Posts Tagged ‘la boite

18
Feb
20

The Neighbourhood

 

The Neighbourhood

La Boite Theatre Company & Multicultural Australia

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

February 8 – 29 2020

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

Exuberant and revelatory new work gives life to seven marginalised voices who share their experiences growing up in multicultural Australia as either First Nation individuals, first generation migrants, or refugees.

 

Simplistic and minimal in staging, this is however an irreducibly complex ensemble piece in which the sum of its parts is a sociocultural hybrid, a third space of enunciation in which significantly damaging racial tropes are challenged and dispensed with. With human dignity, its hope is to demand recognition, dismantle assumptions of white Australian suburbs and to forge ahead with powerfully transcendent themes of community, home and belonging.

 

Brilliant and hopeful, The Neighbourhood is an olive branch of unapologetic repatriation and optimism written and co-created by the actors themselves. With its finger on the pulse, it’s an upbeat series of overlapping monologues delving into the personal struggles of the players tied together with light movement and incidental live music played by two of its performers, Dr Matt Hsu and Cievash Arean.

 

After surviving parts of war-ravaged Syria, Amer Thabet, moved to Australia in 2019. While funny, bold and resilient, his sense of humour cannot always protect him from being silently destroyed by the memories of family and friends left behind there. With devastating precision, he narrates and enacts a survival story juxtaposed now against his pedestrian life as a newly settled Australian citizen.

 

From Uganda, Amisa Nandaula describes the causal discrimination she endures growing up in rural Rockhampton. As a school girl, she would rub honey in her eyes and exfoliate her skin to lighten its blackness. She heartbreakingly shares a story of how her best friend in a misguided compliment tells her that if she were white she would be beautiful. Amisa talks proudly of her mother’s inspiration of leaving their home in Uganda to start her own business and raise the family in another country.

 

 

Aurora Liddle-Christie is Jamaican and an Australian First National. In a mature austerity beyond her years, she reflects on growing up in the shadow of her father’s loving dysfunction, and of proudly being the loudest family on the street. She follows a literal ancestral path of elders to Alice Springs, exploring a spiritual family legacy, a deeper belonging to a community of First Australians inhabiting these now stolen lands of Australia.

 

Then there is Cievash who was imprisoned in Iran for political insurrection. He later fled to Australia 31 years ago as a refugee. He recounts a story of a doomed man he tried to help hide from authorities, the man’s execution, and the sense he now tries to make of his life in the aftermath of his exile. He is a musician and with his many instruments, the horrors of his torture and the homesickness for his homeland find a new language within the phrasing of his playing.

 

Dr Matt Hsu is also a musician and he reflects on the racial hypocrisies within his own community, the subtle racisms of growing up in the west, the frustrating career expectations of his family and realised dreams of pursuing music and art. He is talented and entertains us with the accordion, the double bass, the clarinet and a percussive ethnic drum.

 

 

Naavi Karan is transgender and non-binary from India. Now living in Brisbane, Naavi opines on the deep faith and tradition of family and oppressive schoolyard bullying. Bejewelled and adorned in traditional golden headdresses and colourful dresses, Naavi dances, and transforms truth and poetry, exploring a beautiful and diverse performative non-conformity.

 

Born during the Iran-Iraq war, Nima Doostkhah grew up witnessing the bombing of his city Esfahan. He is tortured by the memory of being lost as a young child at a mass funeral ceremony and being grasped and held by wailing women, their cries still disturbing to him years later as a young man.

 

And while he grew up watching Rage, listening to hip hop whilst sitting on the back steps composing rhymes, he tries to embrace modernity, and hopes to cloak his ‘otherness’ within its inconspicuous shroud, that carefree nonchalance of his fashionably sensitive generation. Desperate to forge an individual identity, he also just wants what everyone else wants; to be cool and to fit in.

 

 

Spontaneous and innovative, The Neighbourhood has a deliberate an arresting sense of naïve charm. It’s hopeful and while preachy and developing, it feels like the culmination of a highly workshopped experiment which has come together as a well-balanced and authentic mouthpiece for the silent voices in our community.

 

You can see the potential for the work to evolve and strengthen over time. It is a flexible platform to expound a growing movement of social justice, refugeeism and islamophobia all writhing together in the mess of an inevitably globalising newtopia. The Neighbourhood, decries so diligently the pressure on migrants to assimilate, and how the plurality of different ways of life should be encouraged and celebrated. 

 

Co-Created by Todd MacDonald, Aleea Monsour, and Ari Palani with Lighting Design by Ben HughesSound Design Brady Watkins and Set & Costume by Adam Gardnir.

10
Aug
19

Lady Beatle

Lady Beatle

La Boite & Little Red Company

La Boite Roundhouse

August 7 – 10 2019

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

Like most kids, I would first come to know The Beatle’s music through my dad. With his collection of 45’s, which he still has, we would listen to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Yellow Submarine and Penny Lane amongst others from the crackling turntable. I remember watching that needle wondrously glide and float upon the grooves of the record as Dad would dance along and play air drums, lost in a broken rock and roll dream, perhaps. And now, years on, admittedly my favourite genre of music is orchestrated versions of pop songs performed by some of the most extravagant cover bands like the London Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops Orchestra playing Hey Jude and Eleanor Rigby. We all have our personal stories of how we know The Beatles. They’re a rite of passage and like Bach, Mozart or Shakespeare, seminal in their modern pop music inventions.

 

Always keen to hear how artists interpret The Beatle’s canon of pop, vocalist Naomi Price, reprises her titular role as, Lady Beatle with co-creator Adam Brunes, Mik Easterman on keys, Andrew Johnson on bass, Michael Manikus on drums and Jason McGregor on guitar. Described as a “kaleidoscopic journey through The Beatles’ most monumental hits this performance marks the beginning of a three-month tour across the country.

 

 

The band assembles on retro podiums. The light is scarce and broody but for a contemporary chandelier of crystal shards cascading with sparkles just above Price as she takes the stage in an iconic straight jet-black wig and military issue marching band uniform.  While we’re in the stalls, there’s cabaret seating in the “mosh pit” of La Boite’s theatre and the audience, clinking with wine glasses and bottles, are immediately receptive to the energy Price’s band are promising. 

 

Kicking out a punchy overture of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, Price and her band will continue to wow audiences throughout the night with beat-driven reimaginings of Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine and Come Together with particular noteworthy performances of Eleanor Rigby, Don’t Let Me Down and Here Comes the Sun. (The latter for which Price received a standing ovation part way through the show.) She not only showcases the full breadth of her vocal dynamic but also that she has the desperate yearnings and poetry within her to take us on the emotional journey. One of the difficulties with such a show is to elevate the material higher than just mere covers; to be more than just a juke box monologue. And she does just that. She brings something new and old; a courageous new rock music language both timeless and innovative.

 

Price is bold, electric, she twists and shouts, she uses her body, she kicks and turns, she uses every artifice and physicality at her disposal, she lets loose, then turns inward; tiny and small. She approaches the audience like we are her friends, like we’ve come over to her house after school and we’re going through her vinyl collection together as she shares her favourite Beatles’ songs.

 

 

Between pieces, Price stops to reflect in Liverpudlian on more obscure notions. Her stories are presented as if she is omnipotent, she is everyone, she is no one, impossibly moving forward and backwards in time, explaining in an almost fractured poetry a series of vignettes about her grandmother who taught her about The Beatles, about Paul McCartney, Ringo, John Lennon, George Harrison and Brian Epstein’s tragedy. Price mixes up the fantastical and the factual sometimes coming from the point of view of a tortured fangirl wanting to be the fifth member of The Beatles. But at times the intention of the narrative is lost, juxtaposed between a seemingly innocuous tribute and the melancholy pages of an angsty teenage diary.  With themes of existential crises, insignificance, and the burden of living in the shadows of unrealised dreams, Lady Beatle is part memoir, part fiction, part documentary. As a narrator, Price is unreliable as she weaves stories together some seen naively through a kaleidoscope of modern sensibilities. But we come to understand her stories may not necessarily be a cohesive arch; the vignettes are undeveloped and at times leave unappealing malaise and unanswered questions with the audience to reconcile.

 

 

Nevertheless, this is a fun and unabashedly toe-tapping show with innovative lighting design by Jason Glenwright, sound design by Jamie Taylor and costuming by Leigh Buchanan. A tightly executed operation, which serves to honour the music of a most world-beloved band. In Danny Boyle’s recently released film, Yesterday in which a struggling musician wakes to discover that he is the only person who remembers The Beatles’ music, I felt similarly reminded of how Lady Beatle taps into our own personal relationship with the music of The Beatles; a relationship which only we can know, and like the film Yesterday, is secretly hidden and unknown to the rest of the world. 

 

Lady Beatle tours until November 9. Tour dates here.

 

 

04
Nov
18

Neon Tiger

 

Neon Tiger

La Boite Theatre Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

October 31 – November 17 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

The adult gap-year you never know you needed.

 

Fast, frivolous and continuously flashing, the always-away playground of a tourist mecca in Bangkok paints the scene for Neon Tiger – a new Australian musical love story. Andy (Lisa Hanley) is an Australian traveller outrunning her broken heart. She has taken residence as a host at a Bangkok part-district karaoke bar where she meets Thai-American Arisa (Courtney Stewart) who’s on a personal quest to connect with her mother’s culture. When the two meet, sparks fly.

 

Once somebody sent me to Bangkok for ten days with two strangers and now they are my friends and this show exists.

Gillian Cosgriff

 

The sense of this show was seeded overseas and brought forth into the world by its female creative team and the team at Brisbane Powerhouse, after Kris Stewart asked Director, Kat Henry, to come up with something during ten steaming hot days in Bangkok with two women she’d never met before. Co-creators, Kat Henry, Julia-Rose Lewis (Writer) and Gillian Cosgriff (Writer/Composer/Performer) returned from that trip in 2015 conceptualising a number of vastly different productions, including something like a cross-cultural physical theatre performance using masks, until Stewart sagely told them, “It’s a musical.” And so, Soi Cowboy was born. A creative development season in the Visy Theatre was so polished, I walked away from it with the impression that the piece was just about ready to tour! (And if you have a space, ArtTour will look after Neon Tiger following its world premiere season). 

 

 

Performed by dynamite duo, Gillian Cosgriff and Courtney Stewart, in that first instance (2016), Soi Cowboy was a vibrant story of a friendship cum fling evolving over ten heady days in the midst of the city’s summer haze, and its cacophony of sounds, smells, beers, bars, gutters, beggars, flashing lights, ridiculously sweet and garishly coloured cocktails, temples, tuk tuks and muck. Over the last two years, the simple story has been pared right back by Lewis, and the dialogue retains its smart, sassy pace, making the new shorter, sweeter iteration – Neon Tigeran engaging and entertaining 90-minute new musical. Although I miss Cosgriff’s sass, her comic timing, and her extraordinary vocals, Lisa Hanley in this role brings a different sort of spunk and sound with her acoustic guitar (the vocals are extraordinarily similar in tone and style to Cosgriff’s……) 

 

 

Sarah Winter’s open split-level design offers specificity and scope, putting us anywhere – everywhere – in Bangkok, from the titular karaoke bar on Kao San Road, to the Tiger Temple, the Don-Rak War Cemetery, the streets, a shrine, a five-star hotel… Deceptively simple, it’s a set that reminds us how much magic can occur using very little. Andrew Meadows resists overusing the neon and strobe lighting (there is some, necessarily), working intimately with the sound design to give us the afterglow of the city, the afterglow of a relationship that retains its lustre even over time zones and oceans, without prolonged and potentially fit-inducing pulsating lights. Sound Designer, Guy Webster, assisted by Anna Whittaker, intricately weaves an evocative soundscape between dialogue and song, bringing to life the vibrant city, and bringing back a looped vocal excerpt to tug at the heartstrings at various intervals. This unsuspecting theme is almost the through line of the piece, a gentle memory that lingers in the heart not the head, interrupting real life, just for a second sometimes, for years to come. 

 

This play is about feeling like a tourist in your own life. It’s about falling in, and out of, love. This play is about meeting yourself, the real you, for the very first time on the vibrant city streets of Bangkok.

Julia-Rose Lewis

 

Kat Henry’s direction is so refreshing – remember, I loved her Constellations for QT so much that I went a second time – and in this I recognise the same real stuff. Henry uses every opportunity to move the performers, inwardly and outwardly on their journeys, expertly manipulating pace and production elements to shift out of languid and into high alert in a split second, and embracing the natural pauses and stillness of the script, so often glossed over or stretched for too long (in case we don’t get the poignancy of half a moment? I don’t know; this aspect of so many productions, on stage and on screen, completely baffles me. Why can’t we just let the actors say the words and see what happens?). Cleverly structured and measured direct address means we get the girls’ inner monologues in short bursts and freaking-out-outbursts at times, as they navigate the fascination and trepidation of a new relationship, however; nothing is superfluous or melodramatic, just so Australian. And so American. So universal. 

 

There’s a big mood here just beneath the surface, and I love that we’re not made to feel obliged to explore it at length or worse, to wallow in it, but instead we’re asked to simply bring our attention to it, and just like when we’re travelling, there’s a gentle nudge to consider perspectives other than our own. I’m sure there’ll be directors and performers in the future who want to ramp it up, make Neon Tiger racier, spicier, and add “some girl-on-girl action” (actually an opening night comment!). But I would advise against it! Just as it is, this is a story around which the artists have reserved some respectful, gorgeous, really very groovy space.

 

 

Cosgriff’s original songs are witty and funny as always, included here under the premise that they make Andy’s debut album. Hanley delivers each with sassy, smiling aplomb, unapologetic about her point of view and at the same time, perplexed about what she sees and feels about the situation in Bangkok, and about Arisa.

 

There’s nothing steamier here than the city’s suffocating heat, not even a flash of flesh (disappointingly for some, erotic scenes are recounted rather than played out; for me this is far more effective and a stroke of genius in terms of the work being widely viewed and read in secondary and tertiary circles. What a joy it will be for our young female performers to find this text in their hands!). The intimacy of Arisa and Andy’s complex relationship is kept shrouded in the hot haze of memory, and we savour its allure and magic as if it were our own precious, private experience. It’s the story behind the Instagram story.

 

 

We had to accept that Thailand was unknowable to us, that we were part of the problem, and that creating a piece of entertainment about this complex place would seem, to most Thai nationals, a perplexing and peculiar privilege. But this is our experience, and this is a version of love: messy, thrilling, and confusing, with temperatures rising, full of paradoxes – wanting both to stay forever and to find a way out; always trying to understand what the hell is going on.

Kat Henry

 

Neon Tiger is the most genuinely culturally sensitive theatrical work we’ve seen in years, beautifully personal and universal in its explorations and observations on what happens when we give ourselves over to new experiences and new influences. Neon Tiger is innocent, optimistic, charming, chaotic, comforting, raw and real. It’s for anyone who’s ever even dared to dream of travel or adventure or love, or forgiveness.

20
Sep
18

Mother’s Ruin

 

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

MILKE & The Ginstress

La Boite, QUT & Brisbane Festival

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

September 18 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Nicole Reilly

 

For one week only, as part of Brisbane Festive 2018, La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre has been transformed into a boozy, magical gin joint. The cheekily self-proclaimed ‘threesome’, Maeve Marsden, Libby Wood and Jeremy Brennan, take their audience on a hilariously whirlwind, hazy and musical journey through the history of ‘mother’s ruin’, AKA gin.

 

The show begins with Maeve and Libby performing a Prayer to Gin, with Jeremy accompanying on piano, amidst the clutter of gin bottles of every shape and size strewn across the set. Don’t let the amount of empty bottles surprise you, the trio manage to pull gin bottles from anywhere and everywhere, with several hiding in the cleavages of Maeve and Libby to be retrieved mid-song.

 

Though the history of gin, and its reputation as a depressive tipple, is quite a downer, mostly due to the mistreatment of women throughout history, the expertise of these rising cabaret stars is in their ability to not take their narrative or themselves too seriously. As they race us through 18th century London, Libby confesses that it’s probably best for everyone if she just doesn’t attempt the accent, while Jeremy later remarks that he desperately wanted to do an accent because he’s “from NIDA!”. The songs and on-stage antics are equal parts cheeky, sexy and grotesque – with a memorable rendition of Fever by Libby ending in her dying of malaria after suffering from a range of delightfully disgusting symptoms on-stage – always with gin in hand. 

 

 

Both Maeve and Libby are incredibly dynamic performers, and unashamedly themselves (albeit heightened for stage), as they banter with the audience. They exude sexy, and their voices, together and individually, are mesmerising. Towards the end of the show, Maeve takes the microphone at the front of the stage and the other two disappear into a fiercely blue lit stage. I cannot even recall the song, it’s irrelevant, but Maeve’s ability to hold an audience, to captivate us with her authenticity and vulnerability was utterly engrossing. The audience was completely immersed in her world, which is a credit to her formidable skills as a performer.    

 

 

The passion and enthusiasm for their drink of choice, including the inclusion of a certified gin expert to their creative team, is infectious – if the gin bar of the Theatre Republic post-show is anything to go by! And so finally, after critically acclaimed sold out seasons at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, London Underbelly Festival, Sydney Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Fringe World Festival Perth, Adelaide Fringe and Festival of Voices, Mother’s Ruin has landed in Brisbane!

 

With a gin in hand, don’t miss this wonderfully silly and informative cabaret.

15
Sep
18

YUMMY

 

YUMMY

Yummy Productions

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

September 12 – 15 2018

 

Reviewed by Anthony Borsato

 

 

I was pleasantly surprised to see a drag cabaret take pride of place in Theatre Republic this year. I was even happier when I got to go along to this absolutely fabulous night out. After seasons in fringes around the world, YUMMY brought its campy humour and sequins to La Boite’s stage this week – Act 1 of Brisbane Festival – what a week! 

 

Featuring seven amazing performers – Karen from Finance, Benjamin Hancock, Valerie Hex (Producer, Director and BRIEFS performer, James Welsby), JandruzeZelia Rose (recently seen with Dita von Teese), Hannie Helsden and Joni in the Moon – YUMMY is a night of drag, circus, cabaret, burlesque and comedy. Each performer clearly has their own style and personality that is allowed to shine throughout the entire show. What is unique to this drag show is that YUMMY features both male and female performers, showing us more than just the traditional gay-man fuelled drag culture. I would love to have seen drag kings in the performance as well – but the night felt like a celebration of the ‘yummy’ nature of the camp and the feminine.

 

 

 

Was it the most cutting edge drag? No. Was it the best cabaret or circus? No. But it doesn’t need to be because it’s a fun night. Drag is, by its very nature, a political act – tearing down the walls of traditional gender roles and performativity but there is no doubt that the night is all about entertainment. The key to any drag show is that throw yourself into the nature of the night and if you do that you will have a truly fun time. This cast knows how to work a crowd and get the audience eating out of their hands. The audience was ingratiated into the scene by our MC for the night, a queen with one of the funniest names in the business; Karen from Finance. Karen told us at the very beginning to clap, cheer, scream, stamp the floor for everything we love – and then each act encouraged that. It is the oldest and most effective technique in the book – get the audience hooting and cheering for what they like, and the adrenaline and endorphins carry them through the rest of the great performance. It keeps you in the mood.

 

YUMMY pulls in the audience expertly; so much so that the show seems to be over before you know it and you are left wanting more. The cast isn’t afraid to look silly and don’t take themselves too seriously.

 

YUMMY offers no journey or transformation for audiences; it is pure entertainment. And sometimes, that’s refreshing in such a dark, bleak evil world.

 

 

With so many unique acts it’s hard to pick a favourite. Stand outs include a mash-up of Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money and ABBA’s Money, Money, Money by Karen From Finances, Benjamin Hancock’s lipsync with a smart-phone muzzle, and maybe one of the best acts I’ve ever seen; Valerie Hex tap dancing to heavy metal/screamo music.

 

The demographic of YUMMY’s audience is unlike any I have ever seen at a drag show. They are likely drawn in by the Brisbane Festival and La Boite marketing, but what is great about YUMMY is that it works as an entry level performance into the drag world for those who know little about it. It has the traditional camp comedic elements that many would recognise as drag, an introduction to more experimental drag performance art, and burlesque/cabaret acts, which mainstream theatre audiences would be used to experiencing. It also provides more context to audiences whose only knowledge of drag comes from Rupaul’s Drag Race. Audiences enjoy the energy and the spectacle of YUMMY, from costumes to rival Lady Gaga’s, to acts that are well thought out and fun to watch.

 

YUMMY leaves the Theatre Republic tonight. If you get a chance to get along, sit back, have a couple cocktails, and throw yourself into the fun of the night. Switch off and be entertained.

 

 

 

13
Sep
18

FAG/STAG & BALI

 

FAG/STAG & BALI

The Last Great Hunt

Theatre Republic La Boite Studio

September 11 – 15 2018

 

Reviewed by Anthony Borsato

 

 

It is not very often that we get to revisit the same characters again in theatrical work, but that’s what you get in this double bill from Perth’s The Last Great Hunt. It is also not often that shows in which actors predominately sit and monologue at the audience hold my attention for long. But that was not the case with FAG/STAG and BALI written and performed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs. These are pieces that show you don’t need much to make good theatre, or tell good stories.

 

Staged in La Boite’s small studio, these performances use basic chair and table settings, simple lights, and well timed and chosen sound, and hold the attention of the entire audience.

 

 

Both pieces follow best friends, Jimmy, a gay man, and Corrigan, a hetero man. Jimmy (Jeffrey Jay Fowler) and Corrigan (Chris Isaacs) tell the same stories from their own points of view. Both unreliable narrators of their own stories – both representing themselves as their best selves. We often see unreliable narration in one-man or narrated theatrical pieces but both FAG/STAG and BALI plays exceptionally with this trope and it is only through others’ retelling that we learn some of the hard truths, omitted by the friend. They try, like all of us, to hide their flaws only to be called out by their best mate. This is a source of great humour and poignant reveals as this fast-paced narrative unfolds from both perspectives.

 

 

FAG/STAG follows the duo in the time leading up to the wedding of ex-girlfriend Tamara. Jimmy has just broken up with his boyfriend and Corrigan is still clearly still in love with Tamara. It is slice of life realism – no convoluted plot, just the ups and downs of life. The audience is taken through a trying time in both of their lives and in their friendship. There is conflict and drama like in all good theatre but even a big fallout between the boys, after Corrigan calls Jimmy a ‘faggot’, feels natural and not forced or overplayed. But the narrative throughout is entrancing. It feels like you are being told a story by a mate – all we needed was a beer in our hands and you could almost forget you were seeing theatre.

 

The script is fast paced, witty, and at times poignant. The loneliness the two feel resonates with the audience. Both Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs are superb in these roles, sitting wholly in their emotions and allowing them to play out.

 

 

As a queer artist myself, it was refreshing and heart-warming to see a piece that I could identify with so strongly. Jokes that were relatable to my experiences, heartbreak that hit close to home, and a friendship that I feel is often overlooked. Gay men and hetero men can be friends – GASP! Shocking but true. It is often that gay men are shown as the best friend, exclusively of women or other gay men. It is uplifting to see this close friendship in all its glory – struggles and all. Even as best friends Corrigan is still uncomfortable with some aspects of Jimmy’s homosexuality. Especially when Jimmy is hanging out with his ‘the boys’ and the judgement Corrigan has for Jimmy’s sexual encounters. It shows a true struggle that many gay men face with friendships with heterosexual men – that even though it is usually subconsciously, there is a judgement or a perceived judgment by the heterosexual man, and that they think less of us.

 

The subtleties and nuances of this friendship as a vessel to explore toxic masculinity and homophobia had me thinking for a quite a while after the shows. Where Jimmy is able to explore his emotions more vocally and open up to the audience in both shows; Corrigan doesn’t. Corrigan describes his surroundings and you feel his emotions through Chris Isaacs’ performance, but the character keeps a tight lid and doesn’t name his feelings. Even though it may not register with all audience members, I loved this nod to the status quo of men and their emotional intelligence, especially amongst heterosexual men. Jimmy as a gay man has more ‘permission’ to express his emotions, where Corrigan doesn’t, because it threatens masculinity.

 

 

Even though BALI didn’t live up to the stellar script, performance, and impact of the first show of the night, FAG/STAG, I still found myself having a great time with the continuation of Jimmy and Corrigan’s story. It felt like I was catching up with friends. I still laughed, listened intently, and recoiled in my seat as the hard-hitting moments resonated with my own experiences. BALI finds the boys travelling, as the title suggests, to Bali for Corrigan’s mum’s 60th birthday. There is a clear strain in the friendship that both want to fix but are stubborn about. Jimmy has a holiday romance with a younger man and Corrigan struggles with communication with his girlfriend back in Australia. The humour, like in FAG/STAG, was found through contrast in situation, mood, language, and pace.

 

BALI is a great performance as a part of a double bill however as a standalone show it lacks. I don’t think I would have enjoyed BALI as much as I did if I hadn’t seen FAG/STAG immediately before. See both.

02
Aug
18

Lysa and the Freeborn Dames

 

Lysa and the Freeborn Dames

La Boite & QUT Creative Industries

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre 

July 21 – August 11 2018

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

 

Aristophanes’ classic Greek comedy Lysistrata is a comic account of a woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by withholding sexual privileges from their men as a means of forcing negotiation of peace. As an early exposé of sexual relations in a male-dominated society, it is an apt source for Lysa and the Freeborn Dames, a new work by Claire Christian, which waves the feminist flag through a story of self-discovery, albeit with some stereotypes.

 

Bold and defiant first year university student nineteen-year-old Lysa King (Tania Vukicevic) resents the traditions of her regional home town, most notably its annual rugby match known as the war weekend. Bolstered by viewing the 2017 women’s marches, during a trip home to the typical church/Chinese restaurant/CWA town, after awkward reunion with once girlfriend Peta (Clementine Anderson), she stages a protest to disrupt the event, as mouthpiece of the #metoo movement, angering most of the town, including her friends and her father (Hugh Parker) who is being awarded Man of the Year in one of the weekend’s rituals.

 

 

Rather than rallying the women of the town in solidarity with their international sisters, Lysa alienates almost everyone though her fired-up hostility and wide range of demands for equality as she locks local footy star Grant (Jackson Bannister) hostage in the club’s locker room after he catches her alofting a ‘Pussy Power’ flag over the hallowed footy field. As the show revolves around this decision and its consequences over one night, in one place, staging occurs within the one room of the local footy club, represented simply by a sunken set complete with daggy club-type carpet. And music is likewise used to effect, especially in cementing a concluding sentiment through Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees.

 

 

Its recognisable everyplace type of town ‘somewhere in regional Queensland’, setting increases its accessibility, however, clearly the show’s intent is to engage a younger demographic through showcase of impulsive protest as a privilege of youth, which may alienate traditional mainstage audience members. At times, it verges on caricature, overwhelming potentially poignant moments with over-the-top character portrayals which can make it a frustrating experience, especially when any warning about the potential dangers of single-minded activism seems to be breezed over in its somewhat all’s well ending.

 

 

It is difficult to empathise with Lysa. Even though she has right on her side, her raging militancy is off-putting, especially as we witness her refusal to accept other viewpoints or ‘I don’t care’ perspectives which almost cost her close friendships. And although there are three male characters within the story, their responses to Lysa’s assertions appear as mere mentions, dismissed as being ‘part of the problem’ rather than allowed space for consideration.

 

 

Obviously whether audience members will see passionate defiance or stubborn belligerence in Lysa will depend on their personal experiences and life’s journey stage. Thankfully, there is a Greek chorus of freeborn dames (the all-wonderful Barbara Lowing, Roxanne McDonald, Hsiao-Ling Tang) to mix things up. The trio doesn’t just setup the action, serving as Lysa’s persona oracle, but allows for a reprieve from her lack of relent, providing a powerful presence in their punctuating reminder the feminism is not just for the young. In particular, Lowing’s monologue about legacy and post-middle-age liberation from the repression of service to others conveys a moving honesty that makes the audience applaud mid-show. And the trio’s sardonic commentary also offers much dry humour. Indeed, like its Ancient source material, “Lysa and the Freeborn Dames” is very funny, thanks largely to its vibrant supporting cast – prim and proper(ish) fourth generation Miss Weekender (with sash to prove it), Esme (Tatum Mottin) and brash tell-it-as-it-is gutter-mouth Myra (Samantha Lush), who bring an engaging energy to the at-times physical show, especially in its spirited ‘Wild Ones’ dance scene. Also of note are Morgan Francis as the town’s well-intentioned, plucky young caught-in-the-middle policeman and Hugh Parker’s as Lysa’s everyman, good-bloke father who by his own admission, just doesn’t understand.

 

With provocation at its core, this is far from polite theatre. The show begins with a punch of profanities which continues in some way for most of its duration. The words do become wittier as the show ebbs and flows along, but its message sometimes lacks discernment; in touch on big themes like gender, sexuality, politics and sexual politics, there is a lot going on and while sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

 

Turning the international lens inward to feminism in rural Australia makes for an interesting theatrical premise, but working toward social change that takes everyone into consideration is complicated and it is probably for this reason that the show seems to lack a single thesis. From this tangle, there arises much opportunity for discussion though, especially for its target school group audiences, which is the show’s real value, for as Lysa tells her father when he questions her changed appearance and claim not to care what people think, “how is anything going to change if people can’t even have a conversation.”

 

One way or another, Lysa and the Freeborn Dames will evoke a response, whether it be in the form of feelings of frustration or fulfilment, and will, as enticed by its “fury fuelled dramedy” descriptor, generate contemplation and conversation.