Posts Tagged ‘michael tuahine

16
Sep
17

I Just Came To Say Goodbye

 

I Just Came to Say Goodbye

The Good Room

Theatre Republic – The Block

September 13 – 23 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY.

 

Strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defences must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.

 

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt…

 

David Whyte

 

In 2002 a DHL cargo plane and a Russian passenger jet collided in Swiss-controlled airspace over southern Germany, killing 68 Russian school students, two pilots and Mr Vitaly Kaloyev’s wife and two children. This story is told plainly and simply, chillingly, in tiny pieces, using surprisingly little text. Intricately interwoven along the way are numbered anonymous apologies and offers of forgiveness (or refusals to forgive or to be forgiven) selected from hundreds of online contributions to The Good Room’s website for their newly devised show, I Just Came to Say Goodbye. All the elements come together perfectly, which is no surprise to those who know The Good Room’s previous productions. We know the formula works; we adored I Want to Know What Love Is, which premiered during Brisbane Festival 2014 and enjoyed a return season at Brisbane Powerhouse in 2015, and I Should Have Drunk More Champagne at Metro Arts in 2013.

 

The Good Room has never let the vampires get in the way of making an original show.

 

Directed by Daniel Evans and co-created with Amy Ingram, Caroline Dunphy, Lauren Clelland and Kieran Swann, this is the work that’s consistently disrupting Queensland’s arts’ ecology, demanding more from artists and audiences, and offering a richer, more complex, lingering and affecting theatrical experience.

 

I would like to have the time to sit in on the company’s creative process and tell you more about it because not enough theatre is being dreamed onto our stages in this way, and not enough of our theatre makers believe they can do likewise. This is largely because our training and our theatrical tradition is still so text-based. (We could argue that The Good Room’s trilogy of shows is text-based, but that would be over-simplifying the work and under-valuing the creative process).

 

 

The company’s next work (I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You) will involve young people in its creative development and performance. For some, it may be their first foray into devising from scratch. (Can we note, it’s simply not soon enough to be exploring the work of companies such as Gob Squad, Frantic Assembly and Complicite at a Masters level!). I hope The Good Room’s process becomes a preferred model of devising theatre with students especially, so we might see the process included in the curriculum for Years 10 – 12. Sure, something like it, within “physical theatre” vaguely happens now, depending on the awesomeness of the teachers involved and the cooperation of admin, however; even with an abundance of new work, we’re still seeing chasms in this country between theatre, physical theatre and dance. (Within an intelligently programmed arts festival the gap is less apparent).

 

The truth is, rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.

– Brené Brown

 

Despite closing with a burst of silver glitter and opening with an eighties’ daggy dance team dressed in Brisbane Festival hot pink (choreographed by Nerida Matthaei, hysterical!), I Just Came to Say Goodbye is necessarily dark. It delves into a place we don’t like to go, exploring the vulnerability that lies at the heart of our anger and our resistance to forgiveness. Can we ever really forgive another? Can we ever forget the things another has said or done to make us feel such anger/betrayal/bitterness in the first place? What happens when we choose not to forgive? In the case of Mr Kaloyev and – spoiler alert – the family and friends of his victim, there’s no happy ending.

 

 

To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.

 

The inability to forgive seems more often than not to lead to violence, a person lashing out against another, staged literally by The Good Room in an impressive extended fight sequence. Choreographed by Justin Palazzo-Orr it must be the longest continuous fight sequence we’ve seen on a Brisbane stage. It’s violent and tender and funny and tragic. Caroline Dunphy’s movement is always captivating but this performance is next level neo-butoh. She’s a wicked nymph, leaping and climbing and crawling all over Thomas Larkin (who has his own stunning image making moments at the beginning of the show), and hanging from him to create a disturbing, broken picture, to be read as a moment of grief, or the resolve of a ghost, or simply, and complicatedly, a reference to some degree of Stockholm Syndrome in the relationship. (Are there degrees of Stockholm Syndrome?). Or it’s something else entirely, depending, I suppose, on what sort of day/week/month/year/life you’ve had. The intimate moment that precedes this suffering though, is unmistakably a representation of the couple’s abject despair, beautifully, tenderly realised. This sort of intimate connection between performers takes time to develop and direct, and skill to replicate, or discover again, each and every night of the season. It’s so desperately sad. Meanwhile, Amy Ingram is a wildcat, and Michael Tuahine is both fierce and funny in attacking and being attacked. Satisfyingly, everyone ends up fighting everyone; it’s horrifying and highly entertaining. There’s certainly a little schadenfreude at work here.

 

 

Anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here; it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it. What we call anger on the surface only serves to define its true underlying quality by being a complete but absolute mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

– David Whyte

 

Jason Glenwright’s apocalyptic lighting comprises search lights and pin spots and a whole lot of blackness. At times, through the haze, we barely see faces but the voices and the silences between the words convey anything we think we might have missed with our eyes. And played in traverse with the audience seated on two opposite sides, we may well miss something from time to time. Just as in life, this is okay; we see what we want to see precisely the way we want to see it. At the other end of the technical spectrum and across the Theatre Republic at La Boite are the bright lights of Laser Beak Man, also designed by Glenwright. The guy is versatile to say the least! Underscored by Dane Alexander, I Just Came to Say Goodbye wouldn’t work nearly as well without its lights to pierce the darkness and a soundscape to scrape our souls (it’s absolutely terrifying, jarring; try not to be affected).

 

FORGIVENESS is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.

– David Whyte

 

I Just Came to Say Goodbye is a stunning result from what would seem a simple process on paper, but actually, in anyone else’s hands could be a colossal disaster. What Daniel Evans and Amy Ingram appear to do is to throw everything onto the floor – a vast collection of ideas and feelings and responses to real events and crowdsourced verbatim material – pour fuel over it, and set it on fire to create a spectacular event and food for thought, for a life outside the theatre that demands our burning presence.

 

10
Jun
17

Song Lines

 

Song Lines

Brisbane Powerhouse & Charming Rebel

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Thursday June 1 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

What’s your song line? Do you know? Do you know where you come from; where you’ve been and what’s brought you to this place? If you do, that story is your song line, your living narrative, connecting you to all things, past and present. For many Indigenous cultures, their personal and cultural maps are far-reaching networks of songs, creating connections between people and place.

 

Michael Tuahine’s song line is not only his story, but those of his parents too; an Aboriginal mother and Maori father, and just like the slice of heaven that is the New Zealand production, Daffodils (sorry, if you missed it, it was superb), Tuahine’s debut solo show features his parents’ relationship and the soundtrack of their lives. His own story almost takes second place, however; it’s made very clear that the story continues, and that at this point, Tuahine’s 42 and single!

 

We hear the troublesome tale of his mother’s experiences as a young girl, at the hands of white Australians, and her resolve to start her life again in New Zealand, the only place to which an Australian Aboriginal woman could escape without a passport. I feel like we want to see a whole show about Tuahine’s mother… Let’s make that happen.

 

Once, once in a while

You’re gonna find her

Waiting for some recognition

It’s her transition to recognition

She has to be loved

She want to be needed

Don’t want to be hated

Just loves to be wanted

 

 

Tuahine’s deep connection to family and place comes through so beautifully and authentically.

 

We share in some of his fondest memories, of the fun and lively extended family gatherings, involving rich voices and guitars, and beers and footy, and good food and great kids; we understand perfectly, the deep sense of belonging and returning, and returning again to wherever home is made. Then of course there are the career moments that had to be had, including the relative success of the 90s boy band AIM 4 MORE. While the photos of the band and the family, which are shared as slides, add a personal element to the show, I think I’d expected something a little more sophisticated in the presentation. We’re accustomed to the audio visual work of the likes of optikal bloc, and perhaps we’ll need to see something more engaging in the next version of the show. Have we seen already, the screen shots of the family pics shared on Facebook, with all the likes and comments and emojis? That would be a neat way of sharing these precious memories for a social media savvy cabaret audience. This is an artist who can get away with such a gimmick.

 

 

Tuahine himself is nothing short of engaging. He’s charismatic, quick witted, cheeky and very funny; he’s quite a catch! (What are you doing about it, women of Australia?!). He’s able to bring pathos and proper crooner compassion to the ballads, certainly his strong point. At times the rock numbers lose a little of their impact, but this is easily remedied if Tuahine is to continue to work with musical directors such as Bradley McCaw, who is musically brilliant and brilliantly entertaining on keys, guitars and vocals. In fact, this three-piece band could easily travel with Tuahine to the far ends of the earth for gigs. They work beautifully together.

 

Roy Orbison’s Crying will always make me think of Mulholland Drive, but this rendition is in remembrance of Jimmy Little, the Aboriginal artist who encouraged Tuahine to pursue his dreams of becoming an entertainer, and inspired him to go to Queensland Theatre Company’s AD, Wesley Enoch, with the concept for Country Song.

 

When we hear She Has To Be Loved and Tuahine’s favourite Maori numbers and Australian Aboriginal songs, we hear his whole heart and soul.

 

This beautifully packaged show, taken under the gentle wing of someone willing to quietly coax a little more out of it, and with all the charm and sincerity of its rising star, will be as far-reaching as any song line. Keep an eye out for its return.

 

 

16
Jul
15

Country Song

 

Country Song

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne

July 4 – August 8 2015

 

Reviewed by Chanel Lucas

 

countrysong

 

QTC’s musical play Country Song juxtaposes the career of Australian singer Jimmy Little against key events in our political and human rights history to create an interesting and entertaining story.

 

Jimmy Little can be described as one of Australia’s first and greatest country music stars. He toured around Australia during the 60s and 70s but his career extended to acting and in the late 90s and 2000s he recorded and released songs by contemporary artists such as Paul Kelly, Bernard Fanning, Nick Cave and Dave Graney.

 

As Jimmy Little, Michael Tuahine spent most of the show under a single spotlight, in front of a microphone, with his guitar, as the tumultuous events of Australian Aboriginal history occurred around him. We were invited into his world backstage and as an audience for his live shows with a simple stage design and spotlights on the main action. Events such as the 1965 Freedom Ride and race riot in Moree; or the rise of boxer Lionel Rose placed Jimmy Little’s life story into a larger context. The show seemed to be almost apologetic that this famous singer did not engage with the protests and social justice issues of his time and yet celebrated this gentle man who ‘just wanted to sing’.

 

The ensemble does a great job, each performer playing multiple characters with sensitivity and humour, and making up the competent on-stage band for the show. Megan Sarmardin and Elaine Crombie both bring strong singing voices, producing endearing characterisations of singer Auriel Andrew, and of Little’s mother Frances. Tuahine is very natural and has a similar vocal style to Jimmy Little. He is a confident guitarist, and leads the band through the songs with ease. The crowd around me were tapping and singing along the whole way through. Musical Director, Jamie Clarke, produces a capable on-stage live band from the actors involved.

 

countrysong_michaeltuahine

 

The music is a real highlight of the show, featuring songs such as the classic Little hits Royal Telephone, Oh Danny Boy, and I Want To Thank You, were presented alongside his more contemporary 1999 cover Under the Milky Way Tonight, which seemed to be an anthem for this gentle man constantly wondering, “I wish I knew what you were looking for”.

 

There are some truly beautiful moments during the show.

 

I think some in the audience came expecting a Jimmy Little tribute show in the vein of Elvis or Fleetwood Mac RSL shows. This show did not meet those expectations, although we did hear excellent versions of many of Little’s hits. The ‘live show’ scenes in the play really did lend themselves to a bit of ‘whoo-hooing’ and clapping along from the crowd.

 

countrysong_jimmy

 

I felt that the show could have benefited from amplification in all of the scenes. There were some scenes ‘backstage’ or in Little’s family house that lost some momentum because they were so much quieter than the ‘on-stage’ scenes. This may have been a deliberate choice by the production team however, to make the ‘on-stage’ scenes have more impact on the audience.
The show runs at the Cremorne Theatre at QPAC until 8 August and then tours to regional venues. If you love country music – go see this. If you are interested in Australian history and music – go see this. If you enjoy musicals and local stories – go see this. Country Song is heartwarming and entertaining, and you’ll jump up for a dance at the end!