Posts Tagged ‘medea

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…

 

 

michellelamarca_wss2

 

 

michellelamarca_wss1

 

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.

 

zenzenzo_vikram_lizzieballinger

 

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!

 

zenzenzo_zeitgeist
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!

 

zen_training_lynnebradley

 

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.

 

zenzenzo_medea_laurenjackson

 

zenzenzo_header

 

13
Jun
15

Medea

 

Medea

La Boite Theatre Co

The Roundhouse

May 30 – June 20 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

  

Medea is a strategic, ambitious, political woman; sharp, quick and strong. In Jason she meets her ambitious and strategic equal, as well as a lover. The passionate union between the misunderstood foreigner Medea, and the all-Greek golden boy Jason was unlikely, but allows Medea to invest in the very empire building she was made for.

 

When Jason betrays Medea, she is outraged. He has betrayed her as a husband, but more importantly he has also betrayed his oath, their pact, and their very empire. His desertion denied Medea all sources of power in this patriarchal Greek world of Corinth. So too has he set in motion the fate of his sons, who are now, unacknowledged by him, relegated a latent threat in this land.

 

Medea will not abide by injustice or broken oaths and is compelled to balance the scales. So we watch as this modern character plots to cut Jason down and to protect her sons from the horrors of torture and death. 

 

medea_candles

 

 

If Suzie Miller had written a one-woman Medea Christen O’Leary could do it.

 

 

This is O’Leary’s show, with Helen Christinson getting a good look in, thanks to the playwright’s astute version of the story (commissioned by Chris Kohn), and The Australian Voices largely contributing to the atmosphere, pace and shape of this piece. It’s powerful and magical, and it’s the best we’ve seen at La Boite for a long time.

 

 

In Todd McDonald I have found a director who embraced this furious version of Medea, and interrogated it with great insight and talent.

Suzie Miller

 

 

It’s well and truly time to see a production in The Roundhouse that actually fits the purpose built space, and not only does Sarah Winters’ gothic design fit (lit and un-lit superbly by Ben Hughes), it sits so well within the space we almost feel like we’re home again, breathing in the old wooden floorboards of Hale Street. This may be an entirely unrelated design choice but I’m going to imagine that the stripped-back boards are a magical, subliminal message that this Artistic Director is here to stay for a while. If you don’t believe in signs from the universe or the bones of the city telling our story as they’re sung (and smudged) over, you can just appreciate the raw, earthy, honest quality that this floor brings to the production.

 

medea_helenandchristen

 

Miller’s Medea is a well crafted text with a strong feminist take that sits perfectly with the 16-year-olds we take to see the show a week after opening night. We talk afterwards, as we often do, about withholding judgment of the characters’ actions. Medea’s not mad, she’s vengeful and willful and stubborn and strong. She’s scheming, unforgiving and relentless in her bid to make Jason’s life a misery. She’s a murderer. She’s misunderstood. But she’s not mad. Somebody commented after the show, in true Roxie Hart style, “Why didn’t she just kill the bastard?” Well, because then he wouldn’t continue to suffer, as she has been made to do.

 

 

When we put Medea in a position where her children are about to be torn limb from limb by angry crowds, is it not the most compassionate thing she can offer them – a calm, kind and loving death?

Suzie Miller

 

 

O’Leary is absolutely spellbinding in gorgeous draped and gathered dogstar style garb to perfectly complement the new Ruby Rose/Alan Cumming inspired tough-chick haircut. All the costumes are fabulous, ready to wear, designed by Nathalie Ryner (The Danger Ensemble’s Caligula) and cut by Bianca Bulley & Leigh Buchanan. (I’d wear every piece!). O’Leary captures motherly tenderness and everywoman’s vulnerability, which is so often overlooked by actresses (and directors) who insist on making Medea only angry. In O’Leary, we feel her loss long before she’s committed the crime and whenever we get a glimpse of the love she once felt for her husband, she flips it and tosses it in his face with sharp wit and wicked humour. She’s brimming with brilliant, gleaming, delighted spite, and an indescribable grief that’s so well contained we would naturally think her monstrous if her story popped up in our newsfeed (before clicking “Like” on a friend’s Friday night #styleinspo photo. Just saying).

 

medea_helen

 

Speaking of style, as Nurse (although, perhaps more beautifully, innocently “handmaiden” than “nurse”), Christinson is attentive and warm. In stark contrast, as Glauce she is necessarily cold, overbearing and unforgiving. And wearing a sensational ensemble that I bet our Cate wouldn’t mind throwing on for the school run. Ryner should send it to her after June 20! This is the additional role, which Miller includes to highlight the struggle between powerful women. The scene between them is intense and Christinson shines, but it’s O’Leary, losing her composure and rolling hysterically on the floor at the foot of Glauce’s steps, which creates one of the lasting images from this production. It’s the sound of her laughter as much as the vision that resonates. Is that wrong?

 

medea_theaustralianvoices

 

Composer, Gordon Hamilton, has created the entire eerie soundscape and a stunning Greek Chorus using his own voice, a bit of techie trickery and four exquisite vocalists from The Australian Voices (Annika Hinrichs, Yasmin Powell, Simon Carl & Connor D’Netto). These four figures are present as onlookers, concerned citizens, warning Medea until she can’t stand their foreboding any longer, “Careful, careful, careful, careful!” I can’t explain the technicalities of the musical work as he does so here’s an extract from Hamilton’s blog, which is excellent by the way, and if you’re at all musically inclined you should probs be reading it/him on a regular basis. I love the almost subliminal inclusion of Never Tear Us Apart, working like a haunting and heartbreaking Judas kiss. This is a truly contemporary ancient chorus, used to breathtaking effect. The show would be really dull different without it…

 

 

Our chorus is partially but not completely based on Euripides chorus. They are worried onlookers, on Medea’s side, but not yet aware of her murderous intentions. They sing a mixture of English and Greek. Suzie Miller’s chorus text sometime echoes the lines of the characters, hurled back at the actors. They sing in modern Greek “mitera, politeftis, erastis” (mother, politician, lover), three aspects to Medea’s identity. Todd and I have borrowed the INXS song Never Tear Us Apart to woven into the fleece – usually to ironic effect – as a sad contrast to the literal and metaphorical tearing apart of this family.

 

Some sound is heard from speakers: I recorded myself singing the three aforementioned Greek words on a single tone, then digitally slowed it down to 90 minutes (the approximate duration of the play). We let this recording play for the entire work, at times faded up or down, depending on what’s going on. Thus, all sound heard in the thing is made by a human voice either speaking or singing.

 

I have the chorus sing in Greek scales: aeolian phrygian and dorian. I don’t know how the Athenians preferred their choral tonalities, but for me, the nod to these three Pythagorean tonalities is a satisfying connection.

 

medea_chrsten

 

Damien Cassidy seems a rather bland and gentle Jason, despite his harsh treatment of Medea. I love the moment he is brought undone, pressing himself upon Medea when she calls him out and pushes him away, having given us the silent looks of tedium ad infinitum. Yeah, you know the looks, guys. It’s a brilliant interpretation of the moment, making Jason an absolute rotten fool rather than showing Medea simply as seductress.

 

 

Indeed, it is too easy to make Medea “mad” – it is far more difficult to try to understand or unpack her reality.

Todd McDonald

 

 

medea_milk

 

 

While Miller’s Medea is not new in the way Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore resonates with a new generation via their own (#MOFO) lingo and activity, in the hands of this creative team it’s a version that’s easily taken on board, especially if you’re new to ancient tales theatrically retold, and so beautifully interpreted by O’Leary that it’s certainly worth a look.

 

 

O’Leary, trapped within her sorceress’s circle of curiosities and melted wax, and her mind made up to save her sons from a fate worse than any death she can orchestrate, delivers an incredible performance that shouldn’t be missed. Medea finishes June 20.

 

 

 

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans

 

02
Sep
13

Medea: the river runs backwards

 

MEDEA The River Runs Backwards

Zen Zen Zo

The Old Museum

19 August – 7 September

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Past and present blur together, as Medea tries to reconcile the events of years gone by, and her own guilt, before she dies. Time and space shatter, as the echoes of Medea’s deeds reverberate through her life. How did someone so strong, so intelligent become so overwhelmed with the need for revenge? How can someone live on, when they have cut out their own heart?

 

 

Medea-Poster-Final

 

Euripides’ story of the vengeful murderess, Medea, is thousands of years old and our reception to it hasn’t changed; it’s as shocking as ever to process. Dramaturg Ian Lawson’s treatment of the classical text is the best version I’ve seen – clear and real – but having been Zen Zen Zoified, it’s lost a little of its power in the translation from page to stage.

See it for yourself this week, before it closes on September 7!

 

The ancient world of King Creon is created by ghostly columns and drapes in a spacious studio at the home of Zen Zen Zo, The Old Museum (Design by Christine Urquhart & Eleanor Gibson. Costume design by Julian Napier). We’re in the middle of it, while a maelstrom builds around us, the performers using every available space. Newest Resident Director, Drew de Kinderen, has reverted back to the way things used to be. No, not the ancient, but the old Zen Zen Zo, just as Michael Futcher and Helen Howard had begun to lead the company in a bold new direction that promised a perfect blend of the old and the new. Sure, it’s the physical and visceral site-specific production that Zen Zen Zo are known for, and thrilling for teachers and students, especially with a physical theatre workshop offered after every matinee performance, but for me it’s disappointing. The impact of the most recent work (of course I’m referring to 1001 Nights, Therese Raquin and Vikram and the Vampire) was wonderment followed by a solid punch in the guts and a quick glance at our own lives to consider whether or not we were on track.

 

medea_lauren

 

While Medea: The River Runs Backwards might make you think twice before killing off your ex’s new wife and the children you bore him, that’s the text talking, and not this underdone production. And it’s not underdone in any obvious way because there is plenty of well-trained and practiced chorus work, booming vocal work and intricate staging in and around those damn Corinthian poles. It’s just that somehow, it misses the mark.

 

I know many others, including Sam, vehemently disagree. Sam loved it, and was mightily impressed by every element. In fact, everything that I found wanting, he thought was spot on. But we agree that the immense talent of Lauren Jackson, who plays Medea, makes her the standout of this production. This is the performance that was perfectly contained, as opposed to underdone or OTT (can we bring back classical voice training now, please, Austraya?), and leaving us to wonder about this mysterious woman who has the gal to kill her own children. We never see the typical theatrical signs of a mad woman (darting of eyes, wringing of hands, tearing of hair), thank goodness, but we see her journey towards a state of madness that easily envelops her, drowns her – the river that runs backwards – and leaves us in the aftermath, on the mud banks by the wayside, along with everyone who thought they knew her, wondering WHAT THE?

 

While the soundscape, by Thomas Murphy is perfectly matched to the action, I somehow came away with a Katzenjammer song in my head (and visions of Madonna singing Like A Prayer, clad in Mad Maxified Desperately Seeking Susan corsetry, lace and leather. I know. Never mind)…

 

 

I love Lauren’s internal work, and I wonder if the chorus had rehearsed within her presence for longer, could a little of that have rubbed off on them? Yes, you can learn a lot of the craft of acting through osmosis. I also enjoyed the point of madness and horror reached by Jason, played by visitor, Eric Berryman (he’s off again after this production to study with Anne Bogart).

 

medea_laurenanderic

 

This 90-minute retelling of the age-old tragic tale is less than spectacular, but at the core of the work we still see the magnificent classical text, and some good training and creative talent, for which Zen Zen Zo are renowned. If you can get a ticket (most of the shows were sold out weeks ago), go see Medea The River Runs Backwards and make up your own mind.