Posts Tagged ‘nathan sibthorpe

08
Dec
18

Crunch Time

 

Crunch Time

Metro Arts & Counterpilot

TAFE South Brisbane Norman Price Theatre

December 5 – 15 2018

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

In a dark chamber at the Norman Price Theatre, South Brisbane TAFE, seven diners including myself are seated at a table. The surface undulates with a virtual table cloth, projected from technology above. Waiters stand at attention against dark walls, and director Nathan Sibthorpe sits at a computer console nearby. Some diners have come together, however mostly we’re strangers, and we attempt awkward introductions and polite chit-chat as we wait.

 

The Good The Bad and The Ugly by Morricone underscores a sudden flurry of animated activity on the table. The pre-recorded voice of Lauren Jackson explains the rules of the game. We’re given tokens; a ‘tick in a box’ – a branded icon of Crunch Time created on a 3D printer. The projector throws selections upon the table, and we place our tokens on our respective choices, the system then calculating our consensus. We’re told the majority have voted for sparkling water. We then vote similarly on red wine, white wine, or beer.

 

Images of a commercial kitchen appear in virtual plates on the table, and we’re introduced to the guest, and self-confessed mediocre cook, Fiona Ward, a manager with Queensland Performing Arts Centre. She tells us that she’s eight metres away in a kitchen ready to prepare our meals. While charming and impromptu, she reads as if unrehearsed, from either cue cards or teleprompt off-camera. Her dialogue, deliberately scripted and superficial, as if to reference the banal discourse of Australian TV cooking shows such as Huey’s Cooking Adventures, and Good Chef Bad Chef.

 

We vote on the ingredients for a starter, ultimately settling on egg, rice paper rolls, corn, coriander and soy sauce. Ingredients are then submitted to the kitchen for a sort of mystery box test for Ward, (who has helpers) while, Jackson’s voice-over coldly asks us at random about our food experiences, expectations, favourite foods, and allergies. We’re then presented with our dishes, and dine on the creations of our democratic making. The structure is then repeated over five courses.

 

Uniquely immersive and as an interactive dining experience, this is a slick, digital confluence of a board game, a game show, and a reality cooking show. As a participant it’s not hard to imagine the concept’s possibilities if applied to broader domestic, and consumer products like a restaurant, or a home entertainment system.

 

Execution of the sound engineering and multi-media technology are of the highest order, extremely clever and genuinely exciting to engage with. Participants seemed to genuinely enjoy the evening. However, as there were no conventional narrative or dramatic elements, the content and strength of the show is reliant, in part, on the diner’s social skills and interactions to fill gaps. With Jackson’s pre-recorded voice over, and Ward’s teleprompter live-feed, diners turn inward to escape the game’s digital isolation and superficial, consumer cultural aspects.

 

Subsequent dishes, again democratically elected by us, included a pumpkin and coconut cream mash with paprika chickpeas and carrot, seasoned beef strips with rosemary and couscous, a deconstructed Hawaiian pizza, and a Kahlua, liquorice and ice cream thickshake. Meanwhile, we’re treated to a fantastic sound system of eclectic music: Jazz, Beethoven’s 9th, Chopin’s Waltz in C# Minor, Verdi’s’ Requiem.

 

The food is lacklustre, and no offence to Ward; we know she’s chosen for political reasons. The program blurb says each performance has nominated a particular individual from a sphere of political or artistic influence to play cook. However, for this reason she is underutilised, relegated to the kitchen, reading meaninglessly from cue cards, and preparing our meals without political contribution. Given the old maxim one should never discuss politics at the dinner table, I concede this was avoided at risk of being divisive and unfun. Nevertheless, here we are, at a show which purports to be premised on dining and the politics of modern democracy. Neither of which are boldly executed.   

 

The main character here is the technology, and Crunch Time feels like a pilot concept with the capability of sitting within a much greater dramatic idea. Rather than a conventional show, it’s more a vehicle showcasing the potential of the interactive technology, which was truly mesmerising. However, with some better plotting, and dramaturgy, the structure could be lifted from its monotonous and predictable repetition, in which participants are busied answering arbitrary questions about capsicum or dill.

 

Going over two hours, the experience could’ve been shorter with fewer courses, and with more activities that facilitated interaction and debate. While the show’s underpinning influences may have been political tribalism and the disillusion of democracy, those concepts were seemingly absent.

 

In his program note, Director, Nathan Sibthorpe describes the catalyst for Crunch Time, “…we saw general populations vote for Trump, Brexit and the return of One Nation. I was deeply shocked by all three. I couldn’t find anyone in my immediate community who supported these ideologies!”

 

At one point during the evening, a diner confessed to having a dairy intolerance, even sharing her medication as proof. Nevertheless, the group, unempathetic to her appeals, voted for cheddar. What does this say about democracy? About us? Sibthorpe opines, “…democracy demands that we listen to the people that we don’t know. It demands we cooperate. Try to understand. At the end of the day, we’re all eating at the same table and we all have to eat!”

 

While foreshadowing a change in the way we understand theatre, Crunch Time is a terrific concept show. While seemingly dishing up consumer friendly fluff, it poses a foreboding conundrum about the underpinning narcissism lurking behind the veil of democracy.

18
Nov
17

Spectate

 

SPECTATE

Counterpilot

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

November 7 – 8 2017

 

Reviewed by Amelia Walker

 

 

When you purchase a ticket to see a show, perhaps taking a friend or loved one along on a well-deserved night out, do you imagine that you’ve escaped the responsibilities of your day-to-day life?

 

Does a 90-minute production help you feel as if you’ve broken out of the shackles, the bars, or the straightjacket that locks you inside the monotony of a regular life?

 

Do you feel any guilt for your viewership?

 

Brisbane-based innovators of theatre, Counterpilot, have brought together elements of live performance, technology, and the flare of illusion in order create their trans media work, Spectate. Houdini, struggling through his final performance, is at the heart of the work, with intercutting flashes of his personal life, layers of commentary, and contemporary references framing his story.

Houdini may be known for creating spectacles of illusionary and wondrous feats, but Spectate unravels the mystery and reveals the trick: behind the smoke and mirrors is a man. A human man. And just like his audience, that man isn’t sure what to believe in either.

Counterpilot didn’t make the regular theatrical attempt to perfectly represent the narrative’s location through their set, saving the real ‘how did they do that’ reaction for their use of technology. This choice deflected focus from noticing how beautifully a costume was sewn, or how realistic a window appeared to be, and instead allowing me to observe the impressive nature of constructing a show like Spectate.

This use of technology has ensured that audiences not just consider what they are seeing, but evaluate why they are seeing it at all. Wearing headphones for the majority of the show, audiences are enrolled in layers of inner-dialogue from regular theatregoer characters. These people whose inner-thoughts I was privy to, had a life that could be physically interacted with. But whilst I could hear the coughs in the soundscape, and even text with an old friend of one of the characters, the show is an unusually isolating experience.

Journeying through the life of Houdini (Toby Martin) was a compelling look at how this man was at odds with his ability to create illusions but inability to believe in anything without evidence. However, this narrative didn’t capture me the way the inner-dialogue characters managed to. What kept me invested in the outcomes of Houdini’s performances was the evaluation of the role of an audience member escaping their regular life, who is ironically frustrated when the man regaled for his ability to escape, fails to deliver the magic.

The impressive optical illusions mainly constructed by Martin & Cameron Clark, in role as a stage technician, were all built onstage in plain view. Counterpilot weren’t trying to pull wool over eyes; they instead had me wonder why people wanted to be fooled in such a way in the first place. Where was the joy in seeing something you know is a trick?

 

I came to think that perhaps it is only human to want to escape a world where science leaves no room for doubt, no room for magic, and where the limitations of life can be despairing. This appeared to be the point of focussing on Houdini’s escape story; his obsession with dismantling faith with evidence only led him to despair.

 

Martin’s performance humanised a sensationalised man, and his depiction of surmounting stress was done subtly and effectively, rather than falling back on the descriptions delivered by the inner-dialogue character to carry the meaning. This wasn’t always the case with the illusions themselves, as the headset had to lead my experience of being discontent with the illusions Houdini was performing. The thread of the breakdown could have been woven into the set design so as to support Martin’s growing fatigue, but in all other facets the work dematerialised wondrously.

The project ambitiously interweaves live and pre-recorded sound and visuals throughout the on-stage performance not only to tell the story, but to point at what the artists are doing. Referencing the creation of theatre and the act of deciding to be an audience member may appear to be a message just for the arts community, but I would argue there’s a larger appeal.

 

 

Spectate suggests that it is not just an artist’s vice to want to escape the reality of life, but a human endeavour. Whether it be picking up a book, or watching TV, or creating art, we will find a way to leave behind our responsibilities, even at the cost of someone else’s’ safety and sanity. Perhaps we should feel guilty for this. Perhaps we shouldn’t ask a man who’s clearly swept up in his own issues to perform death-defying stunts so that we don’t have to think of the bills we have to pay later, or our work colleague we hate.

 

Although perhaps we can’t help ourselves.

 

I want more, and with Counterpilot’s promising body of work, I will certainly be looking to fill that desire.

22
Jul
13

Nathan Sibthorpe Talks Short+Sweet 2013

Nathan Sidthorpe

This week Meredith caught up with Nathan Sibthorpe, this year’s Short+Sweet Festival Manager.

She found out what he’s been up to recently, and what you can expect at Short+Sweet 2013.

 

I saw your work with Delicacy, which was fantastic if not a little macabre; will you be bringing the same ferocity from your direction to the direction and management of the festival?

I had the pleasure of assistant directing DELICACY under the vision of Lucas Stibbard. DELICACY was a unique sort of play – the kind that makes your stomach turn yet leaves you hungry at the end. Although I don’t believe any vital organs are going to be severed, I know that there are a few plays in Short+Sweet that might give you those slightly uneasy feelings – but in only the best of ways! Of course in a strand of up to eleven short plays, I reckon there should be enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite. Kind of like theatrical tapas!

 

I know you’re managing both the Gold Coast and the Brisbane circuits. I can’t wait to see what you do in Kelvin Grove’s The Loft, but do you think it’ll be tough juggling the workload?

So Short+Sweet this year is made up of four strands, each featuring a selection of ten-minute plays by local artists. Two strands will be performed on the Gold Coast, and then two in Brisbane. All up there are about 35 short plays to keep the festival going. It’s a tough juggle at times, but all of the artists are fiercely independent, and their passion holds everything together! They’re very good at supporting the festival that supports them.

 

You claim to be the Geek-In Residence, what gives you such a title?

Ha! In actual fact, it’s the Australia Council for the Arts that gives me that title! Well, them in combination with Queensland Theatre Company. My role at QTC started off as a funded position from the Australia Council, as part of their Geek-in-Residence program. I was recognised as a theatre-maker who actively experiments with digital technologies in live performance. I’m also the Twitter guy, the video guy, and the “which iPad app could help me solve this task?” guy.

 

Can I get any gossip about what to expect at Short+Sweet 2013?

Well, I don’t want to give away too much…. But look out for sexy handcuff pranks, intricate shadow puppets, dangerous spontaneity, feminine hygiene in 19th century England, people finding love, people losing love, people inventing what love could be … Body bags, wrecking balls, serial killers, symbolic balloons, a mime, a pig, a runaway bride, the evil undead… Secrets will be declared, someone will be humiliated, fights will break out, cake will be spilled, someone will die, the world will end, and dancing will happen. In ten minutes or less.

 

I’ve seen a few articles now saying this year’s is going to be refreshing, is that just hype or can we expect something different?

I think the festival is really growing. This year the standard of work has been really exciting. We’ve got more artists, more plays, and some of the shows are really going to push beyond expectations. It’s particularly exciting to have people like Catarina Hebbard directing, not long after she directed a MainStage show at QPAC for Queensland Theatre Company…. And then Sven Swenson, an award-winning playwright contributing to the pool of scripts. It’s also worth noting that this year is my first year managing the festival – that’s something different for sure! I know I’m finding it refreshing!

 

Have you been dealing with the selection process directly? If so, what speaks to you as a worthy script and performance for the show?

I have been very closely involved with the selection process this year, which has been an absolute privilege. I’m really interested in scripts that can promise theatricality, that know how and why they are a piece of theatre. I also want these plays to surprise us, to show us something we haven’t seen before, or to make us feel as though we’ve been a part of something bigger. Diversity is also a key factor of this festival – to make sure that each play has a different flavour, something unique to offer. You might hate one that everyone else loves and then fall in love with one that nobody else understands.

 

I saw some of the shows at last year’s Short+Sweet festival in The Loft, would you borrow a leaf from last year’s book or try to make this your own creation?

I think this year will have a bit of a different feel to last year. As well as there being more plays, there are also bigger concepts and challenging forms. One play relies on skilful shadow puppetry; another tells a story using only one word at a time. The script selections were incredibly competitive this year, so I’m confident that we’ve got some very exciting stories to tell. I’ll also say that we’re often going to have a hell of a mess to clean up after the performances!

 

Last year’s winners were well deserved, but what’s in it for this year’s yet to be known victors of Short+Sweet 2013? What sort of prizes or accreditations can they expect and do you think it’ll launch some of the more independent or younger competitors? As much as it is a festival it is most certainly a competition too, we mustn’t forget that.

 

Additional prizes are not yet announced for this year, but every award comes with an original sculptural trophy hand-made by an emerging artist from the Brisbane Institute of Art. There’s also something to be said about the value of the accreditation! After I won the Best Director award in 2011, my CV suddenly started working in my favour. And you might remember Dead Puppet Society got their first big break after winning the Short+Sweet Award in 2009!

 

An exciting extra incentive has only been introduced in recent years – that the overall winner of Short+Sweet QLD will win a coveted spot in the Sydney Short+Sweet Festival in 2014! (SRT’s So Where Is It? won this coveted spot in 2012 – Ed).

 

It’s getting close to the show now, less than a month away. Would you do it all again if they asked you back next year?

For sure!

 

Thanks so much for chatting, Nathan. I look forward to seeing the show in August. 

Thanks Meredith, look forward to seeing you at the festival!

Short+Sweet 2013 dates will be running as follows. Make sure to get your ticket.

 

GOLD COAST

The Arts Centre, Gold Coast

 

STRAND ONE – MAINSTAGE
Tues 30 Jul, 7pm
Wed 31 Jul, 7pm
Thurs 1 Aug, 7pm
Fri 2 Aug, 7pm

 

STRAND TWO – WILDCARDS
Sat 3 Aug, 7pm
Sat 3 Aug, 7pm

 

BRISBANE

The Loft, Kelvin Grove

 

STRAND THREE – MAINSTAGE
Tues 20 Aug, 7pm
Thurs 22 Aug, 7pm
Sat 24 Aug, 7pm

 

STRAND FOUR – MAINSTAGE
Wed 21 Aug, 7pm
Fri 23 Aug, 7pm
Sat 24 Aug, 3pm

 

GALA FINAL
Sun 25 Aug, 3pm
Sun 25 Aug, 7pm

06
Aug
12

Iphigenia 2.0

Iphigenia 2.0

Vena Cava Productions

Woodward Theatre Kelvin Grove

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

(And posted late, with my sincere apologies to Meredith and my congrats to Vena Cava on their sell-out season! – Ed).

IphigeniaI knew I was dealing with a play rooted in the old texts of ancient playwrights. Vena Cava, as part of their second Mainhouse performance in which a classic text is adapted, chose a piece wonderfully vivid with emotional carnage. Euripides meets Charles Mee’s creation, Iphigenia 2.0. It reminds me of the famous section in the Sistine Chapel titled “The Creation of Adam”; God’s hand touching man’s fingertip. That’s what I feel like when even simply reading Mee’s work. It is as if Euripides had spoken to Mee himself.

But tonight was not an evening with Charles Mee. Tonight I was interested to see how Vena Cava at QUT would go about bringing this crowded text to life. Heavy themes can easily drag a production down if the cast cannot hold the weight on their shoulders. However I didn’t doubt the QUT students under Dave Sleswick’s guidance would falter. In fact they rose to the challenge eagerly and brought the house down instead.

Light is never truly appreciated until you have to find it in the dark. Leaving the audience uneasy in the shadows with eerie music leering from the house speakers I was already excited. Then we’re lit up to find a neo industrial chic about the stage. Tires, wire fences, lockers and military clothes hang about. But the first words do not come so quickly. Before Agamemnon brought hauntingly to life and misery by Pavle Banovic even begins addressing the audience the rigid choreography of the troops set a context for us. A peculiar, militant procession underpins the theme of sacrifice.

But the cast only chains themselves to a universal melancholy for so long before the tension snaps. The fluid motions of the script let a disturbing message creep up on the audience then withdraws fire quickly before feeling overly preachy. We watch our soldiers lurch into a new atmosphere of rage or even romance. At times the comedy distilled in certain scenes is even more striking than the painful ones. A Douglas Coupland-like mannerism of reference to consumerism and popular culture completes the antics of the cast. Even so much as tweaking certain lines to more Australian colloquialisms that everyone can chuckle at.

The violent nature of the power play between Agamemnon and Menelaus is a cold static that ripples in the room. When Menelaus played by Benjamin Warren shares macabre tales of war that make the stomach squirm Agamemnon’s reaction make the heart quicken. Both  Pavle Banovic and Benjamin Warren equally frighten and endear the audience. It is an excellent display by both of the young actors.

The collective as soldiers is another level of performance entirely. They bring to light the questions no one wants to ask. What is right and wrong in war? What is supposed to be fair and what is classified as unjust? Are we doing the wrong things for the right reasons? The troupe commit emotionally and physically for the role at hand. I’m told morning jogs, rigid exercise and a militant mentality is instilled before and during every show. Their dedication to the chaos in certain scenes is an electrifying force

Dave Sleswick in his first collaboration with Vena Cava has set a high standard for himself if he plans to work with them again. How he tops this production I would be eager to find out. Iphigenia 2.0 is a petrifying array of love and violence that will keep you chained to your seat much like the soldiers are chained to the war machine.

The war ended on 4th of August.

CREATIVES

Director

Dave Sleswick

Assistant Director

Kathleen O’Sullivan

Production Manager

Mitchell Chamberlain

Assistant Production Manager

Catherine Lilly-Howe

Stage Manager

Rebekah MacCarthy

Assistant Stage Manager

Tara Kingi

Production Designer

Kristy Kuhnert

Assistant Production Designer

Nikiesha Stevenson

Lighting Designer/AAD Head of Productions

Christine Hartley

Assistant Lighting Designer/Operator

Emma Wildman

Sound Designer/Operator

Samuel Boyd

ENSEMBLE

Steph Allsopp

Pavle Banovic

Thomas Bartsch

Jackson Blair-West

Zoe Cobon

Rafaela Diaz-Byers

Kitty Gatling

Rachel Gobel

José Gonda

Joey Lai

Ray Ann Roborg-Sondergaard

Lia Stark

Steph Tandy

Tom van Kalken

Anzjuli Venter

Ben Warren

Amy Wollstein

Tim Winter

NEXT at The Woodward Theatre

voice

Voice + This That Nothing is a double bill of original performance works by Nathan Sibthorpe and Blancanvas Productions.

All Tickets $12
Door Sales Only
Cash Only
Wed 8th + Thurs 9th Aug 7.30pm
Woodward Theatre
QUT Kelvin Grove
As a result of their participation in FAST Festival, both shows will be presented in Melbourne later this month, with support from La Trobe University Student Theatre and Film.

Before they take the leap down south, Voice + This That Nothing will be presented in The Woodward Theatre this week for two fundraising preview performances, supported by Vena Cava Productions. 2 nights only. Door sales only.

this that nothing