Posts Tagged ‘JWCOCA





Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

13th – 24th November 2012


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


In the circus we don’t need words to communicate. Instead we have the most magnificent expressive vehicle of all – the human body.

Yaron Lifschitz



The Helpmann Award winning Circa is in Brisbane for a short season and if you can get along to see it, in this crazy busy time of office parties, formals, ballet concerts, other Helpmann Award winning productions currently vying for your attention, and pre-Christmas drinks, you’ll admire the skill and enjoy the show.


Without a plot, props or any sort of set, Circa puts on the floor in front of us what they do best. And that’s circus. It doesn’t try to be anything else. It doesn’t need to. It’s enough – the individual and collective skill, and the bodies trembling with effort – it’s raw and it’s authentic, in the original sense of the word and not in the thousand-dollar-a-day-seminar kinda way.




The tone of the show is distinctly Australian and it feels like we could be just as easily standing around with beers at a barbeque in somebody’s backyard, egging each other on to try newer and harder tricks. “G’arn! Do it on yer head!” In fact, I’ve been to that barbeque! And so have you! It’s outrageous fun and has the audience in giggles from the outset, when a performer’s body suddenly appears, as if flung into the lit space from offstage. Other performers are not far behind and we soon get a sense of freedom, abandon and true blue Aussie larrikinism in the comical actions that follow.  Key to this is the lighting design, which provides changing spotlights, and later, fluidly moving shadows and bubbles of light, in which the bulk of the action takes place. It’s cheeky, friendly and funny. The performers are uniformly excellent and in this beginning is the essence of their production; it’s that abandon and bright, carefree Australian attitude. The daredevil display, an astonishing physical feat, followed by a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders and a grin, as if to say, “Yeah. I can do that. What of it?”




The inspiration could easily have been the re-discovery of a selection of basic acting exercises, which are familiar to those of us with any experience in a high school drama class – teachers, tertiary students and actors will attest – it’s lovely work, building on the basics; leading body parts, balances and counter balances, and meeting actors in the space. And a wonderful relaxed calm pervades, despite the daring of each feat. Sometimes you wish a show were more polished, precise and perfectly performed but in this, the mighty effort, the trembling and the vocal effects add to the overall charm of a show that doesn’t claim to be anything more than what you see and feel in the space. I’m happy to report that, as Director, Yaron Lifschitz aimed to do; the courage, openness and humanity of these performers find a way into the audience’s hearts.




Not without its more sombre moments, Circa manages to affect us with an intriguingly French soundtrack, baffling my husband, who wanted desperately to hear something less specific (no, not Australian). In complete contrast, I love the French aspect; it adds a sophisticated air and a sort of momentary sadness – a yearning – that somehow, for me anyway, circus has always had. Listening to a certain U2 song right through Year 10 may have something to do with that. The rope act is particularly poignant because of the mood the music creates. And then of course we up the anti again when we hear Cohen singing I Came So Far For BeautyI just love that song (I ruined a cassette tape back in the day, listening over and over and over again to Jennifer Warnes’ version from her album Famous Blue Raincoat), and at this point I glance over and notice Sam seems to have forgotten his gripes about any of the music. I’m glad to add another shared song to the mix tape of our lives!


Poppy says of Circa, “It was awesome! There was lots of excitement! Sometimes you wouldn’t usually see a girl picking up a boy. But I thought she would be strong enough because she’s in the circus. The ropes and the hula hoops were very funny.” Poppy is not an atypical audience member; she’s well versed in circus speak and she’s not as easy to please as you might think, having seen multiple Cirque du Soleil shows. She talked about the bodies moving through the light and the comedy right through our beautiful dinner at bucci after the show.


Queensland audiences are developing quite a taste for circus and the more discerning types will have already seen Circa. Actors, directors and choreographers too must have noticed the distinct dance theatre style continuing to develop with shows like Circa’s (yes, you know dance theatre; it’s what we used to call “physical theatre” and you’ve seen it executed exceptionally well in productions such as Stockholm and Tender Napalm at La Boite). It’s fascinating to see this sense of theatre and dance merging, all the while developing within a circus framework as well as a theatrical one. It’s such a delicious thing. I can’t wait to see more of it!


If you haven’t yet had a taste of Circa, you’re in for a real treat.


“Circa is like a meal. Full of ingredients and flavours you know but in combinations that are utterly new and often disconcerting.”

Yaron Lifschitz





A Chat with Nathan Boyle: Circa


CIRCA Image by Atmosphere Photography

Nathan Boyle is one of those kids who grew up and ran away to join the circus.

I asked Poppy, who is six years old and doing circus, gymnastics and sports aerobics training (and who is very excited about seeing the show this week!), to help me ask Nathan a few questions in the lead up to CIRCA‘s opening night at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts on Wednesday.


What is it that makes Circa so special?

Circa is one of the largest full time circus ensembles in Australia. I’ve been lucky enough to be in the company for two years and since joining the circa team the world has been my oyster. I’ve had so many opportunities to do what I love in numerous countries and theatres and each time I step out on stage I still get a thrill when I hear the audiences’ applause.


How do you go about making circus that “moves the heart, mind and soul”?

We put in a lot of time focusing the overall performance of the show and not just in the skills that are in the show. Don’t get me wrong; our shows are jam packed with high-level skills. Our shows don’t follow a linear story, which allows for each audience member to experience the show differently.


How was your Brisbane Festival experience this year?

Brisbane Festival was an amazing time. It was great fun to create and to world premiere our new show, ‘S’. There was such a buzz in Brisbane and the energy of the city was palatable.


Where else have you performed and where do you go next?
I’ve performed in Canada, the US, France, Germany and all around Australia. Next year we head off next to Canada and the US, which I am really looking forward to.


Do you have sleepovers when you travel or do you have a late night trip to get home?

Usually when we perform we are usually away from home, so that means that when we finish a show and cool down we head back to our accommodation. We are sort of like gypsies, gypsies with style.


How much time do you spend rehearsing and working on new tricks?

When we aren’t on the road we are back in the studio training 9 to 5. We are constantly rehearsing and training new tricks. Some skills come quickly but some skills require a lot of time and practice. But practice makes perfect.


How often do you learn new tricks?

Constantly, we train for three hours prior to each show. In that time we warm up, train and try new tricks. Normally the skills/tricks that are in the show are the ones that are polished and safe.


How many new tricks can you learn in a day?

Well that depends on the difficulty of the tricks we are trying. Some tricks you can learn really quickly and others might require a few days, weeks or even months.


What does a typical Circa day look like?

9:00-10:00am – Warm up

10:00-11:30am – Group skills training like big balances and toss the girl tricks

11:30am-1:00pm – Usually rehearsals with Yaron our Artistic Director

1:00-2:00pm – Lunch

2:00-4:30pm – Solo training and act development

4:30-5:00pm – Cool down


Do you stick to a special diet or rely on specific super foods to stay in shape and to keep you going?

Our bodies are kind of like an engine. If we don’t put in good fuel we won’t run. We are conscience of what foods we are eating as what we put in we get out. We all have containers full of trail mix, which we nibble on throughout the day, which helps us make it through the day.


What was your training or previous experience?

Before Circa, I was a student at NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts) down in Melbourne, where I trained for three years full time and came out with a Bachelor in Circus Arts. Prior to that I competed in Sports Acrobatics.


Do you get a say in what you wear? Is it comfy?

We work very closely with our amazing costume designer. She makes sure that the end product suits our needs and the show’s needs. All the costumes are very comfy and it’s never a chore to put them on.


What do you do to warm up before a show and chill out after a show?

We spend an hour normally before each show warming up and stretching.  Normally after a show we have a cool down and then we are normally on the hunt for a restaurant so we can have some dinner.


What should kids be doing if they want to run away to join the circus?

Train hard and never stop doing what they love. Circa has a range of short course programs that young ones can get a taste of circus. Details can be found at


Do you ever feel like running away to join the real world?

NEVER, I don’t think I would survive in an office. I can’t sit down for longer than five minutes, which makes our long plane rides overseas a challenge.


Nathan Boyle Circa

Nathan Boyle has been a natural performer his whole life. After terrorising his parents at a young age with handstands and cartwheels, his parents saw his passion for performing and acrobatics and enrolled him in gymnastics. His passion for acrobatics took him to Sports Acrobatics where he represented and won titles for NSW at many National Championships.
After accepting his position at The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) Nathan trained in Cloudswing, Adagio, Bungee trapeze and Teeterboard. A highlight for Nathan whilst at NICA was performing at an International Circus Festival (CIRCA festival) in France, Auch (2009).

After graduating in 2010, Nathan was hired by Circa. Since working for Circa Nathan has performed nationally at the Sydney Festival and internationally in America and Canada. Nathan is currently living in Berlin Germany where he is performing in Wunderkammer by Circa at the renowned Chamäleon Theatre.


The Unexpected Variety Show

An Unexpected Variety Show Jenny Wynter

The Unexpected Variety Show

Brisbane Cabaret Festival

Judith Wright Centre

7th November 2012


Reviewed by Stephen Moore


Well, if nothing else, the night is aptly titled!


Seated at a table for four (me, my guest and two strangers), sipping on a mind-altering beverage and enjoying the ambience as the audience gathered expectantly, it was a case of ‘what the…’ when the performance started!


Let me explain.


The promotional material states ‘…The Unexpected Variety Show sees musical comedienne, Jenny Wynter, meld stand-up, storytelling, song, improv and character comedy into a unique show about the unexpected twists in life…’, so to be confronted by five women dressed alike singing boogie-woogie was confusing.  It was a case of ‘what are the Andrew’s Sisters…plus two…doing in this show?’


Firstly, I have to say the singing was excellent.  Hats off, ladies, for bravely going acappella.  And adding a swing element.  Especially with such varied material (ah…so that’s where the title comes from? Unexpected. Variety.), ranging from wartime swing favourite Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree to modern classic Somebody That I Used to Know.  Yes, that’s right, the Goyte hit!  Sung in tight harmony and vocal percussion with a touch of swing – amazing.  Also cute were the matching costumes, reminiscent of 1940s army uniforms, as if designed by Chanel.


Betty and the Betties


Betty (Elysia Humphries), Betty (Simone Kelaart), Betty (Angeline Wynter), Betty (Kate Mackie), and Betty (Jenny Wynter) make up Betty and the Betties (although I had to go to their website via Jenny Wynter’s website to know that because there was no information at the venue.  I can’t acknowledge any technical achievement for the same reason.  I ❤ programmes!). Look out for these girls, and Jenny Wynter’s Wonderland, at Woodford Folk Festival!


An interesting and wide-ranging choice of songs take up the first 30 minutes of the program; however, the story, the banter and the patter between songs needs a lot more work.  And it wasn’t just me – the other three at the table felt the same and the less than enthusiastic response from the rest of the audience confirmed that it didn’t grab the attention (especially compared to the response to the second half – the real An Unexpected Variety Show).


Now.  What can I say about Ms Jenny Wynter that hasn’t been said already; and what can I say about An Unexpected Variety Show that hasn’t been said already?


It was as good as the review excerpts suggested!  It really did live up to the promo material…and yes, there is photographic evidence of the budgie-smuggling wedding-crasher!


This was cabaret with a strong message, a poignant and funny storyline, identifiable characters, and good music well sung.  We can all learn from this cabaret – about how life gets in the way of living, about the unexpected changes to our plans and hopes and dreams, which occur in an instant…and that sometimes it all still works out.  So seize those moments, embrace the changes, and keep looking forward. That’s what Jenny said to me.


UNDIES: Brisbane Cabaret Festival


“This woman has an amazing voice and writes beautiful melodies.”

(Nikki Aitken – Cabaret Confessional)

“No range issues with Megan Shorey’s voice: in her merrier moments, she sounds as if she might achieve takeoff from the piano stool and fly into the lighting rig. Her musical heights are directed down below: Undies takes on the history of knickers, from primitive loincloth to spandex thong.Sharp and satirical songs, dexterously woven with cheeky feminist humour, rove over the differences between boys’ and girls’ undergarments, the perils of lingerie, and the joys of letting it all hang out….the show is seamless and clever, with Shorey’s musical antics and elastic expressions making for an entertaining and sometimes very silly ride.” (The Age)

Award-winning songwriter/playwright and performer Megan Shorey believes we can chart the ups and downs of our lives through the evolution of our


From Spiderman to Calvin Klein; pink thong to Cottontails, the stories are often sad, but oh-so-true!

Premiering at the 2011 Australian Cabaret Showcase (Syd) and with 2012 seasons at The Melbourne Cabaret Festival and Ballarat Cabaret Festival before playing Brisbane’s very own Judith Wright Centre as part of the Brisbane Cabaret Festival, we recommend you wear your best pair, ‘cause UNDIES is a comedy cabaret set to get your knickers in a twist.


Saturday November 3rd

Judith Wright Centre


Undies Megan Shorey


An Unexpected Variety Show: Brisbane Cabaret Festival

Jenny Wynter The Unexpected Variety Show

Sisters Unite Onstage in Wynter Wonderland

Brisbane sisters Jenny Wynter (comedienne “Comic Mummy” and cabaret artist) and Angeline Wynter (singer-songwriter) grew up barely knowing their mother, Diane, a singer who tragically died of an aneurism when the girls were just 5 and 2 respectively.

Now, almost thirty years after their mother’s untimely passing, the sisters will finally share a stage in a special one-off performance at the Judith Wright Centre as part of the Brisbane Cabaret Festival on November 7.

The night will feature Jenny’s award-winning one-woman cabaret “An Unexpected Variety Show” (it won the Award for Excellence in Cabaret at last year’s Melbourne Fringe and went on to sell out seasons at Adelaide Fringe & Melbourne International Comedy Festival), with a support performance from the sisters’ newest project, acapella cabaret group “Betty and the Betties.”

Jenny says performing her one-woman cabaret, which, in one of the show’s more moving moments, features her singing a duet onstage with a recording of her deceased mother’s originals, has been “a highlight of my life, but just so emotionally exhausting. At first performing that song (with my mother) was really cathartic, and of course the feeling of finally sharing my mother’s art with an audience all these years later is just…incredible. I still love that. But now it’s gotten to the point where I feel like I’m hurting myself every night by doing it. I am thrilled I can give the show a fitting farewell performance here in Brisbane in front of a home crowd, record it, get it out as a DVD and then move on to some happier stuff for a while!”

And “happier stuff” is exactly where Betty and the Betties comes in!

Betty and the Betties

An outfit which brought the sisters together earlier this year, and which Angeline describes as “part war-time tunes, part contemporary Aussie classics, part comedy, part cabaret, total fun!”, the sisters agree their collaboration was well overdue.

“We’ve of course, sung together for fun since we were toddlers strutting about!” says Angeline. “But professionally, with Jen focusing on comedy and me on my soul and funk projects, the opportunity to get up onstage together just never really happened. Until this idea sprung up. Being raised by our grandmother gave us both a huge love of the old-time war songs, that whole era, the outfits, everything.”

Says Jenny: “It’s been so much ridiculous fun already, I only wish we’d started years ago!”

An Unexpected Variety Show supported by Betty and the Betties

Jenny Wynter


Judith Wright Centre

Wednesday November 7

Jenny Wynter


2011 matilda award winners

Wow! A quick note about The Matilda Awards before we all get back to making theatre!

Well, while there was no red carpet and the dress code appeared to be “whatever” but what a great night The Matilda Awards turned out to be! Without the conventional design elements of an “event” night until we took our seats (and my astronomically high expectations only come from working with White House Celebrations so, you know, I have Min’s number if anybody wants it…), last night was a fabulous evening of networking, champagne and celebration!

So many Matilda Virgins present at The Judith Wright Centre (that includes Sam and I)! We, along with many others, didn’t quite know what to expect from Brisbane’s night of nights for the Theatrearti: The Matilda Awards, established 25 years ago by reviewers, Alison Cotes and Sue Gough.

Having withstood their fair share of criticism over the years, the Matilda Awards committee (Sue Gough, Alison Cotes, Rosemary Walker, Bree Hadley, Troy Ollerenshaw, Baz McAlister, Olivia Stewart & James Harper), this year appear to have pleased the vast majority of Industry peeps. As far as award systems go, we have the critics/committee’s choice (The Matilda Awards) and we have the people’s choice (The Groundlings). Perhaps it’s important to keep them separate. Perhaps its important that they are Brisbanecentric. The Matilda website now reflects that “The awards are to reward the best of Brisbane theatre…” whereas previously, they alluded to the recognition of Queensland-wide work even when they didn’t (and couldn’t possibly). Even I, being based on the Sunshine Coast and seeing as much as possible on the Sunshine Coast, see more Brisbane theatre than in my own “regional” – for that’s what we are – area. There is simply more of it. So there’s no denying that Brisbane is the cultural hub of Queensland, despite the terrific things that may be happening, from time to time, all over the state. Time to get over it a little or… if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (for the Brisbane Theatrearti are indeed, a truly delightful bunch)!

The Groundlings offer no trophy or cash prize; they are an online award system that gives artists due recognition from the voting public. And while The Matilda Awards have, in the past, offered a monetary prize (as Paul Bishop joked last night, the sum of $2000 made up a large percentage of an actor’s wages in those days…and probably still does), the awards for this year came in the form of hand-made trophies donated by Monte Lupo – “outsider” artists – along with a great deal of reverence.

This year, for the first time, artists with 3 or more Matilda Awards were inducted into the Hall of Fame and we saw the full list of winners since 1988, together on screen; all the names of the artists who have shaped our industry since the inception of the Matildas. I think, for some, this was a wonderful revelation. And to share the space with these artists was, for most, a humbling experience. It was fitting to have John Batchelor, well-respected for his contributions to the industry, announce the awards.

If you weren’t there, you won’t have felt the over riding sense of humility and collective pride, which was almost bursting at the seams, even before the official part to the evening’s proceedings started, hosted by Hayden Spencer and perfectly, hilariously punctuated by his sassy wife, Carita Farrar and accompanist, John Rodgers. Talented ACPA students opened the show with a beautiful, stirring dance piece and Emma Dean closed it, with her sensational, stylish rendition of Cabaret. If this is what Brisbane’s Industry Night turns up, I say let’s have more of them! And is it just me or have we (and by we, I mean the virgins and regular attendees collectively) outgrown the foyer space in the Judy? We love you and your style, JWCOCA but if there are any more of us intending to attend next year’s event, you’re gonna’ need a bigger bar!

Congratulations to Rosemary Walker, the committee and the Judith Wright Centre for a fabulous evening of celebration of our industry and our art. So proud to be a teeny, tiny part of it!

With the gorgeous Kristine Sells

You can catch up on the Twitter feed by searching #matildas11


Simone de Haas
for her artistic direction of Mixed Company
and directing, designing and acting in it’s body of work

Steven Rooke
for his body of performance work in 2011
including Julius Caesar, No Man’s Land and The Removalists

Josh McIntosh
for his set and costume designs
for Harvest Rain Theatre Company and body of work

Marcel Dorney
for his script Fractions

Melanie Zanetti
for her performance in Pygmalion


Best New Australian Work
by Marcel Dorney
Queensland Theatre Company and HotHouse Theatre

Best Independent Production
Animal Farm
by shake & stir theatre co

by 4MBS Festival of Classics

Best Mainstage Production
by Queensland Theatre Company

Best Director Michael Futcher
for Animal Farm,
shake & stir theatre co

Michael Gow
for No Man’s Land,
Queensland Theatre Company

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role
Paul Bishop
in Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role
Melanie Zanetti
in Pygmalion

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Steven Rooke
in No Man’s Land

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Carol Burns
in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Best Design
Renee Mulder
for set design, Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness

Best Emerging Artist
Anna McGahan
for Julius Caesar

Best Musical
by Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre

Emma Dean: Sally Bowles in Zen Zen Zo's Cabaret.