Posts Tagged ‘fresh ground

21
Aug
14

Finding the Silence

 

Finding the Silence

Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre 

August 16 – 23 2014

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Finding The Silence - Balance - SYC Studios

 

 

A circus performer has to find a moment of inner silence before every trick, time to focus, release tension, prepare, breathe.

 

Jesse Scott, Casus Circus

 

 

On the surface, Casus Circus’s new show Finding the Silence doesn’t seem to be about silence. There is a soundtrack (David Carberry), and the performers at times create noise by deliberately thudding and crashing to the ground, and letting props fall noisily.

 

The program notes make clear that the theme is inner silence: for example, the circus performer needing to find inner silence to focus before every trick. Inner silence is hard to demonstrate through a circus performance except by showing us this concentration. We in the audience experience it from our perspective, sitting in silence and holding our breath as we wait for the climax of a routine, and then applauding in admiration and relief.

 

The hour-long show starts with one of the performers rotating slowly on the spot. After some time, he lifts his arms. The turning is reminiscent of Sufi whirling, a form of active meditation. While it could be one method of “finding the silence”, it isn’t very engaging for the spectator.

 

All four performers (Emma Serjeant, Jesse Scott, Lachlan McAulay and Vincent Van Berkel) then perform various raw-looking tumbling and acrobatic routines, often ending movements by crashing awkwardly and deliberately to the floor. The show ended in the same way. Is this about not finding the silence?

 

In the body of the show, there are many sequences demonstrating amazing feats: for example, of hand balancing, static trapeze work (including hanging by the back of the head), and aerial rope work. The performers build a human tower by standing on each other’s shoulders; they make a human seesaw out of their own bodies; and stand on the head of another person standing upright.

 

Finding The Silence - Ropes - SYC Studios

 

I was most impressed with the performers’ strength — particularly when Serjeant and McAulay, the smallest members of the group, lift the heftier men. Some of the balances seem impossible: for example, when Van Berkel stands on both hands and then bends his body to take the legs sideways and stand on one hand.

 

This is raw, no frills circus — you can see the strain, and the performers trembling with effort.

 

The show’s visual presentation is spartan and minimalist. The performers wear simple white jodhpur-style pants and there are few props — some chairs, planks and small lanterns. The stage is dimly lit during preparation for sequences.

 

Finding the Silence is an intense experience, with great feats of strength and balance applauded enthusiastically by the audience. What it is not is slick or showy, and there is certainly no frivolity. The link with the theme of inner silence is more an intellectual one, rather than expressed through the physicality of the actual performance. Finding the Silence must finish Saturday.

 

Finding theSilence-SYCStudios

 

05
Aug
14

White Porcelain Doll

 

White Porcelain Doll 

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

July 28 – August 2 2014

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

WHITE+PORCELAIN+DOLL2

 

Dance is a pure and honest way of communicating. However, that which makes it enthralling can also render it distributing and difficult to watch. This is the case with the dark tale that is White Porcelain Doll, the first full-length work from husband and wife duo Lizzie and Zaimon Vilmanis of Prying Eye Productions, current artists-in-residence at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.

 

Billed as a fairy tale based on true horror stories of women held as long-term captives by men, the show was inspired by real life stories of Stockholm syndrome. It is confronting subject matter for dance theatre and while the reality of its real-life account inspiration is chilling, at times the interpretation is too abstract to allow the audience to follow all the nuances of its narrative.

 

WhitePorcelainDoll_PryingEyeProductions+by+FenLanPhotography6.jpg

 

More movement, than dance, the choreography is full of animalistic actions, which is in keeping with the show’s aim to examine the emerging instinct that enables some victims to survive rather than succumb. Lizzie Vilmanis is an independent choreographer and dancer of pedigree, thanks to her work with Expressions Dance Company and there is no denying her talent on stage. As the hostage, she delivers a powerful and physically demanding, yet sinuous performance with emotional range from innocence and fragility, to panic and terror and then frustration and determination. However, with only limited glimpses of her face, it is difficult to engage with her character in an empathetic way.

 

As the captor, Zaimon is a show of strength from his first solo scene, moving around a stage set sparsely with only a metal box, armchair and draped sundress. When she appears and he attempts to dress her, her struggles lead to her being dumped in the box. Thus begins her terrifying and isolated journey, told through a series of vignettes and freeze-framed stillness.

 

WhitePorcelainDoll_PryingEyeProductions+by+FenLanPhotography4.jpg

 

Whilst I was unsure what to make of much of the content of the show, there is no denying the talents of its performers. The partnering routines are fluid and it is frustrating that the work includes so little contemporary dance. Rather, as a cross-arts performance piece, it uses music, movement, sound and video arts to convey its chilling story. Superb lighting, simple staging and an unobtrusive soundscape combine to create its unsettling, haunting experience; however, it is the simulated violence of projections that are amongst the most confrontational memorable moments. In contrast, a disconnect between music and movement makes it difficult to maintain absorption, especially as themes are repeated and show’s pace drags.

 

WhitePorcelainDoll_PryingEyeProductions+by+FenLanPhotography.jpg

 

There is no denying that White Porcelain Doll represents an uncomfortably-voyeuristic experience for its audience. Prying Eye states that they wish to take their audiences on a journey to the other side, the one farthest from their thoughts, and in this exploration of the power play between perpetrator and his broken doll victim, they have certainly succeeded. Its disturbing themes might not be for everyone; however, they are guaranteed to garner a reaction. And isn’t this the measure of all true art?

 

 

07
Jul
14

Caligula

 

Caligula

The Danger Ensemble

With support from Judith Wright Centre’s Fresh Ground program

Judith Wright Centre

July 3 – 12 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

CALIGULA+hero

 

Right after seeing The Danger Ensemble’s latest visual feast mindfuck, Caligula, Sam offered Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, the most apt description I’ve ever heard of his work:

 

“Someone shot you in the head, and the bits of your brain that slid down the wall to land on the floor is what you’ve made this show with.”

 

The design elements are beautiful (Designers Benjamin Hughes & Nathalie Ryner), the first ten minutes – otherworldly beautiful – and then, once we’ve heard from two tour guides (not your usual suspects and serving in this moment as Greek Chorus) about Caligula’s character and infamous short reign over the Roman Empire, all descends into chaos. We transcend time and place to find ourselves lost somewhere between “history” and the fetish clubs of the 21st century. It’s loose, it’s a little wicked, and it’s not anything at all like you might expect, even if you thought you were familiar with The Danger Ensemble’s work. And that’s the thing.

 

The Danger Ensemble is the only company in the place doing this work. It’s bold and cheeky, and it’s quite often crass and downright revolting (it’s no secret that I disliked Sons of Sin), but it’s being made and THAT is a beautiful thing.

 

The work itself usually contains, on some level, a whole lot of brutality, sensuality, classically derived text, and new interpretations of ancient beliefs or popular opinions or bits of history. This work, just as Loco Maricon Amour did, boasts moments of immense beauty, and subtlety too. The images conjured (and they are conjured, as if by magic; as I’ve noted before, Steven Mitchell Wright’s expertise in painting pictures on stage is impressive), are capable of affecting us in a way that only art can. Each piece or tiny moment is unique and we respond to it in such a personal way that sometimes the effect is difficult to describe. Sometimes, when I’m writing up a show like this, I just wish you’d been there. You need to get out more! Experience the work!

 

Had you been there, you might have breathed more quietly, or held your breath, or tried not to visibly squirm, or tried to stop yourself from digging your nails into the palm of your hand as the beating of your heart quickened…

 

Have you ever sat through a delivery boy’s litany on the pros and cons of fisting (Stephen Quinn), or listened to the deadpan delivery from a woman wearing the horns of Beelzebub (Lucinda Shaw) on how to skin an animal while the “animal” twitches and tenses and dances and stumbles and eventually dies in front of you, collapsing into a deep pool of plastic party cups? No? See? You just don’t know how you’ll respond to that! How good is live theatre!?

 

The cast has been literally cast to create white plaster torsos that hang from the gods and rise to reveal the actors behind them, only to stop and hang in mid air, to look over the strange, sordid action that follows. The effect is a haunting reminder that somebody, whether or not we believe it to be a pantheon of gods, is always watching. We are, each of us, responsible for the way we choose to feel but we realise too that our words and actions have an impact on those around us.

 

DRIVE CAREFULLY, PEOPLE.

 

Sometimes while Sam drives I write, and as I write I’m grateful the P Plater in front of us has wrenched himself back onto the highway instead of dying in the gutter tonight. How close we can come to death. How sad it is that we need these reminders to truly value our lives. And then there are those who ignore the reminders and continue to live ungratefully, recklessly, selfishly, and viciously. They make me sick. And then I remember I can try not to feel disgusted by their apathy for the feelings of others. Try to frame it differently. Try to feel compassion. Poor, stupid people who go through life hurting others… That’s right, isn’t it?

 

An entire section of Caligula (and, it seems, the Dharma), has been completely lost on me; it’s almost a stand-up comedy segment comprising Chris Beckey and Nerida Matthaei using hand held mics to hold a rather odd conversation about the ways she wishes to be hurt by him.

 

I want you to hit me with your car.

 

Really? YOU WANT HIM TO HIT YOU WITH HIS CAR. Who would want that? Is it a metaphor? Is it a kiss with a fist?

 

 

It made me think of a few things, including another song, you know, the Swedes singing about driving a car into a bridge? I’m appalled that Poppy knows the lyrics and we’ve talked about how crazy and ungrateful it is that she wouldn’t even care, about her life, about other peoples lives, about what happens in the lives of the people she leaves behind… I also think of an ex-boyfriend who was genuinely an emo (I know, what was I thinking? I’m actually a beach baby! And I love happy endings!), and that stupidly disturbing and unnecessarily revoltingly violent film, which I never finished watching and never will, Irreversible.

 

There’s the thought too that Nerida Matthaei’s choreography makes Caligula a convincing “dance theatre” piece (it’s a term that seems to be bandied about a bit at the moment), as much as it is a work of theatre or contemporary performance art. I can imagine this show performed in all its parts at various times of the day and night in a place like MONA.

 

I enjoyed Beckey’s voice – rich and salubrious – vocally and physically his is a consummate performance as always, right to the glittery end. And the twitching, dying movement sequence mentioned earlier, performed by Gabriel Comerford, will be sure to sear some sort of cruel image on your mind so you’ll certainly remember him the next time you see him (or hear about Anna Krien’s Us and Them). Even without Steven Mitchell Wright on stage – he cut his role the day before opening, as it seemed superfluous – this is another bold configuration of one of the country’s most confident, most consistently challenging creative companies. What we’re seeing here is the earliest version of this piece, thanks to The Judy’s Fresh Ground program; it’s a slightly messy birth but we know that whatever this baby looks like in the first instance, we’ll give it a chance.

 

Caligula comes to us at the perfect time, challenging our perceptions of what art is, what is acceptable to see and to talk about in public, and what parallels are to be drawn between historical and current leaders and followers. Power, wealth, sex, power. Power. Who else is asking the questions? Who else is presenting multiple possible answers for us to discuss and digest?
It’s true (and unfortunate) that The Danger Ensemble flirts with financial ruin when compared to the obvious commercial successes of our pretty, lovely, light and fluffy theatre companies but then, why compare? The work is unapologetic, pushing the proverbial boundaries and promising nothing at this stage but a unique night out, which you certainly won’t forget but you might not want to remember. Regardless, let’s see more of it!

 

CALIGULA2

20
May
13

Sons of Sin

Sons of Sin

Judith Wright Centre & The Danger Ensemble

Judith Wright Centre

17th – 25th May 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward and Meredith McLean

 

Featuring: Alex FowlerWilliam HoranThomas HutchinsAaron WilsonRon SeetoChris FarrellSamuel SchoessowCharlie Schache & Stephen Quinn

 

 

Sons_of_sin2013_hero

What makes a man a man?

 

 

SONS OF SIN, The Danger Ensemble’s most provocative production to date, lays bare the hopes, dreams and expectations of young men moving through rites of passage and across a minefield of history, pressures, demands and taboos towards manhood.

 

Classical text collides with raw confession. A lone voice stands against a call of the pack. Killers rise, angels fall. Love and brotherhood survive.

 

 

 

”Perhaps one of the most dangerous things is a kid who thinks he’s a man.”

Anna Krien Night Games

 

 

260258_10151466388161312_260940735_n

I haven’t noticed anybody jumping up and down, and shouting at the top of his or her voice to go see this show but I hope you’re not taking any notice of those who are muttering, “Don’t bother.” This is a particular type of theatre. It’s not “nonsense” and its not “a complete fucking waste of time”, but it is anywhere between ninety minutes and just over two hours of your life that you won’t get back, and I question its purpose and its impact on audiences. You’re either gonna’ love it or hate it. But don’t miss it.

 

After an hour and forty minutes I actually left, the show clocked in at just a little more than two hours. Wearing heels was a big mistake; if I’d known how long we’d be standing I would’ve sacrificed fabulousness for comfort. I recommend flat shoes if you go. M

 

  • Wear flat shoes and dark colours (boots and jeans and something with pockets, you know, like, if you search my Facebook photos for long enough, what you would have seen me in during the Mt Isa years)
  • Stay against the walls if you don’t want to get wet (and that’s not just water we’re talking about, that’s beer, paint and bodily fluids we’re talking about!)
  • Drink (a lot) before the show. Or don’t…

 

969322_10151465291246312_1073718790_n-1

The question is: did Sons of Sin get boring because my feet hurt or did my feet hurt because the show was boring? M

 

I kinda’ wish I’d had more to drink before stepping inside the belly of this show and it’s intense insane drinking game. Of course I was driving, so I enjoyed a cab sav at the glass bar next door with the show’s director, Steven Mitchell Wright, director of The Judy, Ruth Hodgman, Program Manager at The Judy, Lewis Jones, and The Courier Mail’s Nathanael Cooper. Instead of the vino, we should have had several rounds of Truth or Dare tequila shots, which would have better set the tone for the evening. But in retrospect, I’m glad I wasn’t the one throwing up in a bathtub centre stage…

 

There is no hesitation from any of the Sons of Sin. Peeing in a bathtub? Sure, why not. Strip tease? That’s the tamest part of the show. I’m really torn on how to respond to this. Imagine a giant interactive game of King’s Cup… I remember them fondly from my college days. Actually, that’s a lie; no one remembers anything if they play King’s Cup properly. But like any game of King’s Cup, the players and onlookers get bored as the cards get repetitive and the players get so drunk everything descends into chaos. 

 

942815_10151465291126312_940330949_n-2

Brevity is lacking, and in some instances, so is sincerity. Before I departed I could almost hear it in the voices of these men. Was it the third King by then? God, we’re tired. There were moments of sadness for the sake of sadness, controversy for the sake of controversy.

 

Provocation is nothing but crudeness if it’s forced. M

 

I’m actually completely stunned by this production, and not in a buzzing, amazing, WOW! kinda’ way. A perverse “fuck you” at religion and women, The Danger Ensemble’s Sons of Sin is as impressive in parts as it is disappointing. So already, I’m telling you, if you’re at all curious about this show, go see it…at least half of it! I think they lost about forty percent of their opening night audience when they foolishly took a “drinks break” (no break for the actors, they came out to the bar with us and tried their best to boost bar sales); a strange interlude, which many took as their only chance of escape! ROOKIE ERROR.

 

969806_10151465291166312_1825686047_n-1

It’s not that the show was unbearable – well, I was tired and it was getting close to unbearable by 9:05pm – but this is a show destined for greater things, and it’s as if this is the out of town try-out…in town. Unfortunately for The Danger Ensemble, most of the problems might have been remedied during the rehearsal process, if only there had been a realistic look at things, including the show’s duration, repetition, efficiency and potential impact on audiences. I know Steven invited randoms via social media into the rehearsal room the week prior to opening, and I know there were changes made in the space of 24 hours, between the preview and opening night, but here is our strongest case yet for the addition of a few more previews to the season. With Broadway money, Broadway shows might enjoy (not sure if enjoy is the right word!) up to thirty previews with paying audiences in attendance before critics are invited in, and changes are made throughout that process, as the writers and producers gauge audience reactions to their material, and make adjustments accordingly, as in the case of shows such as Cinderella and Kinky Boots.

 

Purporting to lay bare the hopes, dreams and expectations of young men, Sons of Sin begins beautifully (“Never use the word ‘beautiful’…men are not beautiful”), with a pre-show ritual involving nudity and blindfolds (not what you think!). The actors share the same space as the audience and let us exist there and watch, in our own discomfort or curiousity (or whatever), allowing us time to adjust, and to accept that anything could happen. And anything – and everything – does.

 

971493_10151465291221312_1885432312_n-1

Ben Judd ‘reckons this is a show that “under-skilled theatre writers would describe as a stylistic gang-bang” and he’s right…there’s a bit more to it. It seems a shallow exploration of what it is to be a man…but thank Allah, Buddha, God and Jesus most of us know there is more to most men than the stereotypical beer-swilling footy bogan living on campus during uni years, which appears to be the popular character choice here. The other popular version of a man is the confused (or not) gay one (I wasn’t sure). It’s a shame we don’t see much of “what it is to be a man” outside of these realms.

 

Sons of Sin left me utterly exhausted, bewildered and depressed. If this is it, if this is all that young men are hoping, expecting and dreaming, the world is in a bigger mess than we thought. If that’s the message of this piece it’s a real downer, and it comes predictably after a while, and then repetitively, for TWO HOURS of standing around the edges of the space and being herded like cattle in order to gain the best vantage points for various “scenes”. I was surprised when the show kept going and going…after about nine o’clock I was anticipating the card-carrier chicks or the director to step in and surreptitiously scoop up at least five or six superfluous cards, bringing us nearer the end much earlier.

 

The success of this type of theatre depends largely upon the continuing acceptance of the audience; the fact that they are happily rather than reluctantly still playing along. If the energy begins to lag, if disinterest sets in, it can be felt and a savvy company will accept that this is part of the experiment – part of the experience – and either up the anti or get to the end of the show without further ado. In this case, there would have been nothing lost by doing so except perhaps a couple of strokes to egos.

 

I loved the set up: the drinking game using super size playing cards, the circular staging in the massive, open space and the use of scaffold, and an impressive (at least the first and second times it was used) art gallery style reveal, the lighting (Ben Hughes), the sound (Henry Collins). I especially loved the Beyonce mash-up and dance sequence – a good seven or eight minutes of it – featuring, not by accident, obviously, Thomas Hutchins & Chris Farrell.

 

923556_10151465291161312_1787860795_n-1

The random acts continued as random cards were selected from the floor. Picking up the King card dictated that some sort of sad confessional be delivered during contemplative clockwise and then anti-clockwise circling of the bathtub. The problem with all three monologues is in the writing; each might have been more effective had it been improvised. The subject matter is clichéd and each conclusion is so typical that we’re not shocked, surprised, reassured or inspired by any of the pieces. The monotonous (some would say “stylised”) delivery tone of each, consistent throughout the show, doesn’t help us accept the subject matter. It was a relief to hear the whooping and shouting of the company at the conclusion of each card-induced state. *pours the remainder of a bottle of beer into bath tub*

 

I don’t want to put a damper on the show though. It was at times beautiful, at others hilarious and even terrifying. One of the funnier and more natural moments was when the audience was invited to ask one of the sons a question that had to be answered by him truthfully. One woman took possession of the microphone and spewed forth some long-winded question about white middle class males having it easy (and some additional feminist jargon, which I struggled to listen to). The boy on trial shouted over her, true to character, “This is fucking boring!” and when the woman implored the crowd, “Is this question really boring?” some mumbled inaudibly while others yelled, “YES!” Shunned to a corner,  she provided an amusing turn to the live theatre element. M

 

400741_10151466388231312_2053862875_n-2

For the actors, Sons of Sin provides a full inventory of emotional and physical risk-taking opportunities. This is a bunch of super confident performers. I can imagine the only question asked of potential company members might have been not, “What can you do?” but “Is there anything you won’t do?”

 

Still, I’ve seen better treatment of the epic, the appalling, and the intriguing by The Danger Ensemble; The Hamlet Apocalypse blew my mind, and I was fascinated by Loco Maricon Amor. Likewise, I loved much of Children of War. But in these previous productions – a stronger narrative featured in each – there appeared to be little or no attempt to be risqué or shocking for the sake of it; no false agenda to fit anybody else’s idea of what The Danger Ensemble does or doesn’t do. The Danger Ensemble, from what I can gather, continue to do whatever the hell they like. And sure, there’s an audience for that! As well as actors lining up in the wings for a chance to work with the company. Perhaps this production is to prove that, once and for all, The Danger Ensemble are a force unto themselves.

 

I still have some questions.

 

 

Why do we make theatre? Who is the work for?

 

 

The Dare

Do we need to see an actor scull two bottles of beer and vomit into the tub?

 

Do we need to see an actor piss into the tub? (I spoke with Prue, the chick who had offered the piss-in-the-tub dare and I was not at all surprised to find out she felt absolutely mortified! She hadn’t expected the actor to do it!).

 

Do we need to see another guy make out with Anna? Well, all right, you got me; that one was extremely entertaining.

 

The Truth

Mini scenes came out of truth-telling sessions, utilising audience members where necessary, to play out the scene at the heart of the matter. Do the only important truths revolve around menstrual blood, masturbation, and sexual relations with one’s mother? Really? I hope I’m not wrong when I give most men greater credit than that.

 

Sadly, we see only evidence of strippers, sex changes, simulated rape and gang rape, torture, Truth or Dare, drinking games and nights of debauchery. Such is the (ever amusing) stuff of men. Apparently.

 

972256_10151466388181312_1879922884_n-1

What I LOVE about this show is its sensational imagery. Steven Mitchell Wright is a master painter, using actors and theatrical tricks like there’s no budget bed time tomorrow to create pictures of such intensity that there are times when I have to look away. But getting from one picture to the next is a frustrating, tedious task, which could be made much less painful by simply bypassing a lot of self-indulgent study of a very narrow view of man, and speeding up the process so that we enjoy more of the show. To be fair, a few punters obviously enjoyed the whole thing a lot more than I did. There is more good stuff going on here than bad, but it’s not my kinda’ stuff.

 

It’s a long, repetitive production that, reshaped and reborn, will make perfect fringe festival fodder. For me, a memorable show – for all the right reasons – comes down to experiencing moments. My favourite moment? Thom’s tears (apparently he never cries in this segment), during prolonged eye contact with a girl from the crowd, as he delivers to her a tender, heartfelt monologue. She is captivated. We are given the chance to hold our collective breath. It’s a moment of rare beauty.

 

 

“Never use the word ‘beautiful’…men are not beautiful”.

 

 

945017_10151466388176312_426001244_n-1

I wish there had been more beautiful moments. The actors are up for it. The audience is up for it. I don’t think we saw all of what makes a man a man… At least, I hope we did not.

 

As Steven said, “I don’t think we struggle to watch violence at all.  I think we are largely comfortable as a culture with violence. I think we find beauty, honesty and sensuality much more confronting.”

 

Personally, I abhor violence and I struggle to watch it in any form. Why do I need to see it at all?

 

 

Bring on the beauty.

 

 

These are some of the things I look forward to seeing a glimpse of again – beauty, honesty and sensuality – in Steven’s next production: The Wizard of Oz, for La Boite.