Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne Theatre Company

25
Oct
16

Disgraced

Disgraced

MTC & Queensland Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

October 14 – November 6 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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BELONGING IS IN OUR DNA

Brené Brown

 

The moment Disgraced was over I wanted to see it again, right away. It’s the most challenging and confronting play of the year, electric and impossible to leave behind. It’s our past, our present and an opportunity to ponder our future. It serves our confirmation bias yet dares us to see beyond what we think we know and what we keep telling ourselves is important. In the most delightfully bold and entertaining way, Disgraced reinforces everything we’ve been led to believe we’ve got to be carefully taught…and everything we feel sure we’re yet to learn.

The pre-show jazz is deceptively upbeat and sexy, and with Shaun Gurton’s Upper East Side aesthetic, pristine and spacious, and Nigel Levings’ pointed lighting in front of us, we instantly find ourselves not in QPAC’s Playhouse but in a New York City apartment, looking out at the skyline. The mood is privileged, warm; the picture of a perfect life. A perfect couple’s passion is put on hold for the sake of a portrait and plans for a dinner party. Emily is an artist (Libby Munro), and Amir a lawyer (Hazam Shammas). They extend a dinner invitation to his colleague, Jory (Zindzi Okenyo), and Jory’s art dealer husband, Isaac (Mitchell Butel). What begins as a pleasant evening marks the end of an era for these friends. It’s an eventful night!

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In this Pulitzer Prize winning text, Ayad Aktar tears open every racial and religious vein, leaving us bleeding on the floor with gaping wounds, our hearts in our mouths, and without answers on our tongues. You might be mistaken for thinking, at first glance, that over its 90 minutes Disgraced barely scrapes the surface of its ancient-current issues, but look closer. Make the decision to engage and really listen. The text is structured so that we get a hint of what’s coming and yet at every turn, at every spike, we’re met with a shocking, unexpected truth. It’s as if we’ve narrowly escaped saying something aloud ourselves during pre-dinner drinks, and we get to stay standing safely on the edge of the group, watching while somebody else squirms in discomfort for committing what might just as easily have been our own social sin.

Hazem Shammas is Amir, the Pakistani-Muslim carving out his success in New York by hiding his heritage to fit in and get ahead in a Jewish law firm. Having recently binge-watched The Fall, I’m reminded that we never completely know someone. The ordinary behaviour packaged neatly within our everyday routines and the original affection we may have felt for a person hides more than we care to uncover, often to the detriment of our own self-discovery, and our mental, emotional and physical state. Shammas fully embraces the complexities of this role, making empathy a possibility and distrust a certainty.

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Libby Munro (Grounded, Venus In Fur) worked with this cast for just 2 weeks after seeing the show in Melbourne, and with Director, Nadia Tass, for three hours the week before opening in Brisbane. Munro’s Emily, the white American artist and wife of Amir, is the voice of reason, vulnerability and compassion, exposing enough discrepancies in the popular diatribe to prompt our many questions (and make us think twice before posing them to the opening night after party friends). She is also the figure of appropriation – or misappropriation, depending on your perspective – and with these gentle prods and pokes towards the race, religion and gender politics at play, Munro is striking; poised and precise, and perfectly placed within this stellar cast. When she unravels and suddenly begins to shrink, almost disappearing before our eyes (an incredible accomplishment for an actor, to give up the space and the light and let oneself become less present whilst staying completely present in the story), we’re in the room with her. And we want to leave with her. You can guess the moment. The older woman in front of me gasps, she’s visibly shaken… I wonder, did she read the trigger warning? I also wonder, do we need a trigger warning? Imagine the impact of the truly unexpected! (And the further impact of a perfectly choreographed and executed strike! This far into the season, I’m sure the moment has been remedied). In this role, we see Munro continue to work quietly and humbly at presenting intelligent, fearless, unforgettable women on our stages. This is no rave, it’s just the simple truth, which you can see for yourself. There is no one else on the Australian stage consistently nailing the strength and softness of a woman as well as Munro; she’s in a league of her own. What a complete contrast she must offer in the upcoming award winning one shot independent feature film EIGHT. I can’t wait to see this next incredible work. 

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Likewise, Zindzi Okenyo, brings a fierce, self-assured energy into the space as Jory, the lawyer wife of the art dealer, Isaac (Mitchell Butel). With magnificent strength and grace Okenyo’s performance offers another lens, and plenty of razor sharp one-liners in case we forget to remember the history of the black percentage of America’s population. With perfect comic timing and scene stealing stage presence, Mitch Butel is one of the country’s most relaxed and dynamic performers, a superb Isaac. He’s a cliche but he’s not, he’s a Jew but he’s not, he’s afraid but he’s not; he’s a complete anomaly, playing by the rules and pushing all the buttons.

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And then there is Abe. As Amir’s nephew, Kane Felsinger represents the worst of humankind: the angry, politically engaged minority, determined to make his mark on the world by transforming it into the vision he’s gleaned from the descriptions found in the Quran. It would be easy to slip into a caricature but Felsinger resists and only gradually allows the true nature of his character to seep through, affecting and alarming us by degrees. His final moments harden us against the stereotype. My heart plunges into my stomach – I feel physically sick – and I wonder what on earth is the writer playing at? Abe represents the extreme violence we’ve been taught to fear. The shock and sadness and confusion and compassion that sweeps across Munro’s face as the final difficult conversation plays out in front of her mirrors my conflicting thoughts and feelings.

The beauty of Akhtar’s text is the ugliness in it and Tass, always the actors’ director, delves courageously into the intricacies and nuances of each human being and their deeply felt – and sadly marred – connections with one another. They are each as real and as flawed as they can be. They insist on blaming and shaming and yet expect to come out unscathed. They are beautifully, brilliantly thrown together into a melting pot that serves to shame us too, or else inspire us (you decide), into making choices every single day that derive from a place of love and empathy, rather than from ignorance and hate and fear. 

Disgraced is a pleasure, a power, and a terror; a terrible and timely reminder that nothing changes unless we show up, speak the words and take decisive and committed action to change what we cannot abide to see in our world.

15
Oct
12

QTC Season 2013

QTC Season 2013

Queensland Theatre Company announces Season 2013

the journey continues…

 

Love, art, laughter, drama, catharsis, glamour, song and adventure in the spotlight

 

Just days before the official world premiere of David Williamson’s new play, Managing Carmen heralds the close of Queensland Theatre Company’s blockbuster Season 2012, the company has unveiled Season 2013 to a capacity Playhouse at QPAC.

If you were following @qldtheatreco or @xsentertainment on Twitter during the launch you will have got a sense of the excitement this new season brings to current subscribers (and reviewers! I have to admit my excitement about Red and Venus in Fur particularly. This may or may not have everything to do with my current explorations into working with visual artists live on stage or my totally professional critic’s crush on Associate Artistic Director, Todd MacDonald, who has just blown us away with his performance in Bare Witness. Keep an eye out here for my review of the show and an interview with Todd, and get to Bare Witness if you can. It goes to the Gold Coast next)…

QTC’s Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said QTC’s onstage journey would showcase a range of works that take ticketholders around the world, shine the light on home grown talents and create theatrical moments of national importance across a world of love, art, laughter, drama, catharsis, glamour, song and adventure.

Enoch’s inaugural Season 2012 has proven a bestseller. His invitation for patrons to join him on a journey into the theatre this year, led by a mix of classics, new comedies and big theatre experiences has proven a winning formula – 1000 new subscribers; 10,000 more tickets sold; a 13 percent increase in box office revenue, and a range of new works that challenged, entertained and enlightened; all in a year of buyer caution and a show stopping competitive set.

Season 2013 promises to be even bigger with the cultural journey continuing in full force. “In 2013 we invite our patrons to seek out interesting stories, engage in discussion and debate, step out of their comfort zones, get excited by artistic daring and genuinely seek more out of life,” said Enoch.

The Mainstage Program in 2013 features seven productions, including the acclaimed and six-time Tony-award winning masterpiece Red starring Colin Friels;  David Ives’ deliciously sassy, tony award nominee Venus in Fur with Todd MacDonald & Libby Munro; the blockbuster End of the Rainbow with powerhouse actor Christen O’Leary brilliantly cast as Judy Garland in her final troubled days, and the epic morality tale Mother Courage and Her Children in a stunning new translation with Ursula Yovich & David Page.

Continuing the exploration of relationships and reality, Other Desert Cities (five-time nominated 2012 Tony Awards and a 2012 Pulitzer Prize Drama finalist) will star Robert Colby and Rebecca Davis in the family drama where hidden secrets are laid bare; while popular Noel Coward comedy Design for Living will see Jason Klarwein and partner Kellie Lazarus form a “gentleman’s agreement” with Tama Matheson.

Opening Season 2013 on February 2 is the hilarious The Pitch & The China Incident. These two companion pieces written by acclaimed Australian writer Peter Houghton are an actor’s dream; two  tour de force roles with Hugh Parker fresh from rave reviews in QTC’s Kelly in The Pitch and Barbara Lowing in The China Incident.

Outside the Mainstage Program, QTC’s Bille Brown Studio will again host the remarkable transformation in 2013 that is The GreenHouse. The brainchild of Enoch and curated by Artistic Associate Todd MacDonald, The GreenHouse is a visceral incubator of art, ideas and exploration. 1001 Nights and Trollop are two highlights of the 2013 program.

A QTC and Queensland Music Festival co-production in association with Zen Zen Zo, 1001 Nights will be staged in July, starring traditional Persian musicians Pezhvak for an evening of riveting storytelling, dance and song based around Middle-Eastern magic. Full of action, mystery and romance, 1001 Nights has been adapted by husband-and-wife team Michael Futcher and Helen Howard, co-artistic directors of Zen Zen Zo.

In August Wesley Enoch directs Amy Ingram in Maxine Mellor’s Trollop, winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2012-13, in the Bille Brown Studio. Maxine Mellor is a multi-award winning playwright who is well acquainted with Queensland Theatre, winning the Young Playwrights Award in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Enoch, who is directing three productions including Trollop and mainhouse productions Mother Courage and Her Children and Design For Living, said he was looking forward to welcoming eminent directors to QTC this year. “We have three fantastic female directors for 2013. Continuing our partnership with Perth’s Black Swan State Theatre Company Artistic Director Kate Cherry will direct Other Desert Cities, Catarina Hebbard will join us for The Pitch and Andrea Moor for Venus in Fur,” he said. “David Bell will direct the stunning End of the Rainbow; Daniel Evans takes on The China Incident, and Alkinos Tsilimidos will bring us the acclaimed Melbourne Theatre Company production Red.”

“It is such an honour to present a mainhouse program which brings such acclaim to the stage, including the very best from Broadway –Red won six Tony Awards including Best play in 2010, as well as the Drama Desk Award for Most Outstanding Play; Venus in Fur was nominated for a Tony Award this year for Best Play; Other Desert Cities was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, plus has five nominations for Tony Awards with year, including Best Play, and the list goes on,” he said. “Our Season 2013 is a continuation of the journey we started this year, and we thank Queensland for embracing our shows so passionately. Next year is going to be another series of experiences, come on the adventure!”

(Wesley invited some of his 2013 actors and directors to join him for a chat on the lounge, which was in place for Managing Carmen. This – and the opening behind-the-scenes footage – helped to make the whole launch a little more personal and I told Wesley afterwards that I expect to see a season of Wesley’s Couch slotted in there somewhere!).

Season 2013 Ticketing Details

Tickets are available at queenslandtheatre.com.au or by calling 1800 355 528.

14 October – bookings open for current 2012 subscribers taking 7 or 5 Play packages

29 October – bookings open for current 2012 subscribers taking any Season Package

5 November – bookings commence for new season ticket holders

7 Play Packages saves up to 35% off Playhouse premium single ticket prices. 5 Play Packages up to 20% off and 3 Play Packages up to 15%.

15 November – single tickets on sale for End of The Rainbow.

4 December – single tickets on sale for The Pitch & The China Incident.

QTC The Pitch & The China Incident

Queensland Theatre Company presents The Pitch and The China Incident

By Peter Houghton

2 February to 9 March, 2013 at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

 

The Pitch

WINNER GREEN ROOM AWARD BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN PLAY (2006)

Director: Catarina Hebbard Designer: Simone Romaniuk

Cast: Hugh Parker

Down-and-out film writer Walter Weinermann is psyching himself up for the biggest pitch meeting of his life with a panel of powerful producers. He has an epic idea and a dream cast, but no decent ending.

After moving to Hollywood in the 1920s, screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz sent a telegram to friends back in New York: “Millions are to be grabbed out here, and your only competition is idiots.” It’s still true today; and by the time the credits roll on Peter Houghton’s witty, manic, one-man show, audiences will find out if Walter is destined to be a millionaire – or just an idiot.

 

The China Incident

Director: Daniel Evans Designer: Simone Romaniuk

Cast: Barbara Lowing

Companion piece The China Incidentis the story of one woman, a perfect storm of crises, and altogether too many phones. Bea Pontivec is a high-flying, highly-strung diplomatic consultant who’s quite literally well connected. She has hotlines to the White House, to the United Nations, to a bloodthirsty dictator. She’s a power-broker, a playmaker, a cast-iron negotiator, a control freak. But as this pin-sharp satire becomes more frenetic, and her personal and professional lives collide, Bea will learn the meaning of the term ‘communications breakdown’.

QTC End of the Rainbow

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre presents End Of the Rainbow

By Peter Quilter

2 March to 24 March at thePlayhouse, QPAC

Director: David Bell Designer: Bill Haycock

Cast: Christen O’Leary, Hayden Spencer and Anthony Standish

Lighting Designer: David Walters

Musical Director: Andrew McNaughton

It’s Christmas 1968 – and Judy Garland is not in Kansas anymore. The former child star is shacked up in London’s Ritz Hotel with fiancé number five, Mickey Deans, and her loyal friend and pianist, Anthony. A whirlwind success in her youth, the years have been unkind.  As her finances crumble, her celebrity continues to fade and the press savagely turn on her, Garland is clutching at the straw she thinks will save her career: a five-week run of cabaret shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub.  Peter Quilter’s poignant End of the Rainbow paints a warts-and-all picture of the beloved but tortured musical icon, her strained relationships with men, her struggle to stay in the spotlight – and the pill habit that would claim her life. After a show-stopping turn in Bombshells last year, Christen O’Leary returns to QTC Company to fill Judy’s ruby slippers and explore the destructive dark side of worldwide fame.

QTC & MTC RED

Queensland Theatre Company presents a Melbourne Theatre Company Production RED

By John Logan

27 April to 19 May at thePlayhouse, QPAC

WINNER OF SIX TONY AWARDS, INCLUDING BEST PLAY (2010)

WINNER DRAMA DESK AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING PLAY (2010)

Director: Alkinos Tsilimidos

Cast: Colin Friels

Set Designer: Shaun Gurton

Costume Designer: Jill Johanson

Lighting Designer: Matt Scott

Composer: Tristan Meredith

Colin Friels breathes life into tortured artist Mark Rothko as he broods and seethes in his Bowery studio, literally painting himself into a corner, in Red. In the 1950s, Rothko took a commission that would set him up for life – a series of paintings that would decorate the swanky Four Seasons Restaurant in the new steel-and- glass monument to corporate modernism, the Seagram Building on Park Avenue.  He forged his art into a weapon against the richest bastards in New York, vowing clandestinely to create stomach-turning crimson canvases that would “ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who eats there” – but in 1959, out of the blue, he stormily reclaimed the paintings and gave back the money. The catalyst of that event went with the abstract expressionist to his grave. It’s this mystery that is explored with stunning intensity in Red. From the pen of John Logan – acclaimed screenwriter of Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo and forthcoming James Bond film Skyfall – this six-time Tony Award winner is a true masterpiece.

 

QTC Mother Courage and Her Children

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present Mother Courage and Her Children

By Bertolt Brecht

Translated by Wesley Enoch and Paula Nazarski

25 May to 16 June at the Playhouse, QPAC

Director: Wesley Enoch

Cast: David Page and Ursula Yovich

Designer: Christina Smith

Bertolt Brecht’s epic morality tale about the ravages of war is given a unique twist by QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch and Paula Nazarski in a dazzling new translation.  Instead of the Thirty Years’ War of 1600s Europe, this near-future incarnation of the age-old story is set against the bleak backdrop of a post-apocalyptic desert where Mad Max might be at home – an Australia ravaged by devastating conflict, where life is cheap but business is still business.  Ursula Yovich is the titular canteen-wagon mistress, shrewdly driving hard bargains as she shepherds her brood of three through this unforgiving, harsh wilderness.  With an all-Indigenous cast, this fresh spin on Brecht’s play delicately folds in themes of land ownership, the impact of mining and the Stolen Generation.

 

QTC Venus in Fur

Queensland Theatre Company presents Venus in Fur

By David Ives

22 June to 27 July at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

NOMINATED FOR TONY AWARD FOR BEST PLAY (2012)

Director: Andrea Moor

Cast: Todd MacDonald and Libby Munro

Designer: Simone Romaniuk

Lighting Designer: David Walters

The end of a long day of casting, and playwright-director Thomas can’t find the right woman. He needs beautiful-sexy-articulate, young, with a “particle of brain”. He needs someone to play a mistress, but has endured a parade of 35 misfires.  Thomas is adapting Venus In Furs, the infamously kinky 1870 novel by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch – the etymological father of masochism. It calls for a purring, confident dominatrix.  He gets more than he expected when the raging storm blows in Vanda – late, frazzled, with the very litany of flaws he just decried. She talks of Venus in Furs as one might talk of Fifty Shades of Grey. As the director takes a chance and allows her to read anyway, the balance of power tilts between actress and director, mistress and slave. Thomas and Vanda become two people handcuffed at the heart in David Ives’ deliciously sassy, sexy, character-driven power play.

QTC Other Desert Cities 

Queensland Theatre Company and Black Swan State Theatre Company present Other Desert Cities

By Jon Robin Baitz

10 August to 1 September at the Playhouse, QPAC

NOMINATED FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR DRAMA (2012)
NOMINATED FOR FIVE TONY AWARDS, INCLUDING BEST PLAY (2012)

Director: Kate Cherry

Cast: Robert Coleby and Rebecca Davis

Assistant Director: Emily McLean

Designer: Christina Smith
Lighting Designer: Trent Suidgeest

Christmas in sun-drenched Palm Springs: a desert tomb, populated by shrivelled mummies with tans.

The Wyeth children are home for the holidays and conversation doesn’t flow easily: politics isn’t fit for table talk in a family as fractious as this. Neither is the war in the Middle East, nor the shadow of terrorism. But there’s one thing everyone wants to chime in on: troubled daughter Brooke has just finished her magnum opus, a tell-all memoir exposing a pivotal, tragic, ferociously-guarded family secret. As a quiet Christmas dissolves into feuding, there’s more than one meltdown brewing in the searing desert heat.

QTC Design for Living

Queensland Theatre Company presents Design for Living

By Noël Coward

19 October to 10 November at the Playhouse, QPAC

Director: Wesley Enoch

Cast: Jason Klarwein, Kellie Lazarus and Tama Matheson

Gilda loves Otto, and it’s entirely mutual. But Gilda is rather fond of Leo as well. Leo adores Gilda – but come to think of it, Leo and Otto have a bit of history, too.  So which of them will pair off, and who’ll be left out in the cold? Anything goes, it seems, when you’re an artistic type slumming it in a garret in 1930s Paris. Noël Coward’s subtle comedy Design For Living was scandalously risqué when it was written, painting a vibrant picture of the machinations of a muddled ménage-à-trois. Are this trio freewheeling, footloose bohemians, or amoral degenerates? Their mutual friend, strait laced art dealer Ernest, has a pretty strong opinion on what’s decent. What’s that all-too-common comment on relationships: “It’s complicated?” This one just happens to be rather more complicated than most.

QTC The GreenHouse 1001 Nights 

The GreenHouse @ Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Music Festival in association with Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre present 1001 NIGHTS

Adapted by Michael Futcher & Helen Howard, featuring the Pezhvak Traditional Music Ensemble

Director: Michael Futcher

18 July to 28 July at the Bille Brown Studio, QTC

Aladdin. Ali Baba. Sinbad. The names are as well-known as the stories behind them. They whisper the promise of adventure, exoticism and romance. Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre joins with traditional Persian musicians Pezhvak for an evening of riveting storytelling, dance and song based around the Middle-Eastern magic of One Thousand and One Nights. Adapted by Michael Futcher and Helen Howard, resident directors of Zen Zen Zo, and backed by the authentic sounds of traditional instruments such as the oud, the dohol and the kamanche, this energetic and enchanting show embraces Zen Zen Zo’s legendary physicality and boundless, joyful imagination.

QTC The GreenHouse Trollop

The GreenHouse @ Queensland Theatre Company presents TROLLOP

By Maxine Mellor

1 August to 17 August at the Bille Brown Studio, QTC

Director: Wesley Enoch

Cast: Amy Ingram

Clara is uncomfortably numb. Cocooned in her spartan home, she wallows in tracky-dacks and the misery of the recently jobless, feeding on apathy and the images of natural disaster piped into her living room the TV.  She’s haunted by what she could aspire to if she could break from her funk. Her relentlessly upbeat partner Erik has devised a plan for her to get back on her feet. Instead, she devises a series of increasingly gruesome ‘quests’ for him.  Then, one stormy night, a stranger calls – and the chinks in the pair’s relationship begin to widen. Uncomfortable truths are revealed and there are hints of horrors to come, as ancient myths are dragged, growling, into the modern day.

What are you excited about seeing?

12
Oct
10

Red Sky Morning

Red Sky Morning got me. It really got me. It really got me thinking. About all sorts of things. Bear with me…

THING 1

How close to self-destruction are any of us? Are we not all ever-so-slowly imploding silently over something? No? Not at all? Perfectly, delightfully happy in every way every day? Really? Okay. Maybe it’s just me.

But have you never thought (or not quite thought) while you’ve been driving, about letting the car gradually drift into the other lane entirely? Or off the road entirely and into the scrub and the trunks of the eucalypts? Off a cliffside and into a canyon? You’ve never had a Thelma and Louise moment? Not ever? Just me? No prescriptions filled twice over and no one at home to cook for? No walk-into-the-sea fantasy? No wish for a loaded gun? Just me. Okay. Well, clearly not I’m afraid, because this is something that Red Sky Morning dares to address. Or at least dares to dare you to consider.

Stop. I don’t want you to flood my inbox with ARE YOU OKAY messages because I’M OKAY.

The point of difference of course, between seeing these events in our mind’s eye and taking action to bring about these events must be somewhere vaguely in a place where we remember we are loved and we have an awful lot to live for. Or, if one can’t remember such a poignant thing at that point, perhaps it’s the fear of enduring any sort of real physical pain that stops us. Or the knowledge that those left behind will suffer unbearable anguish, unable to ever understand what it was we forgot there was/is to live for. I’m not sure. I’ve never stepped (or steered) quite that close to the edge. In any case, how do we stop time at that point, in order to reconsider and take that step away from the other place, the place of tragic – not always quite conscious – decisions about finally, one dark day or night, acting out our fantasies of self-harm or suicide? I can’t actually answer that. It’s heavy stuff.

Red Sky Morning is really heavy stuff. Tom Holloway has written nothing and everything about my life. And quite possibly about yours too. His ability as a writer is obvious and something that, during the afternoon’s discussion with the cast and the director, they kept coming back to. I could feel that they were, rightly so, in complete awe of Tom’s lyric. I’m fascinated that from a piece written originally in Word columns, for three characters to speak a monologue each, together in cacophony for the duration, a brilliant composition was structured and workshopped and re-structured and rehearsed and re-structured, to become distinct movements, delivered to stunning emotional effect. Sam Strong is a BIG fan of Anne Bogart’s work. So yes, you got those references there. I knew you would.

In turns, David (company AD), Sarah (company casting), Erin (company admin) and Sam Strong (director), explained the process by which this show came about. It became clear that it has been the collaboration, between writer, director, designer, actors and audiences, over a three-year process, that has made this piece so real and raw and really funny and completely devastating all at the same time. The cast, without exception, were simply outstanding in their vocal work particularly (um, rote learning lines my arse, guys; maybe to begin with, as one might learn poetry in the primary school but then there is talent and intuition and intellect at work!) and in their uncanny ability to match each other’s continuously changing energies, making physical and emotional connections (and complete detachments, sometimes almost within the same instant) without actually connecting with each other through touch, proximity or any eye contact. Ever. Seriously. I’ve only seen that level of intense commitment – I’m talking about that level of extreme character too – in the snippets of Alice Ripley in Next to Normal on Broadway, on YouTube. In actual fact, there are a few parallels there, between mother and mother, which would be apparent if you are a theatrical geek-freak, as I am, and you have perhaps watched said clips of Alice Ripley in Next to Normal on Broadway, on YouTube, something like, ooh, six million times.

I MAY HAVE EVEN POSTED IT ALREADY. HERE IT IS AGAIN BECAUSE IT IS SO GOOD.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE. NEXT TO NORMAL IS COMING TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU. That is, if you’re anywhere near MTC and the precinct next year.

THING 2

Red Stitch is my new favourite company in this country. In fact, I will attribute them with validating the way that Sam and I approach our work and with inspiring us to continue down this path, gather the right people around us gradually and produce great theatre in our own time, via our own non-methods, attracting and building our own audiences along the way. It is highly unlikely that anybody will really care about that now, at this point. I’m just saying. For future reference. For, you know, editorial, for when they’re searching desperately at deadline, for quotes and links to include in a feature story about the theatre-makers from Queensland. I’M JUST PUTTING IT OUT THERE. FOR THE UNIVERSE, YOU KNOW?

THING 3

See, now we’ve progressed beyond the Seuss Things.

The touring set is pretty much the original set. It cost the company $1000.

The reddish earth for the floor is sourced locally, wherever they go, immediately giving a great sense of place and somehow – not entirely sure what I mean – a sense of trust or normality (or something) and authenticity (or something) to this production, just by it being there, underfoot. I think it was the reality underneath, if you cared to look through the thick, murky layer of fantasy and smog (hello, Mt Isa memories) that served to ground us again, bringing us back to that safe, child-like place of trust and normality, just as the father craved, grasping handfuls of earth as he lay there upon it, just considering his place in this lonely place and just as the daughter craved, reacting violently to everything happening outside of her control by forcing a fight, in the dirt in the school yard, with her best friend, finally losing all self-control and regaining at least some sort of self-respect in the defense of her mother against the public taunts and accusations, which she had previously ignored.

Then again, the director and the designer may have had a conversation that went something (or nothing) like this:

DISCLAIMER: I did not hear Sam Strong say, “mate” in all the time we were there. It’s late. I’m tired. If it were a show about putting on a show (currently enjoying a Brisbane season), this is how it would play out.

 

 

Timber. Timber floor boards, mate.

No. Too warm, too friendly, too comforting. How about dirt?

Dirt. Soil. The real, red earth. The dust of life

No mate, that’s Bui Doi you’re thinking of; they’re doing Miss Saigon in Brisbane while we’re there, aren’t they? That’s a brave choice.

Yeah, yeah. Brave choice…

Dirt, mate; let’s get the local dirt and spread it across the floor. It’ll be even more comforting than boards.

Yeah, yeah, no boards; local dirt’s good. But you know it’s been done, mate.

No, not for ages, mate; not since Capricornia and that was only seen by the Brisbane peeps. Do the local dirt, mate.

Alright, mate, that’ll be brilliant. And local. Dirt.

 

 

ASIDE: When I notice that in the back of the cute little STC season brochure for 2011, in their clever little SUPPORT US YOU LOVE US YOU LOVE OUR LAVISHNESS (and p.s. don’t forget our efforts to recycle and greenify the company) the donations they received this year covered costume and set costs upwards of $20 000 for multiple productions, I realise what sort of company I would like to work…like. I would say work for, only you would not say no to an STC gig if it were to come up, would you?! Well I certainly wouldn’t. But by the same token, there is something to be said for the humble independents, draining minimal funding and producing exceptional theatrical work for their country, regardless. Hats off, I say.

So within the strict confines of an ingeniously designed venetian-blind-box, a little family, in a typical almost-outback small town struggles to simply be together. On the surface, it’s a play about survival. Under the surface, it’s about questioning the desire to keep trying…fighting to survive. Who can be bothered? And what (or whom) for?

A husband and father convinces himself that he is, in fact, “bloody lucky” and heads off to work each morning before his wife and daughter are even up and moving. They are both, however; wide awake and considering the day before them. The play is, to begin with, surprisingly…upbeat. The daughter, off to high school and, with a crush on her teacher, chatty and looking forward to getting out of the house and being amongst friends. The mother, off to the kitchen to…oh! just grab a beer before breakfast, after seeing an elephant in the hall before getting out of the house and going for a jog. And so it goes…but not like anything I’ve seen or heard before. And I was ready for it! Having spent the same afternoon on the fourth floor of the Judith Wright Centre with the generous cast, stage manager and director, discussing every aspect of the show, it came as an enormous shock on so many levels – and a total sensory overload – to actually hear two or all three of the actors speaking at once!

THING 4

In a dysfunctional family (and, let’s face it, that could be any family, really, depending on just how closely you look at it) how agonising is it to choose to go on with each day rather than to end the pain, frustration, confusion, miscommunication and missed opportunities – for everyone – in a life that hasn’t turned out quite the way you thought it would? (Did I mention boredom, resentment, regret, regression, manic depression and delusions of grandeur? Yep. That’s right. Remember, I’ve lived out west too). Well, we certainly saw the agony. We felt it. I felt it so that I couldn’t breathe. And because I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sob, which is really what I felt like doing, as if I were in front of that heart-wrenching film, KOLYA, once again with my four-year old daughter asking, through her own desperate tears, “Mama, why won’t the mama take her boy?” (and her absolutely bewildered tears at the end of it, “Mama, how can the mama take her boy back now?!” Her capacity for sympathy and her depth of understanding confounds me).

Anyway, the last theatrical work to really get me like that was Steppenwolf’s production of Stockholm. At the end of it, I was a complete mess. And as an artist, I thought, “WOW…we can do that!” At the end of Red Sky Morning, I fell apart and, as an artist, thought, “WOW. HOW THE FUCK DO WE DO THAT?!”

The academic in me wants to sit in on everything this company does and just observe and absorb…and ask lots of questions about process and write it up for my thesis. The actor in me wants to do their very next production, whatever it may be, and work collaboratively to be a part of something amazing. And the director and teacher in me wants to work with new talent and use my non-methods, which of course pay homage to Bogart, Chubbuck, et al, to continue to introduce actors on the Sunshine Coast to this little world that we are trying to build here. What is, I realise, a microcosm of Melbourne’s Red Stitch community. That is, if I may be so bold as to claim any similarity to their ensemble philosophy and innovative approach whatsoever!

Brick by brick, somebody recently told me, though I think he referred specifically to building the Brisbane theatre scene at the time. Brick by brick. It applies wherever we are. So. I tell you what. We’ll give it another year here. One more year of bricks. Okay? Then…well, who knows? Brick by brick and day by day, I say!