Posts Tagged ‘louise brehmer

13
Jul
17

Pocketful of Pebbles

Pocketful of Pebbles

The Arts Centre, Gold Coast & White Rabbit Theatre Ensemble

The Arts Centre, Gold Coast

July 6 – 7 2017

 

Reviewed by Claire Harding

 

 

 

Aspiring, as all good fairy tales should, to teach children a moral, Pocketful of Pebbles delivered an important message to its family holiday audience at The Arts Centre, Gold Coast…

 

Stories can only exist when they are shared.

 

A funny and entertaining show with a darker edge, the collaborators on this unique project drew inspiration from traditional folk and fairy tale traditions that didn’t shy away from reminding younger audiences that life is not always sunny. Co-written by White Rabbit Theatre’s Lisa Smith (Playwright, Director, Producer and last minute Actor), Victoria Carless (Playwright The Grand, 2015 and Novelist The Dream Walker, 2017) and Tammy Weller (Playwright and Actor), show us that before Disney, not all good stories ended in happily ever after.

 

 

 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. This tension is juxtaposed with a whimsical delivery of stock characters and Puppets, such as the main character Mr Phoenix; a giant Phoenix bird designed by Graeme Haddon (Director of Puppetry for The Wiggles and Jim Henson’s Farscape). He is a humorous bird whom, with his companions, delivers some great commentary and witty one liners, which keep the adults just as entertained as the kids.

 

 

Performers, including Puppeteer Master Anna Straker, with Zachary Boulton and Louise Brehmer, had three short weeks to prepare and master their puppeteering techniques. Each actor plays many different characters, giving this simple production a much grander feel. The script doesn’t shy away from villainous characters or scary situations, but skilfully uses humour to ensure that the play remains light-hearted and fun, including the inclusion of sock puppet twins, Detectives Burp and Fart. The use of audience interaction, stylised movement and sound effects, give the piece a cartoonish feel, without slipping over into the pantomime realm.

 

 

Three traditional stories are skilfully woven together through the narration of Mr Phoenix, who is a magical storytelling bird played by the gracious Brehmer. Mr Phoenix’s comedic commentary is reminiscent of the Grumpy Old Men on The Muppet Show. A bird who is destined to be born again but just wants to die, his morose complaining, used to add humour, drive the story and break the fourth wall, reminding the audience that they are just watching a silly story. The minimalist setting is engaging for the audience as it invites us to fill in the blanks and use our imagination, further investing in the reality skilfully created by White Rabbit Theatre Ensemble.

 

 

A year in the making, Pocketful of Pebbles is a unique, dark and funny tale that delivers a positive message as Mr Phoenix challenges the audience to become the keepers of the stories so that the stories live on, and storytelling traditions be continued. A very entertaining and, at times, moving piece of family theatre. A too-short season on the Gold Coast means we can only hope that this touring production makes its way to a theatre near you.

 

10
Mar
15

The Seagull – now look here

 

The Seagull

now look here

Metro Arts Warehouse

March 3 – 14 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

It’s Chekhov, but not as you know it…

 

theseagull_header

 

“You can’t do Chekhov with bad actors.” Director, Kate Wild

 

 

“I”M SO UNHAPPY!” #sochekhov

 

I know of three productions of The Seagull happening this year in Brisbane alone. QUT (April 22 – May 2), QTC (August 29 – September 26) and now look here (until March 14) are all indulging in a bit of a Chekhov Crush. And I can understand why. We love Chekhov’s language, we love his dismal characters, the hopelessness of everyday life and the shrewd and sorry observations that we laugh about…so we won’t cry. There is tragedy in each fleeting moment of comedy, and there’s never a happy ending. Chekhov’s intensive study of the humdrum and dull horror of daily life makes me grateful for the abundance of love and joyful activity in my own.

 

AND particularly with the guidance of an intelligent and insightful director, Chekhov is glorious food for actors.

 

 

Chekhov is to actors what Colin Fassnidge is to foodies #usethewholepig

 

 

In this case, our director is also writer, adapting the original text over the course of an intriguing year, which involved workshops with various actors. (In fact, Kate Wild tells me after the show that amendments were being made right up until opening night!).

 

This adaptation impresses me greatly, and learning about Wild’s association with London’s Young Vic doesn’t surprise me at all, since it’s the NT Live productions that consistently show us how a classic can successfully be reimagined for contemporary audiences. Wild’s version of Chekhov’s classic is pared back and relies on the actors’ ability to present real characters, really. No, REALLY. There’s nothing that is surface level, no token anything here. Deeply inspired performances, which come directly from the text (just as Mamet wishes), mean we are privy to a new world of old-school values; it’s the same dysfunctional family but shown in more modern light. The language and the references are updated so that a whole new audience might not even think to question the origin of the play. The contemporary outback setting is about as far removed from 1800s Russia as we can get, however; it’s not dissimilar. Created with nothing more than a curtain, a table and chairs, some lamps and three white curved timber structures, which become walls and door frames and seats and a bed, the scene is sensitively, economically realised, and is made all the more poignant in the suddenly silent, extremely small space of the 4th floor Warehouse in the Heritage listed Metro Arts building on Edward Street (Designer Gordon Fletcher). It’s as if we’re in the room with them. It’s salon theatre in disguise…

 

Wild told scenstr, “I’ve seen a lot of innovative work, a lot of very creative directors doing a lot of very exciting things. But I felt I wasn’t seeing a lot of text-based theatre being done very centrally with a very simple sort of aim of telling a story. So I think I needed to show what theatre could be like if we went back to the basics and I made it very writer and actor led rather than maybe led by the concept of a director.”

 

theseagull_theplay

 

Wild fills the gap with this production, a beautifully configured statement on the value of reinvention whilst simultaneously honouring theatrical form and tradition and never losing sight of the story. The cast is superb, with fine performances from Louise Brehmer, Michael Forde, Matthew Filkins, Pip Boyce, Peter Cossar, Kevin Hides, Ayeesha Ash, Thomas Hutchins and Lizzie Ballinger. Special mentions to the gently placed Blake La Burniy, the quietly competent Kristian Santic and Courtney Snell (Stage Manager), and Erin Murphy (Composer & Musician). Murphy’s cinematic underscore makes my heart ACHE.

 

theseagull_theplay_lizzie

 

Ballinger is feminine and fragile and wild, improbably beautiful as the aspiring actress, Nina. She is fierce and tragic, truth and hope and loveliness all rolled into one. Her easy movement, rich vocal work and bright eyes make her a joy to watch. Hutchins is our tall, dark and brooding doomed writer, Kostya; oh, how we feel for him! Again, the character is wholly realised by the actor, his nuanced voice and movement (and again, the eyes have it), convincing us utterly. This is Hutchins at his best, deeply invested and heartbreakingly believable. In this intimate space we feel a part of every move, every word, every breath, including his last. There is need of a true sound effect to finish though, and with it would come genuine shock and a real sense of loss, rather than the gradual realisation of the situation, which we understand from Irina’s confusion and the doctor’s measured reaction. Hides nails it; his doctor is the epitome of gentility, compassion and honour behind a sparkling family friend smile. I find myself watching him watching the others… It’s the strongest, sweetest performance of the night.

 

 

mandrought_rachaeljohns

 

 

As Ilya the farmer Cossar delivers his best performance to date – such is the magic of perfect casting – and as his long-suffering wife, Boyce, although she is Ausssie chook lit mis-styled, is in fine form. It takes me a little while to warm to Ash as Masha, but when she finally settles she is lovely and detached and just as dissatisfied and downright miserable as she ought to be. And Filkins’ Boris?  He’s the perfect love-punched poet, disarming and frustrating. Damn those well to do, attractive, creative types in suits, huh? A-hem.

 

 

 

 

Wild’s adaptation condenses four acts into two and if you don’t need to hit the highway to get home you can be in bed before 11pm…unheard of! This Chekhov rocks! I actually want to buy a copy of this adaptation from Wild since it’s the first time I’ve been truly swept up in the complexities of the story without questioning anybody’s objectives. Drama departments everywhere will want it! Venues everywhere will want it…hello, La Boîte?

 

 

If Wild is here to stay, be sure to see whatever it is she does next. Hers is a sophisticated yet simply stated theatrical world in which we feel warm and welcomed and challenged. If you want to experience a more intimate, honest and personal form of live theatre this year, this is The Seagull you should see.