Posts Tagged ‘daniel evans

16
Sep
17

I Just Came To Say Goodbye

 

I Just Came to Say Goodbye

The Good Room

Theatre Republic – The Block

September 13 – 23 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY.

 

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

 

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

 

David Whyte

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

– Brené Brown

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

– David Whyte

 

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

 

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

– David Whyte

 

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

 

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27
Nov
16

The Lady of the House of Love

The Lady of the House of Love

Brisbane Powerhouse with Electric Moon

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 24 – 27 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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FOLLOW ME.

Sandro Colarelli’s The Lady of the House of Love brings Jake Diefenbach’s extraordinary original song cycle and Daniel Evans’ luscious adaptation of Angela Carter’s vampire queen tales to the stage in true gothic style. It’s one of my favourite productions ever, instantly, and it just might be one of the most perfectly crafted and presented boutique cabaret works of all time. I hope you saw it. Even if you’d seen it before (2008 & 2013) this is a dark, alluring tale told so beautifully intimately it could easily be enjoyed again, just as you listened time and time again as a child to your favourite fairy tales, or you might now watch the first two or three seasons of True Blood a second time, or a third time because Alexander Skarsgard…

LA PAPESSE. LA MORT. LA TOUR ABOLIE.

Colarelli is a master storyteller, a captivating performer, creating old world horror and charm in just one look, and glorious life and death in a single breath. (And the application of the breath and the voice here is impressive). The beauty of the piece is in its imagery, effortlessly conjured by Colarelli using Diefenbach’s haunting compositions, and the full extent of the vocal range and evocative language. Every word is deliberate, every vowel and consonant exquisitely shaped and delivered, the voice rich and full, words falling over us like the largest, heaviest raindrops. We sit in the candlelight and let ourselves be drenched in a world of the darkest beauty/horror.

WISDOM. DEATH. DISSOLUTION.

The High Priestess. Death. The Tower. Colarelli tells of how The Countess, forlorn in her mother’s bridal gown and looking for welcome relief from her life of living death, lures the men who come to her door. One night, when her tarot cards offer love for the first time, a British soldier appears and she seduces him with her red lips and tragic timeless beauty. The soldier is taken in by her and desires only to comfort her. As The Countess discards her gown, her dark glasses fall and shatter on the floor. She cuts herself on a shard of glass and the soldier kisses her wound to stop the blood. The next morning he discovers The Countess dead, clutching a (highly erotically charged and beautifully symbolic) rose, which he takes and puts into water in his efforts to revive (“resurrect”) it. The soldier is overwhelmed by the flower’s “corrupt, brilliant, baleful splendour” and prepares to take up arms in France.

The beauty, ache and enduring quality of Diefenbach’s original compositions means this music lingers long after the lights have come up, and the iTunes release of the show’s soundtrack (2013) means we can disappear again and again into the luscious life and death of The Countess. I’ve been lost in it for days again. If only the entire show was made available on audible.com.au

PSYCHOTIC. EROTIC. PERFECT.

Through A Window is vaguely reminiscent of Adele’s Someone Like You and Racing Into Springtime has an early, stripped back Tori Amos feel, as the innocent soldier/prey is drawn to the castle, before the seduction begins proper with a succession of enchanting songs interspersed with narrative (Too Many Roses, Across the Threshold and Becoming). The Exchange could be either the first or final heartbreaking track in a box office smash hit, so cinematic are its eerie discordant sounds and perfect plot summary.

COME TO ME.

Colarelli is nothing less than mesmerising as the tormented temptress, the naive soldier and Narrator.

The Lady of the House of Love is probably the most beautifully realised, darkly erotic and unashamedly exotic boutique production I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. If only I had the venue in which to put this performer and this production on a regular basis. We all need more Colarelli in our lives, and probably a good deal more of this brand of dark and sensual storytelling, without the hype and inevitable disappointment that comes from Hollywood having a hand in it.

There was a soldier, there was a girl…….

29
May
16

The Tragedy of King Richard III

 

The Tragedy of King Richard III

La Boite Theatre Company

La Boite Roundhouse

May 21 – June 11 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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

– Napoleon Bonaparte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People have a right to arts and culture.

 

David Berthold, AD Brisbane Festival

 

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

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

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

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

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

Production pics by Dylan Evans

 

17
Dec
15

I Want To Know What Love Is

 

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I Want To Know What Love Is

A QTC & The Good Room Production

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

December 16 – 19 2015

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

THIS IS FOR YOU

812 anonymous love stories. 500,000 rose petals. 60 minutes of pashing and dashing on a rose-strewn rollercoaster ride through love’s loopy terrain. A joyous and heartbreaking trip inside the throbbing theatrical party of the year!

 

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I love this show. I love its heart. I love its guts.

 

 

I love the way it begins so innocently, so beautifully simply and comically, and then worms its way into your soul only to shred each one of us into little itty bitty pieces using our own memories, drawing on the experiences that didn’t kill us but made us stronger. Finding that one true love, missing the one chance with that random stranger and having your heart (and maybe other parts of your body) broken multiple times by a massive cunt, before covering our world in rose petals and reminding us that we are in fact LOVED.

The formula is simple, but the complexity is thrilling and the overall effect makes I Want To Know What Love Is the purest, most joyous and heartfelt theatrical production of the year. Again.

The opening sequence shares the bright white light of an iPhone torch piercing the darkness and the sound of self conscious breathing. Quick, uncertain steps patter across the space and someone sets up a standing mic. A spotlight reveals Tom Cossettini, delightful once again. He treats us to an increasingly confident rendition of Young and Beautiful. A deliberately strained and stilted voice becomes rich in tone and cheeky with brazen confidence as he serenades an audience member lit by an unexpected special beneath a cascade of rose petals. This is the first of many joyous moments, a red herring prelude to a darker, more disturbing segment.

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It’s a startling mood change – and I knew it was coming – with Cossettini joined by Caroline Dunphy and Amy Ingram, demonstrating all the playfulness, competitiveness and polite turn-taking of every configuration of a relationship before it ends bad. And then it ends bad.

Margi Brown Ash brings new energy and a completely different quality to the production. Where Carol Burns approached much of the original material with her quiet, elegant reserve, Margi Brown Ash attacks it with unique vigour and wide eyed, full throttle, devilish delight. Each actor in this small company has discovered the delicacy of the more sensitive submissions and they treat the tales with the utmost respect, while giving some of the other anonymous stories the spectacularly sordid treatment they deserve, all for our entertainment and amusement, and for theirs, I’m sure. There’s certainly a voyeuristic aspect, and a number of times when some of us would like to leap over the seats to join the performers, in the riot of rose petals and splendour and grit and goodness and LOVE. What? Just me?

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Icona Pop’s cute and angry I Don’t Care underscores the sweeping and leaf-blowing of petals out of the way as if they’re shattered pieces of each heart, pieces of each person, which we offer to another and demand to have returned to us once the thing is over. Then there are the pieces a lover – or abuser – takes forcefully away from us. These pieces are carried away the moment the wind changes, or stuffed cruelly into a pocket so no one else can ever have them.

How do we put ourselves together again when some of the pieces are gone forever?

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Against a brilliant pulsing heartbeat of a soundtrack (the lifeblood of the show) by Lawrence English, Jason Glenwright’s lighting perfectly complements Kieran Swann’s design, creating many moods within a splendid setting. It’s a Catherine Martin styled American Beauty fantasy sans the tub, the nakedness and the convenient petal placement, although none of those elements would be out of place here. There are many more petals used this time. Masses and masses of them, thousands in fact, fluttering down from above, then teeming like rain, and then released from yellow plastic bags and scattered joyfully across the space. With great passion and fury they’re later pushed and swept and kicked and tossed into the air, poured over the actors, almost smothering them, just as any great…and terrible…love will do.

This is theatre as therapy, almost cathartic, leading everyone into themselves and along their own (don’t say it!) … JOURNEY. THERE. I SAID IT.

The stories are ours…well, the stories are yours. If you submitted your story online we got a glimpse of your life, your love… Johnny BalbuzienteIt’s an intimate show, perhaps in some ways better suited to the smaller, more intimate space of the original studio. But it’s become a bigger, slicker operation in the powerhouse theatre (“The Lovebox”), allowing a greater number of people to see it (and see it again!). How lucky are we? This is a company with a LOT of love to give!

Cancel everything and go see I Want To Know What Love Is.

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This show is an editorial and directorial gem, collating so many moments of so many lives that I imagine it would be possible to create a dozen or more episodes using the stash of unused material. Perhaps we’ll see a YouTube series yet, or a never-ending series of books in the style of WOL. But don’t wait for those! Director, Daniel Evans is a busy, busy guy!

THIS IS A PASH AND DASH AFFAIR

– DANIEL EVANS

Your best chance to experience the real-life equivalent of Love Actually this festive season is to see I Want To Know What Love Is before it finishes this weekend.

09
Sep
15

The Seagull

 

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The Seagull

QTC in association with Brisbane Festival 

The Greenhouse Bille Brown Studio

September 5 – 26 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Sorin: You cannot be without theatre.

 

Konstantin: Yes, but it needs a new approach.

 

 

There is nothing new in art except talent.

Chekhov

 

 

This is a story about how we tell stories… It’s also about our private stories; the ones we tell ourselves to give our lives meaning, the ones we cast ourselves inside of in our search of love and hope.

 

What endures, what echoes, on this stage is the essence of Chekhov’s The Seagull…

 

Daniel Evans, Writer & Director

 

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This is The Seagull but not as we know it. Writer and Director, Daniel Evans, has respectfully wrung its neck and brought it back to life in the most spectacularly comical, typically Australian way. It would be in poor taste to say so, of course, but if you can imagine the Crocodile Hunter revived by a Pulp Fictionalised adrenaline shot, you’ll get a feeling for this production. Crikey! (I’m genuinely surprised that there’s not a croc or a Hills Hoist or a jar of Vegemite stashed somewhere in the set but like our films, I guess we’re trying to resist including them). Still, I think Chekhov would approve, even if his diehard fans and the traditionalists may not.

 

Handing anything from the classic canon to Dan Evans is probably considered a calculated risk by now, and it’s the sort of risk-taking we should expect to see more of.

 

The people in Chekhov’s plays are beyond damaged, but we know them – we are them – and from time to time we need a jolt just to remember what we’re doing here, especially those of us who insist on making art. Evans’ astute adaptation brings Chekhov’s characters, with all their misery and wry humour, into the new millennium for a brand new quick-to-comment audience. It’s an adaptation that would come across very well in bite-sized (140 character) pieces.

 

If you saw Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, you’ll know when you go to see The Seagull to be ready for anything. Some will find the modern day props and references too much, and others will chortle with the rest of the audience in genuine appreciation of the update. Some might wonder why they ever had to study the original text…

 

Interestingly, Stage Manager, Dan Sinclair provides a constant presence, waiting with props, a piano (yes, he plays it), a blackboard wall and white chalk, and a MacBook side stage. I love his presence because Chekhov can’t help but have his characters all languishing somewhere – in this workshop setting, designed with Keiran Swan and lit by Ben Hughes with sound designed by Guy Webster, they’re all plainly visible – it’s Sinclair (in his stage debut!) who is interesting to watch when the pace slows a little in between gags in the first three acts. It should be said that the pace of the final act is better measured, not as forced, with well-placed silences giving us time to pause and dread the unhappy ending.

 

Evans’ gift is his defiant comedy, and an uncanny ability to layer and meld the elements, incorporating all the contemporary references and whacky ideas that come from a level of thought that most of us don’t engage in very often. Or ever.

 

Remember Luc Besson’s film, Lucy? 100% brain engagement! It’s Evans at his best, whether you like it or not, feeding one-liners to everybody, alive or dead. That’s right. Anton, the stuffed seagull, has a voice and he has a lot to say, just in case you were missing all things meta.

 

As the ingénue Nina, Emily Burton finds a sweet kind of insecure crazy. Her sad, gentle madness could be a little closer to heartbreak though, and perhaps by the end of the season she’ll crack through the bewilderment we’ve come to know so well in order to offer a little less of the wide-eyed approach to…everything. Admittedly, she’s a beautifully wide-eyed, naïve Nina but there must be something more for this performer in a role one day to take her a little farther away from type.

 

Nicholas Gell, in his QTC debut, holds his own as Konstantin, bringing to the role an abundance of obsessive (self) destructive traits and artistic integrity/intensity, which only bemuses his mother, Irina, the “serious actress” of Australian TVC, soapie and “real theatre” fame.

 

Christen O’Leary must be the most physically intense and altogether together actor in Queensland right now (not to mention one of the busiest), every performance a masterclass in voice and movement, and character and connecting with others. Her Irina is unapologetically cruel and wholly fragile behind an impenetrable façade, collapsing just outside of the pages of the story, right on the edge of the household, as we do. Her momentary breakdown is uncomfortable, however; in this as in other heightened moments, the question of focus comes into play. (By contrast, another up-close split scene of beautifully shared dialogue between Nina and Tregorin, and Irina and Medvedenko makes this device work more effectively).

 

We’ve seen a lot of Jason Klarwein recently and there’s more to come before the year is out, when he joins Tama Matheson in The Odd Couple. As the passionate, destructive writer, Irina’s husband, Trigorin, he’s ideal. And as befits the brooding character of the original text, he stays silent and singular early on, commanding the stage even as Irina’s shadow, and coming to vivid, wicked life when Nina’s youth and vulnerability catches him, hook, line and sinker. This relationship, always challenging to pull off, suffers just a little on opening night from well-staged fiery passion, rather than truly untidy, insistent and insatiable lust. It will no doubt be safe enough and still racy enough to satisfy slightly younger audiences, but when we’re wholly aware of the images in advertising and on our screens, as long as we’re being current and pushing boundaries, let’s push our performers another inch…closer.

 

Barb Lowing (a strong, capable, lusty Ilya, completely obsessed with Wicked; her silent, smiling desperation enough to break our hearts), Helen Cassidy (Polina), Hugh Parker (Dorn), Lucas Stibbard (Medvedenko), Amy Ingram (Masha) and Brian Lucas (Sorin) round out the ensemble, each accomplished actor shining, each in a role that fits like a favourite pair of shoes.

 

But it’s Brian Lucas you’ll remember long after this season closes. As the terminally ill Sorin, he finds both the mad romp and the gentler, quieter way through life, as well as all the subtleties of the precious relationships and simple joys around him. If there’s a truly new and original (and so very intuitive) take on a Chekhovian character it’s in this honest actor’s performance, a moving reading of a flawed, loved and loving man. Brian Lucas brings to this role the kind of courage and commitment we’re accustomed to seeing on another state theatre company’s stage each time they reinvent a Chekhov, and it’s such a pleasure to witness the impact on artists and the public, of a deeply considered performance here.

 

Chekhov is the master of familiar, frustrating banality and tragedy and Evans a master of the digitally remastered re-release.

 

This version of The Seagull, stripped back and presented in “The Actors Studio” might not appeal to everyone, but everyone should consider it; Evans’ approach is still new and not yet so tired that we need to be overly critical of it. In fact, if we can be supportive of it we’ll help him – and other brilliant writers and directors – to find their voice and find their feet in a landscape that is typically unforgiving of the reconfigured, reinvented and re-imagined classics, which (whether we want them or not) everyone, everyone, everyone needs.

 

It’s curious that we can’t possibly tell what exactly will be considered great and important, and what will seem paltry and ridiculous…

Chekhov

 

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31
May
15

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

May 23 – June 13 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

INCEST ASIDE, IT WAS A GREAT WEDDING.

 

 

WHAT IF OEDIPUS LIVED NEXT DOOR?

 

 

MUTHAFUCKA

 

 

I never really liked Neapolitan icecream but when we were kids we would have it for dessert sometimes – a special treat – and now I’ll never eat it again.

 

 

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Daniel EvansOedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s an incredibly fast, funny, deeply affecting piece, which uses the ancient story of Oedipus to look at how we respond to unspeakable tragedy.

 

 

The winner of the 2014-2015 Queensland Premier’s Drama Award, the only writing comp in the country that guarantees a fully professional production of the winning work, this Oedipus is a disturbingly accurate contemporary take on Sophocles’ Theban plays. If you’ve never before been able to work out the complex plots, this production gives you all the clues to do so.

 

 

Transposed to an outer suburban neighbourhood somewhere in Australia (it’s one we might try to avoid visiting after dark), the unfathomable story suddenly becomes horrifyingly familiar – as familiar as any tragedy involving celebrities or royalty might seem via Facebook – as a chorus of four young actors rise from green plastic chairs and tell us simply and directly where they are and which role they’ll be playing in order to relay the shocking tale.

 

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is masterful writing, brought to vivid life by a brilliant team.

 

 

And speaking of teamwork, let’s not forget the Dramaturgs: Stephen Carlton, Saffron Benner and Louise Gough, who have helped to nurture the text through many stages of development.

 

 

I guess this doesn’t really require a mention either, but something about this production reminds me of another winner of this award so I’m going to remind you of it too. Marcel Dorney created an ancient world for his winning play, Fractions, directed by Jon Halpin in 2011. It had been in development for four years. “We all thought it was pretty special but were worried it was too hard, that the ideas were too difficult and too big and people would just switch off,” Halpin told Cameron Pegg. The boldness paid off, bringing us the big ideas and difficult lessons of an old story in a new framework. Halpin said of Fractions, “It’s set 1500 years ago but it speaks with an urgency and relevance to today’s world with more insight and profundity than any other new work I’ve come across.” I would say the same of Evans’ Oedipus.

 

 

The story is inconceivable, the stuff of the inescapable 24-hour click-bait news cycle but told this way, so cleanly and unapologetically, we believe it.

 

 

From the outset we’re drawn into a hilarious retelling of events (no really; it’s really horribly funny) with just a couple of amendments to detail, such as the pedophiliac father’s chariot becoming a car in a fatal crash.

 

 

A compelling scene toward the end of the play humanises things even more than the humour can do, in case we didn’t already feel something. To set it up, we live through the excruciating tension of a high school shooting orchestrated and executed by Eteocles and Polynices (the sons of Oedipus). The massacre is reenacted on top of a pulled-from-the-wall campus mud map. Again, as we’ve seen before, there is comedy in it that makes us feel inhuman for laughing out loud. It leaves me numb. I’m filled with dread in the moment before the final “bang” is voiced by one of the boys and then I feel sick to my stomach. This slow burn is a master class in tension and restraint, a perfect example of the restraint shown throughout by Director, Jason Klarwein. It’s his best work to date and it thrills me to think of what he might, as Director, be gifted with next.

 

 

The beautifully tragic scene-that-shouldn’t-work (and wouldn’t work in the hands of a less intelligent team) takes place in a deserted playground, in which Haemon (Son of Creon and Eurydice, engaged to Antigone, who is dead) sits silently on a swing while an unknown girl chatters away to him under the pretext of sharing the last can of rum from the carton at Haemon’s feet. Eteocles and Polynices have killed everyone else (BANG). The rum is…warm. The mood is…awkward. Burton is superb here, a gangly, desperately frightened teen unravelling for the longest time. She is mesmerising, expertly manipulating pace, pause and proximity. Suddenly, after his eerie extended silence, a single sentence tossed spitefully across the playground by Haemon destroys her completely and he exits and kills himself. It’s brutal, brilliant stuff.

 

 

The space is intimate and at the same time retains a vast, empty feeling, as if we are lost in time and space. Justin Harrison’s soundscape, comprising original compositions and precision theatre sound effects (is that even a thing? I’m making precision theatre a thing), matches the text moment-to-moment, beat-by-beat, leaving silences through which we can only breathe…or not dare to breathe. An intelligent lighting design by Daniel Anderson works like a spell to capture and focus our attention; it’s the best example I can offer to tech-obsessed students this year of the way in which the elements are used to enhance a production. That leads me to mention that although it’s a risqué show for secondary schools, that doesn’t mean students should stay away from it. While the school might not be in a position to take you, senior students, you should see this show. You’re welcome.

 

 

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The design, perfectly realised by Jessica Ross, is spectacularly simple, featuring fluorescent lighting to frame the action and a graffiti wall by Drapl, which is foreboding even in all its colour and humour, warning us like the Oracle and welcoming us like Laius into the cold, hard, clashing world of ancient and modern youth. The overall effect serves to focus our attention on the performers, an astonishing ensemble.

 

 

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Ellen Bailey, Emily Burton, Joe Klocek and Toby Martin are uncompromising in their multiple roles. If Bailey were a criminal she would be considered a master of disguise. Her ability to switch from one character to the next is impressive and always funny. Burton is a beauty, swinging from hysteria to thoughtful silence in a heartbeat. Martin sometimes shouts a little more than necessary but as Laius, King of Thebes, he successfully harnesses the craziest, creepiest kind of power imaginable over the young boy, Crysippus, and seers his image and evil energy onto our hearts. It’s Klocek we’ll keep an eye on though, because this 19-year-old achieves the same level of depth and nuance and variety with his characters as the others do with far less stage or screen experience under his belt. Here’s his bio:

 

 

Queensland Theatre Company: This Hollow Crown, Face It. Other Credits: QUT: Orphans, The Three Sisters. Film: Rome. Training: QTC Youth Ensemble, 2012.

 

 

THAT IS ALL. HE’S A NATURAL.

 

 

How exciting and frightening that the story of Oedipus who kills his father, sleeps with his mother and rips his own eyes out (the “professional opinion” here is a killer), can feel new and fresh and raw and completely relevant. I won’t give away the final moment but IT BITES. THIS PLAY BITES. WHO COULD WRITE SUCH A THING?

 

 

Well, Daniel Evans could and he has done, and if you miss it you miss bearing witness to a new, living, fire-breathing brand of Australian theatre that other writers are trying desperately to master.

 

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is an exceptional play and this is an electrifying production, which must be supported to have a life beyond its World Premiere run.

 

 

 

09
Sep
14

I Want To Know What Love Is

 

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I Want to Know What Love Is

QTC & The Good Room

Bille Brown Studio

September 4 – 19 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

CHECK BACK BEFORE THE END OF THE WEEK FOR GORGEOUS IMAGES

 

“Perhaps we are in this world to search for love, find it and lose it, again and again. With each love, we are born anew, and with each love that ends we collect a new wound. I am covered with proud scars.”

Isobelle Allende

 

We are a combination of a thousand different experiences (especially when it comes to love).

Deviser/Director, Daniel Evans

 

 

Everyone is here. Wesley is playing the role of Glassy and the foyer fills quickly around him with the chatter and laughter of friends, and the clink of glasses and the clatter of heels. I contribute to the clinking and clattering and chattering. I feel like I haven’t seen everyone for such a long time! This is the tribe I know and love! We’ve strolled across the road from Brisbane Writers Festival, where I’ve been hanging with a different tribe and hearing about how challenging it is to get published and get noticed, how courageous one must be to write, and how disciplined. I Want to Know What Love Is is a cleverly devised show, using the written submissions of the general public… YOU. You are the writers! But by giving this glorious little show such a short season within the Brisbane Festival program (it runs for this week only), I feel like QTC is challenging us to demand its return.

 

Dear QTC,

 

 

We all adored I Want to Know What Love Is.

 

 

PLEASE BRING IT BACK!

 

 

Cheers. x

 

So it’s a proper Opening Night, with all the bells and whistles (and all the red roses and pink champagne in the world), and all the Industry friends. It feels GOOD. It feels good like it must be the work of THE GOOD ROOM. We know we can trust this collective of creative heads and hearts to entertain us, to challenge us, and to make us leave wanting more. There’s no deprivation about it, in fact our hearts are full…we want more of THAT.

 

I knew this show would be gorgeous (I was told it would be gorgeous) but I wasn’t prepared for so much of the gorgeousness to be done and dusted before the half way mark. The pure joy of an early succession of exuberant scenes concludes with what I can only presume, is the end of the honeymoon period of the show. We’re left hanging in darkness, in some undefined sad sort of state. I guess it feels like loss. The shock of love gone. Yeah, you know it. The honeymoon period is over, man.

 

I spoke with Carol Burns after the show about the dramatic mood change; it’s a distinct beat, unmistakably sad; you can’t miss it. I assured Carol that it could be felt! Indeed, it’s a rare thing in the theatre, to feel so strongly, a collective response to a single beat. I joke that I recognise that beat, the turning point in a relationship after the cascades of rose petals have finished raining down and the kisses have stopped meeting you at the door and the fights start about who’ll take out the rubbish. After the extreme highs come the devastating lows. Or, day after day, the plain ordinary. Or, the break up.

 

It’s a tumultuous journey and no one apologises for the rough bits. We spend just as long as we need to, wallowing, relating, remembering, and commiserating… There are uncomfortable titters from time to time because REALNESS. RECONISABLE. RELATABLE. REALNESS. It’s not all bad; so much of the show is very funny and very moving. I Want to Know What Love Is tastes like a fistful of sticky, sugary, virtual cotton candy goodness, with a bit of harsh reality thrown in.

 

The stories come from the community. Over eight hundred randoms submitted their stories online via the specially built website wewantyourlove.com

 

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It’s the sort of verbatim theatre I love – not too verbatim – the words are painted in full colour, with layers upon layers of meaning between them and the canvas, the picture almost certainly improving on the telling of the tales. No offence, to you, the writers. Sometimes, the simpler the story, the greater the effect, as when there are no words and we are left to fill in the gaps; an awesome little device. The stories we hear range from love at first sight, I’ll love you forever, happily ever after tales to devastating blame games, plots for revenge and guilt-ridden admissions. Wow, we actually begin to feel like we know these people. We think perhaps we are these people. Not so random after all.

 

New work needs time and it needs space and it needs trust.

Amy Ingram

 

We know Amy Ingram’s comedy is excellent, and this production allows her a little tragedy too. It’s clearer, and sadder than ever before. Carol Burns, Caroline Dunphy and eighteen year old Tom Cossattini in his QTC debut, also manage to get the tone exactly right, seemingly effortlessly, taking us on a rollercoaster ride that starts out naively and joyously and finishes with sass and stubborn, glassy-eyed glimmering hope, in spite of the tumult and ugliness along the way. In this way, the show’s structure cruelly and accurately reflects the usual pattern of relationships. We still haven’t come to terms with the life-death-life cycle, have we?

 

Daniel Evans, not only a published writer and Premier’s Drama Award winning playwright (his work, Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, will be staged by QTC in 2015), is the sort of director who creates work you wish other directors would see. If they did so, perhaps we wouldn’t have to suffer through so much earnest work. Just saying.

What Dan does, with co-devisor, Lauren Clelland on board this time, is take a story, offer it to his actors, and with their help, he passes the story on to us. Dan’s a custodian of stories.

 

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Kieran Swann’s design is nothing less than stunning. He’s humble, paying homage to Feliz Gonzalez-Torres, Tracey Emin and Jenny Holzer in his notes, but what Swann does, just as Evans does, is create worlds that we can’t wait to step into. The simple images of flowers and garbage bags may have come from the punters but it’s Swann who’s conjured the delicate-bold lush effect they make on stage. Lights by Jason Glenwright and soundtrack by Lawrence English support the pace of the production and punctuate the stories, offering us time to breathe and no time at all. A bit like life.

 

What’s incredible about this production is that a very basic idea has been executed in the most effective way when it could easily have ended up a disaster; a shoddy, tacky, nauseating and seriously awkward and embarrassing high school collage drama. It is none of these things.

 

I Want To Know What Love Is is elegant, sophisticated, heartfelt, inspiring and uplifting; it’s delicious festival fodder. It’s original, beautiful and unfortunately, it will disappear after this week…or will it?

Go now, just in case. You don’t want to miss this. It’s gorgeous theatre.

 

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