Posts Tagged ‘motherland

25
Apr
16

Motherland

 

Motherland

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

April 22 – 30 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Based in fact, the epic and intimate Motherland intertwines the sweeping stories of three very different women from different times, united in the heartache of exile from their homelands.

From the chaos of a Russian military coup, through the hell of Nazi-occupied France to a turbulent Brisbane in the throes of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, Brisbane playwright Katherine Lyall-Watson has penned a painstakingly researched historical drama about how world-changing events can ripple out and take a terrible toll on everyday lives.

Motherland was first produced by Metro Arts and Ellen Belloo at the Sue Benner Theatre, Brisbane on 30 October, 2013.

Motherland is a sweeping family saga, shifting across time and oceans to bring us three richly textured stories that make our hearts sigh and sing.

If you haven’t seen Motherland, you’ve missed a bold step forward in the shaping of Australia’s theatrical landscape. The sophistication and complexity of its storytelling, and a strong, clear narrative voice gives a nod to our ‘post dramatic’ writers, the likes of Tom Holloway and Daniel Keene.

Having seen the original production at Metro Arts, I miss the darkness and shadows and ambiguity of the first design, which you see in the trailer below (Annie Robertson is Associate Designer this time), but what I love about this version, reworked for QTC, is its clean, slick approach to the storytelling. Writer, Katherine Lyall-Watson, has sufficiently reworked the text to tell the tale without superfluous detail. Using slightly less text, each character is more fully formed than before, and each performer embodies their role with greater depth and empathy than before. Director, Caroline Dunphy, has sensitively and skillfully shaped this piece for a new audience.

Despite David Walters’ fine lighting, against Penny Challen’s squeaky clean all-white set I feel some of the original intimacy is lost, but we’re in the Bille Brown Studio now; it’s difficult to create a small space for a larger audience, and a larger, broader audience is what I wished for Motherland the first time.

Belloo Creative is a marvellous company of four talented and deeply connected women; their work is vital, bringing us stories we may never have known without them. And with the injection of state theatre company funds and a safe, supportive environment, this quietly determined indie company has had the opportunity to stretch their legs. And now we see they’re in for the long run.

The actors are poised to tell a story from the outset, entering from out of the initial darkness and stoically taking their places in the light to the beat of Piaf’s swirling, stirring “padum padum padum”. They never leave the space; everyone is in the story all of the time. And it takes several minutes to establish each story, and for us to focus and settle into each era, and its characters and their accents. The slower pace at the outset is likely deliberate, to allow our ears and eyes to adjust. We do so, quickly becoming immersed in the interwoven stories, the seamless transitions made all the more effective by the old world elegance of Dane Alexander’s cinematic underscore.

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One of my favourite Queensland performers, especially after sharing the stage with her during GAYBIES, Barbara Lowing, is Nina, the 90-year old Russian writer; hot tempered, outspoken and often in trouble for speaking her mind…and her fierce heart. Lowing gives a gutsy, beautifully measured performance, taking this thick-skinned, complex character into a grey and gentle space between oppression and self realisation. Nina cares for Slav for years (he’s a weak, sickly, petulant poet) until she can do so no longer, finding freedom in independence. But is it the freedom she’s yearned for?

There’s something fantastic and liberating about playing such a flawed character and Lowing sinks her teeth into this woman whilst retaining a devastating vulnerability. It’s a superb performance; we are transfixed.

Daniel Murphy brings to life both Slav and the boy, Sasha, both difficult and dangerous roles for an actor, with the temptation to overact ever-present. But Slav is as irritating and as brilliant as any self-destructive artist, and the boy like any other boy, uprooted and displaced without a common language or a circle of friends to help him fit in. Murphy perfectly channels the young boy’s mistrust, his discontent and ultimately, his love for his mother.

The inner conflict and sheer strength of every mother is captured more confidently than before by Rebecca Riggs as Alonya, the “lioness”. Riggs has discovered something more to this role and offers a richly informed performance (her warmth emanates fully in the final moments of the play). She falls in love with an Australian businessman and his promise of a place of refuge for her and her son, a new motherland down under, as well as a visit home to Moscow each year. It all seems too good to be true…

motherland_Kerith Atkinson

Peter Cossar (Chris/Kerensky) has sharpened the Russian accent and let loose on the Aussie twang. The dinner scene, in which we witness both his characters occupying one chair, was the first to be written by Lyall-Watson, and its skilful shape and pace is testament to the success of the connection here between writer, director and actor. The staging is simple, with Cossar seated between Riggs as Alonya and Kerith Atkinson as the Australian journalist, Nell, who seeks the hand of Kerensky. The seamless transition of characters and the clarity of the overlapping, interwoven stories, due largely to Cossar’s ability to switch between his two roles, is outstanding. I’ve not seen more solid or more confident work from Cossar.

motherland_Barbara Lowing and Kerith Atkinson

Atkinson’s Nell is almost a duel role in itself, as she convinces herself of the life she feels she must lead until her death gives us cause to ponder the connection between self-denial and self-inflicted emotional pain, and the slow demise that comes with chronic illness. Atkinson’s vocal work is precise and her characterisation is vibrant and energetic, wilful and wonderful, making the news of Nell’s passing all the more moving.

Nina’s final words are more fitting than before, simpler and less flowery, reflecting the overall tone of the reworked text, which is sharper and clearer. It’s the truth and tone of the piece now, more than any massive rewrites (although the writer may correct me on that point!) that makes Motherland a defining work, bringing our focus back, again and again, to the incalculable value of our own stories. 

The re-writing process fascinates me, and I know it started at Metro Arts, with audience feedback offered directly to Lyall-Watson as writer/usher at the time. I understand that audience members had no idea she was the writer, so offered their thoughts freely on their way out the door; a fantastic opportunity for a writer, to gain insight from the immediate and emotional response from audience members and actors. Lyall-Watson has no doubt spoken on this, but I particularly remember reading what Matthew Ryan had noted about being in the room with the actors for the first reading of his seminal work, Brisbane:

“It never fails to surprise me the difference that a reading can make. You can convince yourself 100% that your script works. But until you have actors saying the lines you’re not really hearing the play. You’re just hearing (in your own head) what you hope it is.

I make a point of not looking at my script at a reading. I watch the actors. I already know what’s on the page. It doesn’t interest me. The best lessons are on actors’ faces and in their eyes. When they connect with each other. When they struggle. A good actor is the writer’s best friend. They will give it their all and tell you what they struggled with. I always try to get the most opinionated actors. The ones who won’t just accept what I’ve done but challenge me with questions and observations of where it fell short. They are in the moment and can often feel the bumps better than I can.

The reading of BRISBANE was a real eye-opener around the structure. What I thought would resonate didn’t. What I didn’t care that much about was bouncing off the walls. The first Act needs a polish but the second Act needs to be completely re-written. Before the reading I was sure it was fine. I was sure it all worked. Now I know how far I have to go. You can never tell the geography until you send out the scouts to see for themselves. If you’re smart, you listen to what they found out there.”

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Motherland’s director, Caroline Dunphy, has caressed this text and coaxed this cast out of their original raw performances into another realm altogether, facilitating closer connections and new resolutions within more naturalistic performances. (I imagine this company must have become closer than most; we feel such genuine history in the relationships and we retain such hope for each individual’s future). Dunphy’s talent is this emotional precision: her attention to the delicate detail of each individual in each relationship, though her gift might masquerade as merely* the competent manipulation of the elements and the actors in the space. She’s very humble, and what we see is that there is so little, and yet so much of her in this production… What a beautiful thing for a director to be able to claim.

*As we appreciate, directing is no easy task; there’s really no “merely” about it, but still…

motherland_Barbara Lowing

These stories will make you curious about your own… And just imagine if you could have your family’s stories told. Would you not want that history to remain this intriguing, and shared this respectfully, this lovingly?

Motherland is the most beautifully crafted and intelligently delivered story you’ll see on stage this year. Its passion and fierce beauty will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

And once you’ve lived through it you might like to read it. I forgot to pick up a copy of the updated text but I’ll be back at the Bille Brown next month to see Andrea Moor & Matthew Backer in Joanna Murray Smith’s SwitzerlandIf you have time to read Motherland before then, get your copy from Playlab. And if you’ll miss seeing it in Brisbane, book now and catch the production at a venue near you. You’ll be a richer person for it.

2016 TOUR DATES:

Queensland Theatre Company, Brisbane (April 20 – 30)

Maleny Community Centre (May 4) + meet the cast for drinks on the deck

The Arts Centre Gold Coast (May 6 – 7)

Ipswich Civic Theatre (May 11)

Redland Performing Arts Centre (May 12)

Gladstone Entertainment Centre (May 14)

Glen Street Theatre, Sydney (May 17 – 22)

Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre (May 25 – 28)

13
Apr
16

Bastard Territory

 

Bastard Territory

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

April 6 – 16 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Everyone I spoke with before attending this play was terrified by the thought of a 3-hour commitment! But Bastard Territory doesn’t feel too long, thanks to a reasonably fast pace and light-hearted moments landing amongst some heavy themes. Playwright, Stephen Carlton, explores thoroughly and fairly efficiently, identity, belonging, and not.

While Act 1 takes its time to establish the human context, the detail is probably necessary to give us a complete picture of Russell’s world and its inhabitants. He’s on a mission to find out who he is and who his biological father might be. He tells his story from within, and from just outside of it.

A different set of eyes on the text (or the luxury of a longer rehearsal period –  just two weeks were available for the remount of this production) might allow the time and space for Carlton or Dramaturg, Peter Matheson, to take to it with a red pen. Act 2 is the tightest and most engaging of the three, exposing the truth about complex relationships and identity. It seals the deal: if we’re not with Russell by now we never will be.

The final act deals with new and renewed alliances, the tatters of the old torrid relationships, post-independence political fragments and new possibilities, but a sudden ending leaves us unsatisfied. This is perhaps intentional. There’s a feeling that Russell’s quest must continue and yet…it feels rushed, contrived. In fact, the final scene undoes a lot of good, with the token reappearance of a suitcase Russell had packed when he was eight years old, and the gift of a CD, the original vinyl record broken by Aspasia in a fit of childish rage. But surely she would have thought of giving that gift already, when CDs first became available years before, and she, older and wiser, first felt inclined to replace it? It’s illogical. Following this clumsiness, I would like to have seen the mother return home, to simply appear at the door. An even bigger cliche? Well, she has her Nora moment, but honestly, who else but Nora actually leaves her children? (Lagertha always returns to hers)…

Lauren Jackson is a vibrant and emotionally vulnerable Lois, the mother of our narrator. At first forlorn, conservative and entirely dependent in Port Moresby, she embraces the freedom of a more bohemian lifestyle after dabbling in the local amateur theatre scene and art class.

Witnessed by Russell, she meets men whom, one after another, he supposes in hindsight could have been his biological father. She learns to live silently with her husband, Russell’s “dad”, Neville; the younger, Peter Norton & the elder, Steven Tandy. Norton is inconsistent in applying the after-effects of a tragic event he chooses to endure in the line of duty; he’s more convincing later, in the less obtrusive role of Russell’s boyfriend, Alistair. Tandy is a stern, self-righteous father at the end of his political career, conflicted, and stubbornly keeping a firm grasp on a long string of lies as it begins to unravel. By the end of the play he earns our sympathy as only Tandy can, with a single poignant line.

Bender Helwend makes a sincere, if somewhat insecure Russell, conversing directly with us and leaping in and out of his additional roles with aplomb. A drag act may come across more confidently by the end of the season (after all, he’s rehearsed it or performed it every Friday night since he was eight years old! It should be of Priscilla standard), and the references to Tennessee Williams’ work will probably sound less obvious and more natural in this time too. Additional roles (Cleo/ Tinneka/Aspasia) are played by Ella Watson-Russell, another Corrugated Iron Youth Arts (pre-drama school) product.

Nanette (Suellen Maunder) represents the unavoidable small town type and makes this character appropriately annoying. A caricature, larger than life, like the people from the past our parents tell us about; constructed memories, formed piece by piece from the stories told time and time again. Everyone knows a meddling, smiling assassin like Nanette.

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The style, sweeping across three eras, is very meta from the outset, letting us in on the making and staging of a play, with frequent reminders that it’s just a story being told and the details could be inaccurate, but it’s Russell’s story and this is the way he tells it. I love this relaxed style of writing, casually, persistently working its way around vital political and personal issues, the things we most often gloss over in real life.

It’s an epic story, spanning oceans and decades to remind us just how complicated real life – and the relationships that really matter to us – can be.

Sean Pardy’s warm lighting makes available every space, although the economic direction forgets sometimes there is an upper level, to which eight year old Russell sometimes retreats. Director, Ian Lawson, plays nicely with pace and handles with care the high stakes and political points, bringing our attention neatly to the plight of anyone under someone else’s rule, including the wives of colonial community military leaders. His respect for the work and the writer is clear. No red pen will have made it into his hand.

Penny Challen’s set design is immediately interesting: the 2-storey timber floored skeletal structure serves abstractly as the basic Port Moresby accommodation, the Darwin bones after Cyclone Tracy has hit, and the vaguely flamboyant renovated gallery and bar. Challen’s costumes are more authentic in form, with the men in shorts and long socks (the – a-hem – trend at the time, which my father adopted, day after day in the DPI. You’ll still see it if you’re lucky, in some government departments and state school staff rooms), and the women in floral frocks and later, the kaftans of the seventies. Guy Webster’s super cinematic soundtrack successfully takes us through the years.

Bastard Territory precedes another new Australian (and abroad) family and political saga, Motherland, written by Katherine Lyall-Watson and staged originally at Metro Arts. These essential tales are boldly told and not easily forgotten. It will be fascinating to see what has become of Motherland with the bigger state theatre company budget behind it. In the meantime, Carlton’s Bastard Territory is thoroughly enjoyable; well worth the three hour commitment to Bille Brown’s seats, which are much more comfortable than those elsewhere.   

Production pics by Stephen Henry

 

14
Sep
15

Queensland Theatre Company’s Season 2016

 

tales of change – 10 powerful productions – the best Australian writing – top Australian talent

 

 

 

 

Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has revealed its highly anticipated Season 2016 featuring 10 powerful productions, including the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a groundbreaking collaboration between QTC and Dead Puppet Society. From Molière and Shakespeare, to local stories from around the corner, international masterpieces and the best Australian writing, QTC is set to celebrate ambition and achievement.

 

In unveiling his final season before he departs for Sydney Festival, QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 would engage and challenge on the need for bravery and moral fortitude in shifting times, providing a forum for debate, diversity and the driving of change.

 

Art is nothing if it doesn’t make you feel.

 

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Season 2016 opens in January at the Playhouse with the devilishly funny comedy that journeys into old age, Quartet. Writer Ronald Harwood takes on retirement with tenderness, grace and hope – but no self-pity – in this moving and all too truthful tale of the frustrations and fears of getting old. Andrea Moor, fresh from directing the smash hits Grounded and Venus in Fur pulls the stage strings while actors Christine Amor, Andrew McFarlane, Trevor Stuart and Kate Wilson thoroughly enjoy themselves in this bawdy romp through the golden years. The show will then go on to tour regional Queensland.

 

He saw the smoke from the nearby ridge. He knew what it meant. Someone was coming.

 

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Based on the award-winning novel by Kate Grenville, the acclaimed The Secret River, winner of six Helpmann Awards including Best Play, Best Direction and Best New Australian Work, is a powerful story of the bloody beginnings of colonial Australia, when pardoned convicts clashed with the traditional owners of the land they settled. The Sydney Theatre Company production brings together celebrated Australian director Neil Armfield and adaptor Andrew Bovell, with actors Nathaniel Dean, Trevor Jamieson, Matthew Sunderland and Ningali Lawford-Wolf to tell the deeply moving tale of two families divided by culture and land in this showstopping Queensland premiere.

 

 

Here’s an interesting read before you go Googling those Sydney reviews…and this, which I thought I’d remembered reading at the time; an excellent piece from James Waites. In this case, I recommend reading the comments as well…

 

Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps!

 

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In April, QTC presents Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jason Klarwein, with Ellen Bailey and Tama Matheson as the young starry-eyed couple, leading an all-star cast featuring Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets. This romantic sparring is the tale of two pairs of very different sweethearts starring some of the best acting talent in the country.

 

Love is what interests me. And love is indivisible from murder.

 

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In May, QTC leaves the Playhouse until October, making its home in the Bille Brown Studio (BBS). From award- winning Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith comes Switzerland, a stunning new two-hander starring Andrea Moor, in an effortless move from director to on-stage lead. This is a theatrical thriller with famed author Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) centre stage, having to pen one last devastatingly brilliant book.

 

Send a trained naturalist into the field and every new discovery will reassure him of what he already thinks he knows. Send a young man who knows nothing, and there’s no telling what he might find.

 

It’s just a simple thing, but it might just explain the whole world.

 

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In July, QTC and Dead Puppet Society, in another ground-breaking collaboration, will stage the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a coming-of-age story about science and faith that recounts the tale of a younger Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle.

 

The Wider Earth will be a piece of visual theatre, placing strong emphasis on the staging and use of theatrical devices to paint our own vision of Darwin’s world. That means puppets – a lot of them. More than we’ve ever made before. At the moment, our plans for the production include more than 30. From tiny beetles to southern right whales, to the iconic Galapagos turtles. We’re excited that this work will bring human performers and our trademark puppet characters together in a meaningful way that isn’t often seen in mainstream theatre,” said David Morton from Dead Puppet Society, who penned The Wider Earth and will also direct and design.

 

Our story is one of breaking down barriers. Of inclusion, not exclusion……Because what you do is more important than what you believe.

 

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St Mary’s in Exile opens at the Bille Brown Studio on August 27 and is a tale that would be beyond belief if it wasn’t true. Gripping and inspirational, the play strikes close to home, telling the story of beloved priest, Father Peter Kennedy, excommunicated from St Mary’s in South Brisbane for preaching acceptance and equality. Written by acclaimed Brisbane playwright David Burton, the show will shock and inspire, with a star-studded cast that includes Chenoa Deemal and Caroline Kennison, under director Jason Klarwein, also moving from actor to director seamlessly in Season 2016.

 

It comes from you. Islam has no monopoly on fundamentalism. It doesn’t come from a text.

 

disgraced_imagejohnlaurie

 

Novelist and screen writer Ayad Akhtar’s dynamite theatrical debut, Disgraced, comes to the Playhouse from Melbourne Theatre Company in October. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is a stirring tale that poses challenging questions about identity, tribalism and the fragility of friendships and will be directed by Nadia Tass, and includes the wonderful Mitchell Butel.

 

True, it is something altogether scandalous. A stranger in the house with no idea how to handle us; He arrives with no shoes, his clothes not worth a cracker. No sooner in the door, than he starts to wag his tail.

 

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Proving that centuries old tales still have the power to resonate with audiences, Tartuffe is a bawdy play about power, hypocrisy and gullibility, pillorying religious fanaticism and moral weakness. Adapted by Justin Fleming from French playwright Moliere’s sinfully brilliant 17th century comedy, it demonstrates that perhaps modern attitudes haven’t changed as much as we think. Ribald and riotously irreverent, Tartuffe is a co-production with Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company and features stage darlings Darren Gilshenan, Hugh Parker, Rose Reilly, Steve Turner, Alison Van Reeken and Alex Williams.

 

The Territory’s like a bastard child. Everyone’s got an opinion on how it should be brought up, but no one wants to stick around long enough to do it.

 

bastardterritory_imagedavidkelly

 

A little newer to Australian theatre is Bastard Territory, a confessional human drama about identity. This new Australian play from Brisbane-based writer Stephen Carleton, Bastard Territory mixes wry humour, raw insight and a killer 60s and 70s soundtrack, along with the talents of Benhur Helwend, Suellen Maunder and Peter Norton, for a powerful and affecting tale, directed by Ian Lawson.

 

When we left Russia, we didn’t look backwards. We held each other’s hands and we jumped, trusting we’d land safely.

 

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The finale for the 2016 Season is an elegant and sophisticated work. Based on fact, the epic and intimate Motherland is from Brisbane-based writer Katherine Lyall-Watson, and was recognised as a Patrick White Playwright’s Award Finalist. A tapestry of displacement and identity, it explores the casualties of love, ambition and politics.

 

 

Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 season was a collection of love letters to artists and audiences.

 

“There are shows that represent the plethora of conversations we have been having over the past four years and the wonderful rapport that we have been developing,” he said. “Theatre is a sacred place where opposing ideas are argued out to create drama, a place where audiences continue the discussion outside the theatre and where those ideas can take root in social movements. We all have examples of drama that changed our opinions, informed our positions or frustrated us. That is the joy of theatre; one of the last places where we can openly debate, be engaged and entertained.”

 

Now in its 45th year, QTC has a long history of performances that have engaged, entertained and sparked debate, and Season 2016 promises to celebrate diverse ideas.

 

The season announced today leads a full program of touring, education, children’s shows and more.

 

04
Nov
13

Motherland Charity Performance for Mater Private Hospital

Melbourne Cup celebrations with a difference: Four anonymous donors buy a night of performance to say thank you.

 

This year, rather then putting a flutter on the horses, four anonymous donors have bought a theatre for the night to thank the dedicated staff and volunteers from the Mater Private hospital.

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Because of their connection to the Mater Oncology Unit, the donors requested that their pledges be used to gift tickets for the Tuesday 5 November performance of MOTHERLAND to staff and volunteers of the Mater Private hospital.

One donor describes this “as a unique gift to thank the people who care for others in their time of need. The theatre is raw and alive with human emotion and stories, much like the inside of a hospital. Some moments are happy, and some are sad. The dedicated staff and volunteers from the Mater are there with you – they support you and your family though your individual journey. Shouting them a night out at the theatre, to see a wonderful new Brisbane play, is a small way we can say thank you.”

MOTHERLAND is co-presented by Metro Arts and Ellen Belloo as part of the Season of the Independents.

Shortlisted for the 2013 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, Katherine Lyall-Watson’s play MOTHERLAND opened to rave reviews on Wednesday 30 October at Metro Arts. Katherine Lyall-Watson says that she looks forward to “welcoming these special guests to the theatre. I feel humbled by the generosity of the donors who have made this night possible.”

Directed by Caroline Dunphy, and with a stellar cast of Brisbane’s favourite actors; including Barbara Lowing, Kerith Atkinson, Rebecca Riggs, Peter Cossar and Daniel Murphy – MOTHERLAND is an epic story, which spans the twentieth century, World War and the Russian Revolution.

At the heart of this story you will find a rich tapestry of friendship, displacement, home, and identity – a finely- crafted story of the casualties of love, ambition, and politics. MOTHERLAND is a contemporary piece of theatre that brings the stories of three remarkable real women to life.

Timeframes and locations collide and interweave as the actors play multiple characters in this fast-paced and passionate 90-minute theatrical depiction of true stories. Caroline Dunphy’s direction brings rigour and fierceness to this contemporary staging.

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane in 1906 Mater Health Services now cares for more than half a million babies, children and adults each year. Mater is committed to providing compassionate health care with an emphasis on the founding values of the Sisters of Mercy.

Charity Performance Details Event:

Tues 5 November 2013

Time: 7:30pm

Venue: Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts (109 Edward St, Brisbane)

ABOUT METRO ARTS

Metro Arts is a multi-artform incubator and site for experimentation, supporting and developing independent artists through a platform of space, mentoring, producing support, critical engagement and leadership.

04
Nov
13

Motherland

 

Motherland

Ellen Belloo & Metro Arts

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

30 October – 16 November 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

barblowing_motherland

 

Three women, exiled from their homelands, find their stories are woven together across continents and decades. Nell Tritton, the Brisbane wife of a deposed Russian prime minister, forms a close friendship with Nina Berberova, who is exiled in Paris. The woman who would tell their story is Alyona, a Russian curator who finds her dreams of a new Australian paradise crushed by bankruptcy and the Fitzgerald Inquiry. 

 

Katherine Lyall-Watson’s Motherland is fascinating, engaging, intriguing, compelling, gripping and incredibly moving. This is a most intelligent, and beautifully shared story; it’s so sweet and subtle, yet the subject matter runs deep. Motherland is the most elegant, most sophisticated theatrical work we’ve seen in Brisbane in years, and it’s worthy of a main stage season inclusion not just here but anywhere in the world.

 

The result of four years of research and writing, and shortlisted this year for the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, Motherland has enjoyed a print run by Playlab to coincide with the inaugural season at Metro Arts and it’s available to purchase online as well as at the venue.

 

It all begins at Pizza Hut, in Moscow. This is not where the play begins but it’s where this production – the first fully staged production after a reading in June this year – really takes off in terms of its storytelling. Everything becomes clear when a young boy (played by a grown man, Daniel Murphy) is left alone by his mother (Rebecca Riggs), while she goes to defend the barricades around Echo Moscow in the midst of the military coup of 1991. She returns to him and takes him to Brisbane with an Australian man (Peter Cossar), who promises they will return every year to their beloved Moscow.

 

The first five minutes are challenging, like Brisbane’s storm season, suddenly upon us last week, the light changing, the air thickening, and rain threatening to stop us in our tracks… But just like a Shakespearean text, or an Ancient Greek script, our ears and minds and hearts soon become attuned to the language and to the theatrical devices used specifically to tell this epic story.

 

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All time and no time, KERENSKY makes a speech to adoring thousands, NINA remembers, NELL dreams, ALONYA recites part of a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva and KHODASEVICH comments on the action.

CEO of Metro Arts, Liz Burcham, joked that the word ‘epic’ would be the one most used at the after party and she was right. In all senses of the word, Motherland is epic, a massive story, told over decades that weave together the real and imagined events of people’s lives during a revolution, two world wars and the Fitzgerald Inquiry. I know! It sounds impossible! Katherine has not only tied these events together, she has drawn characters of such warmth and depth that by the end of the 95-minute play we feel like we’ve known about them forever.

 

These intriguing characters move effortlessly between time and space, and there’s not a DeLorean in sight. As the story twists and turns, becoming more and more complex, incredibly, it begins to make more sense. I’ve heard a number of productions described as “rich tapestries” and here is one that rightly deserves to be known as such.

 
Motherland’s cast comes with vast knowledge and rich experience. Katherine says they are a “dream team”. They are

 

Kerith Atkinson – Nell

 

Peter Cossar – Kerensky / Chris

 

Barbara Lowing – Nina

 

Daniel Murphy – Khodasevich / Sasha

 

Rebecca Riggs – Alonya

 

I don’t want to single anybody out because I enjoyed each and every performance, the believability of relationships reliant on the truth of each role, and implicit trust established between the performers during the process. As a result of the creative team’s commitment to storytelling and their attention to detail, we miss nothing. I love the choice to employ accents only when speaking outside of the characters’ most intimate circle (a device that others have tried – and failed – to employ successfully), and I feel these actors give us the full gamut of emotions, wrapped up in the intimacy of lives that we had previously known nothing about. Props and set pieces (within a stark design by Annie Robertson, lit beautifully by David Walters), other than the hanging white frames, seem unnecessary and somewhat untidy, but this is a minor quibble and will matter not a wit to others.

 

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Despite losing a little of its pace and power almost three-quarters of the way through, Motherland begins with a bang, moves swiftly, succinctly, and ends so sensitively you’ll wonder where the time went and why you’re suddenly feeling utterly emotionally and mentally exhausted. The final image is one of power, beauty, and possibility. In the same moment it fills us with a deep sadness, and pure joy.

Dunphy’s inspired direction is faultless; it’s an intelligent and sensitive reading, gifting us with Lyall-Watson’s rich, concise words. Motherland marks the beginning of a new era of Australian playwriting, if only there are writers bold enough to follow in Lyall-Watson’s footsteps.

30
Oct
13

Motherland opens at Metro Arts tonight!

 

Three women, exiled from their homelands, find their lives are woven together across continents and decades…

 

motherland

 

Shortlisted  for  the  2013  Patrick  White  Playwrights’  Award,  Katherine  Lyall-­‐Watson’s  play Motherland  heads  for   the  stage  with  emerging  director,  Caroline  Dunphy,  and  a  stellar  cast  including  Barbara  Lowing,  Kerith  Atkinson,   Rebecca  Riggs,  Peter  Cossar  and  Daniel  Murphy.  Metro  Arts’  Season  of  the  Independents  presents  this  epic  story,   which  spans  the  twentieth  century,  World  War  and  the  Russian  Revolution.

 

Motherland  is  a  story  about  three  remarkable  real  women:  there’s  Nell  Tritton,  of  Brisbane’s  Tritton  furniture   emporium,  who  married  Russia’s  deposed  Prime  Minister,  Alexander  Kerensky,  and  helped  him  escape  from  the   Nazis  in  the  Second  World  War;  there’s  Nina  Berberova,  a  Russian  writer  living  in  exile  in  Paris  with  her  lover,  the   poet  Vladislav  Khodasevich;  and  there’s  Alyona,  a  Russian  museum  curator  stuck  in  Brisbane  at  the  height  of  the   Fitzgerald  Inquiry  when  her  Australian  husband’s  business  goes  bankrupt.

 

The  three  stories  are  woven  together  into  a  rich  tapestry  that  plays  with  history,  as  it  reveals  the  price  of  betrayal   and  the  lure  of  forbidden  love.

 

After  four  years  of  research  and  writing,  Katherine  Lyall-­‐Watson  is  still  just  as  intrigued  by  the  real  people  at  the   heart  of  the  play  as  she  was  on  the  day  she  started  writing.  “The  best  and  worst  thing  about  researching  history,”   she  says,  “is  that  it’s  never  finished.  It’s  been  four  years  and  Nell  is  still  an  enigma.  Her  family  helped  shape   Brisbane  and  her  life  was  extraordinary,  but  history  has  forgotten  her.  Writing  Motherland  has  been  a  way  to   bring  her  back  to  life  and  to  re-­‐imagine  some  of  the  moments  that  defined  her.”

 

Timeframes  and  locations  collide  and  interweave  as  the  actors  play  multiple  characters  in  this  fast-­‐paced  and   passionate  90-­‐minute  theatrical  depiction  of  true  stories.  Caroline  Dunphy’s  direction  brings  rigour  and  fierceness   to  this  contemporary  staging.

 

Metro  Arts  is  proud  to  present  the  premiere  production  of  Motherland.  Liz  Burcham,  CEO  of  Metro  Arts  says,   “Katherine  Lyall-­‐Watson  is  an  extremely  proficient  playwright  and  we  are  honoured  to  co-­‐present  the  very  first   production  of  her  writings.  Her  plays  need  to  be  seen.” Book here.

 

Motherland

 

07
Jun
13

Metro Arts Friday Nights and MORE!

 

So you’re not at Metro Arts tonight either?

 

We are missing out on Metro Arts Friday Nights!

 
The exciting Friday Nights program has proven to be a feature of Metro Arts’ program in the first half of the year. On the first Friday of each month, Metro Arts opens its door to share the artists’ space. It is an energetic and social environment for artists and audiences to be in direct conversation, a feast of visual and performing arts, panels, experiments and open studios are programmed alongside a lively foyer bar.

 

In the second half of 2013, Metro Arts continues to showcase Brisbane’s most vibrant contemporary artists’ work through a program of performances and exhibitions. Metro Arts is proud to announce key partnerships with leading cultural institutions in Brisbane: Jan Manton Art to present Platform 2013, Queensland Music Festival to present Lady of the House of Love, and Brisbane Festival as a hub for the presentation of seven local and international works.

 

With the support of Drama Queensland and Arts Queensland’s Playing Queensland Fund, Aurelian by Genevieve Trace will be touring regional Queensland between 16 August and 2 September, leading into its premier season at Metro Arts, as part of Brisbane Festival. Through its producing hub, Metro Arts is also co-presenting a season of The Human Company’s The Empty City at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of their annual children’s festival.

 

Residencies continue to dominate the program. Korean theatre maker and vocalist, Younghee Park, will be in residence to collaborate with Nathan Stoneham on the development of an adaptation of Brecht’s The Good Person to be presented at Next Wave Festival in Melbourne next year. Marcel Daniels and Daniel Herberg of Other Projects, continues their year-long residency exhibiting Changing Standards of Dialogues to close the Exhibition Program for the year.

 

Other key projects include the premier seasons of Motherland by Katherine Lyall-Watson, shortlisted for the 2013 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, and Marcel Dorney’s new work, Prehistoric.

 

Metro Arts continues to up the stakes. It’s extending beyond its capacity to facilitate opportunities and connections for artists by sharing resources, trafficking information and building exchange networks. Metro Arts is enabling the next step for a community of artists and demonstrating its commitment to growing the entire arts landscape.

 

The work never ends. As Metro Arts launches this exhilarating program, it is already in preparation for the next flood of artists and projects. Metro Arts is now receiving proposals for the 2014 Exhibition Program and the 2014 January – June Performance Makers Program.

 

 

APPLICATION FORMS AVAILABLE ONLINE AT WWW.METROARTS.COM.AU

 

Metro Arts

ABOUT METRO ARTS

 

Metro Arts is a multi-artform incubator and site for experimentation, supporting and developing independent artists through a platform of space, mentoring, producing support, critical engagement and leadership.

 

Wanna work with Metro Arts? A FOH Position is available. Details online.