Posts Tagged ‘metro arts allies program

10
Mar
15

The Seagull – now look here

 

The Seagull

now look here

Metro Arts Warehouse

March 3 – 14 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

It’s Chekhov, but not as you know it…

 

theseagull_header

 

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

 

 

“I”M SO UNHAPPY!” #sochekhov

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

theseagull_theplay

 

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

 

theseagull_theplay_lizzie

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

12
Nov
12

Some Dumb Play

Some Dumb Play

 

Some Dumb Play

Metro Arts Allies

6th November – 17th November 2012

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

“Okay, so you don’t like our show. Maybe it’s not what you were expecting. Maybe you wanted more music, or violence, or sex. Maybe we got too caught up in what we wanted to make, in what we wanted to see. So why even go to the theatre? Why not just stay at home watching videos on Youtube.

Entertainment is all on-demand now, right? Maybe it’s about time theatre caught up…”

Some Dumb Play is an exercise in remote-controlled theatre. After every scene, you get to vote for what you want to see next. With the power of a smartphone, you get to pick the characters, change the plot, and control the style. With over 1.5 million different performance outcomes to vote for, we can be anything you want us to be…

 

Some Dumb Play Claire PearsonOn the one hand I’m here to tell you about Some Dumb Play. No, no, that’s the title I swear! But a part of me feels like I’m lying to you as you read this. Because I don’t know and still won’t know how this play might end for you. That’s what makes Some Dumb Play a very unique performance.

Allow me to elaborate. I’ve encountered shows that have attempted something like this before. Beauty is Difficult from the heartBeast team gleaned an air of mystery with the question of who might die on the night, always changing the outcome. But it is nothing as complex as this. On the other hand, Some Dumb Play also brings a simple pleasure in this technological wonderland we live in. Something attempted before, by the likes of Marcus Lilley on Twitter comes to mind, but that fell far below the potential that the gang at Metro Arts has easily pushed past. This commentary is more than a Twitter account or an alternating death scene. With these guys, each scene of the play is in full, changing motion.

On opening night I was greeted with drinks in the Metro Arts Verve bar downstairs. Being the awkwardly-oblivious-to-my-surroundings kind of girl that I am, I climbed all four stories of the Metro Arts building before realising the Sue Benner theatre is in fact on the ground floor. I encourage you not to make the same mistake. Once I was back downstairs I thought I had regained my breath. The sound track of the rain on Brisbane CBD’s busy streets echoing in the foyer was rather therapeutic.

 

But theatre is faithful in making sure we never do catch our breath.

 

There is a bizarre energy buzzing once you enter the Sue Benner theatre. As the tag line says, Some Dumb Play “can be anything you want it to be…”

 

Some Dumb Catering QTC's GreenHouse

 

This is something more specific than contemporary theatre in the vein of technological observation. This is software, gizmos and other techy words. I’ve never had to credit a software developer in a review before but here I am praising Ben Murray who helped make this “remote-controlled theatre experiment” possible.

 

Some Dumb Play

 

Credit for the writing of the piece has to go to Director, Nathan Sibthorpe. Not only is he a man of words, but he is a man of visuals and it shows in this production. Sibthorpe has been busy in the theatre scene the past few years even if you haven’t seen him yet. You might recognise his directorial signature on productions such as Voice, which made it to FAST in 2011. More recent works include his input towards AV design in Dead Puppet Society’s The Harbinger at The Roundhouse for La Boite, which was a smash hit earlier this year. Maybe I’m biased, but Nathan Sibthorpe is another excellent example of the graduates from QUT’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Program (QUT represent!), and of a JUMP Mentoring artist. From what I saw at Metro Arts and from Sibthorpe’s track record, I see a lot of promise in this creative force.

Despite Sibthorpe’s title of director I have to remind you that on the night the reigns are taken out of his hands. I hope he has accepted that the actors need to be on the ball, whichever direction the show takes. But not only this, you, the audience, also get to enjoy the play in a way that is different to others I’ve seen before. This invasion of smartphones, iPads, laptops, Facebook; the age of narcissism as it has been termed, is turned on its head. Instead, you call the shots.

This review is much shorter than the norm. But I can’t tell you much more because I can’t promise what I have seen is what you will see. The only way you’ll know is to take the chance, take control; enjoy the remote-controlled experiment that is Some Dumb Play. Shows are still running until the 17th November. So make sure you don’t climb four flights of steps on your way, and do not doubt that the night will be a surprise.

 

 

Director – Nathan Sibthorpe
Producer – Kristen Trollope
Lighting Designer – Hamish Clift
Software Developer – Ben Murray
Technical Coordinator – Candice Diana
Stage Manager – Bec Lawes
Assistant Director – Essie O’Shaughnessy

Featuring

Cameron Clark

Kieran Law

Toby Martin

Claire Pearson

Bianca Zouppas