Posts Tagged ‘liz skitch


Concerto For Harmony and Presto


Concerto for Harmony and Presto


QPAC Cremorne

March 29 – April 2 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

This is a story of two unlikely friends. One day Presto arrives, bringing with him an astonishing array of bits and bobs that threaten Harmony’s neat and ordered existence. Harmony sees a cart full of junk. Presto sees infinite possibilities – precious things that when put together just the right way can create extraordinary music!



QPAC and debase are partnering with Autism Queensland to present a Sensory Friendly Performance of Concerto for Harmony and Presto.

QPAC acknowledges that individuals with sensory and social disabilities may require support in attending performing arts events. This performance session is specifically designed for children with ASD or other sensory, social or learning disabilities that create sensory sensitivities.

Sensory Friendly Performances involve modifying a particular performance session by adapting the audience environment and providing pre-theatre preparatory activities for the person with a sensory, social, or learning disability so they can understand and anticipate what might happen during the performance.


I missed seeing an excerpt from deBase’s Concerto for Harmony and Presto at APAM16 and Poppy and I thought that maybe this show would be another one billed by QPAC for kids aged 3+ meaning suitable for 3 – 8 year olds, which is a common challenge for parents when contemplating which children’s theatre to take the over eights to. We were pleasantly surprised to find the fun for all ages in it.

Even before the show begins the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.

Gasping in mock horror and scolding each other as we do so, we leap over a row of seats because that’s the quickest and easiest way into our own. We love the sweet 40s & 50s tunes that play before the show and we see a friend to say hello to. It’s Lighting Designer, Jason Glenwright. Poppy is polite, as always, but unimpressed; they’ve met a number of times before and she simply says to me matter of factly, “Good, the lights will be good then”. She and I chat quietly about the lovely muted colours and rich but raw textures on stage while younger children all around us loudly demand snacks and ask, “When will it start?”

We relax into the autumnal colours, brought to life across a vertical surface of muslin and cotton and satin, enchanting colour and texture. A rustic, old-fashioned ambience is created by Glenwright’s gentle golden glow and the upbeat laid back party music of our grandparents: Sweet Georgia Brown, You Made Me Love You and If You Knew Susie… We sing along, playing imaginary spoons on our knees and soft-shoe-ing cool moves beneath the seats.

Old world shadow puppets, beautifully cut, are used to to set up the classic story of a young girl, Harmony, and her parents, who fall on hard times. The father loses his job at the factory and, reminiscent of the story of Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Harmony is sent to market with strict instructions to sell the family’s beloved gramophone, which is symbolic of their joy. As she turns and walks away, she remembers their days and nights of singing and dancing while the silhouette of her father hangs his head in his hands. A small child nearby whispers, “Mummy, he’s crying.”

When the lights came up again after the dimness it was like a sunrise and I felt engaged. The puppets were beautiful.

– Poppy Eponine

The travelling tinker, Presto (Don Voyage), and the little girl, Harmony (Liz Skitch), find that they have set up in the same place, which leads to conflict. Most offended is Harmony, who sets a rope between them. She and her Dead Puppet Society puppet, Lucy, will dance for pennies and Presto can do what he likes, as long as he stays on his side of the rope and doesn’t attract too much attention from the passers by. After all, she is there to make money to help her family, which is far more important than…whatever it is he is there to do.

What will happen to Harmony when she finds herself in a spot of trouble? Will Presto cross the line to help her? He makes it clear that she has made it clear from the beginning that he should stay in his dance space and she in hers. There are lovely subtle nods to some of our country’s biggest issues here… A moment suggests that Harmony might do away with the rope and invite him over but alas, she only moves it nearer to allow him to reach the precious gramophone, which is in desperate need of his unique skill set. (Earlier, perhaps not as subtly, Presto steps near enough to be physically present at Harmony’s tea party, but only as a non English speaking servant to pour the tea…). What follows is a hilarious and chaotic sequence of crazy, zany emergency treatments, with (Dr) Presto and (Nurse) Harmony working together, channelling classic Commedia and clowning energy and antics (Dramaturg Robert Kronk) to bring the broken gramophone back to life.

Presto’s sound effects especially are sensational and nothing is safe; every object is a noise-making instrument. (Some objects produce sounds that are more musical than others). He communicates using a language entirely of his own making, using gesture and bird whistle words. He’s very clear and we’re reminded that the challenges we experience when communicating with others is less about what they are saying and more about what we are hearing. 


When Harmony and Presto finally tune in to what the other is saying and discover a way to work together the children in the audience clap and cheer. Harmony invites us, without a word, to be a part of the concerto by handing out colourful toy instruments and prompting us to clap along. Skitch employs every facial expression in her repertoire, Voyage struts and trumpets and the kids love it!

Presto surreptitiously loops the sound effects to create a final multi-layered piece that plays beneath the live trumpet and percussion sounds. What began as a simple kitchen collection of noisy junk becomes a richly textured musical number, the Concerto of the title. A stronger finish will make this show almost perfect.

Directors, Helen Howard and Michael Futcher, expertly manipulate the artists’ playful exploration and their heartfelt communication to transform a simple story into a sophisticated musical extravaganza, which genuinely engages and delights all ages.





debase Productions

Judith Wright Centre Shopfront

November 19 – 21 2015


Reviewed by Meredith Walker




It has been said that one of first things in creating a character is to find their walk. But wigs, it seems, also offer opportunity to easily establish a character… or characters in this case.


As writer/performer Liz Skitch demonstrates in her comedy show “Spoilt”, there are so many nuances to characters. After entering as herself, she transforms c/o five different wigs and a handful of accessories into five entirely distinct but stereotypical female characters, all spoilt in their own way.




Sucking in her cheeks and sticking out her chest, she morphs from bridezilla Sonja to scatterbrain reality tv star Larissa, famous for her burlesque number on “X Factor” and desperate to maintain her tenuous celebrity status. Then, with hunched shoulders and bulky beads, she becomes Sue, a sarcastic wedding co-ordinator, ageing years in a moment. From Botoxed celebrant Jacqui, willing to share her most intimate secrets to anyone who will listen, to Australia’s Toughest personal trainer, Peta Swift, once captain of the Australian Netball Team and now celebrity trainer on “The Biggest Loser”, her energy never wanes in representation of the essential narcissism at the core of each character.




The characters’ clever connection is through a celebrity wedding, at which audience members are also in attendance, including as the mother and father of the bride and bridesmaids crew. Although a lavish affair, complete with New Idea coverage, it is also a very weird wedding, thanks to an unanticipated Act Two twist. Despite only this loose narrative, however, Skitch’s performance is dynamic enough to carry the evening. Her affection for the characters and their quirks is clear. And her impersonations of the exaggerated personalities are as remarkable as they are entertaining.


Beyond just wigs and accessories, down to the finest nuances, her physicality, vocals and mannerisms combine in each instance to create perfect depiction, making audience members spoiled for choice of a personal favourite.




“Spoilt” is a strangely entertaining show: mostly entertaining in Act One but sometimes a little strange in Act Two. Still, with its catchy soundtrack (because what wedding is complete without some ‘Nutbush City Limits’) and many comic moments, it is loads of fun, including through its mild audience participation.


More entertainment than social comment, it includes a stack of silliness that makes it a great, giggly night out.








deBASE Productions

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

April 24 – 26 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward





Five spoilt women unravel as the worlds of a reality ‘star’, celebrity trainer, botoxed celebrant, small-dog loving PR consultant, and bridezilla collide. Skitch flips the dark side of narcissism and self-improvement sunny-side up in this electric comedy masterpiece.


Direct from Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Spoilt premiered at La Mama as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2013 and is proudly supported by the Knox Arts Centre.


Trained at the school of Philippe Gaulier, Skitch is an expert mimic, clown and bouffon. Always looking for something or someone to satirise, it was a glossy inflight magazine on a budget airline that was the starting point for the show.  Skitch recounts, “I felt like it was yelling at me to ‘treat’, ‘indulge’ or ‘spoil’ myself.  Why? How?! I don’t have the money to spend on a haircut let alone a weekend getaway day spa package!! Then I stumbled on an article which described ‘Miss Universe Australia’ as ‘incredibly down to earth’ and knew I had found my first victim.”


Holding a mirror up to contemporary self-obsession, Liz Skitch presents five women who seem strangely familiar – they’re the reality television versions of the worst kind of social media oversharers (the women we avoid in real life but follow on Facebook because parts of their lives resemble a fantastic rainy day B-grade rom-com). To bring these vastly different divas to life Skitch turns the art of satirical mimicry into an extreme sport, and employs strategies that are probably supposed to challenge us to disbelieve and disengage. Instead, as she slips off one pair of shoes and steps into another, as she swaps fabulous wigs, basic wardrobe pieces and props, we are fascinated with the on-stage transitions between characters. The pace of each character’s piece runs extremely well, and she doesn’t miss a beat with most of the hecklers, but the transitions, as interesting as they are to observe, create a clunkiness that the show can do without. The same can be said of the final 20 minutes or so – at around 70 minutes it’s not a long show but at around 55 minutes it would be a helluva lot slicker.


Once the weird wedding, which is attended by all five women, is done and dusted, the characters each take their turn at the on-stage equivalent of drunk texting and embarrass themselves with overindulgent confessions and the continuation of all we’ve already heard; they’re the exhausting and exasperating last-to-leave-the-party people. And I acknowledge that they really are, as the wedding winds down, but even so, while this appeals to some, it feels a little laboured to others. Also, it’s a shame that such an intelligent artist feels the need to opt for a crass, cheap (a-hem) trick thrill to finish. No, I won’t describe it here. But the warning is clear: always know where the animals are… And how much you’ve had to drink… But it’s not even a moment of real Rocky Horror Show sort of crude hilarity and it leaves me wondering whether or not we need to go quite…there. In complete contrast, the interpretive dance that precedes the final image is a masterstroke, a genuine highlight, reminding me of Lucy Hopkins‘ extraordinary energy and comedy. Skitch, like Hopkins, is a fearless and very funny physical performer.



Spoilt is not a safe show. Don’t expect to go and sit and not be seen. Audience participation appears to be mandatory – and to make it a more personal experience you can even write your own nametag to wear into the theatre – and Skitch will practice every persuasive tactic to succeed in coaxing you to join in. I was quietly grateful not to be involved on opening night. I admit, I’m not the most forthcoming audience member. The Naked Magicians discovered that much during their first Visy visit, when I refused Mike’s invitation to join him on stage for a trick. (I apologised after the show!).


With a few savvy cuts and some smoother (or slightly speedier) transitions, Skitch and Director, Fiona Scott-Norman, would have an even funnier, faster and sharper deBASE show to take to the rest of the world! Skitch is such a committed performer, so full of intense, vibrant, vital energy, that she deserves to keep this show on the road.



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