Posts Tagged ‘marcel dorney

23
Jun
16

We Get It

We Get It 

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 15 – 25 2016

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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After a critically acclaimed season at MTC’s NEON Festival, Elbow Room brings We Get It to Brisbane Powerhouse. In this fierce and witty new work, five classic heroines (and the actors playing them) take to the stage in a battle to win it all and to answer the question: can we imagine a world without sexism?

 

The performance begins with the men in the audience literally centre stage. The lights come up, the screen is lit and a booming voice helps us to imagine this world where sexism no longer exists – where women are granted the same rights, pay and opportunities as men. Understandably, the men on stage begin to look uncomfortable. In these opening moments we glimpse the bigger picture of this important work; we may “get” sexism, but there is still a long way to go before achieving gender equality.

 

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From here we enter a glitzy glamorous game show complete with five contestants dancing ridiculously in hot pink lycra. It’s a familiar scene, but there’s something disturbing behind the laughter and the fun. As each of the five women are forced to order themselves according to their appearance, personal lives and categories that simply have nothing to do with the competition at hand, a system of institutionalized sexism (and racism) reveals itself.

 

The “message” of the work permeates through the actors’ video diary entries where they recount their experiences as women in an industry dominated by men. It is unclear whether these are the lived experiences of the actors, and in this way the line between the actor, the actor playing an actor, and the actor playing an actor playing a character (and it really does feel that convoluted) is blurred time and time again. In particular the line between reality and fiction is manipulated as the actors talk back to the host, argue their concerns and work to perfect their performance as one of the greatest heroines ever written. These powerful and magnetic moments bring to the fore the problematic portrayal of women through characters written by men hundreds of years ago. Progressively through the performance we see the actors fight back against the ridiculous expectations of the host and us, the audience.

 

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It is clear that there is plenty of ground for We Get It to cover, but at times scenes feel too long and blatant declaration of the issue at hand becomes too much to handle. Personally I found the work difficult to connect with – while I empathised with the actors / characters, I struggled to play my own role as the alienated audience member. I wanted more space to come to my own conclusions, rather than being told what it all meant and who was at fault. In addition, I found the work to be exclusive in its use of in-jokes and terminology that only an industry audience would fully appreciate. As a work dealing with an issue relevant and important to all, I believe the work could be more accessible to a general audience that do not work within the Brisbane theatre industry.

 

We Get It is a vital piece of political theatre that is uncomfortable, confronting and sharp. It digs deep into the reality of women in an industry that I am just beginning to enter, and it’s frightening to say the least.

29
May
16

The Tragedy of King Richard III

 

The Tragedy of King Richard III

La Boite Theatre Company

La Boite Roundhouse

May 21 – June 11 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

After a questionable start to the 2016 season, La Boite triumphs with The Tragedy of King Richard III – affectionately referred to here as Dick3 – the most intriguing, challenging and satisfying theatrical event of the year so far. An exhumation, a thorough examination by brilliant minds, Queensland Premier Drama Award winners, Marcel Dorney and Daniel Evans, this production not only brings together two of the country’s best writers, but gathers together on stage and off, a truly formidable team of creatives.

Undoubtedly our most fearless director, Evans is able to find compassion in raging fury and irreverent fun in serious ethical and political discourse, creating a new form of theatre; a new style of conversation that challenges and rewards deeply, actors and audiences.

This is the sort of show we expect to see come to us direct from an acclaimed season overseas, and perhaps premiere at Brisbane Festival (September brings Snow Whitethis Shakespeare, and a whole lot more to the table). It’s the sort of show that makes us question everything we thought we knew about theatre and history, and the way we continue to look at the world. It’s a show that turns you inside out, slams you upside down and spits on you, laughing, before reaching out to help you get to your feet again, asking with genuine concern, “Do you want a Milo?”

It’s lucky/exciting/apt for Queensland that our top two companies are starting to make a habit now of giving wings to slightly more unconventional ideas and the support to help them take flight. This one soars and I won’t be at all surprised if, just as La Boite’s Edward Gant did, Dick3 attracts the attention of some of the nation’s other major players. In fact, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t.

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Dick3 is one of the most designed productions we’ve seen in this space (Designer Kieran Swann, Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright, Composer Guy Webster), utilising the very air that exists between light and rain, and the cold, wet ground, surrounding the raised floor with a black catwalk containing hidden trap doors storing a stash of props and wardrobe pieces inside each space, and having performers take hold of lights for good reason, rather than as a token effort to involve them in the meta layers of the storytelling. 

Because this is certainly not Shakespeare. This is very un-Shakespeare – next level Shakespeare – and it comes with the confident “fuck you” of a generation of genuinely passionate theatre makers who strive for a little more than mediocrity (unlike the next), brilliantly combining box office appeal with original experimental storytelling, questioning far more than they end up divulging and forcing us to reconsider the known “facts” of the history of the world and, in this case, one of the most infamous of Shakespeare’s historical characters. 

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I’m gazing into blue space when Naomi Price appears in front of me, in a Kate Middleton inspired ensemble, with a hand held mic, which she raises to her mouth after pronouncing very loudly and clearly and properly and powerfully and Shakespearingly, “NOW…”  She firmly, politely tells us to turn our mobile phones to Off not Silent and asks that those who insist on leaving their phones on Silent, raise their gadget in the air and admit it. She asks those who didn’t decide – neither switching to Silent or admitting doing so – WHY? There is laughter and we are immediately relaxed and somewhat thrown by this direct address…

Price proceeds to stride around the catwalk and paint a picture that is so vivid, so real, we feel as if we’re in the carpark in Leicester in 2012, standing, shivering, wondering what’s come before us, and looking down upon the reviled bones of King Richard III.

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There is the smell of burning rubber, steam rising, mist swirling, rain falling, blood pooling, blue pouring and splashing and emptying across the stage, the concrete that becomes marble before our eyes, the sponge hump, the gnarled hands, the buckets, the handhelds, the dagger, the sword, the paper crown, the tarp, the blank pages of the book – it could be Harry Potter, an empowering choice for a child actor (he’ll take what he can) – and there is us. Always us, purveyors and interpreters and interlopers; I actually feel unwelcome at times, as if I’m at the wrong dinner party. And this is deliberate, because ultimately, who cares about so much of the history we’re told is true? Is it? If it is, what of it? If we’re sitting there, attempting to intellectualise or justify or reframe in a postmodern context anything that comes from the annuls, it’s shot down in flames and we’re offered an alternate view that suddenly seems more reasonable than our originally held belief. 

Always surprising, this show is the one extra Tequila shot at the end of the night that sees us agreeing with someone we’d presumed would never even make the guest list. Dick3 is an equaliser, a game changer. If the national culture leaned more towards arts than football, this is the match of the season, and could just as easily be seen in a stadium. Imagine that!

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It’s difficult to understand the reluctance to more reasonably support arts and culture. More Australians go to art galleries each year than go to the AFL and NRL combined. The creative industries employ more people than agriculture, construction or even mining, and indeed contribute as much as 75% of the economic benefit of the mining sector…

Let’s talk about STEAM rather than STEM. Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics should all be key parts of our education curriculum. Decades of research shows that artistic engagement nourishes all learning, so if we want an innovative, imaginative and well-rounded nation, let’s have one…

People have a right to arts and culture.

 

David Berthold, AD Brisbane Festival

 

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Price is so powerful in this space, with the vocals and stage presence to knock you flat. She sets the scene and establishes the connection with the audience, which the performers maintain throughout. We connect with each of them. We’re part of this story, part of history. Amy Ingram is a seductive, deliciously wicked delight, and Helen Howard an articulate, elegant, fearsome creature, just as she should be. In Howard’s hands, the act of lifting a chainmail sleeve from a bucket of blood and putting it on, blood dripping down her flesh and soaking into the fabric of her dress, becomes a fine art, pure (horrifying, mesmerising) seduction. Pacharo Mzembe is a prince, giving everything in this performance, which, having now seen so much of NT Live, appears to have come directly from the West End, such is his mastery of voice and movement, particularly in the thrilling fight sequences choreographed by Nigel Poulton (Assistant Fight Director Justin Palazzo-Orr). These are Poulton’s best bloody, sweaty routines to date, executed with ferocious intent by Mzembe and MacDonald. Todd MacDonald commands the space, his return to the stage a triumph in itself. When he’s not fighting or plotting or spilling blood he’s bringing to life a previously unknown version of William Shakespeare – a very funny one – and allowing himself to be directed by the actors who sit, watching critically, in the corners.

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But it’s 14-year old Atticus Robb, in his professional stage debut, who stuns us with a performance that is mature beyond his years, bringing passion and ambition, sincerity and vulnerability to multiple roles, including that of The Actor, Atticus. His is thrilling natural talent, most evident in a Richard III rockstar monologue that steals the show. This kid’s got it.

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The Tragedy of King Richard III is bold and brilliant, death-of-theatre-defying stuff, giving the Australian theatrical landscape permission to change again, to carry on evolving, despite its current challenges.

Without bringing Shakespeare to the stage, Dorney and Evans have brought Shakespeare’s essence and centuries of society’s most deeply held beliefs about ambition and power and connection and the human condition to an audience who thought they’d seen everything. Everything that is, until Dorney and Evans’ astute take on anything at all.

NOW… We’ll see if there are others who can keep up with the exhilarating pace set here.

Production pics by Dylan Evans

 

08
Nov
15

The Motion of Light In Water

 

The Motion of Light in Water

La Boite Indie

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

November 4 – 21 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

SEX AND SCIENCE FICTION ON STAGE

 

WHAT IF…?

 

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

Samuel R. Delany

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The context changes but the rhetoric remains the same.

– Samuel Ray “Chip” Delany

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Between us on our wide bed we cuddle an incubus

whom we have filled with voyages. We wake

more apart than before, with open hands.

Your stomach and head begin to ache.

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

The Navigators, Marilyn Hacker

 

31
May
15

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

May 23 – June 13 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

INCEST ASIDE, IT WAS A GREAT WEDDING.

 

 

WHAT IF OEDIPUS LIVED NEXT DOOR?

 

 

MUTHAFUCKA

 

 

I never really liked Neapolitan icecream but when we were kids we would have it for dessert sometimes – a special treat – and now I’ll never eat it again.

 

 

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Daniel EvansOedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s an incredibly fast, funny, deeply affecting piece, which uses the ancient story of Oedipus to look at how we respond to unspeakable tragedy.

 

 

The winner of the 2014-2015 Queensland Premier’s Drama Award, the only writing comp in the country that guarantees a fully professional production of the winning work, this Oedipus is a disturbingly accurate contemporary take on Sophocles’ Theban plays. If you’ve never before been able to work out the complex plots, this production gives you all the clues to do so.

 

 

Transposed to an outer suburban neighbourhood somewhere in Australia (it’s one we might try to avoid visiting after dark), the unfathomable story suddenly becomes horrifyingly familiar – as familiar as any tragedy involving celebrities or royalty might seem via Facebook – as a chorus of four young actors rise from green plastic chairs and tell us simply and directly where they are and which role they’ll be playing in order to relay the shocking tale.

 

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is masterful writing, brought to vivid life by a brilliant team.

 

 

And speaking of teamwork, let’s not forget the Dramaturgs: Stephen Carlton, Saffron Benner and Louise Gough, who have helped to nurture the text through many stages of development.

 

 

I guess this doesn’t really require a mention either, but something about this production reminds me of another winner of this award so I’m going to remind you of it too. Marcel Dorney created an ancient world for his winning play, Fractions, directed by Jon Halpin in 2011. It had been in development for four years. “We all thought it was pretty special but were worried it was too hard, that the ideas were too difficult and too big and people would just switch off,” Halpin told Cameron Pegg. The boldness paid off, bringing us the big ideas and difficult lessons of an old story in a new framework. Halpin said of Fractions, “It’s set 1500 years ago but it speaks with an urgency and relevance to today’s world with more insight and profundity than any other new work I’ve come across.” I would say the same of Evans’ Oedipus.

 

 

The story is inconceivable, the stuff of the inescapable 24-hour click-bait news cycle but told this way, so cleanly and unapologetically, we believe it.

 

 

From the outset we’re drawn into a hilarious retelling of events (no really; it’s really horribly funny) with just a couple of amendments to detail, such as the pedophiliac father’s chariot becoming a car in a fatal crash.

 

 

A compelling scene toward the end of the play humanises things even more than the humour can do, in case we didn’t already feel something. To set it up, we live through the excruciating tension of a high school shooting orchestrated and executed by Eteocles and Polynices (the sons of Oedipus). The massacre is reenacted on top of a pulled-from-the-wall campus mud map. Again, as we’ve seen before, there is comedy in it that makes us feel inhuman for laughing out loud. It leaves me numb. I’m filled with dread in the moment before the final “bang” is voiced by one of the boys and then I feel sick to my stomach. This slow burn is a master class in tension and restraint, a perfect example of the restraint shown throughout by Director, Jason Klarwein. It’s his best work to date and it thrills me to think of what he might, as Director, be gifted with next.

 

 

The beautifully tragic scene-that-shouldn’t-work (and wouldn’t work in the hands of a less intelligent team) takes place in a deserted playground, in which Haemon (Son of Creon and Eurydice, engaged to Antigone, who is dead) sits silently on a swing while an unknown girl chatters away to him under the pretext of sharing the last can of rum from the carton at Haemon’s feet. Eteocles and Polynices have killed everyone else (BANG). The rum is…warm. The mood is…awkward. Burton is superb here, a gangly, desperately frightened teen unravelling for the longest time. She is mesmerising, expertly manipulating pace, pause and proximity. Suddenly, after his eerie extended silence, a single sentence tossed spitefully across the playground by Haemon destroys her completely and he exits and kills himself. It’s brutal, brilliant stuff.

 

 

The space is intimate and at the same time retains a vast, empty feeling, as if we are lost in time and space. Justin Harrison’s soundscape, comprising original compositions and precision theatre sound effects (is that even a thing? I’m making precision theatre a thing), matches the text moment-to-moment, beat-by-beat, leaving silences through which we can only breathe…or not dare to breathe. An intelligent lighting design by Daniel Anderson works like a spell to capture and focus our attention; it’s the best example I can offer to tech-obsessed students this year of the way in which the elements are used to enhance a production. That leads me to mention that although it’s a risqué show for secondary schools, that doesn’t mean students should stay away from it. While the school might not be in a position to take you, senior students, you should see this show. You’re welcome.

 

 

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The design, perfectly realised by Jessica Ross, is spectacularly simple, featuring fluorescent lighting to frame the action and a graffiti wall by Drapl, which is foreboding even in all its colour and humour, warning us like the Oracle and welcoming us like Laius into the cold, hard, clashing world of ancient and modern youth. The overall effect serves to focus our attention on the performers, an astonishing ensemble.

 

 

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Ellen Bailey, Emily Burton, Joe Klocek and Toby Martin are uncompromising in their multiple roles. If Bailey were a criminal she would be considered a master of disguise. Her ability to switch from one character to the next is impressive and always funny. Burton is a beauty, swinging from hysteria to thoughtful silence in a heartbeat. Martin sometimes shouts a little more than necessary but as Laius, King of Thebes, he successfully harnesses the craziest, creepiest kind of power imaginable over the young boy, Crysippus, and seers his image and evil energy onto our hearts. It’s Klocek we’ll keep an eye on though, because this 19-year-old achieves the same level of depth and nuance and variety with his characters as the others do with far less stage or screen experience under his belt. Here’s his bio:

 

 

Queensland Theatre Company: This Hollow Crown, Face It. Other Credits: QUT: Orphans, The Three Sisters. Film: Rome. Training: QTC Youth Ensemble, 2012.

 

 

THAT IS ALL. HE’S A NATURAL.

 

 

How exciting and frightening that the story of Oedipus who kills his father, sleeps with his mother and rips his own eyes out (the “professional opinion” here is a killer), can feel new and fresh and raw and completely relevant. I won’t give away the final moment but IT BITES. THIS PLAY BITES. WHO COULD WRITE SUCH A THING?

 

 

Well, Daniel Evans could and he has done, and if you miss it you miss bearing witness to a new, living, fire-breathing brand of Australian theatre that other writers are trying desperately to master.

 

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is an exceptional play and this is an electrifying production, which must be supported to have a life beyond its World Premiere run.

 

 

 

24
Nov
13

Prehistoric

 

Prehistoric

Elbow Room & Metro Arts The Independents

Metro Arts Basement

20 November – 7 December 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Prehistoric is a story about Brisbane in the 11th year of the Bjelke-Petersen administration – a very different place from the Brisbane of 2013… OR IS IT?

 

In the late 1970s, the relationship of young Australians to culture, society, politics and technology went through changes that were quick, profound and – most importantly – intimately connected.  This era was the turning point in Brisbane – whether or not we realise it – becoming one of the most interesting cultural incubators, not just in Australia, but in the Anglophone world.

Purchase Prehistoric

 

Prehistoric Kathryn Marquet Image by Leesa Connelly

 

You live at the remote edge of a civilisation in economic free-fall, about to destroy itself in a nuclear war.

(Like anyone, you’d rather not think about that.)

You live in one of the most corrupt cities on the planet, under a state government elected by a minority who mostly live elsewhere.

Again, you’d rather be having fun. Maybe making some noise.

Except the government has significantly expanded the powers of the police to stop you.

Also, all the computers are owned by corporations, and all the phones are tied to the wall.

It’s 1979.

Love you, Brisbane.

 

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Whether or not you come away thinking the title is apt, this is a play about Queensland that begs immediate viewing by Queenslanders. It’s a look inside the Bjelke-Peterson police state years and yet it’s all too familiar. What happens when police name badges become optional and officers detain a guy after dropping a tissue in Queen Street Mall? No, this is not ancient history, but recent events recorded in Brisbane.

 

Backbone Youth Arts originally developed Prehistoric, firstly via a commissioned draft and then in two successive creative developments in 2012 with Kathryn Marquet, Anthony Standish, Melanie Zanetti and Steve Toulmin. Writer and Director, Marcel Dorney notes, “We weren’t ‘there’ in 1979… So we formed our own band, and played our own music, because we could think of no better tribute.” Dorney asks the tough questions, and without providing all the answers, offers us multiple veiled (and not so) warnings about history repeating.

 

The band of which Dorney speaks comes together, as bands do, when a group of friends (or strangers) have something to say. Their message is loud, and if you can make out the lyrics, which are mostly shouted in an appropriately antiestablishment manner by Anna Straker, it’s pretty powerful. Joining Straker in her punk band are Kathryn Marquet, Anthony Standish and Steve Toulmin. The original music, by Toulmin and Dorney, might be for some the most challenging aspect of this production. But it shouldn’t be. There’s a whole heap of intelligent raging going on beneath the clanging, clashing sounds of amplified instruments and “Fuck yous”. It’s a play with punk and spunk! There are perhaps two songs too many – the show runs a little longer than it needs to (for me, without delving deeper into one particular story or another, ninety minutes would be ideal) – and by the last couple of songs I’m thinking, “Okay, I get it!” The action is well punctuated by the music though – and the climax counts on it – and it’s not to everyone’s taste, but nor was it when punk became popular in Brisbane…or anywhere else.

 

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It’s a time of rebellion, despair and desperation, of “ministerial corruption, the demolition of our heritage architecture, stories of police brutality…” (Metro Arts Programming Manager Kieran Swann), and it’s an era that we’d rather not be reminded of. Unfortunately, many of the play’s issues are, once again, all too familiar. The actors bring their characters to life after they’ve entered the basement space to inform us that they weren’t there to witness events, but they can certainly share a version of what happened, so if when it happens again we can see it coming, and boy, do we see it!

 

Prehistoric is a strong ensemble piece, giving voice to each character and ultimately, giving many opportunities for the voices to join together in poignant protest. Characters are nicely drawn and intelligently realised.

 

Dorney has written and directed a vital play; I expect to see an adaptation of Prehistoric on our small screens at some stage, as well as on the main stages. It deserves a broader audience, and despite – or because of – its specific setting and political references, looks set to serve us as a contemporary example of the way good theatre has always recorded a version of historical events, and tested popular opinion and the establishment. A less-explicit (but does that make it less powerful?) adaptation for senior students would be an excellent resource for schools.

 

Whether you were there at the time or not, you should live through Prehistoric.

 

31
Jul
13

An Experiment With The Caucasian Chalk Circle

 

An Experiment With The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Backbone & Artslink

Adapted and Directed by Marcel Dorney

 

Featuring Sarah McLeod & Zachary Boulton

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

I was lucky enough to see An Experiment With The Caucasian Chalk Circle on Friday 26th July 2013 at Caloundra City Private School on the Sunshine Coast. When I turned up early, the teacher and students thought I was the artist they were expecting from Backbone, there to run a workshop. I told them I’d love to come back to work with them another time, but that I was there to review the show they were about to see.

 

In an unassuming science lab-turned-drama room, two talented performers from Backbone blew my mind, in Marcel Dorney’s brilliant adaption of Berthold Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. The experiment? An unqualified success.

 

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Two women both claim the child. But what makes a mother?

A chalk circle is drawn on the ground. But to whom does the ground belong?

The women each take one of the child’s arms. Why should we care who lets go first?

Brecht’s legacy is not what he did. It’s what he makes us do. This experiment with The Caucasian Chalk Circle drills to the engine of the text and rebuilds it. Equipped with a few bolts of cloth and a piece of chalk, one female and one male actor describe the paths of Grusha and Azdak and determine the fate of the lost child.

 

Studying Brecht is hard. It is. Not because Brecht is hard to understand – well, maybe a little – but because so many teachers are either a) tired of teaching him or b) have never quite felt the level of passion for Brecht that they have done in other areas of the Drama curriculum. Stories of boredom seem to filter down from the older students to the current year levels, they see an old-school “traditional” performance or something so new and “contemporary” it makes little sense in their world, and by the time one has the time to actually focus on Mother Courage or The Caucasian Chalk Circle, students are often very “whatever” about it! But they haven’t seen it like this. And it’s my guess that very few teachers have had the privilege of seeing it like this.

 

Trust me. This is the best buy-in for Senior Drama I’ve ever seen. Book it now.

 

This neat little show is like no other performance you or your students have experienced. Adapted and directed by Marcel Dorney, Backbone’s production is, as well as being an outstanding performance by two versatile young actors, a thorough theoretical and emotional exploration, analysis and summation of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, its themes and its characters.

 

The tale, as we know, is timeless because who is ever the rightful mother of a child? And how do we prove love? That’s right. By letting go. And the climax, as we hoped it would be, is the perfect combination of exquisite pain, satisfaction and relief, even after early (and recurring) Zombie jokes, and a cracking pace, allowing the actors to utilise every physical theatre and contemporary performance trick in the book to share their take on the story.

 

The success of this production is three-fold. First, the performers (Sarah McLeod & Zachary Boulton) are sensational – warm, funny, intriguing, and completely convincing in their characterisations, despite their transgender swaps, which happen quite often and have the audience in stitches. Second, the setting is wherever you have a quiet space to put on a show, and students have the opportunity to observe the way ordinary things in an ordinary place are used in symbolism and storytelling to transport an audience. Third, the adaption of Brecht’s script is masterful, and the direction so insightful you’ll be just as surprised as your students by some of the revelations in it.

 

Importantly, there is nothing condescending or ordinary about this production, though much of the original text is used, so even the students who are more familiar with the play will discover new points of view, new ways of looking at each dilemma, and those who skipped the pre-performance reading that you set for homework the previous week will not only follow the play with ease, but be mesmerised by it and recall accurately, all major plot points. An interesting exercise would be to identify where the actors stop and explain something, or use an example from their own lives to illustrate Brecht’s big points. Their timely pauses don’t slow the pace, and rather than taking away from the enjoyment, enrich the experience. In fact, I can’t help but notice that each time Sarah and Zachary stop to speak directly to their audience – and their connection with the students is electric – there are actually heads nodding in agreement!

 

I didn’t want to take my eyes off the performers for a moment, but I enjoyed glancing over to see ten or more boys, for a full 60 minutes, completely captivated amongst the audience of around twenty-five students from Year 9 – Year 12. They were so absorbed in the story, and their teacher was so impressed with the performance and their acceptance of it, that she quipped about being done with Mother Courage and making the set text for her students the following year The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Indeed, with its study of ethical behaviour, politics, and human character and relationships, it’s certainly my preferred piece, especially when we have such a rich resource at our fingertips in the form of Backbone’s An Experiment With The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

 

 

Touring in Term 4: Mackay, Townsville, Charters Towers, Cairns

 

07
Jun
13

Metro Arts Friday Nights and MORE!

 

So you’re not at Metro Arts tonight either?

 

We are missing out on Metro Arts Friday Nights!

 
The exciting Friday Nights program has proven to be a feature of Metro Arts’ program in the first half of the year. On the first Friday of each month, Metro Arts opens its door to share the artists’ space. It is an energetic and social environment for artists and audiences to be in direct conversation, a feast of visual and performing arts, panels, experiments and open studios are programmed alongside a lively foyer bar.

 

In the second half of 2013, Metro Arts continues to showcase Brisbane’s most vibrant contemporary artists’ work through a program of performances and exhibitions. Metro Arts is proud to announce key partnerships with leading cultural institutions in Brisbane: Jan Manton Art to present Platform 2013, Queensland Music Festival to present Lady of the House of Love, and Brisbane Festival as a hub for the presentation of seven local and international works.

 

With the support of Drama Queensland and Arts Queensland’s Playing Queensland Fund, Aurelian by Genevieve Trace will be touring regional Queensland between 16 August and 2 September, leading into its premier season at Metro Arts, as part of Brisbane Festival. Through its producing hub, Metro Arts is also co-presenting a season of The Human Company’s The Empty City at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of their annual children’s festival.

 

Residencies continue to dominate the program. Korean theatre maker and vocalist, Younghee Park, will be in residence to collaborate with Nathan Stoneham on the development of an adaptation of Brecht’s The Good Person to be presented at Next Wave Festival in Melbourne next year. Marcel Daniels and Daniel Herberg of Other Projects, continues their year-long residency exhibiting Changing Standards of Dialogues to close the Exhibition Program for the year.

 

Other key projects include the premier seasons of Motherland by Katherine Lyall-Watson, shortlisted for the 2013 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, and Marcel Dorney’s new work, Prehistoric.

 

Metro Arts continues to up the stakes. It’s extending beyond its capacity to facilitate opportunities and connections for artists by sharing resources, trafficking information and building exchange networks. Metro Arts is enabling the next step for a community of artists and demonstrating its commitment to growing the entire arts landscape.

 

The work never ends. As Metro Arts launches this exhilarating program, it is already in preparation for the next flood of artists and projects. Metro Arts is now receiving proposals for the 2014 Exhibition Program and the 2014 January – June Performance Makers Program.

 

 

APPLICATION FORMS AVAILABLE ONLINE AT WWW.METROARTS.COM.AU

 

Metro Arts

ABOUT METRO ARTS

 

Metro Arts is a multi-artform incubator and site for experimentation, supporting and developing independent artists through a platform of space, mentoring, producing support, critical engagement and leadership.

 

Wanna work with Metro Arts? A FOH Position is available. Details online.