Posts Tagged ‘mind blown


The Theory of Everything




The Theory of Everything

Brisbane Festival & Nuala Furtado

La Boite Studio

September 15 – 19 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Ants have had a bad wrap in this show.




I’ve been listening to Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators, a fascinating account of some of the greatest minds of our pre-digital age. This has everything and nothing to do with the show I saw on Friday night.


It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens. What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?


I raced down to Brisbane Festival’s Theatre Republic on Friday evening to see the sold-out The Theory of Everything instead of staying at school to see a student’s debut cabaret production that night. I was seeing The Theory of Everything instead of sending another writer to review it because the show’s creators wanted to be considered for Matilda Award selection. Originally, I’d planned to see it on the Wednesday night but it clashed with another consideration, ACPA’s SOUL cabaret at The Coffee Club in West End. (To clarify, student productions are ineligible for the Matilda Awards but we are looking at entertainment options for the Awards evening in March). So I went and enjoyed some great company and a relaxed evening of soul music, a mixed bag of performances, directed by their groovy tutor and Music HOD, Nathaniel Andrew, and ended up at The Theory of Everything on Friday night.




Thomas Quirk’s The Theory of Everything sold out before it opened and on the strength of the artists involved, and due to its inclusion in the Brisbane Festival program, I had high expectations. Others may not be quite as disappointed but I feel this production misses the mark. I also feel really, really old in saying so because younger people will likely love this show and say I’m on crack. I know the artists involved love this show because it comes through without exception in their delightful, vibrant performances and that, at least, is something. This collective represents the next wave of talented and hardworking performing artists in Brisbane. They’re honest and bold and brilliantly ambitious, but despite their individual and collective readiness to bring us something new and amazing, the show falls well below expectations.


It’s enjoyed a development phase already and this season is perhaps necessarily its second. At worst, it’s prime material for a culminating event at a senior drama workshop and at best, an interesting theatrical experiment. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable, it just isn’t mind blowing.




Staged in the intimate surrounds of La Boite’s rehearsal studio within the partial timber framework of an unknown structure, the performers mill around as the audience enters, stretching, preparing, and shredding what appears to be the pages of the script…


We’re actors. Standing in a line.


Actors standing in a line in an array of Mix Apparel style pastels (Yvette Turnbull). Um… Anyway, in a Horrible Histories/Epic Rap Battles of History segment, we hear from famous historical figures including Aristotle, Einstein, Freud, Warhol and Hitler about their theories on life and the universe. In what I thought was sure to be a segment inspired by the opening number in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, we get a painstaking re-telling of Cain and Abel, which would be unbearable if it were not for the comical request from one of the actors to stop, clarify, and repeat the entire scene from the start! N.B. no singing happens during this segment. This reminded me of the absurd nature of Sunday school tasks, having to learn the books of the Bible in the correct order. There were stickers and bookmarks and other prizes up for grabs. I don’t remember winning them or not.



Can we just go back? Back to the beginning?!


The most memorable moments of the show come from Katy Cotter, during an eloquently penned and delivered monologue contemplating language (this is one of the more accomplished of the written pieces), and later, a light-hearted and yet deeply soulful dialogue with Chris Farrell, sitting on the floor in near darkness discussing the speed of light and eternal happiness. These moments carry more weight than the earlier extrapolation on any theory in particular, and are genuinely affecting.


The use of sound (Wil Hughes) and light particularly (Daniel Anderson) is simple and effective. Anderson’s design uses caged light bulbs manipulated by the actors, and headlamps worn by the actors in an otherwise dark space. Outer space has never been so simply created, with the employment of slow motion lifts and a well choreographed sequence of headlamps flicking on and off to shift focus. Again, an interruption, and the consideration and verbalisation of the theatrical devices in use – the meta-chat – incorporated to make us feel…something.


The Theory of Everything certainly works on some levels and it’s an excellent example of a near pitch-perfect ensemble but it was probably a mistake to make sure Matilda Award judges got to this version of it. It’s so important that we support new, experimental theatre, but it’s not essential that we award it or rave about it. When the raves come unwarranted it can do more harm than good. The Theory of Everything will have divided audiences and there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, it was an appropriate end to a week of student theatre, which included yr10 theatresports, yr12 absurdist assessment and SOUL. There’s another week of Brisbane Festival events to come but I presume my experience this year has finished with Quirk’s undercooked production.




There is always such a fuss over Brisbane Festival tickets. The venues, companies and individual presenters all year round are very accommodating; everyone appreciates a timely and thoughtful review. But the Brisbane performing arts scene becomes a vastly different landscape each September when one publicity agency holds all the cards and deals them indiscriminately.


I don’t begrudge the interstate writers being accommodated – of course their voices are a vital part of the broader landscape and a bigger conversation, hopefully attracting further interest in the program and greater numbers of attendees from outside Queensland. But for the past three years, despite a number of shows professing to be “sold out”, we’ve seen many empty seats in venues rather than reviewers or Matilda Award judges filling those seats. It’s astounding. Considering the amazing publicity the same company does to promote the festival there should at least be some truth to their “sold out” claims. It just doesn’t make sense to have empty seats.


The Theory of Everything genuinely, actually SOLD OUT. If it comes around again, better book early and let me know what you think.



Hot Brown Honey




Hot Brown Honey

Brisbane Festival & Briefs Factory

In Association with Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

September 16 – 26 2015


Reviewed by Amanda Murrell




After paying tribute to the traditional custodians of country, and deeply honouring ancestors and the great women who have come before us to light the path, the Honeys deliver radical anti-racist entertainment that smashes the alabaster pedestal of privilege and would have made old Aunty Judy Wright, whose namesake is the theatre in which they perform, very proud.




The show treats the crowd to the full effect of “Honey posse”, with more costume tear-aways than Ru Paul’s Drag Race and equal amounts of pride. From hip hop garb to cultural dress to work outfits, showcasing a dozen different flavours of glamour and varying degrees of undress, this production is a visual feast. But more than that, it’s a call for respect; from the first number, which incorporates the graceful shedding of the Union Jack to the Honeys’ final cavort through an appreciative audience.




Highlights include an ensemble dance number to a soundscape that uses excerpts from the savvy and insightful Unpacking the Knapsack of Privilege (Can I get a “hell yeah!?”), the full-tilt boogie Don’t Touch My Hair, Darwin’s Indigenous drag diva’s perfect impersonation of Peter Garret’s dance moves, beatbox songs of hope, and a chilling rope performance prefaced by a recording of a domestic violence call to emergency services.




The Honeys pull no punches in creating a strong, proud, perfectly executed performance that celebrates brown girl strength and breaks down ignorance.

As hard hitting as the show’s message is, the blows are soothed by humour, humility and the performers’ vulnerability. If you don’t catch their next shows, you’re too white for words.




HOT BROWN HONEY BURLESQUE taster from polytoxic on Vimeo.



Coup Fatal




Coup Fatal

Brisbane Festival & Philip Bacon Galleries

QPAC Playhouse

September 5 – 8 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


KVS & LES BALLETS C DE LA B (Belgium/Congo)

with Countenor Serge Kakudi


Coup Fatal, an Australian premiere exclusive to Brisbane, is perfect festival fare, full of joy and exuberance, cheeky grins and zany choreography, a cheerful band of 12 Kinshasa musicians and a countertenor to boot! It’s baroque, pop, jazz, cabaret, dance; a defiant celebration in the face of a world at war, threatening to douse our inner light.


Director, Alain Platel wanted to convey a “zest of life that resists poverty”.




Incredible shimmering golden curtains, created from cartridge cases collected in Congolese war zones, hang behind and on either side of the company, not to “make it into a message” but to offer a political context within Freddy Tsimba’s set. We can think as much as we like, later, about the appalling atrocities against the people of the Belgian Congo Basin since the 19th century, but the show is a celebration of something longer lasting.


The joy of life the Kinshasas exhibit, even in sometimes horrible circumstances, tells us more about who they are than their hardships.

Alain Platel


Composer, Fabrizio Cassol and Musical Director & guitarist, Rodriguez Vangama, with Platel and a company of extraordinarily talented artists, have created a show to lift spirits and challenge any preconceived notions of what a “show” is. In this case, it’s a mad Congolese dance party, featuring Serge Kakudji singing baroque opera to the incessant beat of African drums, musicians and dancers cum Congolese poster boys dancing up a storm, and brightly coloured flashy fashion of the highest order, styled extravagantly in the tradition of the Sapeurs, members of the Societe des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes (SAPE) – the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People. They must not only look but also behave in an elegant manner, in defiance of their war stricken surroundings. One of the highlights of the show is the return to the stage of the full company dressed this way, having shed their military style uniforms, for a big, beautiful finale, which sends out a renewed sense of vibrancy and joy de vivre, even after their exuberant (exhausting!) moves for almost 100 minutes. Talk about performance fit! It’s the most unusual,  extravagant ending I’ve ever seen without the use of a glitter canon.




The musical alchemy of baroque and Congolese beats is so strange and yet so fitting, with fusion compositions by Vangama, Cassol and Coup Fatal after Handel, Vivaldi, Bach, Monteverdi and Gluck. It’s extraordinary to hear Kakudji’s pure, sweet countertenor voice soar over the sonorous voices of the dancers and later, in between the cries of “Hey!” and fun, flirtatious remarks to audience members, who are delighted to dance when invited to do so. The high-energy routines feature individuals in turn, and one in particular, Bouton Kalanda, who plays likembe throughout (and in a duelling banjos inspired opening number with Vangama on his double-headed electric guitar). Kalanda grins mischievously, flips on the spot, thrusts and gyrates and frolics and cavorts in and out of the bullet case curtains, and double pumps better than Yanis Marshall’s boys doing Beyonce.


I wanted to see these antics performed across the apron of the stage, or on a slightly higher elevation. Nevertheless, Kalanda et al show in matching military garb, white t-shirts, bare sweating, shining flesh and finally, in their brightly coloured stylish suits (and a superb kilt! and a sensational skirt of ties!) why they are so proudly representative of the irrepressible Congolese spirit.


The prevailing message, more so than any desperate plea for compassion or a way out of a dire political and civil situation, is one of living life to the fullest.




The delicious cultural crossovers, the bizarre combination of all the elements and the incredible performance energy from the heart of Africa make this show something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.


Three more productions complete the Congo Connections program during Brisbane Festival: Macbeth, Le Cargo and Future D. Fidel’s play, Prize Fighter, opening tonight at La Boite. Book online for all Brisbane festival events.






The Seagull




The Seagull

QTC in association with Brisbane Festival 

The Greenhouse Bille Brown Studio

September 5 – 26 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



Sorin: You cannot be without theatre.


Konstantin: Yes, but it needs a new approach.



There is nothing new in art except talent.




This is a story about how we tell stories… It’s also about our private stories; the ones we tell ourselves to give our lives meaning, the ones we cast ourselves inside of in our search of love and hope.


What endures, what echoes, on this stage is the essence of Chekhov’s The Seagull…


Daniel Evans, Writer & Director




This is The Seagull but not as we know it. Writer and Director, Daniel Evans, has respectfully wrung its neck and brought it back to life in the most spectacularly comical, typically Australian way. It would be in poor taste to say so, of course, but if you can imagine the Crocodile Hunter revived by a Pulp Fictionalised adrenaline shot, you’ll get a feeling for this production. Crikey! (I’m genuinely surprised that there’s not a croc or a Hills Hoist or a jar of Vegemite stashed somewhere in the set but like our films, I guess we’re trying to resist including them). Still, I think Chekhov would approve, even if his diehard fans and the traditionalists may not.


Handing anything from the classic canon to Dan Evans is probably considered a calculated risk by now, and it’s the sort of risk-taking we should expect to see more of.


The people in Chekhov’s plays are beyond damaged, but we know them – we are them – and from time to time we need a jolt just to remember what we’re doing here, especially those of us who insist on making art. Evans’ astute adaptation brings Chekhov’s characters, with all their misery and wry humour, into the new millennium for a brand new quick-to-comment audience. It’s an adaptation that would come across very well in bite-sized (140 character) pieces.


If you saw Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, you’ll know when you go to see The Seagull to be ready for anything. Some will find the modern day props and references too much, and others will chortle with the rest of the audience in genuine appreciation of the update. Some might wonder why they ever had to study the original text…


Interestingly, Stage Manager, Dan Sinclair provides a constant presence, waiting with props, a piano (yes, he plays it), a blackboard wall and white chalk, and a MacBook side stage. I love his presence because Chekhov can’t help but have his characters all languishing somewhere – in this workshop setting, designed with Keiran Swan and lit by Ben Hughes with sound designed by Guy Webster, they’re all plainly visible – it’s Sinclair (in his stage debut!) who is interesting to watch when the pace slows a little in between gags in the first three acts. It should be said that the pace of the final act is better measured, not as forced, with well-placed silences giving us time to pause and dread the unhappy ending.


Evans’ gift is his defiant comedy, and an uncanny ability to layer and meld the elements, incorporating all the contemporary references and whacky ideas that come from a level of thought that most of us don’t engage in very often. Or ever.


Remember Luc Besson’s film, Lucy? 100% brain engagement! It’s Evans at his best, whether you like it or not, feeding one-liners to everybody, alive or dead. That’s right. Anton, the stuffed seagull, has a voice and he has a lot to say, just in case you were missing all things meta.


As the ingénue Nina, Emily Burton finds a sweet kind of insecure crazy. Her sad, gentle madness could be a little closer to heartbreak though, and perhaps by the end of the season she’ll crack through the bewilderment we’ve come to know so well in order to offer a little less of the wide-eyed approach to…everything. Admittedly, she’s a beautifully wide-eyed, naïve Nina but there must be something more for this performer in a role one day to take her a little farther away from type.


Nicholas Gell, in his QTC debut, holds his own as Konstantin, bringing to the role an abundance of obsessive (self) destructive traits and artistic integrity/intensity, which only bemuses his mother, Irina, the “serious actress” of Australian TVC, soapie and “real theatre” fame.


Christen O’Leary must be the most physically intense and altogether together actor in Queensland right now (not to mention one of the busiest), every performance a masterclass in voice and movement, and character and connecting with others. Her Irina is unapologetically cruel and wholly fragile behind an impenetrable façade, collapsing just outside of the pages of the story, right on the edge of the household, as we do. Her momentary breakdown is uncomfortable, however; in this as in other heightened moments, the question of focus comes into play. (By contrast, another up-close split scene of beautifully shared dialogue between Nina and Tregorin, and Irina and Medvedenko makes this device work more effectively).


We’ve seen a lot of Jason Klarwein recently and there’s more to come before the year is out, when he joins Tama Matheson in The Odd Couple. As the passionate, destructive writer, Irina’s husband, Trigorin, he’s ideal. And as befits the brooding character of the original text, he stays silent and singular early on, commanding the stage even as Irina’s shadow, and coming to vivid, wicked life when Nina’s youth and vulnerability catches him, hook, line and sinker. This relationship, always challenging to pull off, suffers just a little on opening night from well-staged fiery passion, rather than truly untidy, insistent and insatiable lust. It will no doubt be safe enough and still racy enough to satisfy slightly younger audiences, but when we’re wholly aware of the images in advertising and on our screens, as long as we’re being current and pushing boundaries, let’s push our performers another inch…closer.


Barb Lowing (a strong, capable, lusty Ilya, completely obsessed with Wicked; her silent, smiling desperation enough to break our hearts), Helen Cassidy (Polina), Hugh Parker (Dorn), Lucas Stibbard (Medvedenko), Amy Ingram (Masha) and Brian Lucas (Sorin) round out the ensemble, each accomplished actor shining, each in a role that fits like a favourite pair of shoes.


But it’s Brian Lucas you’ll remember long after this season closes. As the terminally ill Sorin, he finds both the mad romp and the gentler, quieter way through life, as well as all the subtleties of the precious relationships and simple joys around him. If there’s a truly new and original (and so very intuitive) take on a Chekhovian character it’s in this honest actor’s performance, a moving reading of a flawed, loved and loving man. Brian Lucas brings to this role the kind of courage and commitment we’re accustomed to seeing on another state theatre company’s stage each time they reinvent a Chekhov, and it’s such a pleasure to witness the impact on artists and the public, of a deeply considered performance here.


Chekhov is the master of familiar, frustrating banality and tragedy and Evans a master of the digitally remastered re-release.


This version of The Seagull, stripped back and presented in “The Actors Studio” might not appeal to everyone, but everyone should consider it; Evans’ approach is still new and not yet so tired that we need to be overly critical of it. In fact, if we can be supportive of it we’ll help him – and other brilliant writers and directors – to find their voice and find their feet in a landscape that is typically unforgiving of the reconfigured, reinvented and re-imagined classics, which (whether we want them or not) everyone, everyone, everyone needs.


It’s curious that we can’t possibly tell what exactly will be considered great and important, and what will seem paltry and ridiculous…






Brisbane Festival is about to kick off! Are you ready?


Brisbane Festival unlocks Arcadia and invites everyone to the opening bash!




Brisbane Festival officially kicks off on Saturday 5 September 2015 – the wacky and wonderful Arcadia at South Bank will come alive with sizzling shows in two massive tents as well as a packed line up of free entertainment, while some meaty shows will play at QPAC and La Boite, all capped off by a big opening night party.




Float between four bars.

Feast at boutique food trucks.

Treat yourself in the Little Creatures Treehouse.

Keep up to date on all the free entertainment happening in Arcadia by joining the Facebook Event.

When: Sat 5 – Sat 26 Sept


Arcadia, the new Festival village, will open from 2pm with South East Queensland’s best hip hop and break dancers battling it out in the popular free event RAPcity, while Australia’s top pavement artist will create amazing 3D chalk art where Festival-goers can snap themselves amongst the trippy work.

From 5pm enjoy free live music by Kahl Wallis (this year’s winner of the Dreaming Award at the National Indigenous Arts Awards), Karl S. Williams and Good Oak at QPAC’s Melbourne Street Green, and at 5.30pm an Indigenous Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, and a contemporary dance performance from ACPA, the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts, will take place in Arcadia.

At 6.45pm, dance out of time and sing out of tune with abandon to DJ Mikey’s beats streaming to wireless headphones in a free Silent Disco and keep an eye on the William Jolly Bridge as it is lit up with beautiful art projections by Gerwyn Davies and Alice Lang.




Festival-goers will be spoilt for choice in the evening. In The Spiegeltent, Megan Washington will perform the first of two sold-out shows, which will be followed by the mischievous antics of New York nightlife icon Murray Hill and fellow cast in Club Swizzle.



The show everyone is talking about, Fear & Delight, will call on brave folk who are up for anything – from chicken head and syringe canapés to a gin and tonic cloud experience to an ancient Japanese artistic rope bondage act – audiences are asked to dress in black and white and leave their inhibitions at the door.



Rise for the Oceans *LIMITED TICKETS*

For one night only, Tim Winton, Bernard Fanning, Katie Noonan, Jessica Watson, and natural historian Prof Iain McCalman and other special guests will edify, thrill, entertain and enlighten us with their hopes and fears for our oceans and reefs.

When: Sat 5 Sept, 8pm



Coup Fatal

Join in a mad, defiant party that makes you want to live.

When: Sat 5 – Tue 8 Sept, 8pm



Over at QPAC, famed Belgian dance theatre maker Alain Platel’s Coup Fatal, featuring Congolese countertenor Serge Kakudji and 12 musicians from Kinshasa, will make its Australian premiere in the Playhouse, while Bernard Fanning, Tim Winton and William Barton will join other iconic Australians in the Concert Hall for the world premiere of Rise for the Oceans.




Highly anticipated and moving theatre production Prize Fighter will play at La Boite, a contemporary retelling of Anton Chekhov’s classic The Seagull will show at Queensland Theatre Company, and dance, music and animation will collide in Desirelines at Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.


Once the curtains have closed everyone is invited back to the heart of Arcadia where an opening night party will kick off at 10pm into the wee hours of the morning, featuring DJ Tyrone and a performance by UK cult artists and stars of Fear & Delight, The Correspondents.


Arcadians can meander between five bars, a cocktail hut and a selection of wickedly tasty food trucks throughout the evening, and soak in the atmosphere from the brand new Little Creatures Treehouse or the Miami-inspired Riverhouse.




Brisbane Festival Artistic Director David Berthold said opening weekend would be huge and a good indicator of what people could expect over the next three weeks.


“With more than 500 shows across 20 venues, including 15 Australian premieres and six world premieres, the 2015 Brisbane Festival will provide abundant opportunities for new experiences and cultural adventures, as well as several new boutique places to meet up with family and friends,” Mr Berthold said.


“We have productions coming to Brisbane from five continents and 12 different countries including Singapore, Democratic Republic of the Congo, USA, UK, Japan and France, while 26 Queensland and 17 interstate companies are involved. This is the time to come out and see some of the best shows on the planet.”


On Sunday 6 September The Little Creatures Treehouse will kick off its free ‘Learn stuff about beers’ 30-minute workshops at 1pm and 2pm, where people can get hands-on with malt, savour some beers and create a mini-brew*.  The quirky new venue will also host a ukulele lesson at 4pm followed by a live performance at 5.30pm.



Club Swizzle

After two sell-out seasons at Brisbane Festival, the creators of La Soirée return with a brand spanking new show.

Loose, glorious and irresistibly fun, Club Swizzle is a night of sassy entertainment where the mayhem is kicked up a notch.

When: Fri 4 – Sat 26 Sept, 8pm



Audi Presents Fear & Delight

Join cult UK artists, The Correspondents, and an elite international cast of contortionists, acrobats, dancers and comedians whose dazzling physical feats will get your heart pounding.

While the daring physical and comedy performances will leave you short of breath –the extra elements of Fear & Delight will truly blow your mind.

When: Fri 4 – Sat 26 Sept, 8pm



Arcadia will continue buzzing with Jazz Japan Award for Album of the Year winner Fox Capture Plan in The Spiegeltent at 7pm followed by Club Swizzle, and audiences can also catch Fear & Delight and Coup Fatal again. Arcadians are also advised to be on the lookout for rogue film directors and impromptu karaoke.





At Palace Centro Cinemas The Diary of a Teenage Girl will be played at 4pm, which is part of The Female Gaze – a showcase of seven iconic indie female-focused films dating back to 1941.



Book online for all Brisbane Festival events.



*Registration for the ‘Learn stuff about beers’ workshops is required one hour prior to commencement as only 20 spots are available for each session. You must be 18+ to participate.