Posts Tagged ‘margi brown ash

10
Feb
16

GAYBIES

 

GAYBIES

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 3 – 6 2016

 

Reviewed by Simon Denver

 

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Verbatim theatre. Bite sized morsels of humanity whose sum of all parts give a well rounded theatrical presentation based on a particular event or theme. It can work particularly well, as in this case, when the performers let the words lead. The power will always be in the honesty of the words; overt characterisation mustn’t distract. In Verbatim theatre the actors are the backing and the words are the lead. In GAYBIES we heard the stories of growing up with a same sex parents. (Well – same sex parents, surrogate mums and donor dads). The people interviewed ranged from 4 year old to 40 year old. This gave fantastic scope for the ensemble of 18.

 

Statistics may say that children of same sex parents make up such a small fraction of society – but that does not detract from the relevance of this work. As I mentioned earlier – society is the sum of all parts. We, as individuals, have an almost moral duty to research, examine or at least familiarise ourselves with as many of those working parts of life as possible – No matter how the findings might be at odds with our “white bread 2.2 children” view of life. In fact, having same sex marriage as a political issue de jour only amplifies this production’s relevance.

 

For over seventy minutes we were presented with stories. Honest stories and clear memories.

 

Too embarrassed to tell your friends your parents are gay. An awkward scenario. But then again, lots of people have always been embarrassed to tell their friends that their parents were Nudists / Mormons / Swingers / National Party Members etc. The charades of truth (“If anyone asks I sleep in this room and Bob sleeps in that room”). But then again, what family doesn’t play out its charade of little white lies? The more stories that flooded the stage the more you realised that these stories were running a parallel course to most people’s stories. Finding so many touchstones within such a small statistic can only serve to humanise as oppose to demonise. It was a gentle reminder that whether parents are the same sex, (or from different religions, race, creed or colour for that matter), in the end it doesn’t matter. A house of love and laughter can only come from love at its core.

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By default or design the limited two-day rehearsal period meant scripts on stage were going to be a necessity. But a two-day rehearsal period with the calibre of the cast involved was always going to make this a very up-market rehearsed reading. Quite a tough brief really. Find the natural flow and rhythms of the words yet continually have to remind your self what the words are. Personally I thought those almost rhythmic glances at the scripts constantly reinforced the fact that these were someone else’s stories. I suppose its like the subtitles in a foreign film. If the film is good you don’t notice that you are reading. The words are not those of professional writers. They are the words of the average man / woman very creatively “cut and pasted” together by Dean Bryant. It was a great “ensemble” piece. And the ensemble did a mighty job. The direction by Kris Stewart was as much as can be expected from a two day rehearsal. Again, without the time to be flash, complex, personal or brave, the direction seemed to merely be there to set the words free.

 

All in all it was an incredibly feel good journey.

 

The Ensemble itself consisted of professional actors and social / media commentators. With that in mind it’s unfair and impossible to single any individual out .. .. .. .. .. (Damn! Can’t back that up! Margi Brown Ash’s four-year-old on a bike was the show stopper for me. Still chuckling at that little gem days later). They were a unified front and they were all on the same page. For that I say to them all – Thank you. So Barbara Lowing, Bec Zanetti, Blair Martin, Kurt Phelan, Libby Anstis, Lizzie Moore, Brad Rush, Brittany Francis, Christopher Wayne, Margi Brown Ash, Pam Barker, Pat O’Neil, David Berthold, Emily Gilhome, Gordon Hamilton, Rebecca McIntosh, Xanthe Coward, Michael James, Dean Bryant, Kris Stewart, Joseph Simons and Jason Glenwright .. .. when you get a moment, give yourselves a pat on the back. You collectively acheived a great thing.

 

However, (and there are always howevers) .. ..

 

GAYBIES slapped the face of the economic rational of current theatre. It was the first time for a while where I witnessed a professional stage creaking, groaning and crammed with performers. Does this mean if we want quality and quantity we can only expect it from Verbatim Theatre? Is the future for large cast rehearsed readings? It’s sad that the size of the average cast is dwindling. It’s even sadder that the cast size can dictate any artistic process. So thank you Brisbane Powerhouse for giving us a brief respite from the so-called “economic reality”.

 

I thought the production was a tad too long and perhaps a couple of performers too many. I thought the music was beautiful and exceptionally well delivered but I had difficulty marrying it to the words and stories. My main criticism was quite simply that it was preaching to the converted. It was a safe option to stage it during the MELT festival (A Celebration of Queer Arts and Culture).

This production needs to jump its rails and be taken to the wider community. It needs to be seen by the detractors not the sympathisers. I feel it is the perfect vehicle to confront those who passively or covertly or overtly demonise anything gay. This plays humanity is undeniable.

Finally I felt it only took or was told good, warm and fuzzy stories. Nothing is perfect, nothing is 100%. I would just liked to have heard one negative experience, as I am sure there are, have been and will be.

 

But the last few comments aside, it was a great night out. I hadn’t been quite sure what to expect but I left the Powerhouse smiling .. .. and thinking. Thank you to all concerned. Well worth the 200k return trip from the Sunshine Coast.

 

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17
Dec
15

I Want To Know What Love Is

 

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I Want To Know What Love Is

A QTC & The Good Room Production

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

December 16 – 19 2015

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

THIS IS FOR YOU

812 anonymous love stories. 500,000 rose petals. 60 minutes of pashing and dashing on a rose-strewn rollercoaster ride through love’s loopy terrain. A joyous and heartbreaking trip inside the throbbing theatrical party of the year!

 

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I love this show. I love its heart. I love its guts.

 

 

I love the way it begins so innocently, so beautifully simply and comically, and then worms its way into your soul only to shred each one of us into little itty bitty pieces using our own memories, drawing on the experiences that didn’t kill us but made us stronger. Finding that one true love, missing the one chance with that random stranger and having your heart (and maybe other parts of your body) broken multiple times by a massive cunt, before covering our world in rose petals and reminding us that we are in fact LOVED.

The formula is simple, but the complexity is thrilling and the overall effect makes I Want To Know What Love Is the purest, most joyous and heartfelt theatrical production of the year. Again.

The opening sequence shares the bright white light of an iPhone torch piercing the darkness and the sound of self conscious breathing. Quick, uncertain steps patter across the space and someone sets up a standing mic. A spotlight reveals Tom Cossettini, delightful once again. He treats us to an increasingly confident rendition of Young and Beautiful. A deliberately strained and stilted voice becomes rich in tone and cheeky with brazen confidence as he serenades an audience member lit by an unexpected special beneath a cascade of rose petals. This is the first of many joyous moments, a red herring prelude to a darker, more disturbing segment.

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It’s a startling mood change – and I knew it was coming – with Cossettini joined by Caroline Dunphy and Amy Ingram, demonstrating all the playfulness, competitiveness and polite turn-taking of every configuration of a relationship before it ends bad. And then it ends bad.

Margi Brown Ash brings new energy and a completely different quality to the production. Where Carol Burns approached much of the original material with her quiet, elegant reserve, Margi Brown Ash attacks it with unique vigour and wide eyed, full throttle, devilish delight. Each actor in this small company has discovered the delicacy of the more sensitive submissions and they treat the tales with the utmost respect, while giving some of the other anonymous stories the spectacularly sordid treatment they deserve, all for our entertainment and amusement, and for theirs, I’m sure. There’s certainly a voyeuristic aspect, and a number of times when some of us would like to leap over the seats to join the performers, in the riot of rose petals and splendour and grit and goodness and LOVE. What? Just me?

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Icona Pop’s cute and angry I Don’t Care underscores the sweeping and leaf-blowing of petals out of the way as if they’re shattered pieces of each heart, pieces of each person, which we offer to another and demand to have returned to us once the thing is over. Then there are the pieces a lover – or abuser – takes forcefully away from us. These pieces are carried away the moment the wind changes, or stuffed cruelly into a pocket so no one else can ever have them.

How do we put ourselves together again when some of the pieces are gone forever?

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Against a brilliant pulsing heartbeat of a soundtrack (the lifeblood of the show) by Lawrence English, Jason Glenwright’s lighting perfectly complements Kieran Swann’s design, creating many moods within a splendid setting. It’s a Catherine Martin styled American Beauty fantasy sans the tub, the nakedness and the convenient petal placement, although none of those elements would be out of place here. There are many more petals used this time. Masses and masses of them, thousands in fact, fluttering down from above, then teeming like rain, and then released from yellow plastic bags and scattered joyfully across the space. With great passion and fury they’re later pushed and swept and kicked and tossed into the air, poured over the actors, almost smothering them, just as any great…and terrible…love will do.

This is theatre as therapy, almost cathartic, leading everyone into themselves and along their own (don’t say it!) … JOURNEY. THERE. I SAID IT.

The stories are ours…well, the stories are yours. If you submitted your story online we got a glimpse of your life, your love… Johnny BalbuzienteIt’s an intimate show, perhaps in some ways better suited to the smaller, more intimate space of the original studio. But it’s become a bigger, slicker operation in the powerhouse theatre (“The Lovebox”), allowing a greater number of people to see it (and see it again!). How lucky are we? This is a company with a LOT of love to give!

Cancel everything and go see I Want To Know What Love Is.

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This show is an editorial and directorial gem, collating so many moments of so many lives that I imagine it would be possible to create a dozen or more episodes using the stash of unused material. Perhaps we’ll see a YouTube series yet, or a never-ending series of books in the style of WOL. But don’t wait for those! Director, Daniel Evans is a busy, busy guy!

THIS IS A PASH AND DASH AFFAIR

– DANIEL EVANS

Your best chance to experience the real-life equivalent of Love Actually this festive season is to see I Want To Know What Love Is before it finishes this weekend.

17
Jul
15

HOME

 

Home

QTC & Force of Circumstance

Diane Cilento Studio, The Greenhouse

July 14 – 25 2015

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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Presented by Queensland Theatre Company and produced by Force of Circumstance, HOME is a rich, poignant and honest exploration of what home means. It has a pure intent to include the audience completely in this exploration, resulting in an experience that is evocative and deeply personal.

 

 

HOME is a journey across time and space that takes us to New York, Sydney, Brisbane, Texas and Egypt, encompassing everything from acceptance to growing up, family, love and ultimately, belonging. What emerges is a tapestry of stories from Margi Brown Ash’s own life that are intricately woven together by director Leah Mercer and powerfully performed by Margi Brown Ash and her son, Travis Ash.

 

We are told from the start of the performance that we are not one self but many across a lifetime. As a young person I find this prospect comforting and exciting, and I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Over the course of the play, Margi Brown Ash recreates herself over and over again: we see ‘Margi the Teenager’, ‘Margi the Mother’, ‘Margi the Actor’ and so on. Her performance is honest and magnetic, quite literally drawing audience members on stage with her to assume several roles within the play. Travis Ash’s performance as a storyteller is equally kind and generous and he gives voice to those from across the world with a fundamentally different experience of home.

 

In fact, warmth permeates through every element of this production.

 

Bev Jensen’s design creates an open and malleable space that contains reminders of the comforts of home, and the combination of Ben Hughes’ lighting design and Travis Ash’s composition is highly evocative. Moreover, the interaction of AV, lighting, set and costume design allows for endless opportunities for clever play throughout the performance.

 

HOME is comprised of many playful, familiar moments – such as the chaotic dinner table with newly proclaimed vegetarian teenager – alongside moments that are unfamiliar and distant from my own life. In particular, the story of a Palestinian man whose home is destroyed by the Israeli military is insightful and a moving reminder that I belong not only to Australia, but to a global community responsible for the safety and belonging of all.

 

After all, “your story is my story”.

 

HOME is a unique and special experience that connects artist and audience; past, present and future, and the many homes that we inhabit throughout our lives. The true power of HOME lays in its ability to awaken individual stories so that it is almost impossible to talk about this performance without talking about one’s own sense of home. HOME plays at QTC’s newly named Diane Cilento Studio until July 25. It’s a performance not to be missed.

 

29
Jun
15

The Paratrooper Project

 

The Paratrooper Project

Phluxus2 Dance Collective

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

June 25 to July 4 2015

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Enter the trenches in this immersive new production…

Phluxus2 Dance Collective

 

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The Paratrooper Project is promoted as an immersive experience, and this it certainly delivers. Described in the brief program notes as a dance theatre installation, it is the theatre that dominates.

 

War and conflict and their effects are the subject. Richard Matthaei, grandfather of Phluxus2’s Artistic Director Nerida Matthaei, was a paratrooper in World War II, and this work was inspired by mementoes he left behind.

 

The audience stood (or occasionally sat or lay) on the floor of the performance space in the Judith Wright Centre, with white parachutes and webbing suspended above us, sometimes billowing up and down, and covering the performers.

 

Their layered costumes (Lisa Fa’alafi) are all also white – pants, tunics, shirts, and military-looking coats with wide lapels. This makes the performers stand out amongst the audience, but could also connote ghostliness, death, and the afterlife.

 

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The audience starts out standing huddled in a crowd under a tent-like parachute. Is it going to fall on us? Is there going to be sudden blackout? No, there are performers in there with us, they start speaking, and the parachute lifts.

 

The creators and performers – dancers Nerida Matthaei, Gareth Belling, Gabriel Comerford, and actor Margi Brown Ash – move through different areas of the performance space, the audience shifting (or being directed to shift) around them.

 

The sound design (Andrew Mills) includes clinking sounds like dishes or metal in a workshop, waves breaking, and a plaintive fragmentary tune.

 

Belling and Comerford represent soldiers or fighters, engaging in much violent, grappling movement, frequently crashing with full force onto the floor. They also enact roles of the wounded or dead, the torture victim, and the rescuer.

 

Matthaei is at first a grief-stricken woman, widowed by war; later, a chilling torturer; and then a rape victim. She and Brown Ash also speak of matters on the domestic front, such as tea and biscuits, and borrowing sugar.

 

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Brown Ash is the dominant, compelling force in this work, her mesmerising authority and the power of her voice unequalled. In a surreal evocation of domesticity, she paces around while knitting and trailing an unravelling ball of wool behind her.

 

In this she echoes Madame Defarge, from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, who incorporated the names of intended guillotine victims in her knitting, and also the Three Fates from Ancient Greek stories, who created and destroyed people’s lives by spinning and cutting thread.

 

Brown Ash also parodies a Churchillian wartime leader, exhorting and haranguing us; and huddles and flinches as a terrified torture victim.

 

This is not comfortable escapist theatre.

 

The audience is instructed, harangued, and physically directed around the space. Brown Ash took people by the hand and led them where they were meant to go, until the rest of us understood we were meant to follow. Others were invited to take part in some of the action.

 

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Brown Ash orates at the end about the idea of war continuing on, and affecting us now. Moving amongst us, she then asks us to remember the dead, and give them a voice. Most of the audience engaged in a very personal way with this, seeming to forget where they were, and becoming totally absorbed in the moment.

 

This work is gripping and moving, and pulls you into its orbit.

 

Occasionally, though, the attention lapses when some parts go on a little too long (such as the dancers hurling themselves to the floor over and over at the end).

 

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In Phluxus2’s previous work de-generator, the audience also followed the dancers around the space, but moved out of the way of the action without any guidance.

 

This current work is a more sophisticated and choreographed development of audience involvement. It is more powerful, covering more dimensions of experience, but also more coercive and controlling for the audience.

 

19
Jun
15

Michelle Lamarca does Zen Zen Zo

 

 

 

You’ll remember Michelle Lamarca from her very saucy portrayal of Anita in West Side Story at Noosa Arts Theatre. She also won the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival’s Adjudicator’s Award last year.

 

 

Michelle REALLY wanted to do some “warrior training” with Brisbane Physical Theatre company, Zen Zen Zo. She travelled through peak hour traffic and FIRE to get to her first class…

 

 

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I found out about Zen Zen Zo through email conversations with Margi Brown Ash, who had kindly given me the 2014 Adjudicator’s Award at the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival! (Of course I’d hit her up for some advice on where to train in Brisbane).

 

As a performer I have always hit on the same problem and that is not feeling connected to my body on stage. Sometimes I feel uncoordinated, distant and most likely the one to make mistakes or get myself injured. I hadn’t heard of Zen Zen Zo but I had heard of the Japanese acting method of Suzuki through a performer friend and was interested to learn about this system too! Zen Zen Zo training is a combination of Suzuki Method, Viewpoints, Butoh and Composition.

 

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I contacted the company ASAP and it turns out the “limited” beginners classes are on my day off too – win! and at a reasonable time, so I can get the car from my partner when she finishes work and then hit the road to Brissy from Noosa.

 

My instructions were to bring water and a pair of socks. I carefully programmed my GPS, packed my dinner and was ready for my adventure. Not being aware of Brisbane peak hour traffic I arrived late in the city and pretty much got myself lost in the one way streets. And I mean lost! I missed the class. I felt defeated, upset and extremely pissed off. I emailed Lynne Bradley that night (the company director) apologising that I won’t be able to get to Brisbane in time and unfortunately will not be doing the classes. It wasn’t meant to be and I put the experience down to just that.. an experience. And maybe I should consider moving closer to the city.

 

Lynne replied the next day with a lovely email. She was impressed with my dedication to drive all that way and invited me to attend the advanced classes, which didn’t start until 7:30. This would give me plenty of time to arrive on time even if I did get lost! Advanced classes!!! On one condition: I don’t miss any classes and come with an open mind and socks.

 

I thought to myself I will swim through floods to get to these classes!

 

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The following Monday I was prepared! My partner printed me a map with pictures and was by the phone with Google Maps to guide me. All was going to plan when suddenly I hit a traffic jam near the airport. I’m sure the cars ahead heard my swearing. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me! There was a grassfire dangerously coming across the road that I had to drive across. I had never seen a fire so big and followed the other cars through some of the flames! I laughed to myself.

 

I had actually driven through flames to get to these classes!

 

And it was well worth it! Zen Zen Zo’s The Actor’s Dojo is held at the Judith Wright Centre. I arrived with plenty of time to find a park and enough time to introduce myself to the other classmates who were warming up ready for their session.

 

 

I love acting classes of any sort! I love the people, the conversations, the clothing…

 

 

Artists need to be around fellow artists to feel normal, inspired and to have a sense of belonging.

 

 

The advanced classmates were very friendly and supportive, reassuring me that I would be fine and to just enjoy it. Lynne introduced me to the class and explained my situation and I felt a warm welcome from everyone. Some students have been studying for 11 years and were kind enough to share some tips with me. Most of it went over my head!

 

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We started the class by taking off our shoes and socks to warm up around the space, stretching and moving. It felt quite normal to me and I started to feel safer. We paired up in a line and started what seemed like a dance with stomping. I tried to keep up with the other classmates.

 

I consider myself to be not too bad with fitness but after about 90 seconds I was completely covered in sweat and knackered! With the music and intensity I started to lose myself in the movements. I felt like a warrior. The energy around me was electric and I felt very inspired! And aware! Aware of my body and the space around me! BINGO!

 

Anyone interested in physical theatre or improving themselves has to give this training a go!

 

Coming from a martial arts background I noticed similarities to how the core is used and how important breathing is, and the centre of gravity. Like karate, I felt healthier and empowered! I noticed too that different exercises had different energies too. next we moved onto “viewpoints” Lynne asked anyone who wanted to get up to find a space on the floor , I didn’t hesitate (I drove through flames! I may as well give it my all!). I ran to a corner and stayed still not really knowing what I was doing. Then suddenly we had to change/move! Fast! So I ran to the other corner, again…still. A student ran full speed up to me face to face, staring me in the eyes! It should have been intimating but I decided not to think. But to just be.

 

The class spoke about tempo, spacial awareness and response.

 

It was explained to me that if you can train to look inwards at yourself but from an audience point of view (I forget the cool Japanese word for this), you can utilise your space to be more appealing and create a great performance.

 

I can see why artists love to practice at Zen Zen Zo. There was talk about shapes, stillness, energy.

 

A lot of it went over my head and a lot I felt I resonated with. every student was involved and passionate it was infectious! yes my mind was totally blown there is so much to learn in Zen Zen Zo! In only one lesson I felt confident as a performer and felt I haven’t even scratched the surface with what the body can do. An hour and a half went quickly and we all finished the class sitting in a circle talking about what we had learnt. I thanked Lynne and my classmates and drove home looking forward to the next lesson.

 

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