Posts Tagged ‘la boite

15
Nov
17

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

 

 

La Boite Theatre Company has unveiled a trailblazing 2018 season, putting vital female voices at the heart of a season of new Australian works.

 

“It is no surprise that our 2018 season has a vital and strong group of female artists leading the charge,” La Boite Artistic Director and CEO Todd MacDonald said. “Throughout its 90+ year history, La Boite has been heavily influenced by formidable and talented women, from Barbara Sisley and Babette Stephens to Jennifer Blocksidge and Sue Rider. “In 2018, our season tackles global issues, personal narratives, innovative forms, and a host of exciting new collaborations, including four world premiere productions.”

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 season opens with The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek (10 February – 3 March); a new dark-comedy by acclaimed Queensland actor and playwright Kathryn Marquet (Pale Blue Dot), co-produced by Playlab. Set in the isolated wilds of Tasmania and described as “McDonagh meets Tarantino”, The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek stars John Batchelor, Julian Curtis, Kimie Tsukakoshi and Emily Weir (pictured), directed by PlayLab’s Artistic Director and CEO, Ian Lawson.

 

 

La Boite 2018 also sees the return of La Boite and MDA’s sell-out, participatory verbatim work The Village (30 April – 5 May), based on the real-life stories of refugees and asylum seekers. Featuring a fearless company of six sharing their life-changing true stories of survival in the face of adversity, The Village stars Cieavash Arean, Arwin Arwin, Silva Asal, Joyce Taylor, Lili Sanchez and Ngoc Phan.

 

Long-time La Boite collaborator Suzie Miller (Snow White; Medea) returns in 2018 with her highly-anticipated new work The Mathematics of Longing (2 – 23 June); a collaboration with internationally acclaimed Gold Coast based dance-theatre company The Farm. Also premiering is a contemporary feminist response to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, by 2016 Text Prize winner Claire Christian, set on 21 January 2017 when women all over the world amassed to protest a Trump-led free world. Led by a fierce female chorus of women including Brisbane’s own Amy Ingram and Hsiao-Ling Tang, Lysa and the Freeborn Dames (21 July – 11 August) features some of Queensland’s brightest emerging talents, with QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts Final Year Acting students completing the QUT Creative Industries co-production.

 

 

Rounding out the main stage season is Neon Tiger (27 October – 17 November); a roaring new Australian play with songs by Julia-Rose Lewis (Samson), composed by Gillian Cosgriff (pictured). Directed by Kat Henry, this world premiere production, in association with Brisbane Powerhouse, stars Courtney Stewart, fresh from her star-turn in 2017’s runaway hit Single Asian Female.

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 offering also sees two of the company’s most-loved works from recent years on tour around the country, including Future D. Fidel’s smash hit Prize Fighter, which returns to south-east Queensland in a special presentation at Logan Entertainment Centre in September. Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female, which premiered to universal acclaim at La Boite in 2017, receives its interstate premiere at Belvoir in February. Also returning is La Boite’s popular HWY (12 – 24 March); an annual festival of readings, showing, workshops, masterclasses, conversations and pitches. Since its inception in 2016, HWY has proven a vital pathway for countless artists and championed several acclaimed new works including Single Asian Female and The Mathematics of Longing.

 

MacDonald said the 2018 program continued La Boite’s ongoing commitment to the development of new work and artists. “2018 is the year of extraordinary collaborations and brilliant local talent,” MacDonald said. “We hold a special responsibility to not just entertain and challenge but to listen and make space, so we will continue to do just that in 2018.”

 

Playwright Suzie Miller said she was proud to be part of this pioneering season of new work. “To be part of a season that’s led by female writers is such an incredible experience,” Miller said. “I remember when I first started my career in 2000 noting that there were very few women playwrights in main stage seasons, so to have come this full circle where that’s the predominant voice in the season is incredibly exciting.”

 

SEASON TICKET PACKAGES ARE ON SALE NOW

Advertisements
19
Oct
17

One The Bear

 

One the Bear

La Boite Theatre Company

Campbelltown Arts Centre and Black Honey Company

Roundhouse Theatre

October 10 -21 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

One the Bear is a magical journey about identity and discovering your true self. It is fun, unexpected, loud and proud, and full of heart. Growing up, pursuing your dreams and learning who your real friends are is hard, and some of us get lost along the way. This show presented by La Boite Theatre Company, Campbelltown Arts Centre and Black Honey Company validates the importance of remembering your history and where you came from, and celebrates individuality.

 

The story follows the friendship of two grizzly bears named One (Candy Bowers) and Ursula (Nancy Denis), who live in a grungy alleyway next to a dumpster, spending most of their time keeping out of sight from the “Hunters.” In this dystopian world, capturing bears is paramount for humans to survive. They are skinned, even their organs are used in medicines. One vividly remembers the day when her mother was killed in front of her. It fills her belly with rage, but this little cub has hope, and dreams of a better future where bears are free to return to the forests. One has a passion for hip hop music and she and Ursula rap about their trials and tribulations.

 

 

When One is discovered by a hot shot producer, she walks a fine line between using her fame as a platform to give voice to the discrimination and torture of bears, and losing herself completely in the bright lights and screaming fans. She alters her appearance, gives into vanity and pride, and worse she abandons her friend Ursula. One finds herself being consumed by a world that takes advantage of the weak to make money. She finally hits rock bottom, roaring out against it all, and returning to the dumpster. Ursula is there waiting and ready to help One find her purpose again.

 

 

Written wholly in rhyme by Candy Bowers and accompanied by an incredibly fresh and funky sound design by Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, this is a must-see show for young people. It delivers important messages regarding our time and how we view fame. People are urged to present the best version of themselves, and yet the media, the internet, Facebook and Instagram are filling our heads with idealistic and often unachievable ideas of happiness and success. One the Bear is a beautiful reminder to have the courage to define yourself and carve your own path.

 

 

Walking into the show, I was unsure what to expect, though I was pleasantly surprised at how invested I became in the story. There were moments the sound was loud and overpowered the performers, making it difficult to hear what they were saying. All the production elements ensnared the senses, particularly the stunning video projection by optikal bloc and Sarah Seahorse’s bright and bold costume designs.

 

 

Candy Bowers and Nancy Denis were next-level, never dropping their energy for a second. Their physicality was outstanding, you couldn’t look away for fear of missing something. Even though it was a tale of two bears, the message about friendship, identity and empowering women, were all too clear.

 

One the Bear is for the cubs, the next generation of strong, opinionated and passionate young feminists who will change the world. The audience fell in love with One and Ursula, and it was thrilling to see so many young people enjoying themselves. The emotional arc of this work is superb, and the reason you’ll leave the theatre filled with hope and a big smile on your face.   

   

25
Sep
17

Laser Beak Man

Laser Beak Man

Brisbane Festival, La Boite Theatre Company & Dead Puppet Society

In Association With PowerArts

The Roundhouse

September 9 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Laser Beak Man is a triumph on so many levels.

 

The mute titular superhero is the creation of Tim Sharp, diagnosed with autism at age three (now twenty-nine). His mum, Judy Sharp (Associate Producer), refused to believe advice from the experts – that her son would never speak or emote – igniting instead of ignoring, his passion for drawing. Sharp’s colourful world eventually became an 8-episode animated television series and now, thanks to David Morton and Nicholas Paine, the brains behind the award winning Dead Puppet Society, in close collaboration with NYC’s New Victory Theater, a 90-minute vivid and heartwarming stage show.

 

 

Known for their acclaimed productions incorporating beautifully realised puppets (The Wider Earth, Argus and The Harbinger), Morton and Paine collaborated with Sharp and Sam Cromack of Brisbane indie band Ball Park Music (Daniel Hanson, Dean Hanson and Luke Moseley). Sharp’s hilarious visual puns paired with Cromack’s original compositions, slightly reminiscent of the Beatles, create the technicolour world of Laser Beak Man, complete with the first free-flying Air-Orbs in the history of Australian theatre. One seems evil, like a Big Brother eye, and the other a friendlier vessel, for escaping and venturing off into the world. For Brisbane Festival and La Boite to premiere this family friendly, wholly entertaining and life affirming production is a coup.

 

 

The show is deceptively small and dark to start, contained within a black box built high on stage in the traditional orientation, without a hint of colour or drama or finesse. But suddenly, as the plot demands, the black is whisked away and like waking up in Oz, or stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate room, we’re treated to the digital visual spectacle of Laser Beak Man’s Power City (Design Jonathan Oxlade & Projection Design Justin Harrison with Sound by Tony Brumpton and Lighting by Jason Glenwright).

Power City was once the most beautiful city in the world – clean, pure, perfect – and local hero Laser Beak Man worked hard to keep it that way.

Drawing energy from the underground Magna Crystals that powered the city, his beak-shot lasers turned bad things to good. But now the city isn’t what it used to be and Laser Beak Man is thoroughly over it. That is until his estranged childhood friends Peter Batman and Evil Emily return and steal the Magna Crystals. Robbed of his super powers, Laser Beak Man has one last chance to reinvent Power City and save his oldest buddies before they destroy everything.

 

 

So the premise is a simple superhero story – Laser Beak Man and his friends must work together to overcome evil and save the world! – but the visual splendour and the cheeky characters inhabiting this place (and the talented artists who bring them to life on stage) are simply extraordinary. The cast comprises Nathaniel P. Claridad, Jeremy Neideck, Lauren Jackson, Jon Riddleberger, Betsy Rosen, Helen Stephens and Maren Searle, with a special guest appearance from Leigh Sales, her pre-recorded voice and her animated likeness anyway, as the Reporter. There’s not a weak link among them, and in a superior display of collective skill and connection, there are often up to three or four ensemble members manipulating a single puppet.

 

 

The script bubbles over with lovely silly comedy and some of our favourite puns include a series of terribly funny tomato puns, including the slightly vain hope after several minutes of them, that the projection designer doesn’t run out of tomato puns! Poppy forgets to continue reading the captions sliding by beneath the action and when I tell her later she laughs. She says, IT’S A KIDS’ SHOW BUT IT’S FOR ADULTS! There’s really something for everyone: while its innocence is refreshing, and totally fine for the kids (recommended for 8+), there are plenty of political references for the millennials and parentals.

 

Laser Beak Man, a Brisbane Festival highlight, is a delight for all the family, full of joy and optimism, and very obviously originating from the simple goodness of genuine hearts able and willing to turn their creative talents / superpowers into making the world a better place through good old fashioned high-tech theatrical storytelling.

04
Aug
17

Blackrock

 

Black Rock

La Boite & QUT Creative Industries

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

July 26 – August 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

Cast your memory back to when you were young(er). Was there a secret you kept for someone? A secret that twisted your insides, and opened your eyes? You saw a person you thought was your best friend in a different light. And you told their secret…

Black Rock is a beachside suburb where Jared (Ryan Hodson) welcomes home his friend Ricko (Karl Stuifzand). Ricko is wild and speaks before he thinks. He’s the guy who walks that fine line of having a laugh, and throwing the first punch. There’s a history between Jared and Ricko. They’re mates, till the end of time, yeah? And the boys have each other’s backs. Toby (Tom Cossettini) is turning 18 and his party turns into a welcome back for Ricko. All the kids from Black Rock are there, and you bet the alcohol is flowing!

Tracey Warner was found dead on the beach that night. She had been raped and her skull bashed in. Toby’s sister (Jessica Potts) found her. Rumours were going around that Tracey was a slut. She asked for it. Three boys were questioned, and one of them was Toby. Who killed Tracey Warner?

20 years have passed since Nick Enright’s Blackrock was produced at La Boite. This show presented by the company and QUT Creative Industries AND directed by AD Todd MacDonald is spectacular. It not only introduces amazing performances by the third year acting students from QUT, but also three incredibly talented and established actors, Joss McWilliam, Christen O’Leary and Amy Ingram.

The revolving set, designed by Anthony Spinaze, looks like a mix between a lifesaver tower, a sun-bleached jetty and coastal lookout, giving the audience an intimate insight into a beachside community. It exposes the actors, though being in the round allowed the audience to capture different moments. A subtle touch, a look of guilt…

The entire cast is captivating and vulnerable, and though I know the play I delighted in watching the action unfold. I had forgotten how powerful this work is and how confronting the themes are. Victims today are still silenced, their stories scrutinised, forgotten in the mess of it all… Todd MacDonald did not steer away from the darkness, showing the cracks in relationships, the violence, but also the tenderness and heartache. You melt into the scenes with O’Leary and Ingram as they show raw human emotion without any frills. You believe them completely. McWilliam moves seamlessly from character to character, leaving you in stitches one minute and your stomach burning with rage (on purpose) the next.

There’s no question that it’s the QUT actors who bring this show to the next level with their adventurous physicality and youthful spontaneity on stage.

Yes, there are moments of melodrama but that’s teenagers, right? To see young people at the beginning of their careers giving it their all makes this show a cracker! Karl Stuifzand is a stand out as Ricko. He is both playful and menacing, leaving you on the edge, unsure of what he’ll do next. I look forward to following this young man’s career; he has something electric.      

After the show, I heard mixed reviews and opinions. Why are we watching this work now? It was written in 1995. Nothing has changed and it’s 2017. The power of theatre is to bring light to important issues and demand change. It’s disgusting how relevant the themes explored in this play still are; such as victim shaming and the “boys will be boys” attitude. Isn’t that the point of revisiting these iconic works, and particularly Australian work? We are making and watching this work to educate young people, to start a conversation with both young and old, to teach them (and ourselves) about the importance of self-worth, respecting others and speaking the truth. 

La Boite and QUT Creative Industries have presented a challenging and exciting production, throwing you straight in the deep end. Go and support the third year acting students as they make a tremendously loud and vibrant debut. 

30
May
17

Lady Beatle

 

Lady Beatle

La Boite Theatre Company & The Little Red Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

John Lennon

We used to sing a song to Poppy when she was little.

Ladybug, ladybug, landed on my stinky toe….. It was so funny; we would giggle and sing bits of it intermittently for days at a time. It still makes me smile (and if we’re honest, we still sing it from time to time).

Did you even know that lady beetles don’t see colour? They see only grey. Perhaps I knew this once, or I should have known it, since my dad is an entomologist and no doubt has told me this and many other fascinating insect facts, but I think I’d forgotten. I’ve never forgotten rowdy closing night parties and random days and nights throughout my childhood, singing The Beatles’ songs at the tops of our voices. There are things that contribute far more than other things to the grown ups we become, and if The Beatles were part of your childhood or adolescent soundtrack too, you probably turned out alright. Poppy, now eleven, agrees that The Beatles are timeless, for every generation, “even if not ALL of my friends have a favourite Beatles’ song.” Poppy’s favourite Beatles’ song is, appropriately, Here Comes The Sun. If you know Poppy, you know how perfect that is.

I’ve been thinking about Lady Beetle Syndrome a lot. A major aspect of our Master of Professional Practice Performing Arts is psychology and self care, and the way in which we, as artists, look after ourselves and support each other. And just as the lady beetles don’t see their own bold beauty, despite our strengths and reflective practice, we often fail to recognise in ourselves the things that appear obvious to everyone else.

 

This sensational show, the third and final in The Little Red Company’s trilogy of pop culture cabaret productions starring Naomi Price (following the hugely successful Wrecking Ball & Rumour Has It), depended largely upon La Boite’s recognition of the company’s previous success and their faith in the creation of new product, even before the creators knew what it would look like. With only the title to start the process, La Boite held space, gifting the luxury of time to the artists, who were able to immerse themselves in a truly collaborative development period in between the demands of touring, managing to keep Rumour Has It on the road while writing and rehearsing Lady Beatle. I don’t think any of our artists strive to be owned by a venue, but La Boite’s Todd MacDonald, like QPAC’s John Kotzas, and our other industry leaders (at Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and Metro Arts), has certainly provided the vital support that makes it less stressful and more enjoyable to be an artist, or a company of artists, creating new work in Australia. Sam Strong was right to insist we begin to recognise that we are, indeed, leading from Queensland in so many ways.

Premiering on the 50th Anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this production is the ultimate deep and meaningful feel-good show, with a guaranteed touring life ahead of it. It goes to Adelaide and Noosa next, and I’ll be surprised if we don’t see it back in town in September for Brisbane Festival. Imagine, in the Spiegeltent! But like Rumour Has It, when it moved to more spacious venues, this show is bound to take on a different vibe, and I do love the intimacy of this first version, using cabaret seating in The Roundhouse, and allowing us to feel as if the stories are special secrets shared between Lady Beatle and her closest friends, i.e. anyone who loves The Beatles as much as she does.

Co-creators, Naomi Price and Adam Brunes, just about perfected contemporary cabaret with the many incarnations of Rumour Has It, but this time they’ve made the experience more personal. Rather than taking on multiple roles or an iconic role, Price is a complex, compelling, mysterious woman from Liverpool who loves The Beatles. She loves them more than anything else in the world. She was there at the Cavern in 1962 for their first ever performance, and recalls watching them running, with nothing to lose, towards the light at the end of a dark tunnel, and into a crowd of hundreds of screaming fans. No fear. Just running towards it all. In the music and personalities of the lads she finds her escape and inspiration, and a way back to a world in which she thought she’d never belong.

With The Beatles in it, the woman’s grey world becomes kaleidoscopic and full of promise.

A rousing, crowd pleasing Yellow Submarine sounds just the way we thought it might (and yes, we sing along), but new musical arrangements allow for a raw, sweet, pure Penny Lane and a dark, sombre, somehow sadder than ever Eleanor Rigby. Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, The Camerata, play Andrew Johnson’s original string arrangement (recorded, mixed and mastered by Geoff McGahan). In true sharing culture style, The Little Red Company has made this stunning track available to download for FREE. The Lonely Hearts Club Band comprises four lads who are easily among our country’s best musicians; we’ve seen the proof of it in previous productions. They are Jason McGregor, Andrew Johnson, Michael Manikus and Mik Easterman. They scrub up well, in suits by Leigh Buchanan. Price wears knee highs and a mod woollen coat dress to start and a sparkling classic red pants suit to finish; very Elle Macpherson/Goldie Hawn/Celine Dion, and both outfits are just right with her black bobbed hair. Jamie Taylor’s sound design and engineering is first class, and Jason Glenwright’s tubular lighting is both practical and magical, retaining the focus on the singer and the songs.

Although I actually want to see Price singing it, it’s fitting that a rendition of Blackbird comes literally out of the dark. Let It Be wraps a proper rock medley, and it’s an ear worm of inspiration and comfort, a reminder of the present moment, to continue to “hurry slowly” through life from the place of stillness and self-love that’s easy enough to find in our quieter moments, but so difficult to carry with us as we go into our busy days and nights.

Lady Beatle is mostly upbeat, but it has some beautifully charged and reflective moments, and while it’s a tribute, with its focus firmly on the life affirming, world changing music of The Beatles, we’re invited to go deeper to consider everything that’s precious in our lives right now. Price is in fine voice; she can twist and shout and whisper and croon and rock! The ultimate entertainer, she opens (and closes) the show with a bang, settling into a friendly, intimate tone from the outset, simply inviting us to join her on a trip down memory lane, into a world of tangerine trees, marmalade skies, and strawberry fields forever. It’s a brilliant concept, a massively appealing and entertaining show, superbly delivered. We’re left with a sneaking suspicion that there’s more to come.

When the band plays and the voice soars, and the entire sold-out opening night crowd sings along, you know you’re at one of the best new shows of the decade. You know you’ll get to see it again.

 

17
Feb
17

Single Asian Female

 

Single Asian Female

La Boite Theatre Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

February 11 – March 4 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

things have to change…

Single Asian Female gives a voice to the voiceless and talks about race and gender in ways we often don’t.

– Director, Claire Christian

singleasianfemale2017production-219-1

Single. Asian. Female. It’s a joke because, remember the film? But it’s no joke that the truths shared in Michelle Law’s searingly honest and delightfully funny debut are instantly, regrettably, familiar to us. Of course, a lifetime of being on the receiving end means the racial slurs and assumptions to which this piece gives voice and context, are more familiar to some than others. It’s a timely, nicely conceived work, bold and furious and funny, and while it can do with a more discerning dramaturgical touch, on its first outing Single Asian Female wins the open hearts and minds of audiences and artists. Like Future D. Fidel’s unforgettable Prize Fighter, Law’s contemporary timeless story, inspired by aspects of her own, will rightly take its place in this country’s canon of works; it’s not only highly entertaining and moving, but also, another opportunity to open up our performance spaces and school curriculum to people of colour.

La Boite is employing all the colours, telling all the stories. 

I read something about someone wanting to get rid of a particular story. But why would anyone feel the need to do that? Acts of destruction waste so much energy. Challenging and questioning the dominant myth may be useful, but losing it from the conversation altogether? Not so much. It’s true that some stories are lost along the way, but they’re eventually uncovered, or remembered, or replaced by another version that has the same substance and soul message. This is why we persist with telling them, writing them down, putting them on the stage and screen… Isn’t it vital to keep the stories, to share them and not destroy them or discard them just because someone suddenly decides they don’t appear to be relevant to a particular group of people? The stories are another group’s stories. It doesn’t mean they have no value for you, and it certainly doesn’t mean they were created with an intent to offend or to bury any other stories past, present or future, it simply means they’ve come from someone else in another place at a particular time and you have the choice, always, to recognise any value in them from your unique personal and cultural perspective. And to continue to contribute your own version of events. Go on, get creating rather than destroying.

picnicathangingrock_vogue2011

Let’s keep all the stories and concentrate our efforts on contributing more stories. Stories are for sharing. So we hold space for all of them. There is enough space.

This production, this story, is another hammer, which La Boite rightly prides itself on wielding (this company too, sans hashtag, is all about leading from Queensland) and it will go a long way in continuing to shape our shared reality. 

artisnotamirror_bertholtbrecht

These are the stories that are with us and amongst us.

– La Boite Theatre Company Artistic Director, Todd MacDonald

There’s nothing to fault in the wonderful, easeful performances of the three leading ladies, each a fiercely “strong woman”, firm in her resolve to thrive, and funny in her unapologetically wry take on so many situations, which we find equally appalling and amusing. Director, Claire Christian, gives each situation to us straight, trusting the source and allowing her actors to play with the material, resulting in some of the sharpest, most original comedy of the year.

Lana: WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR EYES? THEY LOOK HUGE.

Mei: OH … THANK YOU.

In a complex and appropriately cluttered and homely, surprisingly functional multi-level space designed by Moe Assad and lit by Keith Clark, the women revolve around each other and their Golden Phoenix Chinese Restaurant (amusingly, for long-term Sunshine Coast residents, located in Nambour, but it could be anywhere), which will bring about either fortune or disaster in the end. La Boite feels as festive as ever, with Chinese lanterns hanging in the foyer and the red carpet rolled out for opening night. There’s even cabaret style restaurant seating available inside the theatre so some audience members really get to feel a part of the action, a clever, inclusive design element. We delight in picking up our tickets (for the tiered section) encased in a shiny red and gold embossed envelope before the show, and cracking open our fortune cookies after it. 

wrongcookie_fortunecookie

singleasianfemale2017production-44-1

The Wong family women are real to me because they were inspired by people I know: generous, assertive, resilient women who hold the world on their shoulders.

– Writer, Michelle Law

Alex Lee’s Zoe is a superb realisation of the eldest daughter, harnessing the extreme emotions of a young, talented, ambitious creative soul suffering from anxiety, having yet to secure a place in the world outside of her mother’s realm and representing not just Asian young adults but every young woman everywhere. I’d love to see Lee’s solo show sometime – how could I not? It’s called I’m Eating Peanut Butter In The Shower Because I’m Sad And You’e Not The Boss of Me. Lee is a delight.

emily-burton-courtney-stewart-emily-vascotto-photography-by-dylan-evans

Courtney Stewart’s Mei is the younger, impressionable and eternally frustrated, just-wanna-finish-school-and-go-to-the-formal eye rolling second child, on the verge of finding out for herself the truth about her father’s character and her own. (Interestingly, this dad is unseen and painted as the devil, having selfishly, callously caused every problem faced by the family). Stewart was an inspired inclusion in last year’s developmental showing of Soi Cowboy, a commissioned Brisbane Powerhouse production, which we’re sure to hear more about this year. 

hsiao-ling-tang-photography-by-dylan-evans

Hsiao-Ling Tang is an ideal Pearl with her frantic gestures juxtaposed against complete stillness (a sense of the sacred self knowledge coming up against the contemporary overculture’s unachievable expectations), her stubborn use of Chinglish and her insistence that shoes be taken off inside the house (and that Chinese snacks be available to friends during study group – how embarrassing – hilarious). Her tiger mother bouts of intense frustration and raw anger at something unseen prompt us to sit up in surprise and sadness and awe before settling back into a place between laughter and tears (of recognition, sympathy, empathy), when she finally reveals the secret that could be the family’s undoing… Tang will appear later in the year in the world premiere of Michele Lee’s Rice, the winner of the Queensland Premier’s 2016 Drama Award, another must-see.

These women, as if they’d been working together for some time already, convey genuine affection and concern for each other. The connections are real, making their stories completely relatable, regardless of our cultural background, a fly-on-the-wall shared experience. Such a magical thing, live theatre…

singleasianfemale2017production-233-1

Emily Burton is perhaps the most endearing performer I’ve seen on a Brisbane stage (Dash Kruck and Tom Oliver up there also). I adore her, and much more so when she’s perfectly cast, as she is here, as Mei’s lanky, daggy, wannabe Asian misfit friend, Katie. She’s got a bohemian willowy geeky tomboy cosplay comical sad panda thing going on and it works superbly as a foil to mean girl Lana’s constant digs, and Mei’s reluctant rebelliousness and her insecurities about who she thinks she wants to be. A scene in which we see Mei trapped between Katie’s longstanding friendship and Lana’s passive aggressive popularity test is so uncomfortable to watch; it’s probably stingingly familiar to most of us if we’re honest, as is Mei’s choice in the moment and Katie’s reaction. Like similar moments, it could be overplayed but Burton finds a balance between the truth of the character and the tragicomedy of the situation.

alex-lee-patrick-jhanur-photography-by-dylan-evans-1

Patrick Jhanur is just gorgeous as Paul. His gentleness though, his subtleties (and some of his words), are at risk of becoming lost in the noise and pace of the women’s world. This is quite probably a deliberate thing and will be more astutely balanced/managed as the season continues. The self conscious banter between he and Zoe is delightful, making us squirm and giggle and smile, and hope that everything will work out for these two. But is this character just the token male, included as a woman might be, to fit that space in a play populated with men, penned by a man? I don’t think so. As we see during a discussion about the chance to have a child, with vulnerability and a tenderness not always afforded a male character, Jhanur steps up for this role, and perhaps there is simply, gradually, a little more flesh to be added to its bones. 

emily-burton-courtney-stewart-emily-vascotto-photography-by-dylan-evans-1

Emily Vascotto has vibrant, wicked, gleeful Isla Fischer/Lizzie Moore energy and if you don’t know our Lizzie Moore, you really ought to get out…more. A real-life red-headed Bratz Doll, Vascotto embodies the type I’d warn my daughter about, as in, keep your friends close and keep that one closer. With less experience on stage than the other girls but with no less sass, Vascotto walks a fine comical line between being immediately recognisable and so much larger than life that we lose sight of who Lana really is. I think she’ll settle into this role during the season and certainly, will do so without the vignettes involving her character losing any momentum. At least, let’s hope not, with some momentum lacking on opening night. (I think we accept that this is typical of an opening night performance and later, we’re unsurprised by reports of a cracking pace). The occasional lag seems due to The Family Law style episodic structure, each chapter landing with an unapologetically political or moral thud. Like, BOOM. It’s never too much but it’s almost too much at once; it’s almost overwhelming, but then, the reality is that life IS overwhelming. There IS this much blatant racism to deal with in this country, every day. We have ALL of these issues to consider, and more. 

One has to write what one sees, what one feels, truthfully, sincerely.

– Anton Chekhov

singleasianfemale2017production-216-1

To finish with Tina Arena’s Chains is such a great gimmick (and these girls can really sing it!), but it’s not my favourite closing number. I feel we should be singing along with something…upbeat. Karaoke is gold and if you promise it you need to deliver on it, just as the slinky has its moment on the stairs. (Gun. Bang. Etcetera.)

In the spirit of the current trend to make a short show a good show, it’s worth noting that a discerning dramaturg might take a red pen to the text, make more efficient use of the more stylised moments (a raw, real look at online dating and the daughters’ stories being taken into account by the end), and make it a 90-minute no-interval knockout…but think about that. Would we have quite as much to digest or to discuss? Would we feel as deeply about any of the characters without the time to meander through their world with them? The rich texture of this tale is in its detail and while I’d often prefer to get home earlier (but I know, it’s so interesting to stay for speeches too, so I usually do), by the same token I’d love to see the full length production, as it stands, return with yum cha at interval and actual karaoke afterwards. In fact, let’s make the food together. It’s perfect festival fare.

In the meantime, don’t miss seeing Michelle Law’s personal-universal play just the way it is, at La Boite’s Roundhouse. Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in our nation’s most pressing conversation. Don’t miss being part of the cultural change, the global shift; the impetus behind powerful art and empowered people.

 

Single Asian Female is the baton being passed on. Don’t drop it or decline to take it. Don’t be a dickhead. Don’t be that (white) guy.

 

alex-lee-courtney-stewart-hsiao-ling-tang-photography-by-dylan-evans

 

 

21
Sep
16

Snow White

Snow White

La Boite, Opera Queensland & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 3 – 24 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

mothersanddaughtersmothersanddaughtersmothersanddaughtersmothersanddaughtersmothersanddaughters

My mother just spent more than 50 days in hospital – two hospitals actually, between two ICUs – and she continues to recover at home from complications following surgery, all due to a bug that travelled with her from one of the 5 Stans. I’ve also been sick since Brisbane Festival opening night and have stubbornly attended as much as possible, in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, where people forget I’m based, without managing to keep up with the follow up, i.e. writing about what I’ve seen. I have, however, perhaps as some sort of procrastination, insisted on (mostly successfully although the place could be tidier) running a household with two extra people in it, getting to some social engagements, camping at North Shore despite coughing up a bigger storm than the one to hit us on the day we came home, and before that, finishing a 5-week teaching contract because unlike reviewing Brisbane theatre, teaching pays. An exhausting term, physically and emotionally. I’ve missed yoga and coffee dates and drinks and events. Everything online needs an overhaul, the garden needs love, and I’ve been postponing the spring cleaning since this time last year. I need new writers, I need new clothes and I need a new focus. But more on that later.

Luckily, most of the shows I see stay with me. And let’s quietly appreciate the archival value of even a late response. Here’s the first in a succession of catch ups, well overdue. Sorry about that.

snowwhite_stephpickett

We enter The Roundhouse to a Disney soundtrack and chirping birdsong, eliciting an eerie sense of foreboding and at the same time, a false sense of security. This is a grim tale, much more so than the Grimm tale.

For the record, Disney’s classic animated Snow White unnerves me to this day.

The forest is inside, on the ceiling. The darkness is broken by fairy lights. Mirrors, the autumn leaves, the branches, a blood stained timber floor, musical instruments and kitchen chairs hanging from the forest canopy. Later, rose petals, sparkles… A tree house, the stairs running up the middle of it, musicians beneath it (the evocative space designed by Sarah Winter & striking lighting designed by Ben Hughes). I recognise Kanen Breen, like a lithe, glittering, corseted Cabaret Emcee, swanning around with his glass of red until it’s drained and settling next to a member of the audience for an intimate chat. He grins like The Cheshire Cat and moves on to the next victim, seated in front of us. I love Breen’s sparkling red nails and mouth, the essence of the infamous red apple, a reminder of the inherent evil and glamorous violence of this fairytale. He’s The Mirror. Of course he is.

snowwhite_silviacolloca

The Queen (Silvia Colloca) epitomises everything we love to loathe and fear and admire about the evil stepmother stereotype / ancient mother archetype. She’s sophisticated and sexy, intimidating, alluring…actually, she’s intoxicating. Colloca’s voice is a fallen angel’s, her lower register particularly rich and warm. Scintillating in black and red lace like a Spanish lady of the night, she’s exquisite, a Diva, seducing us effortlessly. As per the original version, without differentiation between biological mother and stepmother, she is one, she is all. Mother. Woman. Crone. Queen. Her tango with The Mirror is a luscious, almost lascivious affair. Choreographed by Rosetta Cook and Gavin Webber it’s the perfect vehicle to set these two up early as the stars of the show.

Zulya Kamalova’s compositions – enchanted swirling, pulsing, living, breathing things – take us out of ourselves and into this dark, dangerously glistening, shifting world of elegance, innocence and broken trust. A waltz spells out the mother-daughter relationship more clearly and succinctly than a few shouted lines of dialogue can do. We feel for them both. None of us actually want to grow old and weary and weathered, after all. Suzie Miller’s libretto succeeds in capturing varying perspectives on the power and fragility of women and the way we can examine our potential, our power, our perceived limitations, our ambitions, and what it is we’re prepared to do to be “happy” when we dare to look at ourselves in the mirror.

snowwhite_death

This Little Lolita Snow White, the fairest of them all, is an innocent princess turned teen seductress. An innate talent, an inevitability; the product of her environment, perhaps… In her last desperate attempt to escape the clutches, and the axe, of The Hunter (Michael Tuahine), this Snow White becomes every mother’s worst nightclubbing, shame-walking nightmare. Steph Pickett gets the mix just right – she’s ingenue and expert, and sings like Fiona Apple/Jesska Hoop/Katie Noonan (and I see Katie in the bank of seats opposite us but miss her later to say hello to). It’s Act 1’s most contemporary piece, reminding me of the first 16 bars of Katzenjammer’s Hey Ho On the Devil’s Back in both its shape and tone. This is the moment the little girl becomes a woman, beautifully, frighteningly, authentically captured. The most amazing, game-changing piece of the show though is The Queen’s lament, truly exemplary vocal work, which must be heard to be believed. Colloca’s wailing resonates with us no matter how great or small our individual losses, and becomes a cry of utter despair for all mothers everywhere, for all humanity. She wails and groans her immense grief, singing over the unmoving body of her daughter. Singing over the bones. Lost. Empty. Willing her flesh and blood, her little Snow White, to come back to life, even when it will bring about her own undoing. This extended moment in time holds us in collective stillness, breathlessness, until the final haunting note fades. It’s the greatest Medea moment we’ve seen yet. This is an indescribable ache, which I’ll retain from this show for years yet. 

snowwhite_kanenbreen

The production continues past its perfect end though, redundantly taking us ten years into the future, when Snow White is with child and we see the pattern repeating. The story goes on… I would love to have left the story to go on unseen, leaving us hanging, after the devastating look that is exchanged between the two once the girl has realised her mother has tried multiple times to kill her. The rest amounts to the beginning of a poor sequel and undoes a little bit of the brilliance that is this new extraordinary work, so funny and lovely, and witty and gritty and gory.

I also enjoyed less than others may have, the opening of Act 2 involving Colloca-as-performer-as-The Queen, wrapped in her iconic cape, gliding down the stairs and moving through the audience to offer an apple to bemused audience members – “It’s not poisonous” – and sitting on stage to share a story from between the pages of Grimm’s Fairytales before morphing back into The Queen proper to go on with the tale. A gimmick that seems unnecessary in a work of such quality but one that must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Think about it. Do audiences need these breaks from the narrative to connect, to relate, to remember they’ve come here to experience another world? To help them recognise their world? Despite my questions, I see the opening night audience embrace every element of the production and so I muse, again, who am I to find fault with any tiny thing? Snow White is truly a work of art and I hope we see the original cast recording soon, if not a beautifully filmed version of the show at some stage.

Masterfully directed in this space by Lindy Hume, Snow White is an important, potent new work that reflects our enduring obsession with beauty, power, the mystical feminine and the wonder and majesty, the vital lessons of storytelling. An accomplished piece for a world premiere and perfect festival fare, Snow White is destined for lands far, far away. I hope you saw it here at least once. 




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

Follow on Bloglovin

Follow us on Twitter