Posts Tagged ‘dash kruck

27
Apr
15

Brisbane

 

Brisbane

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

April 11 – May 2 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

I am absolutely sure – 100% sure – that it (the break down in the development of new Australian works) cannot be solved by just trying to pick winners. I don’t think that that is a viable strategy for horse racing let alone for playwriting. You need some deeper philosophical, political, social and artistic sense of what drama is if you’re going to encourage and develop Australian drama into its next diverse and myriad-formed existence.

Julian Meyrick

 


brisbane_dashkruck

 

 

Drama is like the minute hand of the clock.

Julian Meyrick

 

 

I’ve been thinking about who you are, reading this blog, with pieces that are sometimes so sporadically posted I wonder that you come back at all, and I wonder what you’re seeing in between visiting here. And what does it matter, and what should become of it… I’ve been thinking about not writing but I have to, even when the process of writing something about a show sometimes takes longer than the run of a show. I love the process. I love considering what might be worth mentioning and what might be better left unsaid. I love living through the productions and reliving that journey after the curtain comes down. I love the theatre, the people involved, and this place, where I can share my experience with you, whoever you are, whatever it is you’re here for. I’m not sure what else to do with it – perhaps you have some ideas – and I keep deferring developing this site, and further study and a second blog purely for writing because I’m not sure what to do with all of THAT, what shape everything needs to take, or what any of it will do for me, or for you, but I keep coming back here, as you do, to keep some sort of quiet conversation going, perhaps just so it doesn’t stop.

 

 

{What happens when you have authority speaking about what happens in the theatre?}

We must have a cultural memory.

Alison Croggon

 

 

Over a week ago I saw Matthew Ryan’s Brisbane. Since opening night, I’ve been thinking about how we teach our children about war. It was always the part of studying ancient and modern history that I couldn’t understand. I still don’t understand it. I try to convey the respect and gratitude I feel for those who went to war to protect our right to live in a country of freedom and privilege. I have mixed feelings about teaching the pride part. I’m not even sure how I feel about my grandfather’s role in the war. This week I joined the family at his funeral, which included a full soldier’s farewell, and then I joined the local community at a traditional ANZAC Day commemorative service, sans Welcome to Country and frustratingly prayer fuelled. Okay. I know. We’re still a nation commanded by God. I should get over it. But WAR. LEARNED HATRED. FORCED, RELENTLESS, USELESS KILLING. WTF?

 

Over 30 000 Australian servicemen were taken prisoner in the Second World War. Two-thirds of those taken prisoner were captured by the Japanese during their advance through south-east Asia within the first weeks of 1942. While those who became prisoners of the Germans had a strong chance of returning home at the end of the war, 36 per cent of prisoners of the Japanese died in captivity.

 

mervhenrygrulke

 

My grandfather, Merv Henry Grulke, was a Sparrow Force guerilla soldier and a (POW) Changi survivor. He was three years off receiving his telegram from the queen when he died last week, just six months after my grandma left us. It’s a well-deserved rest for someone who, like so many, endured years of physical and mental anguish during and after the Second World War. During, after any war…

 

Brisbane, 1942: a big country town jumping at shadows, never knowing if that buzz in the air is a cicada or a squadron of merciless Japanese Zeroes. World War II took the city’s innocence, and that of 14-year-old Danny Fisher.


Danny’s dashing pilot brother has been killed in the Bombing of Darwin. As Danny’s devastated family unravels, the teen finds a surrogate sibling in Andy, one of the Americans stationed in Brisbane. The American pilot takes Danny under his wing, and as the tension begins to rise between the Yank and Aussie servicemen, Danny hatches a reckless revenge plan against those who took his brother.

 

Until I was four years old I lived in an old Queenslander just like fourteen-year-old Danny’s. (And then again during uni days, with actors, actually in Brisbane, but that’s another story). I don’t know if my memories of that first house in Emerald are from being there, or from the photos and stories stashed away in albums and minds since. I think I remember the smell of the dust, and spider webs and shadows and cricket balls and suitcases and appliances, and piles of things that didn’t belong anywhere else.

 

brisbane_ladder

 

Designer, Stephen Curtis has perfectly realised the freedom, the playful sense of growing up in an old Queenslander, recreating the immense space of the high ceilinged house and its nether regions beneath. The same space becomes the famous, much loved Brisbane dance hall, Cloudland, and later across the river, the Trocadero. Lit bewitchingly by David Walters, the house itself is full of potential and/or missed opportunity, an undercurrent of the play, and underneath exists a magical space where anything is possible. No missed opportunities here, the set is in synch with every aspect of the story. There are not too many main stage productions that get it THIS right.

 

There is a good side to not being crushed by culture… there’s a tremendous freedom in Australian performance and a huge intelligence, and a kind of disrespect that’s really healthy.

 

The air is thick and wet and the sun burns your skin like it hates your guts. January’s got it in for everyone. It has a temper that builds and builds, until it’s had enough of you and dumps a mountain of water and electricity on your head to end it quick. Then it starts over again. The smell of the dirt road mixes with the pong of dead fruit that falls from the trees. Houses sit on stilts, breathing the cool air beneath them. Street after street. Streets that make up suburbs. Suburbs that make up Brisbane…

 

I’m sure the haters will say, “Oh, C’MON!” but for me this is magnificent, evocative, poetic writing. I love it. I love the feeeeel of it, the energy of it, the cheeky pointers and the gentle, quiet gaps, which Matthew Ryan is confident to leave for director, designer, actors and audiences to fill. I loved Kelly (currently enjoying a national tour), and Brisbane now puts Ryan in a unique position as a writer in this country, sharing our cultural and historical stories in a way we haven’t yet heard. We’ve read something like it – there are similar insightful voices on the page – but his is a theatrical narrative voice that’s refreshing and magically real on stage (and it’s so suited to Australian film; I hope we see something on screen soon). It’s a more personal, more poignant, more cleverly critical style, supporting our fondest memories and challenging notions of what’s already been recorded. The balance of light and dark is just about perfect, and except for the thank-god-bless-us-and-bathe-us-in-light moment at the end, it strikes all the right chords. (Oh dear, but that major chord! That golden light through what might as well be stained glass windows! An eye roll moment indeed!).

 

The text highlights the national state of mind at the time, which reflected our notions of “mateship”, machismo, fearful and unforgiving parenting, and our attitudes towards war, women and foreigners.

 

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A comical “cringe” moment in the play (as in, “We probs shouldn’t be laughing at this”) serves to challenge our current notions too, and it reminds me of that terrible episode of Popeye, you know, The Sailor Man, which never aired but had been included in a DVD box set, which I innocently put on for Poppy one day. In Brisbane, the kids of the neighbourhood play at shooting down the Japanese, as kids were wont to do at the time. In the black & white classic series, Popeye defeats the entire Japanese army, referring to the enemy as “slant-eyed, buck-toothed, yellow-skinned Japansies”. By making light of the ugly truth about human nature it’s even more disturbing to recognise it! Still! Art is a mirror. Or a hammer… Yes. You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

artisnotamirror_mayakovsky

 

 

There musn’t be one single discourse.

 

 

These characters are so familiar yet we are able to stay safely, emotionally, distant from them. It’s the comedy and the abstractness of the storytelling, switching between real events and what Danny sees is his world that challenges us to consider another point of view. It’s magic realism at play, and it’s not to say we don’t care about them – far from it – we feel deeply for Danny (Dash Kruck), who loses his older brother, Frank (Conrad Coleby perfectly double cast as the American ex-pilot, Andy), and for Frank’s father (Hayden Spencer at his most brutal best), who essentially loses both sons when Frank dies. As for the broken mother, Annie (Veronica Neave), we recognise her deeply personal grief and the embodiment of the women of the era; their ability to pick up the pieces, step into traditionally male roles and “get on with it” while their men either crumble around them or don’t return home. It’s not entirely surprising that it’s she who finally finishes a mini reno on Frank’s room. We see similar resilience in the “big sister”, Rose (Lucy Goleby, luminescent in this role).

 

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Kruck has been gifted the role of a lifetime in this production. Because Ryan has made the most of his knowledge of Kruck’s physicality and natural vocal cadence during the rehearsal process, the character, as it’s written, is a perfect fit. Under Iain Sinclair’s bold direction, Kruck clearly relishes the opportunity to stretch his wings. He is perfectly matched by the fierce and very funny Harriet Dyer as the best friend, the “cripple”, Patty. I adore Patty, in a way that I would never dare to in real life because I’d be terrified of her! Of course there have always been women learning on their own to be THAT strong (and THAT feared! Ha!). Kruck and Dyer and Goleby develop close connections that are highly entertaining and deeply moving. The moments of sexual awakening are hilarious and the unrequited love, treated so sensitively and tenderly, is actually heartbreaking.

 

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Our history has such dark moments but there is good, gorgeous, wicked humour here too; the comedy is intelligently written and unashamedly playfully delivered. So much of it comes from the familiar colloquialisms and the childish behaviour of the school bullies and the country’s politicians. We enjoy razor sharp parodies of the leaders at the time, like grotesque tongue-in-cheek comic strips brought to life. This comical theatrical style, thrown casually in amongst the rest, won’t please everybody but it’s a deliberate device; it highlights the propaganda of war and lightens the heavy mood. Matthew Backer, Daniel Murphy and Hugh Parker play these multiple roles (to the hilt!), alerting us to the similarities between the bullies in government and in the street.

 

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Nothing is lost on the opening night audience. The first reference to Cloudland is a sentence completed in an anticipatory whisper by the audience before the actor can do so and there is an awesome moment of collective pride, the nodding and smiling of people in The Playhouse as they remember… It’s a magical moment – the magic of live theatre – and it’s not lost on those who weren’t there to see the real thing. We get it.

 

The mere presence of new Australian work is no guarantee of cultural health; it has to be Australian work that matters.

 

Dramaturg, Louise Gough, has obviously had a hand in making this work one that matters. It’s one thing to be making and staging new Australian work; it’s another thing entirely to be contributing to the canon of work that informs our history. These stories have come from the truth told by so many. We must keep hearing these stories, seeing them, sharing them. We must try to learn from them. History repeats itself because we don’t learn from it! I hope this is a version of our history you’ll get to experience before it finishes here. I’ll experience it again this week with our students, and I look forward to hearing (reading, marking…) their take on it.

 

What is not being said, what is not being written down, what is not recorded, what is not even noticed?

 

Slouch hats off to QTC’s World Premiere production of Matthew Ryan’s Brisbane; it’s set to become a true blue Australian classic. You must see it.

 

 

Additional quotes taken from AUDIO | STAGE Episode 2 Alison Croggon / Writing History

01
Mar
15

I Might Take My Shirt Off

 

I Might Take My Shirt Off

Brisbane Powerhouse & Sharpened Axe

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Platform

February 13 – 14 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

dashkruck_imighttakemyshirtoff

 

 

Dash Kruck is an absolute starry star. A dead set legend. A really funny, talented guy.

 

His debut cabaret show, I Might Take My Shirt Off, is by far the best we’ve seen for a loooong time on the scene, which you might be forgiven for feeling, is a little flooded at the moment. Let’s face it. CABARET IS STILL THE NEW BLACK. We see so much of it, and so much of it is raved about that when a particularly well written, tightly structured and superbly delivered show hits our stages it’s noted. Not only duly noted, but already returning to Brisbane Powerhouse later this year it seems, if the Facebook comments are anything to go by…

 

 

“I wanna bring your show back, yo.”

Kris Stewart

 

 

TRANSPARENCY. SO IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW #teamgooding #illridewithneil

 

Directed by Emily Gilhome, I Might Take My Shirt Off, shares Lionel’s struggles in love and life, as he pens and performs an original cabaret show at the advice of his hilariously OTT German Nazi-therapist. FACE THE FEAR. Everyone knows cabaret is terrifying, and this is a thrilling show because THERE IS REAL FEAR THERE. Or so it seems. Dash is so convincing in the role that there are times throughout the evening when we actually hold our collective breath and think, “God I hope he’ll get it!”

 

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Stories of sex, booze, boys and mythical beasts abound. Original songs by Dash and Chris Perren are diverse in style and consistent in quality. There’s not a dull number among them, each has its place and purpose. THERE’S EVEN A HIT SINGLE BALLADY TYPE NUMBER. YES, BALLADY IS A WORD. (I expect to see this soundtrack available for purchase on iTunes next year. Yes, I do). Dash is well respected as an actor and singer (we loved him in A Tribute of Sorts, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, Jesus Christ Superstar, [Title of Show] and the Matilda Awards named him Best Emerging Artist in 2007 and Best Actor in 2012). This show is the perfect vehicle to take him to the next level, put him on the circuit, and get him into the elusive, illustrious INNER CIRCLE OF CABARET.

 

I think I said this about his performance in [Title of Show] –

“On stage, Dash Kruck totes stole the show for me, with his endearingly cheeky, naughty approach to, well, everything in life. His Broadway moves and his ability to connect with those on stage and off. I’m confident I can recommend you go see anything at all that Dash appears in. This includes his kitchen when he is washing the dishes and IGA when he is doing the grocery shopping. Dash is bound to make any event just as entertaining.”

 

NO PRESSURE, DASH.

 

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As tender and wonder filled as it is funny, and as skillfully built as any headline act that might come to us with far more fanfare, I Might Take My Shirt Off is a real contender for the bigger festivals, and could do with a return tour after a stint somewhere like, oh I don’t know, OFF-BROADWAY. If you experienced it you know that’s not too far-fetched. It’s so meta too, that theatre and cabaret students (and their teachers) should be in the back row taking notes at every performance. As Lionel ticks off all the elements of the genre, using his devastating break up tale to pull us through the ringer with him, I hear a whispered comment behind me that signals hope for the masses: “So this is cabaret… It’s great! I like it!” HOORAY!

 

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My favourite parts of the show involve a martini and a dragon. Not at the same time. But I love the implicit 007ness of one and I’m swept away by the mythos of the other, not to mention impressed by Dash’s command of the vocals. I think of Anthony Warlow’s performance in The Secret Garden of Race You To the Top of the Morning (just go to the link and let it play while you read on, because there is no I Might Take My Shirt Off Live at Brisbane Powerhouse recording…yet). Like Elise McCann as Lucille Ball, Dash is confident enough to take his time and allow us to suffer vicariously through him. We believe every word…and every strategically placed awkward pause. N.B. Sitting towards the back of the crowd doesn’t mean Dash won’t see you and invite you to be…involved.

 

dashkruck_audience

 

Dash demonstrates complete trust in the genre and in his wide-ranging ability. A great director will help a performer to realise the possibility of success from the outset. These two – Dash Kruck and Emily Gilhome – are a good match of talent, intellect and guts. To pull off a first attempt at cabaret so convincingly, is a pretty clear indicator that Dash Kruck is here to stay. But perhaps not here here to stay. Dash can take this show anywhere, and like Rumour Has It, Wrecking Ball, and The Divine Miss Bette, I’ll happily see it again and again. There is substance here, and a magical alchemy, which turns crazy late-night gin-conceptualised ideas into theatrical GOLD. I do hope Dash enjoys performing this show as much as we enjoy seeing it, because we’re going to keep demanding it!

 

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For more outrageously funny stuff at Brisbane Powerhouse check out the Brisbane Comedy Festival! Until March 22 2015.

 

04
Feb
15

The Divine Miss Bette is back!

 

Bold, buxom, bawdy and brilliant – Bette’s back!

 

cathalcorn

 

The Divine Miss Bette cabaret starring Sydney stage sensation, Catherine Alcorn returns to Noosa for one night only at 7:30pm on Thursday 12 February at The J and to Brisbane for one night only at 7.15pm Friday 13 February at the Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre. At the Powerhouse, The Divine Miss Bette forms part of the 11 day MELT Festival of music, cabaret, comedy, circus, visual arts and community panels. Tickets are on sale now.

 

Trained by Steve Ostrow, the man who discovered Bette Midler and who owned New York City’s famous Continental Baths disco and bathhouse, Alcorn’s critically acclaimed show is a high energy, feel-good, roller-coaster ride celebrating the “best bits of Bette”. Audiences will think it’s the ‘real’ Bette up on stage!

 

In The Divine Miss Bette, Alcorn takes audiences back to 1973 in the Palace Theatre New York. Accompanied by a live, four piece band and two back-up singers, Alcorn’s critically acclaimed production is a slice of Bette’s life communicated via Alcorn’s acerbic wit, scandalous one-liners and brilliant voice. Bette classics such as “Stay With Me Baby”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “In The Mood”, “You’re Moving Out Today” and “Am I Blue” feature in the show.

 

2012 Noosa Longweekend Festival

 

A polished and professional performer with over 10 years’ experience Alcorn has appeared and headlined at some of Australia’s leading festivals including Noosa Long Weekend Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, The Idolize Spiegeltent Perth Fringe Festival, Ballarat Cabaret Festival and New Zealand’s Right Royal Cabaret Festival. Catherine is also the Creative Director of Sydney music and event venue, Slide Lounge.

 

“Bette Midler is one of my favourite characters to play and truth be told, she’s a bit of an alter-ego.
“To be trained by the man who discovered Bette and then pay tribute to her life on stage is absolutely fantastic fun and a real privilege.

 

“The show is always a sell-out because people just love Bette. The audience always ends up singing and laughing out loud. I can’t wait to get to Brisbane again and be a part of the MELT Festival. It’s a fantastic program.”

 

 

 

 

cathalcorn_5LEAQ

 

This weekend see Cath Alcorn in 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche

 

Stay up late after The Divine Miss Bette to see Dash Kruck in I Might Take My Shirt Off

DashKruck_imighttakemyshirtoff

20
Apr
13

Next To Normal

Next to Normal

Music by Tom Kitt and Book & Lyrics by Brian Yorkey

Oscar Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne

18th April – 4th May 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

It’s got to be one of our greatest fears, up there with shark attacks, road accidents, plane crashes and public speaking; the prospect of losing our mental faculties has got to be one of the most terrifying things in a lifetime. I’m already terrified of losing my memory. Maybe it’s why I write. Maybe it’s why I Instagram. Maybe it’s why I married Sam (Mr XS has a memory like an elephant, which makes up for mine, which is more comparable to a butterfly with an average life span of seven or so days). Maybe it’s why The Notebook feels so personal and I’m unable to watch it without crying my eyes out and leaving a pot of tea to go cold. EVERY TIME. And we’re not even going to mention Silver Linings Playbook.

 

Theatre is a mirror. And what I see in Next to Normal is a woman who lost control a long time ago. And nothing anybody can do will help her regain it. That’s terrifying.

 

In Australia we know that one in four people suffer from a diagnosed mental health condition. I know; I’ve linked to a source that states it’s one in five (the 2007 ABS figure) but did you know that Sam has a day job in the upper echelons of STEPS Group Australia? He says it’s now one in four. And I believe him. Think about that. That’s somebody you know (or several people you know). Or…it’s you.

 

We also know that the statistics are usually the last we hear of it. Chronic depression and mental illnesses, more often than not, just don’t rate a mention. In fact, there’s an awful lot of discussion about discussing mental illness. We’ve all shared the Facebook meme or re-tweeted somebody’s sensitive plea for greater tolerance, support and understanding of mental illness (R U OK?). Terrific! Great job! Now, where’s our greater tolerance, support and understanding of mental illness?

 

Standing in this room,

Well I wonder what comes now.

I know I have to help her,

But hell if I know how.

And all the times that I’ve been told

The way her illness goes.

The truth of it is no one really knows.

 

– Dan Goodman, Next to Normal

 

The Pulitzer Prize winning Next to Normal boasts an intelligent book, which gives us a glimpse into the simple horrors of living every day in an unstable way, and great insight into what it must feel like to live with a mentally unstable person. The impact on loved ones is horrendous, and the end result of long-term mental illness can be disastrous on several levels.

 

549701_10151373546983379_1584428554_nIf you happened to come across, as I did (nerd alert), the reviews of the original Off-Broadway production in 2008, you might have noticed among them, the Observer’s John Heilpern’s reflection on the show as being “kitschy, twitchy, depressing”. And perhaps it was, in its second life, Off-Broadway before a few (more) rewrites. The greatest challenge of staging any theatrical piece is surely to bring it into a place of relevance for the actors and audience and in this director Emily Gilhome has outdone herself. Resisting the temptation to take certain characters and scenarios completely off the scale of believability, as may have been the case in earlier productions elsewhere, Gilhome gives us a beautifully realised vision. This Next to Normal is astutely directed and unflinchingly lays bare the bones of depression, the breakdown of the family unit, the medical and pharmaceutical shenanigans along the way, and suicide. Mr Heilpern should see this production. It’s disturbing.

 

The bitter brilliance of Next to Normal is that it doesn’t answer any of our questions about mental illness or about the wide range of treatment options available. In fact, it sees us walking away with even more questions. This theatrical piece is in fact a shattered mirror. Can you see something of yourself? Terrifying.

 

On opening night, the opening number (Just Another Day) suffered from a couple of sound and pitch issues, and for me, what came across as unusually (for an opening night) low energy. However, to anyone unfamiliar with the show it was probably fine; a gentle start, as if we had the support band on stage (and the band actually IS on stage and you know I love seeing the band on stage!) to psyche us up and help ease us into a plot that then puts us through the wringer. A tip for anybody who hasn’t yet watched the YouTube clips of other productions of Next to Normal… don’t. See this production first. I’m sure that my early disappointment was only due to my obsession, which I have mentioned in a previous post, with the original Off-Broadway and Broadway productions.

 

Magically, the sound improved after interval, as it so often does at QPAC.

 

Let’s talk about this wonderful, spirited, talented cast. I love the people Oscar is able to bring out of the woodwork. Actually, of course we’ve seen most of them somewhere before but in Oscar’s hands, I suspect we’re seeing much more of that which they’re capable. You’ll notice I have a couple of bones to pick but don’t worry, there’s nothing that takes away from the overall impact of the show; it’s exceptional. Every performer here has taken their role by the throat and given it a good shake before stepping inside the skin of it, almost like the demon in the underrated, unnerving movie Fallen *shivers*

 

Anyway, I have to tell you that my new favourite performer in Brisbane is the insightful Siobhan Kranz, who we saw as Wendla in Oscar’s 2011 production of  Spring Awakening, another Queensland premiere. Unfathomably, Kranz mentions in her bio a desire to forge a career BEHIND THE SCENES in the music industry but I hope this ambition remains unrealised for a good while yet. Sorry, Siobhan. Her Natalie is petulant, resistant and finally forgiving and supportive, the last man standing so to speak, necessarily becoming her father’s rock. A faultless performer in this instance, Kranz is a keeper.

 

Tom Oliver (whose hilarious performance as Ron Weasley in A Very Potter Musical was just SO GOOD) beautifully underplays Natalie’s stoner boyfriend, Henry. These two are perfectly matched and together they proffer a true sense of optimism and the importance of keeping hold of hope, which I’ll come back to later. I know. Bear with me. Make a coffee if you must. Henry was Sam’s favourite character. Or, Oliver was Sam’s favourite performer. He’s not sure and the fact that he is unsure about how to phrase that tells me that Oliver is going to be a fave for many more patrons. I should also mention that his appearance in Next to Normal is in between international engagements so we are lucky to have him for this strictly limited Brisbane season. With his (Hey) duets with Kranz – there are three of them – Oliver takes us safely each time into the relative calm of the eye of the storm, while chaos continues to swirl all around them.

 

 

James Gauci, in a beautifully gauged act of confidence and charisma (we expect nothing less from this performer now) plays both Diana’s doctors. Gauci gets it just right, giving us the perfect blend of scary rock star and genuinely concerned medical professional. There’s a lovely, gentle moment towards the end of the show, when he connects with Dan Goodman, and we see how well he fits the shoes of this second character particularly. And look, I’m just putting it out there; as much as I love to see Brisbane talent stay in Brisbane…what is Gauci still doing in Brisbane?! Let’s hope we see one of my favourite overachievers in front of larger audiences in a bigger city sometime soon. Sure, of course, if that’s what HE wants.

 

Matt Crowley makes an admirable stage debut in the shoes of Gabe Goodman. Crowley’s brightest moments match the bold as brass lighting levels during I’m Alive, his superb duet with Natalie (one of the best numbers of the night, Superman and the Invisible Girl), and in more silvery (ghostly?) tones during Catch Me I’m Falling. His connection with Dan in the final dramatic moments finally brought reluctant tears to my eyes, and it was with Dan that I sympathised most. Chris Kellet’s sensitive, stoic Dan Goodman, the long-suffering husband, is quietly impressive. In the end, it’s his part in I Am the One (Reprise) that should be enough to bring even the toughest husbands and daddies to tears. (I do hope they go, the husbands and daddies…). To see this side of Kellet is a wonderful surprise, and to give due credit to the newcomer, Crowley plays right alongside him, right up to the devastating conclusion. It’s a cruel end, isn’t it? I HATE IT! I HATE THE END! I sobbed uncontrollably the first eight thousand times I listened to the original soundtrack on loop in my car. Let There Be Light is supposed to be the optimistic, uplifting final reminder that “it gets better”. It’s hope. I hope that works for you.

 

Unexpectedly, Alice Barbery’s Diana Goodman, the woman around whose life the story revolves, left me mostly cold. Gilhome mentions in her program notes that casting is 90% of the director’s job and as a director, of course you work with what you have. If this Diana was the best for the role we have to take Gilhome’s word for it. Barbery’s voice is beautiful, and in its lower register, and the quieter moments of contemplation or concern, absolutely perfect for the role. It’s when we get into the middle range that there are just a couple of problems with the placement, pitch and power of delivery. It’s just that it’s a thinner, more classical sound than one might expect to hear in the context, both in terms of the hardcore content and the soft-rock style of the show.

 

In spite of my harsh assessment, Barbery has an incredibly clear sense of character and she works hard to give us plenty of insight into Diana’s crippling inner battle. Hers is a frantic, busy, utterly confused and eternally wounded woman, and considering the scale and complexity of the role, Barbery gives an awesome performance. To be too critical seems unfair.

 

547534_10152771545950118_7075640_nThe production is nicely staged – it looks sublime – but the design consists of an upper level that lies too far above us and away from us, distancing me more than I would have liked from the intensity of the action and emotion. I was prepared to be in the room with these desperate people, yes indeed, with Gabe in his Off-Broadway-referenced shirtless bathroom moment (of course you know that when the show moved to Broadway Aaron Tveit inexplicably kept his shirt on. Perhaps the producers feared a storming of the stage). Overall, I liked the solid design (Timothy Wallace) but it felt like it wanted more space, and seemed better suited to a venue such as the Playhouse, while the show itself rightly belongs in the intimacy of a space like the Cremorne.

 

It’s hard work to sit through this show (and possibly to read to the end of this review!); it’s emotionally draining. But it’s worth it. Act 1 boasts so many lovely, funny, quirky moments; they are mostly Natalie’s acerbic observations, thanks to Kranz’s characterisation and comic timing, and Diana’s one-liners, delivered deadpan by Barbery and clearly tickling the fancy of not just this housewife and mother. On opening night the giggles abounded!

 

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With Emily Integrity and Humility Gilhome at the helm, Oscar Theatre Company always put on a slick show (she does slick so well). In Next to Normal we see the bar raised once again with superb staging, exquisite attention to detail (check out the medicine bottle labels!), a lighting design that completely supports the story and the characters’ journeys, AND manages to rival that of the Broadway production (Jason Glenwright), a top notch band and MD (David Law), and a combined creative effort that must make a number of aspiring theatre makers think, “THAT is the kind of theatre I want to make!” …or run for the hills. Just saying.

 

There have been times when we’ve worried that maybe we wouldn’t see Oscar again but I think we can safely say now that this dynamic, determined company is here to stay, thanks to the dedicated creative team at its core, the crowd of loyal followers and investors, and the support of QPAC.

 

If you love good theatre it’s easy to follow suit and support them. Buy the tickets. See the show. Tell your friends, tell your family and tell your friendly local barista that they can’t afford to miss Oscar’s Next to Normal. Its impact is long lasting, and the unanswered questions will keep you thinking, talking and feeling deeply for a lifetime, but it’s a short season so be super quick to book because social media is already well on the way to making this show a sell-out!

 

A Social Media Note Courtesy of our good friend Wiki:

 

Twitter (2009)

 

In May 2009, about six weeks into the Broadway Production, Next to Normal began publishing an adapted version of the show over Twitter, a social media network. Over 35 days, the serialized version of the show was published in the form of tweets, short messages utilized by Twitter, a single line from a character at a time. The Twitter performance ended the morning of June 7, 2009, the morning of the 2009 Tony Awards. The initiative earned the musical the 2009 OMMA Award for Best in Show Situation Interactive.

 

29
Oct
12

A Tribute of Sorts

A Tribute of Sorts

A Tribute of Sorts

La Boîte Indie & Monsters Appear

The Roundhouse

24th October – 10th November 2012

 
Reviewed by Sam Coward

 

This show had its start at the Brisbane Powerhouse earlier this year, enjoying a showing in the Scratch Series during WTF. A Spectacular of Sorts became A Tribute of Sorts

 

It was strange to see a proscenium arch in the roundhouse, but as we’ve seen in the La Boîte Indie season already, anything goes. As we saw again on Thursday, at the opening night of Benjamin Schostakowski’s A Tribute of Sorts, anything did! A warm and receptive opening night house attended to kick off what I’m sure will be another sell-out season for La Boîte and a personal triumph and a fitting farewell for the enigmatic Adam Brunes. Well, sort of. Children of War (14th November – 1st December) completes the 2012 season.

 

Benjamin Schostakowski’s brand of humour had the crowd in stitches from the get-go. A simple story beautifully told; an inappropriate love story and an alphabetically presented series of unfortunate events served with a delicious double dollop of rich black comedy that had the hallmark laughter followed by heads hung in shame. (You can’t laugh at that!).

 

Schostakowski’s pen has crafted a delightful romp, with only a few flat spots that I’m certain will evolve as the season progresses. The direction is light and nimble and has clearly allowed the performers a wonderful opportunity to play.

 

A Tribute of Sorts Dash Kruck & Emily Curtain

Dash Kruck, as the anal-retentive, highly motivated, “professional” Ivan, is disarmingly charming. His comic timing and deadpan delivery provide a stable foundation for the early comedy of the piece.

 

Not to be outdone, Emily Curtain shows us a wonderfully wounded and pathetically love struck Juniper. She beautifully manipulates her long limbs awkwardly, and her comic delivery, like Kruck’s, inspires belly laughs and dry-retch moments. It’s an empathy earning, honest performance and a mini showcase for Curtain’s stunning vocal sound effect ability. What a talent! Who knew?! *removes tongue from cheek*

 

The comic style of the piece brought to mind the dark humour of The Kransky Sisters. Some clever devices are incorporated and a vintage setting creates depth and shadows. The ending may prove unpopular but I loved it! You can’t laugh at that! But I did.

 

A Tribute of Sorts is richly dark, irreverent and piss funny. You’ll love it and then hang your head in shame for laughing so hard!

 

 

COLD AND NEED

HALLOWEEN UNLOCKED SPECIAL

WEDNESDAY 31 OCTOBER, 7:30PM

Following the 6.30pm performance of A Tribute of Sorts

La Boite Indie Unlocked

02
Jun
12

Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman

Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman

Queensland Theatre Company & QPAC

Brisbane Powerhouse

26th May – 24th June 2012

How strange, to pit the fragility and reality of a fascinating woman against a comedic mashup that distracts and detracts from the fragility and reality of the woman!

Nobel Prize winning playwright, Dario Fo, has done just that with Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman and Director, Wesley Enoch, has had a field day with it. Freely adapted and translated by Luke Deverish and Louise Fox (who were commissioned by Malthouse Theatre for their production at the Merlyn in 2010), this version is updated and localised to an even greater degree by the most vocal and forward thinking Artistic Director our state theatre company has seen. A champion for local audiences as much as for local artists, Enoch has glued together so many different elements in staging this outrageous production that there is surely something for everyone.

Bawdy comedy and ludicrous antics fill the guts of what would otherwise be a pale, skinny corpse of a drama. I’m not a Fo fan, however, I marvel at the cunning way so many political entrails are unmercifully tossed at us throughout his plays.  (And I do love a bit of commedia dell’arte, some good old slapstick and bold, brash, silly comedy from time to time!).

Despite comedic influences ranging from farce to pantomime to commedia to slapstick (Scott Witt, as Clowning/Slapstick Consultant, has a hand in this and Enoch’s Bonzani troupe experience is obvious), the work avoids getting stuck in any one form for long. It remains unboxed, resisting packaging or prettying up. (It IS pretty, though, thanks to Simone Romaniuk’s sumptuous design; the lavish costumes and simple set are magnificent). It is what it is and we either love it or hate it. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. My first thought was that the show begs a stricter hand…one to pull it back a little. A fabulous and fun rehearsal strategy, we often let the actors take things as far as they are willing to go. It’s sometimes a challenge to put a stop to it and ask that they back off a little. Indeed, you may well ask, “WHY?” when what is happening on stage is clearly working for the vast majority of the audience. I suspect that the question more often asked in the rehearsal studio was, “WHY NOT?” When you see this show you might be convinced that the lewdness and bawdy humour is at precisely the right level, if not slightly underdone! For me, it is too many things at once and often just too, too, too OTT. But look, it’s mostly hilarious and I laughed a LOT.

The updated political gags are quick, witty and localised, thanks to the free reign given any company with the rights for this show; Fo wouldn’t have it any other way. His political theatre is continuously evolving, challenging and inspiring public thought and action. These local references will have you chortling (or wondering what everybody else finds so amusing, depending on your knowledge and understanding of current affairs of state). Well, we do love a “CAN DO” moment at the moment, don’t we?!

Updating a theatrical work is a bit like creating your own promotional images, inspired by the originals, in order to publicise your show, or the liberty taken by anybody ever, when re-writing I’ve Got a Little List for The Mikado. It’s absolutely intended and indeed, it’s necessary, to keep the content fresh, accurate and relevant. In his Director’s Note, Enoch explains, “Dario Fo believes in engaging in the world and allows the artists involved to improvise and modify the scripts to reflect their socio-political environments.”

Enoch has assembled intelligent actors who love to play. There is a real sense of it and along with the obvious camaraderie; this sense of play will keep the show fresh as a daisy up to and including closing night. I often wonder what a show will be like by the end of its run and if I had the time, this is certainly a show I’d like to see again. It feels like it’s ever changing and almost as if it’s not quite ready for us but, hell, we’ll let you see it anyway. And that’s okay. That’s part of the fun, as if we’d been let into the rehearsal space for a glimpse of how a great story gets put together.

Eugene Gilfedder plays William Shakespeare, who is plotting to kill the queen (and stealing episodes from her life for use in his own plays) and also the fantastic character of Grosslady, which he pwns. PWNS. He is absolutely hysterical in his women’s garb, with his high-heeled gait and that’s before he even utters a word of witty Tranny Speak/Drag Slang, which will have you either in tears of laughter or wide-eyed and quietly, concernedly murmuring to the person next to you, “Whaaaaat the…? What did he say?”

Jason Klarwein plays Elizabeth’s Chief of Police, Egerton, who really does plot to kill Elizabeth, as she desperately, obsessively waits for her lover, the Earl of Essex to arrive. The Virgin Queen? We don’t think so (Dash Kruck’s bare bum soon puts that theory to rest!). Egerton’s news bulletins especially, are brilliant. So slickly delivered on opening night were they that each time Klarwein asked the company whether or not they wanted to hear the report all over again, I wanted to shout in opposition to them, “YES!” His multiple costume changes are baffling though and you just might get a joke that I missed.

The production benefits enormously, as productions do in this town, by having Musical Director, John Rodgers involved. His animated accompaniment is as if we’re sitting in a silent movie theatre, with the movie brought to life before us. Dash Kruck (Thomas, the often ignored and abused Fool) can sing so he does. Although it makes little sense to me to have the songs in the show at all (in the original Malthouse Theatre production they were perhaps better contextualised, rewritten as Elizabethan madrigals), Kruck delivers them well – a little too well for the character – and gives us a reminder of what to expect next from him (no, not necessarily more nudity), as he heads to Sydney soon for a highly anticipated production of the hit Broadway musical, Next to Normal, at the Capital Theatre. I would also like to have heard Kruck’s rendition, from beyond the grave, of The Neverending Story theme song.

But that’s just me.

After only six days of rehearsing with the company in the role of Martha, Sarah Kennedy does her best and it is just enough. She can’t possibly compete with Klarwein and Gilfedder, who have clearly been given a license to party like it’s 1999. At times their relentless antics, like a Battle Round on The Voice, draw attention away from the fragility of the woman whose story it is. Martha brings the focus back to her poor, paranoid mistress each and every time with perfect grace and good humour.

Carol Burns is an absolute treasure and as the aging queen, suffering from paranoia and sleeplessness in the last days of her life, and with the boys club of Gilfedder, Klarwein and Kruck on stage, she holds her own, bounding around the room with her skirts held high and riding atop a giant wooden rocking horse, which Klarwein later sees from a slightly, err, lower perspective (it’s one of the funniest moments in the play). Hers is a highly physical role but Burns impresses most in her final moments, as the frail, brain-addled, heartbroken woman who was Queen. Romaniuk’s imposing quilted white walls and David Walters’ stark white lighting give us the sense that this is indeed – finally – the peaceful end to a mad life. With all the action having happened in Elizabeth’s head, we easily feel empathy for her; a woman who would really probably have preferred, more often than not, to be just a woman, without the royal obligations. This is the magic of Fo’s form, finally revealing once and for all, the humanity of his subject, regardless of class, creed or colour. I found Burns’ performance incredibly moving and I was disappointed that Fo felt the need to bring back his Will Shakespeare character, like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the Prince in Romeo and Juliet, to close the show. Depicting an ailing, confused queen, her behaviour and emotions moving erratically between polar ends of the spectrum for the duration of the play, Burns delivers what might be the performance of her lifetime and I feel like she should have the final light.

Irrespective of its bad language (remember, this show came with a warning!), and its lewdness, this show is not so shocking or offensive that you can’t take your mum or your sister to see it. I took mine (my sister, that is; my mum is gallivanting around Europe). In fact, I think you could safely take your grandmother too!

Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman is zany, bawdy comedy at its most playful and you’ll either love it or hate it but you must see it to know which it is! Enjoy!

31
May
12

Tonight! Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman…

Queensland Theatre Company

Opening officially tonight, for a four-week season at the Brisbane Powerhouse, Queensland Theatre Company presents a new translation from Nobel prize-winning Italian playwright Dario Fo, of the fabulous monstrosity which is Elizabeth, almost by chance a woman starring Carol Burns in the lead.

This is not the Elizabeth I as you think you know her – pure with virginity, loved by the people and mythic mother to the nation… instead you are invited, by Her Majesty’s appointment, to a right royal arse-kicking.

An ailing Elizabeth clings desperately to her throne and her sanity. She hasn’t slept for 11 days and to make matters worse, her love, The Earl of Sussex, is busy in an attempted coup d’état against her.  There are boob lifts and leech-o-suctions, ripping bodices, hearts held in treacherous hands, assassination attempts and constant conspiracies. Elizabeth suspects everyone is out to get her, even William Shakespeare, who in her mind, seems to be basing all of his plays on her life. And then there’s that ghost of her beheaded cousin Mary Stuart. It’s not easy being Queen.

Inspired by historical accounts, and drawing on all the energy and spirit of original commedia dell’arte, ‘historical factionalist’ and Master Italian playwright Dario Fo has created an Elizabeth of our nightmares – pompous, potty mouthed, paranoid and certainly no virgin!

Wesley Enoch, QTC Artistic Director, and Director of this comic gem, says Nobel Prize Winner Dario Fo has drawn on the spirit and spontaneity of original 16th century commedia dell’arte, to offer up a modern stage masterpiece. His works are often translated into other languages with a local twist, and such is the case in this new adaptation of Elizabeth: almost by chance a woman (1984), by Luke Devenish and Louise Fox for Queensland Theatre Company.“Although the obvious route to take would be to draw on Elizabeth’s ‘accidental’ throning, Dario instead draws on her womanhood as the quirk of fate,” he said. “He paints an all-too-human portrait of Elizabeth, as frightened, flawed, ferociously foul-mouthed, and quite unlike any other version seen of the Virgin Queen.”

Starring Logie award-winning Carol Burns as Elizabeth in her final hours of life, this farcical and yet strangely moving production is at once a gloriously wicked satire on the insanities of power, and a paean to human mortality. Its equal parts a bawdy burlesque, riotous nosethumbing of authority, and a surprisingly touching insight into the challenges of womanhood.

Warning: there is some incredibly naughty language in this production – 52 f***s and 4 c***s

Elizabeth – almost by chance a woman

by Dario Fo

26 May – 24 June

Brisbane Powerhouse

Directed by Wesley Enoch

Featuring Carol Burns, Eugene Gilfedder, Jason Klarwein, Dash Kruck

Sarah Kennedy, John Rodgers

Monarch. Maiden. Superfreak.

 BOOK ONLINE

For those who didn’t pay attention at school… 

Elizabeth 1 – her accession to the throne:

–       Elizabeth was born with an older sister, Mary, who was an illegitimate child due to Henry having annulled his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

–       This means Elizabeth is the legitimate heir to the throne at this point…

–       However, when Elizabeth was two years old, Ann Boleyn, her mother, was beheaded, and therefore giving Elizabeth the status of an illegitimate child also.

–       A year later, Henry remarried and produced a male heir, Edward.

–       Edward became King at age nine, after Henry died.

–       Edward died at age 15 – leaving Elizabeth and Mary (his half sisters) out of his will – he excluded them from being able to succeed the crown.

–       He appointed someone else, who soon lost public support.

–       Mary then came along to succeed the crown, with Elizabeth at her side.

–       Mary jailed Elizabeth some time later, for suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

–       Mary later died and Elizabeth succeeded the crown.

–       All this before Elizabeth had turned 25, at which age she became Queen!

DARIO FO    

Writer, Actor, Director and living Master of World Theatre          

Dario Fo (1926 -) is a recognised master in world theatre, and is reputedly the most performed living playwright of the last 40 years. His works draw heavily from the Italian commedia dell’arte tradition – a vibrant, improvisational style of theatre popular in the Renaissance, where troupes of actors would travel the country providing free entertainment, relying largely on donations to survive. Their performances would combine instantly recognisable stock characters and familiar storylines with topical additions and local references to add some spice for audiences.

Inspired by the circus and carnivals, his theatre uses slapstick, puns, ridicule and parody to explore social and political issues and to criticize authority of all kinds. Fo’s politics lean decidedly to the left and his works are highly critical of those elements in society who abuse their power: politicians, royalty, the upper class, the church.  In 1997 he famously received the Nobel Prize for Literature for “emulating the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden.”

Outside of his home country of Italy, it is perhaps his 1970 work Accidental Death of an Anarchist which has brought him most recognition. But within Italy, he is best known for his legendary production of Mistero Buffo, in which he also performed, and which enjoyed an astonishing 5000 performances. The play, a satirical take on the medieval mystery plays, once aired on television and was labeled by the Vatican as “the most blasphemous show ever transmitted.”

In keeping with the commedia dell’arte tradition, and with Fo’s approval, his works are often translated into other languages with a modern local twist, and such is the case in this new adaptation of Elizabeth: almost by chance a woman (1984), by Luke Devenish and Louise Fox for Queensland Theatre Company.