Posts Tagged ‘Kris Stewart

28
Feb
17

Matilda Awards 2016

Matilda Award Winners 2016

 

thewiderearth

 

Last week the Matilda Awards took place for the first time at Brisbane Powerhouse. Queensland artists were celebrated in a dazzling awards ceremony directed by Kris Stewart, and hosted by Melissa Western and Dash Kruck.

The committee has wanted to raise the bar for a little while now, and put on a highly entertaining and social event that honours our artists in a way that can be more genuinely felt by all in attendance (and by all those playing at home). Industry feedback has been very positive and the committee, working collaboratively with the newly appointed executive committee, will continue to consider suggestions from the artists and companies whom these awards were designed to celebrate. In 2016 the committee attended a record number of shows and added an award category to recognise physical theatre and circus arts in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks to ongoing Arts Queensland and Brisbane City Council funding, and an ever widening circle of fantastic supporters, the Matilda Awards and the annual ceremony can continue to evolve.

(Missing from pic, below, are committee members James, Baz and Elise). More pics on Instagram and Facebook. Search #matildas16

 

matildaawards2017

 

GOLD MATILDA AWARD

Dead Puppet Society celebrating their exceptional body of work.

SILVER MATILDA AWARDS

Best Mainstage Production

Bastard Territory, Queensland Theatre Company and JUTE Theatre Company
George’s Marvellous Medicine, shake & stir theatre co and QPAC
Switzerland, Queensland Theatre Company
The Wider Earth, Queensland Theatre Company and Dead Puppet Society

Best Independent Production

Carrie: The Musical, Brisbane Powerhouse and Wax Lyrical Productions
Hanako, Brisbane Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse and Belloo Creative
True West, Brisbane Powerhouse, Troy Armstrong Management, Thomas Larkin and Annette Box
Viral, Shock Therapy Productions

 

carrie_bestmusical2016

 

Best Musical or Cabaret

Carrie: The Musical, Brisbane Powerhouse and Wax Lyrical Productions
Hairspray, Harvest Rain Theatre Company
Terror Australis, Brisbane Powerhouse and Leah Shelton
Snow White, La Boite, Opera Queensland and Brisbane Festival

Best New Australian Work

Bastard Territory, Stephen Carleton
St Mary’s in Exile, David Burton
The Wider Earth, David Morton
Viral, Sam Foster & Hayden Jones

Best Director

Caroline Dunphy, Motherland
Ian Lawson, Bastard Territory
David Morton, The Wider Earth
Zoë Tuffin, Carrie: The Musical

Best Male Actor

Matthew Backer, Switzerland
Sam Foster, Viral
Benhur Helwend, Bastard Territory
Thomas Larkin, True West

Best Supporting Male Actor

Julian Curtis, True West
Jackson McGovern, American Buffalo
John McNeill, Endgame
Silvan Rus, Twelfth Night
Steven Tandy, Bastard Territory

Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist

Masako Mizusawa, Hanako
Sophie Perkins, Carrie: The Musical
Paige Poulier, Twelfth Night
Emily Weir, Tartuffe

Best Female Actor

Kerith Atkinson, A Slight Ache
Andrea Moor, Switzerland
Sophie Perkins, Carrie: The Musical
Kimie Tsukakoshi, Hanako

Best Supporting Female Actor

Jennifer Flowers, Endgame
Libby Munro, Disgraced
Paige Poulier, Twelfth Night
Emily Weir, Tartuffe

Best Set Design

Aaron Barton & David Morton, The Wider Earth
Georgina Greenhill, American Buffalo
Leah Shelton, Terror Australis
Anthony Spinaze, Switzerland

Best Costume Design

David Morton & Aaron Barton, The Wider Earth
Kris Bird, Bastard Territory
Karen Cochet, Snow White
Jessica Haack, Twelfth Night
Josh McIntosh, George’s Marvellous Medicine
Leah Shelton, Terror Australis

Best Lighting Design

Jason Glenwright, Carrie: The Musical
Jason Glenwright, The Tragedy of King Richard III
Ben Hughes, Switzerland
David Walters, The Wider Earth

Best Sound Design / Composition

Dane Alexander, Hanako
Tony Brumpton (Sound Design), Lior & Tony Buchen (Composition), The Wider Earth
Rob Pensalfini & Silvan Rus, Twelfth Night
Steve Toulmin, Switzerland

Best Audio Visual Design

Tiffany Atkin & John Grist, Hanako
Justin Harrison (AV Design) & Anna Straker (Illustration), The Wider Earth
optikal bloc, Terror Australis
Nathan Sibthorpe, Viral

 

krissteart_rosemarywalker_matildawards2016

 

matildaawards_credits2016

10
Feb
16

GAYBIES

 

GAYBIES

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 3 – 6 2016

 

Reviewed by Simon Denver

 

gaybies_curtaincall_feb16

 

Verbatim theatre. Bite sized morsels of humanity whose sum of all parts give a well rounded theatrical presentation based on a particular event or theme. It can work particularly well, as in this case, when the performers let the words lead. The power will always be in the honesty of the words; overt characterisation mustn’t distract. In Verbatim theatre the actors are the backing and the words are the lead. In GAYBIES we heard the stories of growing up with a same sex parents. (Well – same sex parents, surrogate mums and donor dads). The people interviewed ranged from 4 year old to 40 year old. This gave fantastic scope for the ensemble of 18.

 

Statistics may say that children of same sex parents make up such a small fraction of society – but that does not detract from the relevance of this work. As I mentioned earlier – society is the sum of all parts. We, as individuals, have an almost moral duty to research, examine or at least familiarise ourselves with as many of those working parts of life as possible – No matter how the findings might be at odds with our “white bread 2.2 children” view of life. In fact, having same sex marriage as a political issue de jour only amplifies this production’s relevance.

 

For over seventy minutes we were presented with stories. Honest stories and clear memories.

 

Too embarrassed to tell your friends your parents are gay. An awkward scenario. But then again, lots of people have always been embarrassed to tell their friends that their parents were Nudists / Mormons / Swingers / National Party Members etc. The charades of truth (“If anyone asks I sleep in this room and Bob sleeps in that room”). But then again, what family doesn’t play out its charade of little white lies? The more stories that flooded the stage the more you realised that these stories were running a parallel course to most people’s stories. Finding so many touchstones within such a small statistic can only serve to humanise as oppose to demonise. It was a gentle reminder that whether parents are the same sex, (or from different religions, race, creed or colour for that matter), in the end it doesn’t matter. A house of love and laughter can only come from love at its core.

gaybies_gayaussie_feb16

 

By default or design the limited two-day rehearsal period meant scripts on stage were going to be a necessity. But a two-day rehearsal period with the calibre of the cast involved was always going to make this a very up-market rehearsed reading. Quite a tough brief really. Find the natural flow and rhythms of the words yet continually have to remind your self what the words are. Personally I thought those almost rhythmic glances at the scripts constantly reinforced the fact that these were someone else’s stories. I suppose its like the subtitles in a foreign film. If the film is good you don’t notice that you are reading. The words are not those of professional writers. They are the words of the average man / woman very creatively “cut and pasted” together by Dean Bryant. It was a great “ensemble” piece. And the ensemble did a mighty job. The direction by Kris Stewart was as much as can be expected from a two day rehearsal. Again, without the time to be flash, complex, personal or brave, the direction seemed to merely be there to set the words free.

 

All in all it was an incredibly feel good journey.

 

The Ensemble itself consisted of professional actors and social / media commentators. With that in mind it’s unfair and impossible to single any individual out .. .. .. .. .. (Damn! Can’t back that up! Margi Brown Ash’s four-year-old on a bike was the show stopper for me. Still chuckling at that little gem days later). They were a unified front and they were all on the same page. For that I say to them all – Thank you. So Barbara Lowing, Bec Zanetti, Blair Martin, Kurt Phelan, Libby Anstis, Lizzie Moore, Brad Rush, Brittany Francis, Christopher Wayne, Margi Brown Ash, Pam Barker, Pat O’Neil, David Berthold, Emily Gilhome, Gordon Hamilton, Rebecca McIntosh, Xanthe Coward, Michael James, Dean Bryant, Kris Stewart, Joseph Simons and Jason Glenwright .. .. when you get a moment, give yourselves a pat on the back. You collectively acheived a great thing.

 

However, (and there are always howevers) .. ..

 

GAYBIES slapped the face of the economic rational of current theatre. It was the first time for a while where I witnessed a professional stage creaking, groaning and crammed with performers. Does this mean if we want quality and quantity we can only expect it from Verbatim Theatre? Is the future for large cast rehearsed readings? It’s sad that the size of the average cast is dwindling. It’s even sadder that the cast size can dictate any artistic process. So thank you Brisbane Powerhouse for giving us a brief respite from the so-called “economic reality”.

 

I thought the production was a tad too long and perhaps a couple of performers too many. I thought the music was beautiful and exceptionally well delivered but I had difficulty marrying it to the words and stories. My main criticism was quite simply that it was preaching to the converted. It was a safe option to stage it during the MELT festival (A Celebration of Queer Arts and Culture).

This production needs to jump its rails and be taken to the wider community. It needs to be seen by the detractors not the sympathisers. I feel it is the perfect vehicle to confront those who passively or covertly or overtly demonise anything gay. This plays humanity is undeniable.

Finally I felt it only took or was told good, warm and fuzzy stories. Nothing is perfect, nothing is 100%. I would just liked to have heard one negative experience, as I am sure there are, have been and will be.

 

But the last few comments aside, it was a great night out. I hadn’t been quite sure what to expect but I left the Powerhouse smiling .. .. and thinking. Thank you to all concerned. Well worth the 200k return trip from the Sunshine Coast.

 

GAYBIES_cast_closingnight_feb16

 

 

10
Jun
15

Dust Covered Butterfly

 

Dust Covered Butterfly
Metro Arts, Thomas Hutchins & Jake Shavikin
Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre
June 2 – 20 2015

 
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

DCB_suffocation

 

 

Dust Covered Butterfly invites you along for a morally challenging ride of epic proportions ignited by fictitious story and fuelled by real events of serial killers, survivors, and kidnap victims. This new performance locks performer, character, and narrative in a basement with live original music where only the strongest can survive.

 
Plastic bags. Holy. Hundreds of them. White plastic shopping bags, having attained a reputation for languid beauty thanks to a famous film and awful infamy thanks to a number of killers. (I started a serial killer Google search but it was too disturbing). It’s a creepy set, living, breathing, and pulsating, but corpse cold at first, until later when it bleeds red. I don’t remember seeing the Sue Benner Theatre like this, although I recall sitting at a long table in the space where our seats are, with our bare feet in the dirt below, to join Robbie O’Brien and Erika Field for dinner during The Raven. Still, I’m disoriented, which is probably the ideal state in which to view this show.

 

We sit at the base of a stage of steps – the rises where the seats would be if we were not sitting in them on the stage – and slowly, a male silhouette appears to reign over this strange, silent white world. Microphones have been pre-set in their stands on the bottom step, the apron as it were. As if it were a stage. As if it were a cabaret show about to begin. AND WITH CHRIS FARRELL’S ENTRANCE IT DOES.

 

DCB_chrissfarrell

 

Think of Llorando in Mulholland Drive and, I don’t know why, but you’ll have the sense of it. Somehow Farrell manages to contain immense sadness veiled by something approximating sheer determination to enjoy the good times whilst struggling to behave appropriately in public places. When you see Farrell perform that might make more sense. Or…it might not.

 

 

 

 

Farrell is a beautiful, complex performer, taking us on a journey in this show that feels like we’re watching Dexter, in chapters, on the National Geographic Channel. It’s kinda’ wrong but it kinda’ works.

 

 

The text is Cotter’s, borrowed and torn apart and stitched together again from various sources, interviews with serial killers and personal accounts from survivors of the most unimaginable atrocities in basements for extended periods of time. I think I hear later, literally on the street outside Metro Arts, that the original concept was for a show without text. This almost explains the contemporary dance element, each performer indicating through shivers and ticks and leaps, an aspect of their character or their actions throughout the piece. It almost works at times, and at other times it’s distracting or not quite clear enough to warrant the extent of the repetition.

 

And the single plot line is not quite as clear as it could be – we need just a few more obvious clues as to what’s happening, but perhaps these are present when the players switch roles. So, there is work to do, but in this stage of its four-year life cycle, Dust Covered Butterfly is nevertheless an extraordinary combination of intriguing elements and formidable talent.

 

There are SO many elements, so many layers to this show, and just one disturbing theme.

 

 

What happens in the mind of a serial killer to make them decide to…

keep someone? AND THEN WHAT HAPPENS?

 

 

Captor – Captive – Bait

 

 

Three figures prepare to take on the roles and apparently, due to the audience vote; there is a different outcome for each performance. (And this as interactive as it gets, however; you might find this is confronting enough and not even feel comfortable to raise your hand!). On opening night we witnessed Katy Cotter as Captor, Bella Anderson as Captive and Michael Whittred as the Bait. Each is as comfortable in their role as if it were the only role they play during the season.

 

DCB_bellaanderson

 

Anderson is stunning, or if I were to apply senior student speak, Anderson is a total babe; I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more from her. She’s a trembling, remorseful captive with SPUNK. Poor thing. My heart breaks while my head whispers, “You stupid, stupid girl!” This is obviously the desired effect, it feels right. As Whittred, clad in a trench coat and jocks, leaps between the role of the Bait and his other as ROCK GOD. Robbie Williams, we love you but just stand still sometimes like THIS. OK? OK.

 

DCB_michaelwhittred

 

Very effective. Whittred’s presence and his haunting, searing rock musical score make this show the Something Rotten of the season and I expect to see a few noms on the table, regardless of the final outcome in the popularity stakes. (There are only 50 seats per performance). There is strong work here. Whittred’s rock mini-score is so polished, it’s ready for the studio. In fact, there’ll be a recording available at the end of the season. Leave your details at Box Office to get a copy so you can say, “I heard it first”.

 

In its current form it really does feel as if the show is crying out to be a musical. I’d love to see it put in front of James Millar and Peter Rutherford (then see them get behind it!). Dust Covered Butterfly is the stuff of New Musicals Australia, a development process that takes its successful participants to Hayes Theatre for a full season. AND THEN THERE’S THE NEW YORK MUSIC THEATRE FESTIVAL. Of course, with the final shows this weekend, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s part of the Queensland Cabaret Festival. GUYS, YOU REALISE THE LINK HERE IS KRIS STEWART.

 

DCB_katycotter_killer

 

As you might expect, Cotter plays the Killer coldly, and as you might not expect, warmly, with devastating compassion for her captive. Her care and concern becomes chilling and we get a glimpse into a serious case of Stockholm syndrome, which continues to fascinate me because of course, anybody in a long-term relationship is familiar with it. No, really, you must recognise the cycle of seduction and isolation and protection and obsession and intimidation and destruction… Is it just me? Okay, don’t tell Sam I said that. Maybe tell him? No, don’t tell him. Okay, tell him. I’ll just be here…waiting.

 

Cotter’s pink top reads not, “This is my dance space” but “KILLER”, and Anderson is dressed in a flirty white Some Like It Hot baby doll Marilyn frock with curious blackened – dead – fingers and toes, like Laura Palmer, dead, wrapped in plastic. But it’s not David Lynch throwing this party; it’s Thomas Hutchins, in his directorial debut, and it’s impressive. I like the choices here and I’d like to see it live again. Go catch it in this form though. It has a very short lifespan in this interesting space, with the current season ending June 20.

 

Production pics Morgan Roberts

 

 

02
May
15

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

 

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Brisbane Powerhouse & Metro Arts

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

April 22 – May 2 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

BPH_De_Profundis_1_20152-1180x663

 

 

WARNING: This work contains nudity, sexually explicit material and poetry

 

 

On opening night Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis was cancelled due to technical problems so I had to find another night to go back to see it. It was a Wednesday night, nothing unusual about that, except all was not well with the world. With social media and our heads and hearts full of mixed feelings for the events going down in Bali at the time, there was already a slightly tragic and fragile air to proceedings. Terrified of being locked out and missing the show completely – even Kris Stewart wasn’t allowed into the theatre when he got there late the previous night – I arrived early, having driven through sunset and drizzling rain to be there with time to spare and discover plenty of empty parking spaces. I love Brisbane Powerhouse parking. (South Brisbane, why must you charge us so much to visit your venues?).

 

 

A capacity crowd queued all the way up the stairs and back to Box Office (it seems everybody now knows about the strict lock out policy!), and it took an extraordinarily long time for bodies to find seats. Actually, it probably wasn’t a long time at all, but Brian Lucas was already standing, naked, in a corner of white canvas walls, which would be his prison cell for the evening. It must have felt like an eternity for him.

 

 

The words and images projected across the canvas are integral to the production, helping to stitch disparate thoughts together and reiterate particular points, thoughts, names, dates. Flowers bloom and swirl like psychedelic digital postcards of time-lapsed desert wildflowers and quotes thrown across the walls are repeated. And repeated. And repeated. Combined with lighting states lulling us into a false sense of security before brightening and making us face facts again, I can understand why the opening night performance didn’t go ahead. It’s a challenging text and I’m pleasantly surprised to see just how well the elements combine – nothing corny or gimmicky in the design or the performance – to give us multiple ways in to this production.

 

 

I was worried that any contemporary adaptation of De Profundis would be the wrong sort of gritty; impenetrable, all doom and gloom, making us feel miserable, desperately hopeless and ultimately alone. Instead I was able to tell industry friends after the show that I’d enjoyed it! They looked at me strangely… #whatevs

 

 

Since seeing the show and actually stopping to write about it the question of what a reviewer should offer to artists and audiences has come up again across multiple social media platforms. Does it ever go away? I hope not. It’s a necessary conversation and one which, I’m pleased to say, the artists I know are always willing to continue.

 

 

I asked Lucas what he would hope to get from somebody responding to his work in any sort of formal, official sense. So, for current and future reference…

 

 

1. An honest response

 
2. An informed response

 
3. Constructive criticism, and

 
4. A sense of the “big picture” context (both in the immediate ecology of the sector, and in the on-going history/future of the sector).

 

 

Wilde was imprisoned and initially deprived of his books and writing materials so you can imagine the outpouring that occurred once he was given pen and paper towards the end of his incarceration. The 50 000-word letter to his ex-lover became De Profundis, and the musings and imaginings of Lucas and Director/Co-Creator David Fenton became this very intense version of the work. The stars above and the 1970s Tupperware toned linoleum floor beneath place us quite succinctly, without any fuss, within two worlds, two eras not so very far apart.

 

BPH_De_Profundis_3_2015-1180x663

 

 

In the intimate Visy Theatre there’s no hiding from Lucas’s measured gaze or his (mostly) warm, articulate words.

 

 

It’s a very personal experience, as if he’s speaking just to me…to each of us. The audience vibe is open, admiring, appreciative, contemplative. The industry peeps are here with members of the general public. There is something profound if that’s what you’re looking for, and something very simple if you want to take away a simple, single message. There are moments of pin-drop silence and stillness.

 

 

Lucas wears his nakedness completely naturally and performs his slightly more gratuitous acts as if he were alone in the space, however; there remains a distinct knowing that someone is always watching. (We’re privy to every other move he makes so why not microphone fellatio and masturbation?!).

 

 

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis will return, there’s no doubt about that.

 

 

But I wonder how well it would ever work without Lucas? His movement, physicality and simple, raw realisation of the character without historical endowments or embellishments is beautiful. He’s an extraordinary performer. I just hope he’s cleared his schedule because this piece will surely bring Brian Lucas back to the Powerhouse before taking him around the world.

 

BPH_De_Profundis_2_2015-1180x663

 

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!”

 

dashkruck_suit

 

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.

 

dashkruck_sitting

 

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!

 

dashkruck_martini

 

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!

 

dashkruck_backbend

 

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

 

07
Dec
14

Bradley McCaw: The Complete Unauthorised Biography of Cabaret

 

The Complete Unauthorised Biography of Cabaret

Brisbane Powerhouse & An Old Fashioned Production Company

Brisbane Powerhouse Graffiti Room

December 5 – 7 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

BPH_Wonderland_Unauthorised_Biography_Cabaret_3_2014-1180x663

 

Bradley McCaw won Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest in 2012 (book tickets here for the 2015 comp, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere). Part of the prize package was to take his original show on an all expenses paid national tour and on to New York. It sold out. This year, for the first time, Brisbane Powerhouse has added Wonderland, a “night-time playground”, to this city’s cabaret calendar. McCaw’s show fits the bill in a slightly more conservative and sensible manner than most, giving us a refreshing break from all things outrageously and outlandishly “cabaret”. (Don’t worry, I also love outrageous and outlandish!). His show is a lesson in the genre and without a doubt the most fun you’ll have in the cabaret classroom, though we’re far from the traditional classroom.

 

We find ourselves in the intimate Graffiti Room with only 28 others. I know this space as a meeting room so I’ll admit I was dubious interested to see what sort of performance space it would make. Artistic Director of the Powerhouse, Kris Stewart, told me that previously the room has been claimed by Comedy Festival acts. The teeny, tiny, carpeted space works well in this context too, with a raised stage beneath a proscenium arch made from striped butchers’ paper. Note to self: Pin that in Event Inspiration.

 

McCaw greets us just as casually as if we were still standing by the bar outside (has it ever been busier?!), and introduces what will become a 50-minute 100-year history lesson, complete with his easy humour and musical interludes. I wish my Modern History lessons at high school had been as fun as this fascinating look at the European timeline. We begin in Paris, to seek an answer to the question, “What is Cabaret?” It’s a question that’s been asked many times of course, but McCaw narrows the context for us and cleverly sings a comical song of an afternoon spent shooting hoops and talking shop with a mate named Steve. McCaw realises he is unable to give Steve a straight answer and determines to find out for himself.

 

What is Cabaret?

 

cabaret1

 

Yes, and…

 

paris_chatnoir

 

Le Chat Noir – the Black Cat Café – tells through its haunting ugly lights time of night melody and eloquent storytelling about the drunken proprietor of an empty venue, who opens his doors one night in 1878 to a group of artists, creating a magical space where cabaret is born. At this time it’s the sharing of stories, songs, skits, drinks… Is it still? In this quiet number lies the essence of the show, but there’s much more to come and a lot of it is surprisingly upbeat!

 

It’s in the lilting ballad tones and also, when McCaw opens up mid-range, that we hear the famous Ten Tenors quality in his voice. And when he rocks out in Hard to Keep a Good Girl Down we hear (and see) the unmistakable confidence and showmanship of a true Piano Man. Quick! Last drinks!

 

“I heard Billy Joel and a song of his ‘Just the Way You Are’ and I thought wow, that’s possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I want to make something like that, so I started making [music].”

 

It’s a rousing, cheeky song, boyish, fast and fun. Unknown to McCaw, however, is the ambition of the microphone on a stand above the Roland, which spins of its own accord, distracting and delighting us all. Its accidental choreography is actually perfectly fitting. He stops and laughs with us, swings it back and around and around it goes in stubborn, joyous pirouettes like a barefoot child at the end of a birthday party until McCaw pushes it aside again and begins the song again. In any other genre this part of the show might be forgotten; that is to say we might try at least to forget about that awful, embarrassing moment with the mic. But in this case it’s testament to McCaw’s ability to nurture the relationship with his audience in a shared moment of unexpected comedy.

 

BPH_Wonderland_Unauthorised_Biography_Cabaret_2_2014-1177x663

 

Gentler, and presented with a direct challenge to the audience is All I Need Is You. McCaw reaches for a ukulele and teaches us a line of the song – it’s call and response – and in the small space, in which everyone can hear everything, it feels like a big ask! Luckily we’re seated next to Lizzie Sing It a Third Above Moore so it’s a pleasant experience and we sing along too. The opportunity comes again at the end of the show with Daydreamin’ Girl, a fun way to finish. Poppy knows how all this audience participation stuff goes and we already have McCaw’s EP; it’s a souvenir from Noosa Long Weekend Festival, which he signed for Poppy, and which we often play in the car. When I mentioned this to McCaw after the show it was hard to gauge whether or not he believed me, but it’s true. We’ve just started listening to Mama Kin again too, in case we run into Danielle & John at Woodford this year. “How can you chat to the singer, Mum, if you don’t know their songs?” So asks the wise child!

 

We travel with McCaw on an intriguing journey through tumultuous times, across borders and oceans, and all the way into 1940s American Ragtime. The show works well like this, as a chronological effort to discover a working definition for cabaret, but it means it’s a little less personal than the first version. I couldn’t help but think No Feelings Today made a deeper impact in its original 8-minute competition context and McCaw let us in on some heart thoughts about the time two brothers might spend together. Now, in representing the artists’ perspective on cabaret (“we can do whatever we want”), I feel this song loses its beautiful, soaring sadness. There’s always a place for beautiful, soaring sadness, for longing, particularly within cabaret and we can’t shy away from it for the sake of an academic argument!

 

“I think that’s what cabaret’s greatest asset is; it is always evolving. It takes whatever is around its community and it makes it seem fresh because it’s so new and so contemporary.

 

McCaw’s versatility is actually astounding as he shifts effortlessly between musical styles. I’d love to hear him sing more. Less shtick and more song!

 

I guess the answer to Steve’s question lies in each artist’s interpretation of the genre and if this show is cabaret too, let’s have more of it!

 

 

22
Nov
14

Flaunt

 

 

Flaunt

Brisbane Powerhouse & Claire Marshall Projects

In association with Metro Arts

Brisbane Powerhouse

November 18–22 2014

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

BPH_Flaunt_1_20141-1180x663

 

 

We are exploring women’s gender, sexuality and power, and how it can be ‘socially inscribed’ on the body …

Claire Marshall, Director/Choreographer

 

Before the first performance of Flaunt, Powerhouse Artistic Director Kris Stewart made a short, impassioned speech about the Powerhouse’s support for independent dance artists such as Director/Choreographer Claire Marshall and her group of dancers. This support is partly funded by the drinks you buy at the Powerhouse, so drink up, everyone!

 

Flaunt opens with a woman climbing a ladder onto the roof of a metal-framed structure. She writhes and poses there. Later three others appear and two women manipulate the limbs of the others. The end of the work recapitulates these moments.

 

In between are a number of other short scenes. The women struggle to escape from behind a glass screen, on which images of sultry-looking formally dressed women are projected. They walk in the strange crossed-over way that models do, they pose and pout, and do some pole dancing moves, using the uprights of the shelter. At another point, the feel is of a nightclub, with very loud, pounding electronic sound. The soundtrack also features a robotic female voice discoursing on gender and sexuality.

 

In a creepy sequence, the dancers manipulate shop mannequins and dismember them. The cross-section of the bottom half of one mannequin is blood-red.

 

In her program notes, Marshall says the work is ‘about women and power’ – but only sexual power is on display here, and competition between women. The women appear to be trapped by their gender and sexuality, managing occasionally to break out and escape. The ladder offers a way out, but it’s narrow, and can take only one person at a time.

 

The overall impression of the design (Frances Hannaway) is of darkness, and entrapment – overlaid with allure. The costumes were mainly black and silver – dark silver leggings and black tops for the opening scene, clear plastic tops with crisscrossed strips of black, transparent white skirts that looked like organza, and dark silver tops with black bike shorts. They suited the dancers, and had a welcome elegance contrasting with the dark themes of the work.

 

The dancers (Mariana Parizo, Miranda Zeller, Amelia Stokes, Kirri Webb) were strong and athletic, demonstrating a power that their characters in this piece are denied. The strength of the movement, combined with the pouting and posturing that reproduce some of the stereotyped sexualised images of women, results in an uneasy mix of voyeuristic appeal, parody, and critique.

 

Flaunt is an hour long, with no interval. Sometimes the time dragged, and at others the work was absorbing. Final show tonight 7pm.

 




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow on Bloglovin

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook