Posts Tagged ‘la boite indie

30
Nov
15

Maximum

 

Maximum

La Boite Indie & Natalie Abbott

La Boite Roundhouse

November 26 – December 5 2015

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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Maximum, directed by Natalie Abbott, is a movement piece that interrogates failure, endurance and contrasting physicalities. The work also challenges audience notions of choreography and performance with its series of circuit training and lifts.

 

This challenge presents itself almost immediately as I adjust to the form of the work. The stark lighting and repetitious movement is confronting at first. I am unsure of where the work is leading and how I should respond. As soon as I realise that this is it – that the performance is simply composed of a series of movement tasks without context – I find myself at the mercy of the performance. Repetition is key in this journey from confusion to submission as I observe the performers committing to the constant rigour of the movement.

 

Maximum is at once a highly conceptual and innately accessible performance that places the human body at its centre.

 

My response to the performance is first and foremost visceral. Performers Natalie Abbott and Nathan Daveson are committed in every way. There is no backing away from the physical challenge of the movement and no demand for sympathy from the audience. In this way, I can’t help but sympathise with the performers as they engage in progressively more intense physical activity. I am with them – I feel their pain, frustration and hope – especially as failure becomes inherent to the work. No matter the struggle, they are present at all times, focused only on the task at hand. There is a generosity to this kind of commitment and vulnerability that exists in performance work like Maximum, with a simple and wholesome intent to test the limits of what is possible on stage.

 

With Maximum, Abbott also explores how two bodies with vastly different backgrounds can come together as one. On stage we are presented with a female dancer and male body builder. The act of observing these contrasting bodies is one of the most beautiful aspects of the work. At first the performers appear to be in competition, trying to exceed each other in their endurance. I am interested in who will succeed, who will fail and whose training will serve them best. However, by the end of the performance a question of difference becomes a question of trust. The final lift requires the two performers to move and breathe together, and trust that the other person will be there to support them in this act.

 

In her Director’s Notes, Abbott also speaks of her interest in seeing and being seen. This is enhanced by Matthew Addey’s clean and simple design, which forms a blank canvas pregnant with possibility. The bright white lights and white backdrop combine with Daniel Arnott’s pulsing sound design to increase the intensity and theatricality of the event. At times the design distracts from the rawness of the performers, whilst at other times it enhances the visceral and aesthetic experience.

 

Natalie Abbott’s Maximum is a thoughtful, considered and skillful work.

 

It is challenging to engage with at first, and may present a challenge if your ideal night out at the theatre involves a climactic narrative, well-formed characters and other elements you could usually associate with theatre. Instead this is a work that exists in the realm of performance, with failure clearly on the table but a strength and ferocity of spirit to push beyond personal and artistic limits to interrogate the human body in all its beauty.

 

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08
Nov
15

The Motion of Light In Water

 

The Motion of Light in Water

La Boite Indie

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

November 4 – 21 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

SEX AND SCIENCE FICTION ON STAGE

 

WHAT IF…?

 

“Science fiction isn’t just thinking about the world out there. It’s also thinking about how that world might be—a particularly important exercise for those who are oppressed, because if they’re going to change the world we live in, they—and all of us—have to be able to think about a world that works differently.”

Samuel R. Delany

 

About Hacker’s work, the poet Jan Heller Levi has said:

“I think of her magnificent virtuosity in the face of all the strictures to be silent, to name her fears and her desires, and in the process, to name ours. Let’s face it, no one writes about lust and lunch like Marilyn Hacker. No one can jump around in two, sometimes even three, languages and come up with poems that speak for those of us who sometimes barely think we can even communicate in one. And certainly no one has done more, particularly in the last decade of formalism, to demonstrate that form has nothing to do with formula. In villanelles, sestinas, and sonnets—not to mention a variety of forms whose names I can’t even pronounce—Marilyn Hacker can journey us on a single page through feelings as confusing as moral certainty to feelings as potentially empowering as unrequited passion.”

 

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We know that anything penned by Marcel Dorney (Prehistoric, Fractions) is worth a look. The Motion of Light In Water, originally commissioned by Hothouse Theatre and Theatre Works, and inspired by Samuel Ray “Chip” Delany’s award winning speculative works and his memoir of the same name, is testament to Dorney’s intelligent approach to creating theatre that challenges and satisfies in equal measure.

 

The Motion of Light in Water is utterly surprising and affecting, highly intellectual and deeply challenging, and despite its slightly indulgent running time (110 minutes without interval), it’s incredibly entertaining. I come away from it wide-eyed, having never been a fan of Delany’s work or of science fiction generally and somehow overlooking, until now, Marilyn Hacker’s incredible writing. I know. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

 

In this work, Dorney has captured a style of storytelling that feels genuinely new and fresh; it’s sci-fi manga live on stage. While it doesn’t purport to be a biopic or an adaptation of Delany’s groundbreaking Babel-17 there is so much truth to it, which comes at us – unforgivably – through a fictional account of events in the extraordinary ordinary lives of Delany and Hacker overlaid with the “what if…?” of Delany’s acclaimed books. It’s a work that William Gibson says, “captures the sense of courage and possibility that we took from these books, and the cultural and personal struggles that gave rise to them.”

 

The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.

 

Empire Star’s narrator, Jewel (Emily Tomlins), invites us to take a look inside the imagined world of Delany (Ray Chong-Nee) and Hacker (Olivia Monticciolo) as they live and love and work and fuck and rage right through the 60s and 70s, simultaneously taking us by the hand for a trip into the future. We find ourselves in front row seats at an intergalactic battle of epic proportions, the unlikely space crew fighting against evil, led by Babel-17’s protagonist, poet & captain of the craft, Rydra Wong (Ngoc Phan). The historical and futuristic aspects are cleverly interwoven, and while there’s possibly another play just in the intriguing Delany/Hacker relationship, it wouldn’t have the same impact without the intricacies (and complexity! And adventure!) of the other.

 

I love the straight-up, naturalistic approach to the NYC scenes, giving us insight into the challenges and delights of existing in 1960s and1970s America as a black bi-sexual man (and as an extraordinarily talented, tolerant, lesbian Jew not so much – Hacker is integral to the string of events but she plays a supporting role in this version of Delany’s story), and a bi-racial couple that brings between them for several weeks – what seems like a lifetime – a married, displaced man, who has the same basic needs and desires as their own (Tom Dent).

 

The more stylised futuristic scenes keep the dense text real for those of us who may be familiar with Tolkien’s imagined ancient tongue and Orwell’s “newspeak” but not with the brilliantly created codes of the future, which in this case have the power to destroy humankind. Within both plots we get our past, present and possible future, with vibrant discussion on social norms, political constraints, three-person parties and linguistic relativity (that language determines our perception of reality), however; during the final discourse it seems to take an exorbitantly long time for Captain Wong and The Butcher (Tom Dent) to satisfactorily explore the notion of empathy. There is lovely comedy in it, but it’s at this point that we begin to get restless…

 

The context changes but the rhetoric remains the same.

– Samuel Ray “Chip” Delany

 

In the role of Delany Ray Chong-Nee has been given room to create a delightfully disarming character that we immediately adore, and with whom it’s easy to empathise. His embodiment of this quirky, incredibly brilliant man is captivating. When I read interviews with the actual Delany I can imagine he’d be pretty chuffed with Chong-Nee’s work in this production. In fact, I like to think that he and Hacker would be as intrigued and as entertained as I am by this production. (Professor Delany gets a thank you in the program for his generosity, support and insight during the process).

 

Dorney’s direction is careful, as precise as his language is; he’s so attentive to the quieter moments, which are vital if we are to process the complexities of the storytelling, and at the same time, with gusto and mischief, he plays with the physicality of the actors, their bodies in the space, and the more technical elements of the louder, brighter, comic book bits. All the elements come together magnificently – comically, boldly – for example, when Captain Wong takes control of the space battle in a Wii styled solo effort to save the world. (AV Designer Andre Vanderwer, Lighting Designer Kris Chainey and Composition & Sound Design THE SWEATS). Only it’s taken the power and navigational skills of the crew to get her there. In the fine tradition of Romeo and Juliet and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this bizarre meeting of minds and bodily bits required to power the spacecraft happens symbolically (or really, this way, in the future. What if…?), as hands meet and move as one. All of this within the cold confines of an austere set designed by Matthew Adey, which serves as the spacecraft as well as separating various city spaces. Zoe Rouse has rejigged the costumes since the original Melbourne run and may need to rethink the ill-fitting futuristic white leggings here, which simply detract from the overall aesthetic and keep us, unfortunately, squarely in “indie” theatre territory. The current obsession with awesome looking active wear, which relies on superior textiles and advanced technology to lift and shape and flatter, means it’s just not plausible that such a style crime would be committed by anyone in authority in the future.

 

The Motion of Light In Water is Dorney’s most detailed and entertaining work to date, exploding with vivid reflections on the darkest, most threatening aspects of life and love and power, and at the same time tenderly embracing and celebrating the best of every day. This is a play that will itself be embraced and celebrated by audiences who are craving all the feels and something more to think about.

 

Between us on our wide bed we cuddle an incubus

whom we have filled with voyages. We wake

more apart than before, with open hands.

Your stomach and head begin to ache.

We cannot work. You are in pain. I cry.

The Navigators, Marilyn Hacker

 

07
Nov
15

The Chat

 

The Chat

La Boite Indie 

 La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

November 5 – 14 2015

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

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Co-creators James Brennan and David Woods have conceived a rare and powerful theatrical experience that allows the audience to navigate inside a severely misunderstood world.

 

The Chat opens up a can of squirming, uncomfortable worms and tries to remove the stigma around the rehabilitation of criminal offenders.

 

Being a parole officer, Brennan was deeply affected by interviews had with offenders and decided to explore creative outlets that generated discussions and abolished stereotypes. The question that continued to arise and concern Brennan was ‘How should we treat people who commit offences whilst maintaining their dignity?’ The Chat highlights that the relationship between the parole officer and the offender is one that must be valued. It is a delicate relationship as the officer’s job does not require them to assess whether or not the offender is guilty. The performance contains interviews that shed light on the duty of care of the officer, particularly their ongoing battle of providing the right help. It also humanises the offenders with the dialogue being dark yet often comical, revealing the absurdities of situations.

 

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What makes this show so incredible and unsettling is that some of the performers are ex-offenders who are all exceptionally brave human beings and are terrifyingly raw on stage, exposing themselves to a room of strangers. This is such an important element of the work, transforming it from theatre to therapy, or soul-searching.

 

The performers are literally screaming out for understanding, empathy and compassion.

 

They want to expel the hate inside of them and are yearning for someone to listen, and help them find solutions to move forward with their lives. The transition back into society and stopping repeated offences is a focus in the show, and solutions are hard to come by. It seems that being in prison is a safer option. One of the performers, Mark Flewell-Smith, almost had me in tears when he said in his rough voice, “I am frightened by no-one but I’m scared of everything.”

 

There is a fine line between fiction and the truth that keeps audiences engaged. The performers are allowing exclusive access into their lives – their rehabilitation – and whether or not they are bending the truth at times, The Chat evokes a gut response that can only be experienced in person. At times you are possessed with rage and the next a deep sadness. You question how you view people that are different from you and lived different experiences. There is a frustration because you want to know more about the “characters” and how they got to certain points – information needed to then provide adequate help and solutions, yes? This is the dilemma! There are so many questions left unanswered, too much judgment, and not enough listening. Toward the end of the show there is an element of audience participation, where the audience is able to ask performers questions or offer suggestions about how to help them transition back into society.

 

One audience member simply asked Mark what he wanted. Mark replied, “I want to be just like you. I want to be normal.”

 

Walking out of the theatre, I was lost for words. I was not satisfied. Then on the drive home, I realised that was the point. The Chat does not end once you leave. It will stay with you; those faces will stay with you. This is an important piece of theatre; it is brave, it is unfair, it is harrowing. Yet there is hope. A hope to be heard, to be given a chance, to be normal…whatever that is.

 

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22
Oct
15

Sunnytown

 

Sunnytown

La Boite Indie

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

October 15 – 31 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

“When a creature is exposed to violence, it will tend to adapt to that disturbance, so that when the violence ceases or the creature is allowed its freedom, the healthy instinct to flee is hugely diminished, and the creature stays put instead.”

 

― Clarissa Pinkola EstésWomen Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

 

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In experiencing this play I’m again reminded of Brecht, who famously stated, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”

 

Sunnytown is a shiny new play with a dark core, written and directed by recent(ish) NIDA grads, Krystal Sweedman (Writer) and Heather Fairbairn (Director). It’s a worthy text brought to life in the first instance with the help of pozible, and now La Boite Indie. Originally penned under the tutelage of Stephen Sewell, Sunnytown is a challenging piece in terms of its content and style. It’s not my favourite play this year but it’s the first of four independent productions at La Boite and as lovers and makers of live theatre, not to mention lovers and makers of humanity, it gives us a lot to consider.

 

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

 

What we think might be the simple preparations of a helicopter mother for her daughter’s thirteenth birthday party precludes a pre-Grimm moralistic fairytale complete with warnings, distractions, a dream world and dire consequences. It could even be considered pre-Hellenic. Demeter and Persephone, anyone?

 

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The Sunnytown of the title is a dubious place, imaginary, but not (but, yes, it is). It feels like a secret rave for the subconscious, in which there is mention of a basement (the darkest, deepest realm of our psyche) and strange interpretive dance and physical theatre inspired by the actual reactions to anaphylactic shock (yes, that’s the cake through-line), which don’t advance the story but instead seem superfluous to it, and distract us rather than focus our attentions on Dani, the birthday girl. The “basement” is never reached, by the way…

 

Sam has an interesting reading of this piece. I like it. It has merit. Here it is. *(Spoiler alert. Sort of)

 

What if Marg, the mother, is the only character on stage? Think about it.

 

“Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent.”

 

The relationship with her husband reflects the relationship she had with her father, and the relationship with her daughter exists from the memories of her childhood and her own imaginary friend. It’s not what’s intended, clearly, but nevertheless…

 

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Caroline Dunphy brings to the archetypal mother role all the qualities one might expect to see in a work that quietly shouts themes of manipulative and abusive relationships, and our common coping mechanisms. A particularly lovely and relatable (and unsettling) moment occurs early, when she tries to give a jar to her husband for him to open when she struggles to do so herself. He raises his newspaper in front of his face and “misses” her gesture. She’s invisible. She has the appropriate concern for the child and a desire to be with the husband but with all of it there comes a distinct and deliberate…distance from everyone around her. She’s actually impenetrable, appearing to have a more reliable relationship with her bottle of rum, which she nurses, keeping out of the clutches of her husband, than with anybody in the immediate vicinity.

 

“When a woman is frozen of feeling, when she can no longer feel herself, when her blood, her passion, no longer reach the extremities of her psyche, when she is desperate; then a fantasy life is far more pleasurable than anything else she can set her sights upon. Her little match lights, because they have no wood to burn, instead burn up the psyche as though it were a big dry log. The psyche begins to play tricks on itself; it lives now in the fantasy fire of all yearning fulfilled. This kind of fantasizing is like a lie: If you tell it often enough, you begin to believe it.”

 
― Clarissa Pinkola EstésWomen Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

 

Ron Kelly as Jim, the husband, is a lurking, violent, damaged soul and then just as suddenly he’s the splendidly daggy entertainment at the birthday party, absurdly twisting balloons and unashamedly cracking every dad joke in the book. The polarity is nicely presented. In both Kelly and Dunphy we see strong performances, alongside Olivia Hall-Smith (Dani) and Vanessa Krummenacher (Miranda) in a master and apprentice scenario. These two are young and fresh as daisies, with Krummenacher giving us the guts and frighteningly convincing Mean Girls-ness of a thirteen-year old BFF, and Hall-Smith offering girlish joy and that unique brand of “tween” despair and the silent retreat to somewhere other-worldly.

 

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Guy Webster’s sinister soundscape sets the mood and keeps us guessing (it’s really brilliant work), and Jason Glenwright’s lighting, with a string of party lights behind and a collection of golden paper lanterns above, in a gesture that is ever so slightly reminiscent of Rumour Has It, brings a surreal party atmosphere to a seemingly ordinary household in a “floating” white floored set designed by Catherine Steele.

 

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Fairbairn has thrown every trick in the book at this play, which might speak better if left to do so for itself. But look past the “glimmer” and you’ll see the essence of a story about hope, and coping as best we can, even if that means clinging to a bottle of rum more tightly than to a loved one for a little while.

 

“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”

 

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans Photography

 

Quotes from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With the Wolves

 

22
Nov
14

Or Forever Hold Your Peace (The Story of Iphigenia)

 

Or Forever Hold Your Peace (The Story of Iphigenia)

La Boite Indie & Motherboard Productions

With the support of QPAC

November 12 – 29 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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Well, I don’t know WHAT that is…the hero shot appears to be a mash up of Athens Fashion Week, Jane Eyre, Lauren Jackson’s Medea for Zen Zen Zo, Face Off and The Lion King. Sure, I get it – a leopard doesn’t change its spots, we wear many masks, we are aligned with many tribes, we run with the pack, we are wild at heart and of our own making, etc. – but I don’t know if it’s the best match for this production, which is in fact the best we’ve seen this year, in the line up for La Boite Indie. YOU CAN VOTE FOR IT HERE.

 

Or Forever Hold Your Peace (The Story of Iphigenia) is a show that has just about everything. It’s a contemporary Greek tragedy, complete with a stripper, a wedding and The Last Supper. Well, no, alright, not really. But nearly!

 

Do you know the story? Sure you do. Agamemnon, pressured to prove his commitment to the Trojan War before sending thousands of men to their deaths, agrees to sacrifice his daughter’s life. But that’s not the worst part! He uses the gorgeous Achilles and a last-minute sham wedding to lure the lovely girl to her untimely death, changes his mind and sees her give herself up after all! It’s not just the ancient war we’re dealing with here. This is a timely statement on the “necessity” of war v the desire for peace, the responsibilities of leadership, and the repercussions of an individual’s actions.

 

Guy and I should have propped up an iPhone and filmed our post-show discussion – it would have served as a fine review – but we didn’t think of it at the time and besides, I know how tired I look this term. I was never going to be ready for my close up, Mr DeMille.

 

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When we walk into The Roundhouse with our plastic cups of cab merlot (keep it classy, Brisvegas), it feels like we’ve entered life’s locker room, as the chorus of casually dressed soldiers warms up, apparently preparing for battle, for life. I can only assume they’ve been doing their drills for some time, since we’ve strolled in at the last second to take our seats. It’s a highly stylised (let’s call it choreographed) opening sequence, which immediately sets a brutal, intense, and slightly unnerving, very intimate tone. At the same time, we get a sense of something bigger than all of us; a force beyond our control. The physical discipline, rigour and collective energy inspires me to sit up straighter, though not to join Bootcamp. It’s only Wednesday but it’s already been a long week. Also, these performers are not afraid of a little eye contact. But you might be. If so, probs don’t sit in the first three rows. This is live theatre remember, at close range. INTENSE. I LOVE IT.

 

An epic soundtrack & soundscape (is there an album? I’d buy the album) by Dane Alexander, and dramatic, cinematic lighting (Daniel Anderson) fill the space and then make it sparse… I love the alternate light and shade on Peter Cossar’s face as he speaks on leadership, and the inspired use of the bank of seats opposite us. Sleswick notes in the program that he wanted to express himself as a director through this piece and this he has done in abundance. Or Forever Hold Your Peace perhaps says more about Sleswick than anyone or anything else. His is a bold world, populated by courageous, dedicated and loyal soldiers, through whom we discover an intelligent and intriguing perspective on our country’s journey and the uses of power…and theatre. Remember, I told you in 2012:

 

Dave Sleswick is a director with guts and vision. Motherboard’s La Voix Humaine will have you thinking and feeling deeply. This is not just new world theatre; it’s a new world order. Motherboard is here to stay.

 

If you caught the previous “version” of this production (also in 2012: QUT’s student company, Vena Cava, directed by Dave Sleswick, does Charles Mee’s Iphigenia 2.0), I hope you haven’t missed this one thinking it’s simply a remount. Because Sleswick has taken Mee’s polarising play and introduced Dramaturg, Morgan Rose to it, then invited all those words to a summer rooftop party with all of his friends and Djuki Mala, and thrown them into the pool with all of the furniture, the pot plants and the sound system, before wringing them out, ripping them up, and stuffing them into the pockets of a pair of cargo pants as he goes on his way through the mud run of life.

 

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He’s cast some excellent performers, including Chris Farrell, who moves like dirty mercury across the stage, and Erica Field, gorgeous in the wise vulnerable role of bridesmaid and bestie. Guy says she looks like Bryce Dallas Howard in The Help and shows me the image to prove it.

 

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Achilles (Rowan Davie) also looks like he’s already famous, though I can’t think of whom he reminds me, and I make a mental note to start watching movies again. Menalaus (Ben Warren), the voice of Mee’s hard-wired, intelligent take on current warfare, holds us still with his compelling storytelling, the retelling of the atrocities, informing every subsequent moment. Tormented, Warren’s eyes are windows to a broken-and-glued-together-again soul. He’s beautifully supported by the chorus (easily the ensemble of the year).

 

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The thrown-together wedding of, er; convenience, gives us a clash of different coloured cloth, plastic picnic wares, bright bouquets on a couple of long trestle tables, and garb that’s almost clownish, garish. We could be between the pages of a Harpers Bazaar Summer Brights edit. Or trapped in a Costumes by the Performers university production of Barnum. (There are times when I do actually like Barnum).

 

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It’s unfortunate that Iphigenia’s final monologue (“I like…”) – feels overwritten and overplayed but others continue to giggle long after I want to holler, in that unbearable audition panel manner, “OK. GOOD. THANK YOU”. If I were not a mother I might feel similarly about Clytemnestra’s wailing, which goes on and on, as indeed it would, as her daughter is slaughtered (in the wings, in a perfect example of the less graphic the violence viewed, the more violent the act), but this performer succeeds in sending chills down my spine, and making me hate, even more than before, her husband, Iphigenia’s father, Agememnon. The parallels are clear throughout and I can’t imagine a current political leader even considering going to such lengths to prove his loyalty to the people.

 

“…there’s another chorus at work in Iphigenia in Aulis, and that’s the one in our educated heads, reminding us how the story will end. Iphigenia will be sacrificed. Agamemnon and his army will go off to a ten-year war in which Achilles will die. Troy will burn. Odysseus will find it almost impossible to get home. And though Agamemnon will survive and return, he’ll be ambushed by his wife and revenged by his children. Greece will eat its young only slightly less literally than Thyestes ate his. Knowing all this makes us witnesses to both the necessity and the uselessness of every action. That’s the bitter absurdity of Euripides’s play.”

 

Tony Adler for chicagoreader.com

 

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29
Oct
14

Dangerfield Park

 

Dangerfield Park

La Boîte Indie & Pentimento Productions

Supported by QPAC

The Roundhouse

21st of October – 5th of November 2014

 

Reviewed by Guy Frawley

 

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In Dangerfield Park we’re introduced to a group of gay men from different backgrounds who through differing connections of friendship and sex are brought together at the same moment one of their friends is brutally bashed in a homophobic attack. The Noel Coward-esque theatrical producer Sholto (Sven Swenson); his journalist amore d’jour Tim (Michael Deed); solicitor Marc (Christos Mourtzakis); his paramedic fiancé Perry (Zachary Boulton); and the young, inexperienced Reyer (Nick Barclay) form the core cast of characters in the play who are all gathered in the St Lucia apartment of Sholto when they learn their friend Otis (Brian Lucas) has been bashed in the eponymous Dangerfield Park.

 

Dangerfield Park is a show a decade and a half too late to the stage that attempts to build it’s emotional core with outdated subject matter.

 

Yes the ‘gay panic defence’ is still on Queensland’s law books in some form (sigh) but changes several years ago by the state government have made the conditions of claiming the defence stricter and the defence of provocation can technically be applied equally across all genders and sexualities. Are beats still a thing? Sure, but they’re fast diminishing as the internet and mobile devices fundamentally change the mechanics of modern gay sex. Several references in the script imply a modern context but how can that even be with all the talk of sex and nary a mention of Grindr?! Religious discrimination? You bet it’s still a problem, but when we meet the fundamentalist Christian father of Reyer the painful struggle of dogma, love, salvation and family is reduced to an archaic stereotype that would have appeared comfortable in The Crucible. Most grating of all beleaguered and outdated messages was the constant harping upon gay couples suffering legal discrimination at the hands of a society that refuses to validate the love that dare not speak it’s name. I say this as a gay man who recently married his male partner of 6 years, and yes most of would like gay marriage to pass in parliament (even the polls agree!), but after the massive overhaul of policy in regard to same sex relationships under the Rudd government there isn’t a great deal of legal discrimination left to overcome. Yet we endure clunky monologues on the rights (or lack there of) of gay couples wrenched apart and disenfranchised by the unaccepting establishment.

 

By no means am I implying that all is good and right in the land of Oz when it comes to societies treatment of sexuality and same sex relationships but so much of what was obviously written to outrage and impassion just felt stale. Our primary cast of characters are an interesting and varied group that could have made much of contemporary issues but were instead left to stumble through tired tropes. Look to shows like Holding the Man and The Laramie Project for examples as to how similar subject matter is handled with far greater poise and nuance whilst being restrained by similar issues of contemporaneity.

 

Running at three and a half hours long the sheer length of Dangerfield Park makes the piece a laborious viewing experience. Swenson’s sharp dialogue and delightfully entertaining turn of phrase keeps the pace bustling along initially however the second act suffers as a result of the far too common polemic speeches that replace the witty repartee of earlier scenes. Cast your aspersions upon me as a product of the ‘Gen Y generation’ but everything I enjoyed about Dangerfield Park was tarnished by the utter boredom I felt by the end. Apathetic towards the conclusion and wishing a firmer hand had been shown with the editorial red pen.

 

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There’s a lot in this show that I obviously disliked but the performances in Dangerfield Park are really very good. Swenson does a thoroughly fabulous job as Sholto, playing the deliciously funny ageing queen with a delicate mixture of acidic bite and emotional depth. I would have enjoyed the show far more if we could have remained within Sholto’s domain and revelled in his lighting fast tongu. Brian Lucas brings the character of Otis to the stage in a fully realised and authentic performance that in many ways is the polar opposite of Sholto character. Otis is really the hardest role to play in this show requiring a performance that at times requires lecherous but never predatory, sleazy and sincere. Lucas carries the role beautifully and to me imparted the only sense of true authenticity I felt throughout the show.

 

I think Dangerfield Park would have made a real impact on me if I’d seen it a decade ago as a young gay man growing up in the changing world of the new millennium, but in 2014 it just left me underwhelmed and disappointed. When Swenson’s script succeeds it truly sparkles and allows the cast to shine but spread over three and a half hours these moments are sadly few and far between.

29
Oct
14

Angel Gear

 

Angel Gear

La Boite Indie & Pentimento Productions

Supported by QPAC

The Roundhouse

October 14 – November 8 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

 

Angel Gear: hooning down a hill without the car in gear.

 

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This play is as pointless as the titular activity suggests. Lacking subtlety, mystery, substance and wit, the best part of Angel Gear is its end. And I mean, that it ends. It’s two hours of WHY and WTF? It’s Deliverance in Dalby (sorry, Dalby, that’s unfair), only Deliverance had complete characters. And a plot. And a point.

 

Look, if you get food poisoning in a restaurant it’s really hard to go back. The only way I’ll see another Sven Swenson play is if somebody I respect tells me I must. I suspect some of the other opening night audience members will have felt the same, despite the polite and genuinely appreciative applause at the conclusion. There is, after all, regardless of a disappointing outcome, a hell of a lot of work in staging a production.

 

 

I overheard a gentleman at interval on opening night lament, “After a very tough week it’s not lifting me up at all.” Well, we don’t always go to the theatre for a lift. Did Victor Hugo ever expect a rom-com to come out of Les Mis? Did Shakespeare or any of the ancients try to hide mankind’s miseries in their tragedies? Theatre makers are either creating entertaining theatre or they’re creating something that makes a statement, makes us think, and makes us want to see more…

 

 

The latest from Sven Swenson – sans Sven Swenson (he was sick on that first Saturday night and unfortunately, rather than offering an alternate performance, the decision was made to put Assistant Director, James Trigg on stage with book in hand) – offers one perspective of a subculture with which I can’t identify. Whether or not this group is accurately portrayed, I don’t know. I feel it must be but I hope that it’s not. I hope this is a grossly inaccurate picture of a seriously flawed lot of human beings. Sam, sadly, assures me it’s quite accurate. I’m glad I don’t recognise characters of this sort. This is the very essence of Aussie trailer park trash.

 

 

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What’s it for? Why do we need this theatre, which makes us grit our teeth and leaves a bad taste in our mouths?

 

I was looking forward to experiencing this show because in conversations about Swenson’s last La Boite production, The Truth About Kookaburras, people confidently informed me that this is a man of great talent…and how dare I question anything at all from him. OH! Right.

 

#anothersacredcow

 

I actually wanted to write a great review of a great production. It would be so much easier to give this a rave…or to say nothing at all. Good sense, that little voice, tells me, “Don’t write it!” Integrity tells me I must.

 
No doubt the sycophants, suckholes and arts worker wannabees will have their say, and y’all are entitled to your opinion too. Aside from the vitriol though, I look forward to hearing differing opinions, and exactly what it is you believe the artistic merit of Swenson’s work to be. If the purpose of this work is to shock audiences, it’s failed on that level too. We’re so desensitised now that we barely take in the crass language, brutal violence, sexism, homophobia, incest and the blatant representation of women as whores. If anything, despite a few witticisms within the crude, er, dialect (others find the insults and labels hilarious while I wonder why it is men must write anything that perpetuates these myths of scrags and sluts and whores), it all becomes a bit tedious and again, I have to wonder, what is it for? In experiencing this work how am I challenged and changed? Why would I take a friend or family member to see this play?

 

The constant barrage of gutter language, and the lack of any structure, intelligence and meaning, makes this piece, for me, nothing more than pointless drivel. The supposed shock factor contributes only to a whole new level of cheap-tricks-theatre, offering nothing new to the canon of Australian work.

 

The design is ugly, cheap and nasty, perhaps precisely as it was intended to be, and there are very few moments of convincing, dynamic character work, despite obvious attempts to create ebb and flow in a fairly flat story arc. The emphasis seems to have been on spitting words, shooting wary glances at each other and holding the inevitable forced glares that follow. Luckily, Casey Woods shines at times. As Jayanne, we sense some sort of fading vulnerability, which is completely overridden by single-minded determination to seek revenge and eventual satisfaction. The pace lags as poor Triggs struggles to drive the drama in the second act, which dissolves into a low budget hostage scenario, lazily penned and poorly presented.

 

We muse afterwards that Swenson should concentrate on writing plays for Short & Sweet. That way we could sit through just 10 minutes of self-indulgent sloppy setup and no plot, go to dinner and see a movie. Sam says out loud – he can’t help it, he’s still furious that his valuable time has also been wasted – that Pearl Harbour had a better plot!

 

Ultimately, the problem I have with this brand of theatre is Swenson’s blatant disrespect for audiences.

 

For years, I’ve seen Sven Swenson paraded before us, lauded by a certain circle. While I certainly respect the opinions of my peers, I’d love to know what it is that puts Swenson’s writing at the top of the Queensland theatre tree. Is there no competition? I know that’s not true. Somebody send me the scripts that have earned Swenson his reputation. Because I don’t see the merit. Surely it’s time to say, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!”.

 




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