and getting up and getting on with it, without necessarily relieving or healing any wounds along the way, however; in the moments between we become aware of these feelings, and simply let them be what they will be until we make time to sit with them (or walk or run or dance with them). Neither live performance or life promises a quick or easy fix. 

 

Are there wounds that only music can heal? Is there music that only keeps us crying, bleeding, dying? 

 

The Cold Record goes to Brisbane Festival after this weekend and if you’re near, you’d be crazy to miss it. In fact, if you think you don’t have the time or the need to experience this neat, sweet, completely surprising and captivating one-man show, it’s likely the thing you need most.

 

25
May
19

Boy Swallows Universe takes to the stage

 

 

Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival to produce the world premiere season of Trent Dalton’s breakout mega-hit novel

 

In a huge coup, Queensland Theatre has secured the rights for the world premiere of the stage version of Brisbane-born Australian author Trent Dalton’s breakout mega-hit novel, Boy Swallows Universe.

Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Sam Strong will direct an adaptation by Tim McGarry in a co-production between Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival. The stage version of Boy Swallows Universe will have its world premiere as part of Brisbane Festival in September 2020, in the 50th year of Queensland Theatre, Sam Strong’s final season as Artistic Director and Louise Bezzina’s first season as Artistic Director of Brisbane Festival.

The announcement comes on the back of a record-breaking four-prize win for Dalton at the Australian Book Industry Awards, with the novel officially becoming Australia’s number 1 book overall, and number 1 fiction book, as measured by Nielsen BookScan last week. On Wednesday Dalton was included in the 2019 longlist for the Miles Franklin Award, Australia’s most prestigious writing accolade.

“We’re thrilled to announce that in 2020, Queensland Theatre in partnership with Brisbane Festival will produce a theatrical version of Trent Dalton’s extraordinary novel, Boy Swallows Universe. The novel is the hottest property in Australian storytelling, deserving every ounce of the praise that has been lavished on it and all of the incredible success it has achieved,” said Strong.

“Moreover, Trent’s book is absolutely ripe for adapting to the stage: featuring larger-than-life characters, an effortless combination of magic realism and crime-thriller, unforgettable set pieces written with a cinematic visual flair, and dialogue that just leaps off the page.

“Boy Swallows Universe has captivated hundreds of thousands of Australians with its arresting portrait of growing up in 80s Brisbane. It has captured the hearts of us all through its story of love’s triumph over the darkest of circumstances. I am more excited about the theatrical version of Boy Swallows Universe than any of the 30 odd shows I have directed for the Australian mainstage. I cannot wait to direct this landmark Brisbane story on a Queensland Theatre stage.”

Trent Dalton said the announcement of Boy Swallows Universe coming to the Queensland Theatre stage was absolutely perfect.

“Everything about this production is perfect. It had to be staged here. This glorious, complex, sweltering city is in my blood and my blood is in that book. It was the people of Brisbane who took that wild, strange book and ran with it first and that book belongs to them now and this production will belong to them, too.”

He said never in a million years did he believe the story would go from the page, to the stage.

“My goal was a simple one: to see that story put into a hard copy book so I could hand just one copy to my mum, who still lives in the outer northern suburbs of Brisbane, and I could say, “This is why I love you so much”. Now I can take that early-60s warrior woman grandma to a play in the city and she can see some incredible performers under lights telling some of her story and I can lean over to her in the theatre and whisper, “This is why I love you so much.”

 

 

He said he saw the theatre as a magical, dark, wondrous place. “I love theatre so much and I love Queensland Theatre,” he said. “Sam Strong is a theatre genius and I’ve told him he has my blessing to go as big and as ambitious and as creative as his big brain can take him. I’ll be Matty Bowen to his Johnathan Thurston, supporting him all the way. But, like any good Queensland fullback, I’ll know exactly when to step out of the way,” he said.

He said he can imagine the opening night feeling already.

“Brisbane will be in full sunshine glory, purple jacarandas will be blowing in spring breezes, the Broncos will be in the finals and I’ll be somewhere in that beautiful theatre with a packet of barbecue Samboys saying, ‘How the hell did I ever get so lucky?’.

“Just to see these so often overlooked Brisbane places that are so dear and connected to me – Bracken Ridge, Darra, old Boggo Road Gaol – put up there on stage is deeply moving to me. There are countless people that I love, heart and soul, out there in those suburbs who might be able to come to that play and say, ‘Yeah, that’s my world, that’s my Brisbane’, and I’ll be right there beside them screaming, ‘Hell yes, ain’t it glorious’.

Sam Strong said adaptor Tim McGarry was the first playwright out of the blocks for the book based on his passion and affinity for the story.

“Tim McGarry brings his impressive experience with creating new Australian stories and especially adaptations of novels to the task of adapting Trent’s book. Tim has already written an incredible adaptation of Trent’s extraordinary novel and I can’t wait to work with them both to bring Boy Swallows Universe to life in the theatre.”

McGarry said he read the book in less than 24 hours while on holidays in far North Queensland.

Boy Swallows Universe is a captivating coming-of-age story set in Brisbane’s violent working-class suburban fringe, inspired by the real-life events of journalist Trent Dalton’s complicated youth. It tells the story of twelve-year-old Eli Bell, who finds comfort in his extraordinary imagination as a means of escaping from his challenging life with a mute brother, a mother in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. Surrounded by chaos and with very little moral guidance from the adults around him, Eli sets out on an ambitious suburban odyssey that sees him meet the father he doesn’t remember, break into Boggo Road Gaol to rescue his mum, come face to face with the criminals who tore his world apart, and fall in love with the girl of his dreams. At its core, Boy Swallows Universe is a story of brotherhood and the spark of young love; it’s also the unlikely true story of the formative friendship Dalton shared with Arthur ‘Slim’ Halliday, the greatest escape artist ever confined to Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol.

“I could barely put it down. There were times I could barely breathe. I was completely captivated by Eli Bell, his journey, his charisma, his desperation to try and better understand the dark world he inhabited. I was captivated by the magic and wisdom of August. I found the characters so richly rendered. The complex world Trent created just leapt off the page. Collaborating with Sam Strong and his team on this particular work is mind-blowingly exciting for me.”

Strong said Queensland Theatre was thrilled to be partnering with Brisbane Festival. “Artistic Director Louise Bezzina has a passion for Brisbane stories and working with Brisbane companies, so it makes perfect sense that our two organisations come together to co-produce the most exciting Brisbane story in decades.”

Louise Bezzina said Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was the quintessential Brisbane story.

“I am thrilled that as part of my first Festival as Artistic Director we will co-present the stage adaptation of this enormously celebrated and popular book in partnership with Queensland Theatre. Brisbane Festival is deeply committed to telling the stories of our great City and this new production will be a wonderful centrepiece of the 2020 program,” she said.

Published in July 2018, Boy Swallows Universe has now sold over 160,000 copies in Australia across all formats and has been awarded several of Australia’s top literary awards, including Book of the Year at both the Australian Book Industry Awards and the Indie Book Awards, the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for New Writer and People’s Choice Award, and the MUD Literary Prize. Rights to Boy Swallows Universe have been sold to 34 English language and translation territories.

 

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18
Dec
18

Louise Bezzina to Lead Brisbane Festival as Artistic Director

 

Brisbane Festival announces Louise Bezzina as Artistic Director

 

Brisbane Festival has announced Louise Bezzina as the incoming Artistic Director for a four-year term. Her first festival will be presented in 2020. Bezzina is the creator and inaugural Artistic Director of Bleach* Festival; the Gold Coast’s Festival. Relocating to the Gold Coast from Brisbane in 2011, Bezzina created Bleach* Festival and built it from a pilot project to a major annual event that has reached almost 1million people since inception. 2019 will be her 8th and final Bleach* Festival, having led the organisation through the Commonwealth Games as part of the Creative Lead Team for Festival 2018 and establishing Bleach* as one of Australia’s leading site-specific contemporary arts festivals.

 

 

For Bleach*, Bezzina has commissioned more than 50 new works, from major outdoor spectacles to intimate dance and theatre productions from local, national and international artists. In 2018, four Bleach* Festival commissions were nominated for Helpmann Awards, with TIDE by Gold Coast dance theatre company The Farm winning Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production. Bezzina also co-produced the inaugural Opera on the Beach by Opera Australia and is one of the curators of sitespecific immersive arts experience Hotelling; a groundbreaking cultural tourism initiative of the City of Gold Coast. Bezzina was listed as one of 11 inspiring women of the Commonwealth Games on International Women’s Day in 2018 and has won several awards for her contribution to arts and culture in Queensland. She recently completed the Australia Council for the Arts’ Arts Leaders Program. Prior to Bleach* Festival, Bezzina held a number of high-profile roles in Brisbane, including Program Manager for the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts; Producer at Brisbane Festival, including Producer for the opening of the cultural precinct (GoMA, QPAC and State Library of Queensland); and Director of the Mackay Festival of Arts. Brisbane Festival Chair, Paul Spiro, praised Bezzina’s commitment to the cultural sector in Queensland and said her extensive festival experience and broad international connections made her an ideal candidate for the coveted role.

 

 

“After a competitive international search, the Board of Brisbane Festival is incredibly excited to appoint exemplary cultural leader Louise Bezzina to role of Artistic Director to guide Brisbane Festival future development alongside CEO Charlie Cush,” Mr Spiro said. “Having known and admired Louise as Bleach* Festival’s creator and Artistic Director, I’m delighted that she will be our next Artistic Director.

 

“Louise’s deep understanding of festivals, her curatorial rigour and vision for the future of Brisbane Festival made her an irresistible choice,” Mr Spiro said. “Brisbane Festival celebrates and reinforces Brisbane’s international cultural reputation and I look forward to Louise being part of Brisbane Festival’s ongoing development and change.” Bezzina said she looked forward to returning to the Brisbane Festival team following Bleach* Festival in May 2019. “The combination of Brisbane’s rich history, its contemporary dynamism and future ambitions offers a great thematic foundation for a festival and its artistic program,” Bezzina said. “The responsibility of an Artistic Director is to find the unique gems, welcome all citizens and, most importantly, turn the city ‘on’ during festival season. “Our job is to inspire audiences with new ideas and experiences that leave life-long impressions,” Bezzina said.

 

 

“As Artistic Director, I will showcase what characterises Brisbane, celebrating its wonderful artists, delivering a strong Indigenous program as well as curating a bold international program that makes sense for the city, ensuring it is loved by all of Brisbane.” Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch thanked outgoing artistic director David Berthold for his many achievements and welcomed the appointment of Louise Bezzina. “Louise has done an extraordinary job leading Bleach* Festival, helping to shape the Gold Coast event into one of the state’s leading multi-arts festivals,” Minister Enoch said.

 

“She will bring to the Brisbane Festival her passion for creating unforgettable arts experiences and a commitment to showcasing Queensland artists.” Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said. Bezzina takes over from David Berthold, whose fifth and final festival will take place in September 2019. Brisbane Festival Chair, Paul Spiro, paid tribute to Berthold’s contribution to Brisbane Festival during his tenure as Artistic Director. “Queensland audiences have benefitted from the extraordinary vision of David Berthold,” Mr Spiro said. “Over the past five years, the festivals that he curated have confirmed his status as a truly international festival director, able to connect with audiences of all ages, tastes and sensibilities. “He has brought unseen and unforgettable worlds to Brisbane for which we are deeply grateful,” Mr Spiro said.

 

The Spirit of Churaki

 

The Spirit of Churaki will be seen next at Woodford Folk Festival December 28 & 29

 

24
Sep
18

DUST

 

Dust

Dancenorth & Liminal Spaces

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

September 19 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Upon birth, we arrive into a world in which those who precede us determine everything.

 

From this lottery of birth we inherit the architecture of both restriction and opportunity in countless manifestations. Structures, barriers and borders pre-exist, and past tense illuminates both our present and future thinking…

 

Dancenorth

 

Dancenorth’s work Dust premiered at this year’s Brisbane Festival. It is inspired by weighty and solemn concepts, outlined by directors/choreographers Kyle Page (Dancenorth’s Artistic Director) and Amber Haines (Associate Artistic Director) in their program notes.

 

Page and Haines are married and have a baby son, whose birth last year led them to contemplate ‘the architecture of inheritance’, and to think about the present, past and future worlds, and how we shape these worlds and they shape us.

 

In the post-performance Q&A on opening night, Page referred to the set for Dust, designed by Liminal Studio, as ‘another performer’. It dominates this work. At first, a large, wedge-shaped wall looms over the performers. Angled across the stage, it separates one dancer (Ashley McLellan) from the six others (Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing). The themes of barriers, restrictions, insiders/outsiders and inclusion/exclusion continue throughout the work.

 

The power of the soundscape matches that of the set. Created by composer/sound designer Alisdair Macindoe and Canadian composer/musician Jessica Moss, it surges, booms and pounds, ebbing to quieter moments with sounds like bells, harmonic chanting, droning, and distorted voices calling.

 

Threading their way among the recorded electronic sounds are echoes of Middle Eastern and Eastern European music. Moss plays the violin live during the show, electronically modifying the sound of her instrument.

 

Early on, the dancers dismantle the wall into its constituent box-like blocks. As the work progresses, they move the boxes into various configurations: a ramp, a pile of rocks, a low wall around the stage perimeter, and parallel rows of columns.

 

The action continues with duos and solos while this happens, but shifting the boxes takes up much of the dancers’ time and effort. (The dancer representative at the Q&A, Felix Sampson, confirmed the impression that the blocks are heavy.)

 

 

Once the arrangements of blocks are in place, striking images are created by the dancers moving and posing on and round them. A group moves and stands on a ramp, while a lone man creeps alongside. A woman stands and lifts her arm, like a priest or an ancient oracle. A group of dancers bow and abase themselves to a pile of blocks; one woman walks slowly among them and they follow her.

 

It is as if we are witnessing some ancient ritual in a sacred space. This effect is accentuated by the configuration of the Powerhouse Theatre, with the audience in tiers of seats rising above the stage, as in an Ancient Greek theatre.

 

The dancers perform heroically, and one can only wonder at their energy. The quality of movement is athletic and grounded, fluid at times and jerky and robotic at others. McLellan in particular impresses with her intensity, strength and fluidity.

 

The pattern of the movement is full of circles: for example, using the impetus of whirling around in lifts, or rotating on the spot like a dervish, or running in circles, and people circling each other. The group of dancers sometimes huddle in a circle, moving in close action and reaction to each other, like a flock of birds. They also undulate in slow motion, like a group of sea creatures. There is a great deal of floor work.

 

 

The lighting (Niklas Pajanti) is subtle, often quite dim, with simple minimal colours that correspond well with the cosmic soundscape and the monumental set – such as gold, and pink strengthening to red. These are the only touches of colour other than shades of grey (for the backdrop, the wall, and the costumes).

 

The costumes (Harriet Oxley) are lovely. In contrast to the dominating set and the sound, and more aligned with the mood of the lighting, they are delicate and almost transparent. Of fine, pale, lightly patterned fabric, the combinations of tunics, wide pants, long skirts, and sleeveless tops are reminiscent of Ancient Greek or Roman draperies.

 

The whole creative team was represented on the 9-strong panel for the Q&A (facilitated by Bradley Chatfield, formerly with Sydney Dance Company, and more recently with Dancenorth and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts). All were very passionate about their particular discipline and about the collaborative process of creating Dust.

 

The different creative elements in this work all make a powerful impression. However, for me they did not gel as a whole: rather, they seemed to be struggling for dominance, a struggle won by the set. At around 70 minutes, the work is not over-long, but is repetitious in parts.

 

In the current drought, the title Dust might first suggest clouds of windblown particles of soil. However, on reflection, the biblical idea that we are all made of dust seems more relevant: ‘… out of [the ground] wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:19).