Posts Tagged ‘clarissa pinkola estes

22
Oct
15

Sunnytown

 

Sunnytown

La Boite Indie

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

October 15 – 31 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

“When a creature is exposed to violence, it will tend to adapt to that disturbance, so that when the violence ceases or the creature is allowed its freedom, the healthy instinct to flee is hugely diminished, and the creature stays put instead.”

 

― Clarissa Pinkola EstésWomen Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

 

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In experiencing this play I’m again reminded of Brecht, who famously stated, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”

 

Sunnytown is a shiny new play with a dark core, written and directed by recent(ish) NIDA grads, Krystal Sweedman (Writer) and Heather Fairbairn (Director). It’s a worthy text brought to life in the first instance with the help of pozible, and now La Boite Indie. Originally penned under the tutelage of Stephen Sewell, Sunnytown is a challenging piece in terms of its content and style. It’s not my favourite play this year but it’s the first of four independent productions at La Boite and as lovers and makers of live theatre, not to mention lovers and makers of humanity, it gives us a lot to consider.

 

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

 

What we think might be the simple preparations of a helicopter mother for her daughter’s thirteenth birthday party precludes a pre-Grimm moralistic fairytale complete with warnings, distractions, a dream world and dire consequences. It could even be considered pre-Hellenic. Demeter and Persephone, anyone?

 

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The Sunnytown of the title is a dubious place, imaginary, but not (but, yes, it is). It feels like a secret rave for the subconscious, in which there is mention of a basement (the darkest, deepest realm of our psyche) and strange interpretive dance and physical theatre inspired by the actual reactions to anaphylactic shock (yes, that’s the cake through-line), which don’t advance the story but instead seem superfluous to it, and distract us rather than focus our attentions on Dani, the birthday girl. The “basement” is never reached, by the way…

 

Sam has an interesting reading of this piece. I like it. It has merit. Here it is. *(Spoiler alert. Sort of)

 

What if Marg, the mother, is the only character on stage? Think about it.

 

“Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent.”

 

The relationship with her husband reflects the relationship she had with her father, and the relationship with her daughter exists from the memories of her childhood and her own imaginary friend. It’s not what’s intended, clearly, but nevertheless…

 

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Caroline Dunphy brings to the archetypal mother role all the qualities one might expect to see in a work that quietly shouts themes of manipulative and abusive relationships, and our common coping mechanisms. A particularly lovely and relatable (and unsettling) moment occurs early, when she tries to give a jar to her husband for him to open when she struggles to do so herself. He raises his newspaper in front of his face and “misses” her gesture. She’s invisible. She has the appropriate concern for the child and a desire to be with the husband but with all of it there comes a distinct and deliberate…distance from everyone around her. She’s actually impenetrable, appearing to have a more reliable relationship with her bottle of rum, which she nurses, keeping out of the clutches of her husband, than with anybody in the immediate vicinity.

 

“When a woman is frozen of feeling, when she can no longer feel herself, when her blood, her passion, no longer reach the extremities of her psyche, when she is desperate; then a fantasy life is far more pleasurable than anything else she can set her sights upon. Her little match lights, because they have no wood to burn, instead burn up the psyche as though it were a big dry log. The psyche begins to play tricks on itself; it lives now in the fantasy fire of all yearning fulfilled. This kind of fantasizing is like a lie: If you tell it often enough, you begin to believe it.”

 
― Clarissa Pinkola EstésWomen Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

 

Ron Kelly as Jim, the husband, is a lurking, violent, damaged soul and then just as suddenly he’s the splendidly daggy entertainment at the birthday party, absurdly twisting balloons and unashamedly cracking every dad joke in the book. The polarity is nicely presented. In both Kelly and Dunphy we see strong performances, alongside Olivia Hall-Smith (Dani) and Vanessa Krummenacher (Miranda) in a master and apprentice scenario. These two are young and fresh as daisies, with Krummenacher giving us the guts and frighteningly convincing Mean Girls-ness of a thirteen-year old BFF, and Hall-Smith offering girlish joy and that unique brand of “tween” despair and the silent retreat to somewhere other-worldly.

 

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Guy Webster’s sinister soundscape sets the mood and keeps us guessing (it’s really brilliant work), and Jason Glenwright’s lighting, with a string of party lights behind and a collection of golden paper lanterns above, in a gesture that is ever so slightly reminiscent of Rumour Has It, brings a surreal party atmosphere to a seemingly ordinary household in a “floating” white floored set designed by Catherine Steele.

 

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Fairbairn has thrown every trick in the book at this play, which might speak better if left to do so for itself. But look past the “glimmer” and you’ll see the essence of a story about hope, and coping as best we can, even if that means clinging to a bottle of rum more tightly than to a loved one for a little while.

 

“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”

 

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans Photography

 

Quotes from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With the Wolves

 

27
Apr
15

Samson

 

Samson

La Boite and Belvoir Street Theatre

Roundhouse Theatre

April 17 – May 2 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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#samsonisdead

 

Hey! I ‘reckon I know this place. I know the winding, wild-sunflowers-in-summer drive up there, the noisy picnic area, the quieter walk down to the swimming hole, the glorious birdsong along the way, the freezing water, the rocks, the moss, the tree, the rope, the boys who climb and swing and jump…

 

I think we are supposed to question whether Samson’s death is suicide or really, truly, actually a stupid accident. Am I too suspicious? I say I think we are supposed to because I’m not sure what this production wants from us. It’s an intriguing, quite lovely coming-of-age play but in this life it’s not yet fully realised, despite a couple of previous versions. Its vibe reminds me of Jasper Jones, which must have been released at around the same time as Gone Girl. I remember racing out to buy my own copies from Books of Buderim (I remember Mum sighing, “ You don’t need your own copies. Borrow them from the library!”). I read both books quickly, one after the other, and wondered what kind of person would be able to bring this exquisite clash of characters together and take these incredible stories to the stage or screen.

 

“Writing, real writing, should leave a small sweet bruise somewhere on the writer . . . and on the reader.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Julia-Rose Lewis offers us four fascinating characters and wonderful moments of quirky, messy reality in some of the imagery in Samson. It’s her first play so really, some remarkable writing in places, in some of the dialogue, in the connection between Essie (Ashleigh Cummings) and Rabbit (Benjamin Creek), but these are just brief glimpses into a world of young, bored, frustrated people who exist together on the edge of the world without ever really knowing why they’re there. Or how they can get outta’ there. It’s not the whole story. Of course it’s not. It never is.

 

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The first moments are promising. Despite the strange starkness of a rolling, rising and falling, sponge-painted one-tree-memorial “island” (Designer Michael Hili & Lighting Designer Ben Hughes), as the house lights dim and we hear Australian bushland birdsong (Composer & Sound Designer Kim Bowers), it certainly seems as if something interesting or exciting (or intriguing) will happen. The opening scene succeeds in getting our attention. Two teen friends play a secret drinking game, sharing things that never have they ever done and falling all over each other in their tickle war and general silliness, as girls do, when suddenly a boy of the same age enters and shouts across the space to them. All the conventions of the theatre tell us something bad happened. A friend must have drowned. But the delivery is not quite urgent or desperate enough. The breath comes too easily, the voice… I register the fact that there has possibly been a horrible death and feel nothing.

 

Okay. It’s only the first few minutes. I decide to give them another seventy.

 

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It’s always a little strange to be sitting through something that doesn’t quite work. It’s a bit like being at a party and watching the peculiar and spectacular dances people do to try to fit in. I watch the tentative dances these actors do. It’s a funny first ten minutes on opening night, during which I can’t decide if I believe the action or not. It seems strained, and not because someone has died. I seem to be experiencing this play in pieces (and from far away, so strange). The story comes to us in neat little pieces, like choreography taught to us bit by bit at a dance call until all the disparate bits are put together to become a routine. It might not flow; it might not be quite ready for an audience, some of the sections are stronger than others, but with enough confidence it can be presented for an audition panel to get us through to the next round. In fact, it almost feels like we’re watching a workshop. There is confidence here!

 

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I love the authentic, easily found fun in the relationship that blossoms between Essie and Rabbit. With the guidance of Director, Kristine Landon-Smith, this fragile friendship develops ever so gradually – she is grieving, guarded; he is open, brazen and persistent – and we begin to see a genuine connection. She hangs with him, defends him and ultimately sides with him. The realness of these two, their relaxed banter, the contrasting personalities and different approaches to life, and the casual use of the intimate space between them highlight the lack of energy and depth in another relationship on stage. I’m unconvinced by it. It doesn’t help that for extended periods of time, for what seems like entire conversations, the actors have their backs to us, but this is not exclusive to this pair. Beth (Belinda Jombwe) and Sid (Charles Wu) both have their moments, but it occurs to me that we may not be seeing their best work in this production. There are moments that feel forced or otherwise oddly timed. (Teenage awkwardness and insecurity can only account for so much!). There are other things that make this one not-my-favourite-show-this-year, including some inattentive vocal work (mumbled words and monotone that could be forgiven if it carried a hint of character, however; it’s unhelpful when we lose the gist of what’s going on), and there are many missed facial expressions (because we are in the round and yet we are not working in the round!), and inconsistencies in the entrances and exits. Where IS the body of water? That way? Or THAT way?

 

“It is worse to stay where one does not belong at all than to wander about lost for a while and looking for the psychic and soulful kinship one requires”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

The four characters have fairly substantial journeys, including a rigorous religious trip for Jombwe, and the need for a strong response to a very confusing discovery. In fact, the religious aspect brings forth quite a bit of confusion, as religion does. Even so, I find it unlikely that everybody actually swears so much in their ordinary conversations (rebels!) and also, it has to be said, that they must have all been “dating” without “doing” anything (virgins? Really? Is that the reason for the religious focus?), but whatevs. Cummings is able to hold her own – she is fine on stage; I hope she finds time to do more theatre work in amongst the screen commitments – but more often than not I find my attention turns to Creek, our ACPA graduate, who encapsulates all of the random energy, physicality and curiosity that is Rabbit, a boy on the verge of manhood. There is an interesting ceremonial aspect that’s worth a mention, in case you wanna’ read it as a symbol of some sort of initiation, behind the guise of a fun fire ritual to impress a girl. Whether or not it’s intentional, the nod to Rabbit’s spiritual side and his problematic family history are the most compelling elements of the multi-racial relationships in this piece.

 

I’ll look forward to seeing Creek in a contrasting role because it appears he was born to play this one. Creek’s performance is excellent, charismatic even (even when we can’t quite catch what he’s said!). He brings to the space the whole package in a wholly relaxed manner, usually observed in performers with a whole lot more stage experience. It will be interesting to see what a director might trust him to do next.

 

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The balance between Cummings and Creek is pretty near perfect, and perhaps by the end of the Roundhouse run, Jombwe and Wu will have found their feet too. Or will have found the ground beneath their feet. Perhaps the upcoming Belvoir season will serve as further development. Perhaps a walk on the beach between seasons will do it. It really actually feels like this show doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up, a little like its characters, but having said that, I’m sure we’ll see it again. When you see it, you must let me know what you think.

 

I think the play is a keeper; it represents a generation that demands to be written about in a decidedly grown-up-but-resisting-growing-up way. These characters, their challenging behaviour and their violent vernacular cannot be contained within that often dodgy category, variously called “theatre for young people”, “theatre in education” or “youth theatre”. I don’t remember having language like this and relationships like these available for discussion in between our studies of Chekhov and Ibsen. And I’d love to incorporate some of these short scenes into the current realism unit, alongside The Property of the Clan and X-Stacy (yes, those old chestnuts! Still good!). It’s refreshing to see these characters and their stories here, staged for a general audience, which we’ve noticed since Brunes Days* is changing.

 

Samson will appeal to the Under 30s, sure, but there are decent challenges within it and some lovely nostalgia, which is for anyone who’s ever been involved in a precarious friendship or a difficult family situation. And isn’t that all of us?

 

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Lewis is without a doubt, a writer to keep an eye on. She’s already secured some great gigs, including commissions from Belvoir, HotHouse and Brisbane Powerhouse. In case you’re not suitably impressed, you should be because IMPRESSIVE!

 

I can’t wait to see her next story brought to vivid life on stage or screen.

In the meantime, there is Samson. See it before May 2 and make up your own mind.

 

*Brunes Days: those days (and nights) before Adam Brunes became an indie producer/marketing guru away from La Boite. I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing his mugshot…

 

(if he does mind we’ll call it #openingnightofficestyle)

 

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Production Images by Dylan Evans

 

04
Jul
14

The Red Shoes – a chat with Natalie Weir

 

The Red Shoes is Natalie Weir’s new work for Expressions Dance Company.

 

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story and the 1948 film of the same name, it too is about a woman obsessed with dance to the point of self-destruction.

 

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Ruth Ridgway chatted with Natalie Weir, Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company.

 

What was it about the Hans Christian Andersen story and the 1948 movie of The Red Shoes that appealed to you and inspired your work of the same name?

 

I saw the film on television some time ago and thought it was beautiful, and possibly something a dance company could do. I loved the era it was set in, and the story within a story idea.

 

It is also very appealing to find strong, complex and interesting female characters to base work on.

 

In order to grow our audience, we are at times using well-known titles to help make the company more accessible, and to perhaps attract people to see us that might not normally come. And I do love to tell a good story – with darkness and light!

 

It also seemed relevant to create a work about dance – as this is what we do every day – and the pursuit of perfection. This is not only in classical ballet, but also contemporary dance – the dancers do this constantly. But of course perfection means different things to different people.

 

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How have you developed the work? Did you have a particular focus to start with? Did this change, and if so, how?

 

I started discussions with designer Bruce McKinven, to see if he found the idea inspiring. We talked a lot about the idea of obsession, or addiction, and how that can start very small and focused, but end up overtaking one’s whole life.

 

Bruce followed the story within a story idea by creating onstage a world within a world. We have not really deviated from this – just developed it.

 

The dancers of course play a major part in the creation of the work, the development of the movement and the characters. This work really belongs to them.

 

How do you feel about the cruelty and sadism of the Hans Christian Andersen story, and is that reflected in the work?

 

It’s like many of the fairy tales – those of the Grimm Brothers for example – the heart of the story is often dark and gruesome. In Red Shoes the girl’s feet are chopped off – yet they keep on dancing without her! Not so nice. However the idea of something taking over someone’s life – like a drug, where they are unable to stop it, seemed like strong fodder.

 

In my Red Shoes, the dancer Victoria becomes obsessed with the person in the mirror – but not in a good way. She is performing in a pantomime of The Red Shoes – which I have approached quite stylistically, with a dark angel cursing her to dance to death, and redemption/love/spirituality found through the weeping angel. This pantomime has her personal story around it (the story of the real Victoria) – her memories of auditioning for a dance company, her struggle with the form, her search for perfection, as well as the amazing highs that being on stage and the accolades bring.

 

The film of The Red Shoes shows another way in which a woman is destroyed, not so much by her obsession with dance, but by her temerity in wanting to have a career. Is this battle to develop a career reflected in your work? Or is the struggle different, and in what way?

 

Yes, it’s the struggle I guess to maintain a real life – seen through the relationship with Victoria’s lover/soulmate – balanced precariously with her onstage desires and dreams. We see her begin to slip into a madness of sorts, and the lover is left with a shell of a woman whose spirit has been captured by a world of fantasy.

 

The struggle could be brought into a modern context – the difficulty of finding a life/work balance, and I think this is relevant when working in an artform that is about passion, dedication and drive. Rarely do artists of any genre leave their work at work; it does pervade their private lives and often defines who they are. But when is this too much? And what happens when it ends?

 

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What do the red shoes symbolise for you?

 

They are the intangible spirit that drives a dancer to be all they can be – the love of an artform.

 

What do the story and the film say to you about dance as a pursuit? How is this different in your work?

 

I think most people would recognise that dance is an artform of incredible highs and fulfilment, especially for those who make it to the top in their field – perfection can almost be found (but not quite). However, there is a downside, and perhaps for those not finding that dream, it can be heartbreaking. But the satisfaction for those who persevere and get there – that might be hard to match in other areas of their lives.

 

Can you tell us a little about the music for The Red Shoes, which will be performed live by the Southern Cross Soloists?

 

The music is by an eclectic mix of composers. Tania Frazer (Creative Director of Southern Cross Soloists) has been sending me music over a period of 12 months. We wanted it to sound as if it belonged in the 1940s, and had beauty and timelessness. We have music by Rachmaninov and Bach, as well as living composers such as Matthew Hindson, Pēteris Vasks and Giovanni Allevi.

 

The Southern Cross Soloists are all incredible musicians, all really at the top of their game, and it is a pleasure to have the luxury of the music being played live.

 

You are also incorporating film by Sue Healey. How is the film being used?

 

Film is not an area I have worked in before, but this work seemed to ask for it. The film is used three times only: the first two times to magnify the state of mind of Victoria, and the third in the onstage pantomime, to provide a really different look onstage and give the sense of the dancer travelling. Victoria dances through night and day, and different landscapes – and the film underpins the emotion and physicality of the dance to the death. Sue Healey is a sensitive and experienced filmmaker, and this work seemed like a great place to collaborate with such a film artist for the first time.

 

Finally, what do you hope the audience will feel in response to your work The Red Shoes?

 

It is always hard to predict how audiences will react to a new work, but I hope they feel engaged by the story, stunned by the gorgeous design, moved by the haunting beauty of the music, and inspired by the beautiful physicality and artistry of the dancers.

 

Every one of the dancers has a moment to shine, and I do believe they shine through.

 

 

The Red Shoes runs from July 18 – 26 2014 at QPAC. Book online.