Posts Tagged ‘Brisbane Powerhouse

11
Dec
17

Elizabeth I

 

Elizabeth I

Brisbane Powerhouse & Monsters Appear

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

December 1 – 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

At a glance, Elizabeth I is a one-woman show about Elizabeth, a seemingly ordinary royal enthusiast from Sydney. When delving a little deeper, it becomes apparent that this production is also a one-woman show about the Virgin Queen’s ghost entering the world of 21st century Australia. When tentative and vulnerable present-day Elizabeth, and fearless, resilient Queen Elizabeth I join forces during an inciting threat of doom, the far-removed females combine the paradoxes of history to present a surprising development of wits and self worth.

 

Despite all of her endearing qualities and quirky antics, royal enthusiast Elizabeth is introduced to the audience as a faltering woman who relies on small pleasures and simple prospects to fill up her modest life. She loves her pug, is working her “dream job” managing complains at a Sydney pharmaceuticals company, and gains most of her thrills from office parties and unrequited desires for mysterious work colleagues. However, when a number of tragic developments multiply before her, Elizabeth is propelled down a terrifying path that leads to life threatening danger in a single afternoon. Lost and helpless she calls up her love of historical monarchs to source the power needed to face her looming peril. With this comes the hilarious yet harrowing entrance of the infamously powerful Queen Elizabeth I, and with her a split from a single character’s journey to a more complex battle between two women’s considerably conflicting attitudes towards danger and intimidation.

 

The Virgin Queen enters Elizabeth’s body as a kind of guide to offer commanding counsel and an essence to drive effectual action. With a simplistic, relatively supernatural usurping of Elizabeth’s internal control, the frail and susceptible woman is engulfed and her inner warrior is released. Within moments following her introduction Elizabeth I reveals her dated historical perceptions of gender roles and attitudes towards physicality and its dictation of power. However, her value of inner strength and devotion in times of confrontation is a welcomed reinforcement of modern day empowerment for any woman, let alone one as uncertain and self-doubting as Elizabeth. The contrast between the women through time and stance is an exquisite dynamic that pushes the piece beyond a playful fusing of timelines and closer to a more profound reflection of past, present and future musings.

 

Sole performer Emily Burton’s performance is rich in personality yet sweet and endearing as modern day Elizabeth. She matches vulnerability with admirable comedic timing and keeps the character entertaining in office-based contexts that could have quickly become tedious. As the two Elizabeths Burton showcases her diversity, combining a meek and charming demeanor with a guttural and commanding presence in a sharp retort. She portrays a delicate amalgamation with a controlled splitting of characters, or personalities if so inclined, while fixated from a singular spot on stage. Burton’s control of movement, body positioning and inner strength is what truly makes this complicated hybridisation work; her ability to bring out the shades of light and dark within both Elizabeth characters is impressive, and it is executed with evident depth during moments that require stark contrast.

 

Director Benjamin Schostakowski also deserves praise for his ability to lead Burton’s detailed delivery of the two women. Overall Schostakowski manages to embrace the piece’s melodrama and predictable plot developments and harness their impact in a hilarious fusion with effortless style. His control of pace and surprising contrast strengthens the work’s evolution from comedic charm to thrilling theatricality as the plot progresses towards the climactic cliffhanger.

 

Notable mentions must also go to this production’s stellar design team. Neridah Waters’ choreography and Wil Hughes’ sound and AV design compliment one another fluidly to layer atop the comedic yet intrinsic elements and enhance Burton and Schostakowski’s coordinated craft. Jason Glenwright’s lighting design holds the shows’ realistic beginnings together with imaginative depth, as well as exploiting moments of mystical proportions with sophistication and pertinence. Glenwright goes from creating simple yet beautiful atmosphere to exploring eery environments to differentiate the Elizabeth psyches. Through smooth alterations and understated overlays Glenwright progresses from playing with sparkling disco dance floor or flashing thunderstorm to splitting the stage and the characters’ essences visually through juxtaposing green and orange hues. As distinctly different colours cast across the space and divide Burton’s body, the Burton’s physical performance of the two Elizabeth’s is extended into a purposeful yet beautiful manipulation of space.

 

With powerful creatives joining forces, Elizabeth I at Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival is an exhilarating first instalment of a what looks to be a promising full-length production in the future.

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03
Dec
17

Love / Hate Actually

Love / Hate Actually

Brisbane Powerhouse & Act/React

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 30 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Two friends, Amy and Natalie, come together after ten years of friendship and countless Christmases of debating, to share their annual tradition of desperately debating and aggressively assessing the worth of the infamous 2003 Christmas rom-com film Love Actually. Love/Hate Actually is a fun and playful dissection of the Christmas cult classic with the key goal of determining whether it is a loveable product of Christmas joy or a plot-hole filled problematic mess.

 

Taking a sharp stance for or against the film, Amy and Natalie enter the space with gusto and clear attitudes of positivity or condemnation ready to break open the Christmas can of worms that they declare is causing arguments everywhere. First, Natalie affirms her critical stance against the film and enters the debate prepared with an in-depth analysis of every relationship depicted. She supports her arguments with visuals of hilariously detailed pie charts weighing up the annoying, the implausible and the uncomfortable subdivisions of content. Natalie is detailed in her breakdowns, sharp in her deliveries and altogether hysterically exasperated with the relentless love for what she sees as film created with a foundation of problematic, sexist and hollow content.

 

Amy on the other hand, bases her arguments in defence of the film in more persistently joyful and aesthetically dedicated love for the overall season itself, with the film working as an iconic product of worship for her devout seasonal spirit. While Natalie impresses with pie charts, logic and aggressive argument instigation, Amy electrifies with an exceptionally vibrant personality almost as bright as her Christmas tree-eqsue costume that combines festive colours and decorations, with a pope-like hat and sceptre. Her adoration-filled reasoning for the film’s worth stretches across a range of Australian Christmas traditions, a deep love for holiday rituals and an unwavering appreciation for romantic comedies. Her analysis of the film highlights memorable or charming flick moments, however her initial dismissal of Natalie’s more serious accusations against the film leaves the debate open for further realms of cheeky combat.

 

As the women delve further into the film’s assembly they break down their debate into a detailed examination of each storyline. With each new issue or problematic element discussed, the women veer into hilarious tangents including the dissection of workplace sexual harassment and audience-lead deciphering of content to differentiate pornography from art. Thanks to Natalie’s active investigation, a feminist lens drives much of the debate surrounding the film’s problematic elements, with particular distaste being expressed towards the film’s lack of diversity and its blatant sexist or one-dimensional depiction of women. Amy joins forces with Natalie during assessments of blatant sexism, body shaming and hollow relationships resulting in amalgamated respect for the need to address the film’s oppressive and toxic representations, dismissed every Christmas.

 

As a united duo the women are charming, hilarious and unapologetically themselves.

 

Their casual costumes and realistic banter feels uncannily like watching friends debate the film in a lounge room during a Christmas movie night. With delightfully silly PowerPoint slides and hilarious summaries of relationships and storylines, even audience members who haven’t seen the film in years, or have intentionally avoided the niche content altogether, can laugh along to the pair’s hilarious argumentative techniques, saucy and sarcastic skits, and overall cheeky comedic choices.

 

At its core Love / Hate Actually is a fun and friendly debate that welcomes both joy and bitterness from its audience and combines the passion and intelligence of two female friends, despite their opposing opinions. As an admitted hater of the film, like Natalie, I found the women’s hilarious show spectacularly surpassed the film in cohesion and insight. Whether a lover of the film or a hater of its problematic elements, this cheeky cabaret encourages a loving Christmas spirit and value of friendship regardless of your stance.

 

25
Nov
17

There’s Something About Mary(s)

 

There’s Something About Mary(s)

Brisbane Powerhouse & Cassie George

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 23 – 26 2017

 

Reviewed by Amelia Walker

 

 

Wearing a black lacy slip and sloshing around a glass of rosè, Cassie George is the hot mess we all know from university. In her autobiographical show There’s Something About Mary(s), Cassie details her love life in a familiar story of ‘crazy girl’ stereotype, falling in love with practically every man she meets.

 

From overly dramatic teen flings, to misguided crushes on an unavailable best friend, Cassie manages to crack jokes and belt pop ballads about her cringe-inducing missteps in love. If there is a term for that balance of awkward humour that makes you snort-laugh, Cassie coined it.

The audience is taken through a chronological look at Cassie’s romantic endeavours, briefly visiting her Christian upbringing with a well-placed handjob joke. I wanted to hear more about this religious impact on Cassie: what was her take on the repression of her clearly active sexuality? It had the potential to be a thread that was perhaps revisited more through humour or through personal development, but instead served as another ‘plot point’ for Cassie to bounce off.

Her ability to laugh at herself, her circumstances, and her series of bad luck was inviting as an audience member. She lured us in with self-deprecating humour, and then made me lean back into the kind of discomfort that only my dad’s worst jokes can do. Outrageous humour had a place to land in this theatre full of friends.

Working on an ‘actor’s budget’, this production did well to create the feeling that it was taking place inside the bedroom of a young woman. This operated in conjunction with lighting to give Cassie just enough dramatic flair to stage dream sequences and even a dance that had the potential to be sexy if not for Cassie’s spectacular ability to take everything over the top.

The ‘queen-in-waiting’, as she calls herself, uses a cart-load of colourful terms to reference one of the biggest influencers in this struggle of romance: her gay, male friends. Cassie has nothing but love these people, and when she tells her story it is done with an endearing honesty. I worry, however, that naming her sample of gay, male friends ‘the entire gay community of Brisbane’ is at best a joke that doesn’t land, and at worse, a step back for representation.

Luke Volker’s onstage presence went a long way to bring something new and different to this delightfully tragic cabaret. His musical direction allowed Cassie to shine in what I believe worked best for her: self-referential jokes punctuated with an overly enthusiastic smile and an unhinged laugh.

Volker also managed to bring back some humanity to the gay men in Cassie’s life, as they sometimes only served as a backdrop to her extremely heterosexual cabaret. Navigating how to avoid making queer people merely a functionary element in a story about someone who is not queer is difficult. Rather than existing just for sassy comments and an indulger of gossip, Cassie finally gave some depth to her queer friends by acknowledging their flaws. It would have been satisfying to hear more about the struggle of a self-identified unhealthy symbiotic relationship, but it was only addressed briefly.

 

The underlying love story here is a platonic one between Cassie and a community she fully emerged herself in, but I’m not sure why it took the backseat so often. Love on just about every angle has been covered, so it felt like a missed opportunity that the intricacies of well-developed friendships were glossed over. The show was most successful when celebrating friend love and all the difficulties that come along with it.

 

There’s Something About Mary(s) is a fun new work that has a place in a theatre space such as the Powerhouse’s Wonderland Festival. Although it felt inspired by the problematic women behind the “gay best friend” trope, it was able to laugh at itself and acknowledge the troubles in desiring such a relationship. Celebrating friendship and platonic love in the age of Tinder is a nice spin on the saturated topic of young women and romance. And I can always get behind a rendition of Cher’s Believe.

11
Nov
17

Nineteen

Nineteen 

Brisbane Powerhouse & Wax Lyrical Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 9 – 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Barry Stone

 

 

Barry maintains that he doesn’t write reviews, but I love hearing what he has to say about what he sees in Brisbane since he sees everything he possibly can, out of genuine support and passion for the Performing Arts. I’m so pleased he’s agreed to allow me to share his thoughts with you here. Feel free to add your own, below in the comments section. Xanthe

 

Award-winning company, Wax Lyrical Productions, presents the world premiere of Nineteen, a dark comedy about four young men, Noah, George, Adam and Josh, living in a share house. From the outside they seem like fun, loveable larrikins but underneath the bravado and binge drinking lurks something more sinister.

 

Nineteen – For me, a play that has been needed for a while. Young men deciding if they will make it to adulthood. The trials of insecurity, the passions of relationships, the recognition of urges and the deceit amongst friends and for one’s self. It is a scary world trying to be what you imagine you should be. Will you be ‘like father – like son’. What is love and what is sex. What is friendship and what is a man supposed to be. The obsession with the physical, the boredom and the drugs and alcohol. Escape or pleasure. A lot is there in the loneliness of growing up.

 

For many years I have bemoaned the lack of suitable role models for the young man. I have a particular abhorrence of several things proposed as that which should be emulated, such as ‘Be a man’, ‘Stand up for yourself’, ‘Did you fight back?’, ‘Did you win?’, Don’t be a girl’ and ‘Don’t be a poofta’. There is always that obsession – which sport do you follow, don’t dress like a sissy, you know nothing about the kitchen, back-slap but never hug, never show or declare your emotions… Add this to the image in American film and television that all is solved with a gun or a punch. Young men in most sit-coms are portrayed as immature idiots, and selfish like Bart Simpson. Some call it satire, but I bet the vast majority see it as an example. Just like 1984 was a warning not a user manual, as it is now seen.

 

This original play examines the inner workings of a house of young boys. Their closeted affections, homophobia, misogyny, disappointments, and how they cope, or fail to cope. It is about the need they have for each other, but never let it show. The anger is loud and flies rashly and the can or stubby is opened one after another. No, they are not the great successes in life, but our suburbs are full of them and largely they are ignored. Why are they like this and what is society teaching our young men?

 

There is a line and a common attitude propagated that all men are either ‘Rapists or Paedophiles’. Read your newspapers and listen to your media. Accusation alone is now guilt. Aspirational victims are everyone’s 15 minutes. Vigilante justice, trial by media and innuendo leave everyone feeling guilty. To me, all freedoms require a generation to sink in. Apartheid, recognition of indigenous importance, women’s liberation, gay liberation…all have been taking time and when the world swings from one to another it usually leaves someone else behind.

 

Kindness and understanding, acceptance and example are better than accusation and revenge.

 

I seem to have waffled but this is what for me came out of Nineteen. Writer and Director, Shane Pike, has begun a conversation that I hope is joined with true compassion. He has exposed the private life of some of the young Aussie male. The ignored and dismissed. Fewer trips to Bali and more trips to the theatre, where life is thought about.

 

Jason Glenwright gave a wonderful theatrical focus on the action, the narration , the asides. And the peak performances of the cast were gripping. The silences most effective, as I recognise that state of severe boredom and inability to articulate what I have seen in the flesh. Diverse as any group of people can be, the actors both differentiated the characters and united them in a common confusion, loneliness and simply being afraid. Scared little boys lashing out at each other because they are so disconnected with the reality of the world and exactly what a relationship should be, who they are and where they need to stand.

 

Bravo to to the great and gripping talents of Daniel Hurst, Leonard Donahue, Jackson McGovern and Silvan Rus, and thank you for a very fine evening which I do hope both lives on and provokes discussion and a real attempt at true understanding, for from truth will evolve genuine progress.

 

Queensland in particular needs this big discussion. Less talk about how a sportsman is a role model (no matter how many mistakes he makes) and a little less testosterone, greater respect for the arts and acceptance of the rich diversity we do have. The world or the media seems to be promoting a gender war to add to the class war, the race war, the religious war. Calm the fuck down and stop trying to find which persecuted minority you can join. I am over the victim mentality. Be human and cope. You need not be scarred for life. it is not a fate worse than death, it may be none of your business, you are responsible for your own actions. We all have problems but we are all born with the responsibility of developing a conscience. Choose which battles (not all) you want to fight but educate yourself with facts and then give it 100 percent.

 

As I have said over and over, I do not do reviews, but I record what comes to me by attending a performance. This is just how it affected me. This one really did provoke thought and unleashed me.

 

P.S. As if that is not enough there is also some nudity.

07
Nov
17

Elizabeth 1 – a chat with Emily Burton

 

Elizabeth 1

A Chat With Emily Burton

 

 

 

Ascending to the throne at age 25, Elizabeth I of England reigned for 45 years.

 

What you might not know is that she secretly considered herself an artist.

 

A ghost-like vision of The Virgin Queen takes her audience on a shamelessly theatrical trip into her deep dark artistic pursuits, poems of pugs, a knack for knickers and mountains of makeup.

 

Part historical fan fiction, part stand-up comedy, and part late night slow dance – welcome to the strange and wonderful world of one of history’s most powerful women.

 

Emily Burton is an actress, theatre-maker, and teaching artist. Her past main stage productions include: Single Asian Female and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Boite Theatre Company; and The SeagullOedipus Doesn’t Live Here AnymoreA Tribute of Sorts at Queensland Theatre.

 
Since graduating from University of Southern Queensland in 2010, Emily has collaborated on numerous independent theatre projects including the multi award-winning A Tribute of Sorts, for which she won a Matilda Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Premiering at La Boite Theatre Company, A Tribute of Sorts was then awarded a return season at the Queensland Theatre in 2014 which boasted a second sell-out season.

 

Emily has toured nationally with acclaimed theatre companies, Dead Puppets Society on The Harbinger, and Grin and Tonic Theatre Troupe. Emily has worked as a teaching artist across Australia with numerous companies and organisations and has a particular passion for bringing the arts to isolated, regional areas of Australia.

 

Emily says ‘When you’re dealing with a character like Elizabeth I, who is so familiar to many people, the challenge becomes about finding a way of portraying her that
hasn’t been seen before. Luckily Ben and I have stumbled on a very strange version of the story, one that also humanises her in a funny way. We go to many different places and periods in the show, it’s ridiculously fun’.

 

How do you tackle a role such as this, one of history’s most powerful women?

The more I learn about Elizabeth I, the more I’m amazed by her contradictions, her courage, and her public vs private persona. I’d be more intimidated, I think, if I was taking on a Cate Blanchett-like interpretation of the character. The brilliant thing about working with Ben, however, is that we’re just jumping whole-heartedly into our own interpretation – which means things can get a little wild and weird. And Elizabeth I isn’t the only character we’re dealing with in this show…

 

What drew you to her, and to this production?

Ben came to me with a rough concept and these poems that Elizabeth I had written. We found them hilarious because some of them are so….well, awful. They reveal Elizabeth as a very normal, flawed person. You don’t often see this version of Elizabeth in the history books. That’s what started it all.

 

How did you prepare? (do you watch all the films or none of them?)

I watched the Blanchett films and parts of some TV shows, but what proved to be the most helpful thing was a massive collection of Elizabeth I’s prayers, poems, speeches and letters. She truly had an incredible intellect. She was writing letters in Latin at the age of twelve. When you immerse yourself in someone’s personal writing you begin to pick up unique traits. For example, I noticed she gave some people she cared about nicknames. All the nicknames are animals – Frog, Little Crow, Ape (poor soul who got given the nickname Ape!). These kinds of discoveries are absolute gold as an actor. Little clues and ideas as to how you might choose to portray them on stage.

 

Have you co-created and co-written with Benjamin?

Yes, this show has been a collaboration between the two of us. It’s being produced as a new work from Monsters Appear.

 

Are there any obvious or not so obvious parallels between women in Tudor England and now?

I imagine there’s a person far more qualified than me who’s written a PhD thesis on that topic! I certainly find that contemporary women (and men for that matter) have a lot more in common with historical figures like Elizabeth I than they might at first suspect. Elizabeth was a human (even if they thought otherwise back then – they considered her Holy).  She worried about whether she was doing the right thing, she didn’t want to let anybody down, she was in love, she grieved her friends when they died – I can relate to all of that and I think audiences can too.

 

Are there any particular aspects of The Virgin Queen’s reigning period that you have enjoyed bringing to light?

Without giving too much away, there’s some dancing in the show that I’ve found particularly enjoyable! However, it’s probably important to note that this isn’t an historical period piece; we don’t overtly look at specific events from Elizabeth’s life. We have integrated significant elements of her life far more subtly into a new story. There are plenty of films and television out there that focuses on major events of Queen Liz as an historical figure. We didn’t want to give an audience something they’ve already seen. We hope to reveal a more vulnerable version of Elizabeth, inspired by her poetry, letters, speeches and prayers. We’ve been more drawn to the strange facts and knowledge about Elizabeth’s life like how many dogs she owned and their names, and why she owned a brooch in the shape of a frog. It’s our attempt to humanise her in a really, well, daggy, unique way. Personally, I find that appealing and she becomes far more relatable as a character on stage.

 

Can you talk about the style of the show?

 

As one might expect from Ben and myself, it is a show that will look beautiful and sound strange. We’ve created the show for touring and festivals so it’s quite stripped-back and minimalistic. The show isn’t 100% about Elizabeth I – there’s another character too, a woman from a different time, who calls upon Elizabeth I for help in a time of crisis. The show is part comedy, part tragedy, part seance.

 

Can you talk about your vocal work in this show?

I did a lot of research into what kind of accent Elizabeth should have. Because there is no recording of her voice, no one really knows how she sounded. This allows some freedom, but there is a tricky balance to strike – Ben and I didn’t want to pick an accent so extreme that it becomes a distraction for the audience, but you still want something that represents her status and time period. Hopefully we’ve found that balance. With a second character in the show, I’ve been working on vocal transitions between these characters quite a bit. It’s a part of my job that I find particularly fun!

 

What are your top tips for performers to keep a healthy voice, healthy body, healthy mind?

 

Well, the voice and body are relatively simple (although certainly not easy!) – eat healthy and exercise. Sleep is absolutely vital for me and is something that I think a lot of people underestimate!

 

Keeping a healthy mind is less simple. Mentally, spiritually, self-compassion is incredibly important. Ultimately though, my best advice for other performers would be: Don’t try to be everything, just be you. That is your strongest asset. Use it in every moment.

 

Can you talk about working with Benjamin Schostakowski?

It’s been a series of ongoing disasters. In the best possible way. Strangely, we both became new parents within two weeks of each other, so we have been making a new show with the added delight of raising newborns. The scheduling has been interesting to say the least. I love working with Ben. It’s rare to find a creative companion where you collaborate so easily. When we’re working together the ideas seem to bounce along and flow very easily. We have the same unusual, warped, sick sense of humour. We make each other giggle, which is fun.

 

What’s your favourite part of the creative and rehearsal process?

Well, usually it’s getting to work with the other actors and finding that unspoken language within an ensemble, but considering this is a one-woman show, that doesn’t really apply here! I also particularly enjoy the process of pulling a character apart and searching for all their quirks and mannerisms, then slowly building them up again. I’m a perfectionist, so I love getting down to the nitty-gritty details.

 

What does down time look like?

Rare, now that my husband and I have a new baby. But overall pretty normal I think. Every day usually ends with me and my husband on the couch with wine watching television! We’re watching Star Trek at the moment. Stranger Things next. Ooooo, and binging Selling Houses Australia…that’s normal, right?

 

Are you the person at the party who gets funnier as things get louder / quieter / later?

I’m the person who doesn’t go to the party. Or if I do, I’m with the other introverts in a corner giggling and talking about how much we’d prefer to be quietly drinking beers over some nerdy boardgames.

 

What’s the significance of presenting the show within Wonderland?

Wonderland’s a fantastic space for performers, and I’m really proud to be associated with a program that so strongly supports Queensland artists. That’s vitally important. There seems to be a dwindling number of roles for Brisbane/Queensland performers, so a festival that provides opportunities for us to show what we’ve got is exciting. Wonderland will be the premiere for this new Australian work. We’re planning to develop it more and tour it to festivals/other companies in the future, which is an exciting prospect.

 

Do you subscribe to a particular method/approach to acting?

No. Whatever works for you is the right way to do it. I do think there’s a danger in subscribing too much to one method and limiting yourself. I’ve learned a lot from my mentors that you’ve got to keep yourself open. However, having said that, I’ve studied/read nearly every acting method out there. I think it’s important to keep a wide range of tools in your toolbox, so to speak. Personally, I’ve found every show/character is different and I tend to use different methods according to what it needs.

 

What are your top three audition tips for actors?

 

When you can, read the whole play.

 

Learn your lines.

 

Don’t build your audition off what you “think” the director might want. That’s impossible to know. Build your audition as to how YOU would perform it. A director wants to see you, that’s all.

 

 

What do you love about performing?

Comedy is the best drug.

 

Live performance, connecting with an audience, all believing in the make-believe for a little while, is the greatest reward.

 

 

 

 

Can you tell us about your training and getting a foot in the door of a highly competitive industry? (What keeps you in it?)

I studied acting at university – and generally speaking, I still advocate for training at an institution. Mostly, for the community that it connects you with. Community is everything. Apart from that, it’s all about auditioning and saying yes. My connection with Ben came about because I did a super small reading at La Boite years ago that I just got through uni mates. Once you get a gig, be kind and be pleasant to work with. The more positive connections you make, the more work you tend to get – in saying that, I’ve just had over six months where I haven’t done much work, and you get patches where the tide goes out – but that’s true for everyone. You’ve got to find a way to be okay with that. That’s the job. It’s certainly hard, but I stay in it because I love it and I believe (perhaps rather romantically) in the power of theatre and it’s ability to move people and affect change in the world.

 

How do you feel about work / life balance?

It’s like a beautiful destination, always on the horizon, that I never actually arrive at. Like everyone else, I’m still figuring it out.

 

What would you be doing if not acting?

A psychologist, probably. Or Speech pathology. Dog groomer? Although I must say I’ve enjoyed helping to write this show and other writing I’ve done this year. Or maybe I’ll just run away and open a fruit barn, get some bees and chooks and live in the country somewhere. 

 

How do you feel about arts awards?

They’re very nice, but not important.

 

What do you feel are the strengths and challenges of Brisbane’s performing arts scene?

 

In regards to challenges, Brisbane seems to mostly have the same challenges as the rest of Australia. Audiences are getting smaller and we need to get creative about how we solve that. I don’t think the answer is solely in getting more funding from the government. Often it feels like we look to that as the answer that will solve all our problems, but in my experience, more money doesn’t mean more work OR better quality work.

 

In terms of strengths, Brisbane has some of the most creative artists in the country, even in the world. As a state, we generate a LOT of new work. We’re very good at that. While we aren’t necessarily always accepted down south, (for reasons that are unknown to me) internationally, we are incredibly successful.

 

What’s your next challenge?

I’m thrilled to be performing in the Opera House with the Dead Puppet Society as they take their show The Wider Earth to Sydney Festival next year. I’ll also be reprising my role in Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female when it’s remounted at Belvoir Street Theatre next year.

 

What’s your next treat/trip away/special event/break?

Christmas! My family lives at Coffs Harbour, so very much looking forward to the beach, beers, and fresh seafood!

 

 

Emily Burton stars in Elizabeth 1 during Wonderland Festival 2017 (November 23 – December 3) at Brisbane Powerhouse December 1 – 3.

Book here.

 

26
Oct
17

Containment

Containment

Directors of the Extraordinary

Brisbane Powerhouse

October 18 – 29 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

…technology is an agent of change

Robert LePage

 

You have 60 minutes to save the world.

 

When a mysterious epidemic breaks out in Atlanta, an urban quarantine is enforced, leaving those inside to fight for their lives as local and federal officials search for a cure.

 

Sound familiar? Directors of the Extraordinary cite Contagion and Resident Evil as inspiration for the narrative of a new live action adventure game, however; the above blurb comes from the Netflix Original series, Containment. It wasn’t a big hit, but this Containment can be.

 

If the technology were to fail, this production would fail overall, but the tech component is its backbone and ultimately, the hero of the show. It’s sensational. It almost makes up for the fact that I was prepared to be terrified and wasn’t… While this is disappointing on one level, on another I felt relieved that there was nothing I couldn’t cope with. I think it’s common knowledge that I’m the audience member you don’t ask to participate, so even showing up to experience this event can be considered a win for me (and for their PR). I was resistant too, to the fact that we were required to complete a series of tasks and actually think our way through, rather than passively watch something being played out on stage. Even some of the most “immersive” theatre companies around the world are simply putting their audience in amongst the action, and not necessarily assigning them roles or tasks to complete within a time frame OR DIE. I had to surrender disbelief, give over to the competitiveness of the game, and work with Sam to reach the end.

 

 

The platform is the strongest element. Audience members are issued with an iPad per “team” (2-6 players – pre-register for the same session so you can play together). The challenge is issued via video and a purpose built app allows participants to input their results as they accomplish a series of tasks that, hopefully, will lead them to success, i.e. saving the world from zombiefication.

 

The live performances are the least impactful element, which is strange, but not when you realise that they’re all volunteers. We see six zombies wandering around the Visy theatre and another couple as we walk down the corridor backstage to the Turbine Studio space. We assume they’re doing what they’ve been told they need to do.

 

With a professional cast comprising more experienced actors and the skills to engage in extended interactions with audience members, we’d enjoy the experience so much more. I was pleased to hear that a number of punters have sat in the corner to engage in conversation, a character named Mango, as we did, and with more of that happening throughout the game, we’d be super impressed with the live performance element as well as with the technology.

 

While the space is cleverly utilised, sending us across three of the four levels of the Powerhouse, all zombies (or “survivors” – can we call them that?) are actually contained already within three secure areas, which feels like the risk is lower than the brief had indicated. A more satisfying experience would allow performers to roam over the entire Brisbane Powerhouse space – and not be confined to the Visy and its backstage area. I imagined there’d be zombies roaming around the building, around its outskirts as we arrived, or lurching at us from behind walls and around corners, and hauling their rotting bodies past restaurant windows, frightening wedding parties (there are always several at the Powerhouse on a Saturday) and the drinkers and diners who don’t always realise (or remember) that they’re at a performing arts venue. Impractical. Perhaps. Memorable? HELL YES.

 

 

In the end, it’s really the attitude that determines the overall quality of the experience. Attention to detail matters – if we’re prepared to suspend disbelief the experience will be exciting and at the conclusion, satisfying, having fulfilled the requirements of the tasks in the time allocated. We’re sucked into the competitiveness of the game – the exquisite pressure of a strict time limit (a timer in the top right hand corner of the iPad counting down for sixty minutes) and high stakes – that Dr Winton, and the staff and visitors to the facility will perish if we fail to formulate an antidote in time.

 

After being welcomed and asked to leave jackets and bags and keys in a box (potential for another sort of super interactive take-home show right there) we’re briefed by Ash, a co-collaborator and performer. We’re asked to step into Hazmat suits and take a team photo, and the scene is set. Dr Alice Winton instructs us via video to find the details required to gain the security clearance we’ll need to discover the correct formula for an antidote that will save the world from infection and subsequent zombie domination. Game on.

 

 

Containment is the ultimate group fun, in simplest terms for the sake of an explanation, it’s the new skirmish, but it’s far more sophisticated than that. In other versions we could probably get messy, but as it is, this production doesn’t ask audience members to be accosted by performers or fluids. A whole different suit would be required (you can take these suits home if you desire!).

 

Unsurprisingly, the corporate training experiences are the bread and butter of the suite of services offered by Directors of the Extraordinary, but it’s the theatrical experience that obviously excites Director, Simon. Originally introducing Escape Hunt Rooms to Brisbane, after seeing for themselves the success of similar interactive experiences in Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York City, the company now offers three unique experiences for groups, with more on the way. Simon tells us that his brother, the tech head of the business, is currently in Adelaide delivering an entirely immersive and interactive experience to one hundred pharmaceutical industry members. This requires them to complete research and data input tasks, and bid against one another in a virtual business world. Without limits on this sort of training and technology, not to mention live theatrical gaming experiences in the style of Containment, it will be exciting to see Directors of the Extraordinary step more fully into this space.

 

Directors of the Extraordinary wanted a live, immersive and interactive experience in which everyone was “kept in the world” for the duration and had a great time. The response from participants has been favourable so far. It’s exciting to see such a sophisticated first-time gig, with massive potential to tour and take over festivals and spaces all over the world, starting right here in our backyard, at our favourite versatile venue.

13
Oct
17

The Last Five Years

 

The Last Five Years

Wax Lyrical Productions

Visy Theatre Brisbane Powerhouse

October 7 – 14 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

Within the first ten minutes of The Last Five Years we know whether or not we’re up for hearing this story and watching heartbreak happen. Wax Lyrical’s production, directed by Zoe Tuffin, and starring Kurt Phelan and Lizzie Moore, is exquisitely sad and beautifully crafted to let some light shine on the perfect imperfections of two people who were once in love.

 

During the opening three minutes we’ve already had our hearts crack irreparably and we realise we’re in for a relentlessly emotional 90-minute ride. If you’re coming in with real, raw, brand new wounds, or savage old ones that you’re not ready to let heal, take a drink or two in; you may feel the need to self-medicate.

 

Jason Robert Brown’s contemporary song cycle boasts a neat structure that sees the two performers share the stage throughout, and yet meet and connect only once, for a moment when they marry (The Next Ten Minutes, ever so delicately crafted and delivered). Despite the clever chronological device, and their continuous comings and goings, these gifted performers retain a deep connection with the material and with each other throughout.

 

 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it pays to know this much: A novelist, Jamie (Kurt Phelan), shares his story from the start to the finish of a five-year relationship with actress, Cathy (Lizzie Moore), who tells us her side of the same story in reverse, from the end of their relationship to its beginning. The characters are complex, the relationship complicated and it doesn’t end well.

 

 

 

As Phelan and Moore settle into their challenging roles, on opening night of a too-short season in the intimate Visy Theatre, we begin to sense what these two can really do. Phelan (Boys of Sondheim, Dirty Dancing) and Moore (Kiss Me Kate, On a Night Like This) know each other from way back, having met in a bathtub at a surprise party for mutual friend, Lucy Durack. There’s no doubt they’ve attracted attention as individual performers, but if they can perfect Moore’s first couple of numbers (Still Hurting & See I’m Smiling) – and perhaps she’s hit the mark after opening night, letting the emotion drop in, and going to the edge from the outset, as she does a little later – this two-hander will be the smash hit of next year’s national touring circuit.

 

You get to be happy…

 

 

In his most honest and searing work to date, Phelan embraces Jamie’s narcissism, ambition and shifting affection, offering a bold and precise physical performance, buoyed by a deeply committed energy that could be bottled and sold to most undergraduate (and some professional) performers. He’s effervescent, irresistible in this challenging role, which is the perfect vehicle for Phelan, with an impressive vocal range and a cavalry of emotions. From Shiksa Goddess to If I Didn’t believe in You we get the full gamut of emotions. The Shmuel Song – that track that might use a Spotify skip to miss – works so well that I’d happily see Phelan perform it again; he keeps us fully engaged (although the literal aspects, which are mimed, could go). His Nobody Needs to Know is, unsurprisingly, completely devastating. Phelan’s a busy, busy guy, but I hope this role is one he can keep smashing for some time.

 

I open myself one stitch at a time…

 

 

Cathy is one of the more demanding high belt roles for any female vocalist, asking of the performer a massive emotional range, difficult to keep in check, and it’s up to the performer to resist pushing vocally without the inner life to back up the big sound. When Moore settles into the role she nails it, embodying the sweet, insecure Cathy, and able to bring home the big brash open notes (Anna Kendrick doesn’t sell them like that!), as well as more thoughtful, gentle moments. Moore’s comedy is superb, it’s her thing; she’s so funny and cute, and yet, within the world of the show, she gives us reason to understand why Jamie might look the other way. I’d love to see her contain more, especially to begin with, to sit with the shock and immediacy of Jamie’s departure before the hilarity – the Climbing Uphill sequence later, and the little moments and glances that have us giggling during A Summer in Ohio and I Can Do Better Than That. We have to laugh out loud during the multiple failed auditions. We’ve all been there. Fucking shoes. Poor Cathy.

 

I have been waiting…

 

 

Shannon Whitelock (MD and piano), leading guitar (Joel Woods), violin (Ruth Donovan), cello (Wayne Jennings & Ruby Hunter) and bass (Conall O’Neill), plays with conviction and coaxes from his on-stage 5-piece the rich sounds of a much larger assembly of musicians. When I speak to Jennings, with whom I train on Monday nights in Zen Zen Zo’s Dojo, he modestly dismisses what he does so well outside of the training room. But if it were not for the sweet, desperately sad sounds and contrasting upbeat and humorous numbers (and with the hold these musicians have on JRB’s challenging score), our hearts might still be in tact!

 

Zoe Tuffin’s poised direction hones in on the detail, the specificity of each intimate moment. Her use of the sparsely configured space and contrasting lighting states, designed by Jason Glenwright, draw us into two completely different worlds, which collide for just a little while, for just as long as they need to, to tell the common tale of two people who are just not meant to be together.

 

The Last Five Years is quite a journey, for the cast and for us.

My head spins. My heart hurts. The hawk soars forth from my chest.

 

All I could do was love you hard and let you go…

 




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