Posts Tagged ‘elise grieg

09
Jun
18

Wheel of Fortune

 

Wheel of Fortune

Metro Arts & Tam Presents

Metro Arts Lumen Room

June 1 – 9 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

LOCAL, NAUGHTY AND FUN.

Tim Hill, Director

 

Highly anticipated, Troy Armstrong’s Wheel of Fortune, directed by Tim Hill, promises the real and scandalous, weirdly erotic, ugly, obscene, beautiful, strange and sometimes disturbingly lustful adventures of several individuals during the heat and humidity of a Brisbane summer, and at times it delivers. It could be heralded as the new La Ronde if it had that seminal play’s wit, eroticism and intrigue. This production, and all of its potential, will have been embraced by those who support our local talent without question and by those who know little of the original text. Penned in 1897 by Arthur Schnitzler, it was immediately banned due to its controversial content, addressing the spread of venereal disease through all levels of society at a time when those in positions of privilege and power believed themselves to be above infection, responsibility and reproach. The stories are updated and localised, and despite feeling a little outdated at times, at the core is the connection between characters; think one degree of separation and the mysteries of the multiverses.

 

 

 

Wheel of Fortune’s form is beautifully supported by its cinematic component, placing the intertwining tales squarely in Brisbane. Optic Archive’s AV contribution here is integral; we see locations and characters on screen before any live action takes place below it. The transitions are well rehearsed with timing almost perfect. The show must have been a nightmare to tech! Interestingly, the preferred option to address the more delicate aspects of the script appears to be a big-screen, super-soft-porn approach, with the steamiest action taking place above the stage. A post-crossfit shower scene is actually about as steamy as it gets, but perhaps there is more in other scenes for some, and it’s likely that the actors have embraced racier moments with more gusto as the season continued. In spite of Richard Jordan’s involvement – I’ve really loved his writing in the past – it all feels a little overwritten and obvious (the other writers are Jacki Mison & Krystal Sweedman). Most scenes lack nuance, pointing to each hot topic and then pointing again in case we missed it. There’s a distinct lack of electricity in the air, and very little bare flesh, even when a scene begs for it. No, I don’t want to see gratuitous nudity for the sake of it (we’ve had to address that before, haven’t we?), but I won’t object to the beauty and sensuality of bodies on stage should the material and a sensitive director, respectful lighting, and the acting chops of the cast support its inclusion for good reason. 

 

 

So. Schnitzler’s soldier is made a marine (we can tell, because Richard Lund wears blue jeans, white shirt and dog tags, and speaks with what he claims/explains is a Tennessee accent), the prostitute becomes public servant (Meg Bowden), the parlour maid an au pair (Jacqui McClaren), and the young gentleman a schoolboy (Brendan Lorenzo). His biology teacher is the original young wife (Jacqui Story), and her husband the lawyer (Ron Kelly). His mistress, Schnitzler’s Little Miss, is referred to as the socialite: AKA Social Media Influencer/Collaborator (Ruby Clark). Clark is cute and funny as she casually climaxes at the dinner table and just as casually seduces another woman in the following scene, but like Story, the new wife, in both the gym and at home, she’s dressed in the most unflattering and ordinary sexy lingerie we’ve seen on stage in a long time. Having weaned our Sunshine Coast and Brisbane audiences off modest attire for the stage a decade ago (thank you, Honey Birdette), I wasn’t the only one on opening night wishing we could go away claiming to have been a little more voyeur than viewer, however; of course there were others who were completely happy with every aspect of the production, including the everyday briefs and bras on display. And yes, of course there are times when the most ordinary can be made extraordinary and no, this was not one of those times.

 

 

 

In the most naturalistic and welcome performances of the night, the poet is made portrait photographer (Elise Grieg) and the actress stays an actress (Veronica Neave), to be caught out by the end with the count cum politician (Stephen Hirst). Grieg and Neave demonstrate with ease exactly the style and sensibilities we wish could be so natural for every other performer on the intimate Lumen Room stage.

 

 

 

 

My experience of this production can be considered fairly biased but unfortunately for those involved, it’s not in their favour, because one of our first sold-out shows on the Sunshine Coast was an adaptation of La Ronde, re-staged in a surf shop in Mooloolaba after its Noosa season (long before Anywhere Festival arrived on the scene) and followed by original works, Erotique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival) and Diabolique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival). The beauty of all three productions was that the director didn’t shy away from the really dark, disturbing aspects of human nature, successfully balancing these moments with wry wit, black comedy and unnerving silences, and added Leah Barclay’s incredible original musical compositions to evoke mood, which was necessarily nightmarish or desperately sad at times.

 

 

What I love about Wheel of Fortune is that it’s brought so many of our newer heads and hearts together, without masses of money or the allure of a bigger venue and a broader audience, the very things that can so often see the artistic vision compromised before it’s realised. Here we see accomplished actors and relative newcomers working together in one of the most supportive spaces in the city for new work, and we see the creative team, steered by Armstrong, working collaboratively to offer something new and exciting to a younger demographic, and with a particularly local flavour. The best advice I was ever given in terms of seeing and considering work was to see everything. That way – we hope – a singular opinion has at least a little credibility to it, and the work is supported, whether or not we are all in agreement about its impact.

 

Wheel of Fortune enjoys its final performances at Metro Arts this weekend. You should see it. 

 

Production pics by Deelan Do

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28
May
17

Swallow

 

Swallow

Metro Arts & E.G.

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2017

Reviewed by Stephanie Fitz-Henry & Elanora Ginardi

Who said smashing things up was a bad thing?

 

The fragility and abrasiveness of the human condition is reflected in the glass themes of Stef Smith’s award winning play SWALLOW.

Swallow is vast in the complex themes it explores; ideas about mental health, broken relationships, gender equality, transgender, happiness and acceptance.

A bird flies away, shattered glass lies everywhere, and a door is almost closed. None of these things are particularly important in and of themselves, but I guess we have to start somewhere in describing this outburst by Steff Smith.

The simple art of the stage design – the door, the shattered glass – symbolises the fragile lives of these three characters, discovering in their journey the need to be loved and accepted.

Swallow explores the chaotic ways in which three women continue to survive in the face of psychological and emotional suffering. Each character begins in isolation, disconnected from each other and the rest of society. In their struggle through darkness and confusion they occasionally find a glimmer of hope to keep them going.

Anna (Elise Greig) hasn’t stepped outside of her apartment for two years and is smashing her way through all of her belongings until there is nothing left. 

Rebecca (Julie Cotterell) lives a lonely existence after being dumped by her fiancé, and spends her time drinking away the pain and her physical and emotional scars.

Sam (Helen O’Leary) craves genuine connection and acceptance in the world as a man trapped inside a woman’s body.

The play is raw and challenging for audiences who need to use their imaginations and work a little harder to form their own ideas of what is happening. The experience is a personal one for each audience member. As the play commences, the characters articulate every thought and action in real time. They tell us because they have no one else to tell. They move and speak in isolation as they deliver their fragmented stories. They move around the stage until their paths cross at a point where connection and change is possible. Much of the action occurs downstage, in close proximity to the audience, creating a confronting space. The performances are very physical within bodies and within the performance space, particularly the performances of Greig and O’Leary. Each character’s body is an extension of their minds. Greig gives an engaging and convincing performance as the unstable Anna.

The performances are enhanced by Tony Byrne’s intelligent and perceptive sounds. The narrative told by the soundscape informs the audience and taps into the human psyche.

The minimalist set (concept by Kate Shearer, realised by Jo Grieg & Michael Jones) contains barricades of bundles of timber and broken glass of various sizes around the edges of the stage. These boundaries of desperation surround a raised platform with an illuminated door turned at a 45-degree angle to the audience. There is a strong sense of apprehension, after having ventured into a difficult and unpleasant place, somewhere none of us really want to be, but curiosity kicks in when we get an opportunity to gaze through windows into the lives of others.

The shattered mirrored glass, the rearrangement of the broken glass, the bird, and the closed door. The snow flakes, which are actual bird feathers…  

There is beauty in the grotesque and of the physical interpretation of the characters.

Smith’s text is poetic and her characters are complex and despairing. There is warmth and humour, despite moments of awkwardness.

The play moves through spaces of light and dark, humour and pain, loneliness and connection, courage and vulnerability. The choice to bring the work of an independent writer from overseas to Brisbane audiences is a credit to producers, Elise Grieg and Metro Arts.

Directed by Kate Shearer, Swallow is anchored by the commitment of three well-accomplished Brisbane performers, courageous and vulnerable. It hits as hard as it can hit with its harsh truth of human barriers, and the difficulty to break through them and be accepted.




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