Posts Tagged ‘Drift





Metro Arts & Julie Vulcan

Metro Arts Basement

April 1 – 4 2014


Reviewed by Meredith McLean




We all take journeys in our lives. You might take a journey on the bus to work. You take a journey to the coast for a weekend away. Some of us go on personal journeys and find the tourist attractions of our own lives that help us change. When you close your eyes and dream, that is a different journey into the psyche all of its own. Sometimes we have a clear heading and know exactly where to go through these journeys. But people are afraid to admit most of the time we just drift along. Julie Vulcan’s durational performance encapsulates this in her experience called DRIFT.


Some journeys are clearer than others. Drift is not one of them. Prepare to be at first mystified, then petrified and finally unsatisfied. To be fair, each session of Drift offers something different so perhaps your experience would be different. But I can only share what I felt on my night drifting through on a strange vessel.


In the first phase, the mystification, we try to quietly tiptoe down the stairs into Metro Arts submerged basement theatre. The stage looks fragile and beautiful with the lights hanging about the rafters, and we are about to enter it. Lined up in the room are rows of beds covered in straw. Sure enough, it is our job to lie in them and wait.


During the phase of petrifaction, or perhaps a kinder word, purification, you are approached. You receive a strange edible bead in your mouth and Julie places wireless headphones on your head. Your mind is filled with ethereal music and voices. Meanwhile, Julie gives you a surprisingly relaxing hand massage. I found myself drifting off while she massaged my hand and filled my nostrils with sweet, hand oils. Once you have been completely mesmerised by this experience she covers you in a silvery space blanket and leaves you to rest.


And that’s all. After that you lie there, drifting in uncertainty, “Do I go?”, “Do I stay here?”, “What’s next?”. But that is all. This is what disappointed me. I was sure there was something else she could do. The experience was so odd and consuming, that once nothing else happened it was unsatisfying.


Quietly, we got up and we left with a small hand-made boat in our hand.


I’m still not sure of the point, or if there was supposed to be one. But I do know I would like to see more of this kind of theatre around Brisbane. It is odd and intriguing and bizarre. But ultimately, it is wonderful and shows amazing potential.


Go to Metro Arts to find more peculiar journeys to satisfy your curiosity.




The Raven

The Raven

Laura Kwiatkowski and Metro Arts Independents

Sue Benner Theatre 

07th – 31st March 

We’re at Metro Arts Theatre, where we know from experience that anything can happen. We’ve been asked to follow the producer, Laura Kwiatkowski, around to the back of the theatre. Cool. Following instruction, we remove our shoes and toss them, along with phones, bags and any other personal items, into milk crates before we enter the dark space. And by dark, I mean uneasy pitch black. QTC’s Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, is the (un)lucky sucker to go first. I follow him and, as well as thinking of that terrific TED talk about how to start a movement (it’s ME they’re following, now that I’m following the leader), that little ordinary audience member’s voice in my head says, “Holy crap, it’s dark in here!” It also occurs to me that we’re on the stage. Well, we must be, because we’ve come in via the Tradies’ Entrance…and stepped directly into the MUD. That’s right. I was prepared for it but not, you know? Like the shock of seeing and squelching into DRIFT restaurant last year, after the floods, the mud across the bridge reaching the tops of my wellies as I walked comically through it; this mud was not so deep but it’s funny, isn’t it? The way your senses recall more of an experience before your head does? Beneath my bare feet was the cold, wet, compressed earth and my immediate thoughts were, “God, what a mess. What have they had to suffer?”

I almost expected to smell that same stench again. Feeling ready now, listening to the first strains of the live-mixed soundscape (Daniel Huey), processing all of that in a couple of moments, I decided to breathe and surrender (something my beautiful hippie healer friends keep telling me to do this year. I was quite pleased then – proud of myself – to surrender so early in the piece). Speaking of which, I don’t know if anybody else noticed, but it was the eve of the full moon and this had the potential to be a real earthing experience.

As soft light comes up (Lighting Designer Whitney Eglington), I become aware of sculptural structures all around me; ornately twisted and tangled wire designs, reaching cylindrically towards the ceiling and placed randomly like trees, in the way I imagine a “contemporary” version of Where the Wild Things Are might be staged…by an extremely ambitious and resourceful teacher in Julia Creek perhaps, with its jungle of chicken wire and white boxes. Appropriately, Melody Woodnutt is listed as Installation Artist in the program, rather than being awarded the more usual title of Designer.

Edgar Allan Poe (Robbie O’Brien), our host for the evening, welcomes us, his voice coming from somewhere in the semi-darkness. He invites us to sit and sup with him. The dinner table is such an intimate setting, don’t you think? The setting for all manner of sins and any depth of sadness, surrounded as we are, by the chaos of Poe’s kitchen and drawing room furniture, haphazardly placed alongside one length of the table and covered in books and pages. Tattered, yellowed pages are also strewn across our table, making an odd centrepiece, the likes of which would never be sanctioned by Better Homes and Gardens. Not only has Poe invited us to sit with him but also, to contribute to the creation of a masterpiece, his latest poetic piece. With this device, commonly referred to in The Biz as Audience Interaction 101, we are ready to take a journey of a different kind.

Lulled into the first of a number of participatory moments, we offer gifts of words, thoughts, images…Poe is so humble and lovely we can’t help but help him in his task. He accepts some offers and responds almost violently to others; “You don’t know about it!” About what? Love? Death? Loneliness? I don’t remember. It was important to Poe and has left us a bit bewildered.

Robbie O’Brien & Erika Field. Image by Leesa Connelly

Lenore (Erika Field); has been sitting behind us on top of a cupboard, in the darkness the whole time (she must have been or we would have heard the rustle of her taffeta frock as she entered). She brings child-like playfulness and a sense of innocence to all that is dark and death-like. Time stretches, skips a beat (or is it a decade?), turns back on itself and reveals, in twists and turns, the extent of Poe’s loneliness, having lost the love of his life, his wife, Virgina.

The Raven (Amy Wollstein) is at once the physical presence and destructive force that is needed. Props to the Body Artist, whose black and green design Wollstein paints upon her own skin in preparation for each performance. Her physicality is Butoh influenced and her intense energy drives much of the action. We are invited to get in on the action too, though only just; a game of Marco Polo and then one of hide and seek become opportunities to take up a different viewpoint of the chase that ensues. We leave our seats, move to another place and continue to watch the action. Darting between the guests, the set pieces and in and out of the space, Fields and Wollstein tease O’Brien and blur the boundaries between those tricky remembered relationships: friends, lovers, cousins…in the hands of another kind of director, we might have born witness to a lesbian tangle of limbs and lips! What? Well, we might have! My point is that at this point, the play (and the playfulness within it) could have gone anywhere.

As the games begin to imitate life, we are left just outside of them, to witness events, my hope that we might develop further, any empathy for the characters, dashed. I feel like I’m Abi Kirk, standing in a strange old house in The Rocks, staring at Beatie Bow and not sure how to get home but happy to be a part of the family while I’m here.

This theatre is not so experiential. Not as much as we’ve been led to believe anyway, but even so, it makes for great interactive theatre for beginners. As director, Thomas Quirk explains to me after the show, it’s “audience considered theatre”. If you’re an impro pro or accustomed to being the front row volunteer, it’s really just a bit of gentle voyeurism for those who don’t mind getting their feet dirty (don’t worry, you get the chance to cleanse them, as ritualistically as you like, at the conclusion of the performance). And that’s fine. But it’s a shame that so few people will see it and what I’d like to see in a future creative development phase (as I feel sure there must be another due), is the theatre opened up so those who prefer the voyeur role can choose to play it and purchase a ticket to sit and watch the piece, without the confrontation that comes from closer proximity. The Raven, its content and its gothic style are indeed, for a select audience. It’s not a commercial enterprise; it was never going to be and sure, it need never be.

The most important and exciting thing about this show is that it would not have happened if it were not for Metro Arts and their Independents program. This producer and director, supported by Liz Burcham and her team at Metro Arts, are willing, after ten years of the program, to take the “bigger, braver risks”, which have been so much the topic of local conversation lately. In a pretty conservative mainstream landscape, Metro Arts provides the only independent voice who is ceaselessly shouting out loud and, with fire in their bellies and a mischievous gleam in their eyes, standing proudly behind a dedicated policy that supports the ongoing development of bold, brave, interesting and amazing IDEAS.


Woodford and The Big Wet

Wow. Woodford Folk Festival happened so long ago! And we thought it was SO wet! Well, SO much has happened since then and I’ve not told you anything here! I have honestly  felt too exhausted to write anything outside of the social networks. That’s right. It seems I have managed quite a number of 140 character updates and not much more. Oh, sure; there were the first couple of reviews for Briztix but that’s all.

Exhausted is not the best way to begin a new year…

But it was a great way to finish today.

Today, we did our daily pick-up from The Chopping Block in Buderim, of all the things that had been donated since yesterday, by the beautiful people of The Sunshine Coast. Our immediate region has suffered very little in the recent floods and the peeps here have had a lot to give to those less fortunate. In fact, Queenslanders generally, have been so generous that the evac centres and many of the charities have had to ask that people offer no more donations of clothes! I can only assume that this is because they have made space for people and not for their Carrie-esque closets of clothes, which is entirely possible to imagine, given the masses of clothes going begging all over this water-logged state. We all understand how vital it is to donate dollars so we’ve all done that: online, at our preferred grocery store and everywhere else as well but so many peeps feel the need to do more. Maybe they feel the need to make it a more personal effort. Or maybe they missed their Spring Clean and figure they should seize the opportunity to cull their wardrobes and linen cupboards!

We seized the opportunity here, to put together a heap of care packs, which local dance teacher, Lea-anne Grevatt, named Happy Packs. It’s not a new idea (we did a similar thing for the Victorian Bushfire relief effort) but it’s a great one and I loved the new name and the whole idea; to send some flood affected families a few “treats” as well as essentials, that would make their life a little easier and a little brighter. We even covered the first 20 packs in shiny giftwrap!

Still, it has baffled me that people have had to ask, “What do they need?” My reply has been the same to everybody. If YOU lost everything, what would YOU need? That’s right. EVERYTHING! Well, eventually; everything you had before (although it’s always amazing to realise just how little it’s possible for us to live with, isn’t it)? I wonder if people who have lost their homes and all their belongings turn very zen or if they become hoarders…I guess everybody responds completely differently.

Friends, family members and complete strangers have given lots of essential items and “extras” over the last few days so we have been able to pack and send off more than 100 Happy Packs to places like the Bremer River, Murphy’s Creek, Theodore, Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley. If you know somebody in an area that is now accessible, who could do with a few packs, let Lea-anne or myself know. We’ll be happy to find a way to get them there. It’s really great to start hearing now that they are being received by those who most need a bit of a lift…

Just heard from my friend who delivered the Happy Packs to families in need in Ipswich. Thank you so much to Lea-anne Grevett and all the wonderful people on the Sunshine Coast who have donated to these packs. The Red Cross have said this morning that donations of toiletries and food are really needed in the Ipswich area. Families have lost everything and have no income for these necessities. The families who received the packs were over whelmed that people from so far away cared enough to help.

Whatever it is that inspires us and motivates us to give, it means that there are all sorts of goods just waiting to be given! People everywhere are collecting stuff and delivering it to those in need. Jane, in Chancellor Park, is sending a truck to do round trips, with the masses of stuff that has been delivered to her collection centre. Some have set up their own forums or databases online, in order to match up items with people. This requires enormous commitment and organisation! Tracie is doing an amazing job just via Facebook, with her own little charity for Brisbane (Brisvegas – Brisvenice – Brislantis), the Stuff You Then – Suburban Friends Helping Flood Affected Families Facebook page! She set it up in direct response to the NO MORE CLOTHES plea from local charity groups. They simply need more time and space to sort and send off donations. She (and her “Stuff You Then Angels”) have both to offer.

So we’ll get back to Woodford another time. The same Woodfordian qualities have been exhibited by Queenslanders everywhere, in the aftermath of the flood disaster. The same enthusiasm, energy, spirit and simple joy in offering whatever they have to give and, since yesterday, the quiet pride working alongside one another to get a tough job done.

Today XS Entertainment moved mud and sludge out of Drift, a river restaurant and cabaret venue that I have mentioned in previous posts, and we also pulled up floors that cannot be salvaged. In fact, barely anything can be salvaged, as the river rose almost to obscure it and has left only destruction in its wake. And tins of coconut milk. And most of the grog intact! And the crockery that was once pristine white. Today, it was difficult at first, to tell what a lot of the stuff was, so covered in mud was most of it! But many (I’m guessing about 200) friends and fans of the venue turned up in their wellies, with brooms and mops and buckets and shovels at the ready, to help begin the big clean up.

Being a part of that selfless group of vollies today has restored my faith in humanity. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage that has occurred but so heartening to see how many people care enough to get out of their own home to help others re-build their businesses and their lives. We saw it everywhere, including right through Auchenflower and Toowong because traffic was gridlocked due to so many road closures and we were forced to take the scenic route in order to get to the restaurant!

Volunteers will be back there (and at other venues and at other businesses and at other homes) tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And for many days, weeks and months to come. It’s been noted several times now, in the media and across the social networks, that the volunteering cannot stop. Those affected by the floods will need our help for months and month…so find a way to help – any way to help – and keep helping.

We will be re-building fences in Dayboro tomorrow and we will be back at Drift on Monday. We will keep packing and delivering Happy Packs just as long as people keep donating goods…in fact, our headquarters are about to move to a larger, air-conditioned space with new, energetic helpers!

How lucky are we?!

Dayboro floods

Dayboro after floods


Harvest Rain’s Superstar

Harvest Rain Theatre Company does Jesus Christ Superstar…hardly surprising, is it?! A company known and largely respected for its Christian ethos and fun-for-all-the-family shows. What was surprising about this latest production was that it was excellent! Let me explain that tone of text. You know I’ve been skeptical about some aspects of this company in the past, resulting in some very amusing numbers games on my Facebook Friends List (not to mention the comments on my wall)! However, credit where credit is due…though I had some issues with certain aspects of the show, it certainly exceeded my expectations. Here’s why:

Luke Kennedy, the company’s star vehicle (having taken a break from a two year stint with The Ten Tenors), was never far from sight in the months leading up to opening night. In online media and in the city of Brisbane, he and that crown of thorns pervaded the place like…well, just like I imagine Christ Himself would like to promote his own arrival amongst us, if only he had the same marketing team and chose to rock up at QPAC.

Luke is, indeed, a superstar. Just check this out.



This song, this role, demands the singer’s soul and Luke shared his – all of it. His interpretation of Jesus – the man – was multi-faceted and his entire sung performance was heartfelt, his vocal work extraordinary and the relationship between he and Mary Magdalene particularly (in contrast to her DIVAS alter-ego, a very different and genuine, gentle Naomi Price), demonstrated a self-awareness that certainly – strangely – doesn’t come through in the filmclip for Instant Karma, the first single from his debut album, Overexposed, though it may well have been seen in previous character roles…I know not for I cannot claim to have seen them all.



Unfortunately, because we had double-booked our post show drinks, we were obliged to take off immediately after the show, to Drift, where the Moet and Ms Rachel Dunham and Matt Fennell were, rather than wait with the masses of family members, friends and fans at stage door and so, subsequently missed catching up with Luke and Co. and picking up a copy of his CD, of which I am keen to hear more! Incidentally, I felt like an idiot saying hello to Nathan Foley, as we raced past, having not seen his show at all (Mama Mia) the same night. I assume he assumed we had done.

Tod Strike’s Judas was intense and melancholic and I waited for him to find that other, other aspect of the role; that strange, distorted, devastating pride and absolute, unfailing love for the man, which serves to raise the stakes into a whole other realm when coupled with the obvious choices of envy, resentment and self-pity/loathing/insert preferred adjective here…if it is allowed to surface. I wanted him to lose the clever vocal tricks and deliver some gut-wrenching feeling. After Heaven on Their Minds I’m not sure I saw enough raw emotion and much later, I was unconvinced that his suicide had actually occurred at all! This was more an oversight (or undersight) in the direction and I wonder if the content of some noticeably absent sections of the book – e.g. “Judas, must you betray me with a kiss?” – I wonder if there were a couple of things that proved just as unsavoury so they were omitted altogether? Again, I have to note, were it not a company with a proud public Christian face, it wouldn’t beg the questions…

Other directorial peculiarities:

  • The story within a story. This was the original convention used in the 1973 film and I have always loved it. In this production, it didn’t work. Not quite sure why. There was evidence of a solid notion but not of a fully conceived and consistently applied approach. Perhaps the entire exuberant ensemble needed to pile out of a combi and don their costume pieces onstage, rather than set apart the leads, in a parade past a costume box, whom we would have discovered in their roles as they played them anyway. The close-the-Good-Book-to-close-the-show just felt contrived and dismal. I thought Harvest Rain would end this show on a surprisingly upbeat note, in light of the widely held belief amongst Christians that Christ will come again…I too needed to leave with hope, not despair!
  • The anti-climax of Christ’s death upon the cross. Yes! Sorry, but yes. And yes, of course I’ve read all the other reviews and yes, of course I know you have to do it and yes, at least half of you will disagree that this was not in fact, as intended, the show’s emotional climax (we already had that, waaay back in Gethsemene, thanks to Mr Kennedy. IMHO). Great, powerful staging but I got only a semblance of the gamut of emotions and I suddenly thought, “Oh, why is it so hard to procure Luke’s soul again for the penultimate (spoken) moments?!” I also wondered why he was not on tiptoes the whole time and why his head was not looking dreadfully heavy up there and increasingly difficult to lift/hold up and why his fists remained clenched in death. I know. I’m hard to please.
  • The title number, Jesus Christ Superstar, utterly confused me. WHY did Judas, after his inconsequential suicide, insist on shutting out the bright white light of Jesus, spilling through those massive doors, not once, not twice but several times throughout the number?! The whole point to this number is to celebrate (and recap for the audience) the life of Jesus, is it not? I was desperate to see Judas champion this song! Joyful, joyful and all that stuff! Again, awesome vocal talent and killer good looks aside, I felt that Tod was not challenged to find the joy or indeed, the WIN in this number. Sometimes, in trying to do something altogether different, in order to establish ourselves as original theatre-makers, we hurt the story…or don’t quite tell it. And we limit the characters’ arcs and their relationships.
  • Transitions were non-existent. The jukebox musicals are not my faves in any context but this almost started to feel like one…and it shouldn’t have. Unless you bill it as a concert, work hard on the transitions of a show. Help your performers get from one situation/emotion to the next; their job is tough enough as it is! If there is no definite break shown in the score, why not let the band, who were strategically placed across the beautifully ruined cathedral setting, play through?

I really would like to see Harvest Rain, resisting trying too hard to be different for the sake of being different. It was not all the time, it was just every now and then; there were moments of, “Oh, there they go, trying to be different“. For example, Judas singing not to Mary or Jesus but to members of the ensemble, about the wasted fine ointments, brand new and expensive, which could have been saved for the poor…Sam and I argued about this. I didn’t feel that it worked. He did. He liked that it was directed so differently and to him, gave the story another colour.

Something a little different, which certainly had the desired effect, was the cool, creepy, puppet-like council, comprised of a host of fabulous voices and characterisations. In their white and red tatters and odd fur pieces, they were suitably freaky, frightening, and gave us just a hint of the rock star style that some of us saw (although I was VERY young) in those great bands of the 70’s.

This is a company who are just now, from an onlooker’s perspective at least, beginning to find their feet and beginning to get really good at the type of theatre they like to make, with a core group of performers with whom they like to make it (it must also be said that they are doing a great job of attracting new, young people to their shows, both onstage and off. And somebody is running a pretty tight ship during the rehearsal process)! Anyway, my point here is that of course it’s vital to try new approaches and employ new conventions but make sure they serve the purpose, tell the story, or else make another choice. One choice will be perceived as effective and another as calculated, contrived and maybe even a little naive.

The production elements – sound, lighting, set, costume, chore – were superb. On other nights, but not last night, I believe there were basic sound issues. You would think, in our premiere venue, companies like Harvest Rain, who are upholding their end of the bargain and putting on a great show, would not have to suffer through inadequate sound! What IS it with the sound?!

What an extraordinary creative team there is in Josh McIntosh (Designer), Maitlohn Drew (Musical Director), Jason Glenwright (Lighting Designer) and Callum Mansfield (Choreographer). With Director, Tim O’Connor, they really have put together a spectacular-looking and sounding show. In fact, it occurred to me, awestruck by the arrangement for Pilate’s Dream, that Mr Drew could do the schools’ and church choirs a favour and make his pieces available for download! Mr O’Connor is clearly, a mover and shaker of people and he has assembled a great team to support that, both on stage and off.

On stage, the 62 member ensemble were truly a joy to behold, vibrant and singing and dancing and living it. I loved some of the character work and all of the commitment, focus and energy from a great, gorgeous, courageous bunch of young people. A couple of stunning dancers stood out, particularly during Herod’s hilarious number. With the incomparable Steven Tandy running that part of the show they were always going to shine! It looked like such fun! And so funny, really; I had to laugh out loud!

The other stand out performance for me was Mr Lionel Theunissen’s, whose Pilate is unmatched by any I’ve seen. His was the mastery of emotional layers: self-inflicted pain and guilt, a forced hand, self-righteousness and absolute helplessness in a position of power; a theatrical storytelling treat.

I wonder where else Harvest Rain would go now, having firmly established themselves at QPAC? The calibre and perceived success of this production certainly begs the question again, doesn’t it? Perhaps not. Perhaps no one else is asking anymore. Perhaps they’ll stay and we’ll simply continue to enjoy, more and more, their shows there.