Posts Tagged ‘oscar wilde

17
May
18

Wilde Life

 

WILDE LIFE

3bCreative

Bloomhill Centre

May 11 & 12 / May 18 & 19 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

Posturing peacocks, adolescent chicks, old boilers, egg bound breeding hens and even old cocks feature in this ornithological study of a rarified species in a most “un” natural habitat.

 

Anywhere Theatre Festival celebrates art and artists, and their impact on audiences by activating ordinary and often extraordinary spaces, staging performances anywhere but in theatres.

 

Presented by Sunshine Coast company 3bCreative, in a room on a purpose-built stage complete with makeshift wings and the audience seated in rows of chairs, Wilde Life is perhaps an unusual inclusion in this year’s festival.

 

Walking into Bloomhill Cancer Care, renowned for its whole-hearted staff and beautiful natural bushland setting, the expectation – set high due to well-honed and widely distributed marketing material – was partially met by smiling eyes behind a terrific bar setup outside, the entire enclosed verandah decorated with calla lilies and fairy lights. With the exterior atmosphere established, we assumed the show would be delivered in the same space, or beyond, in the gardens. What the production lacks in imagination, in terms of its staging, is made up for by its costumes, beautifully designed and crafted, boasting peacock plumage and Victorian era shapes and textures that perfectly support the roles, created to highlight the similarities between high society and the natural behaviour of birds.

 

An outstanding performance by Alana Grimley (Juvenile Female) is reminiscent of some of the best Cagebirds ever seen on the Sunshine Coast, a company of senior drama students at my alma mater in 1989. Even without being familiar with that seminal piece, the posturing and preening of the characters in Wilde Life will make perfect sense to audiences. If not, there are always the program notes, which explain the parallel behaviour of the species and those well bred ladies and gents of the Victorian era upper classes, written about so wittily by Oscar Wilde.

 

Joining Grimley on stage to share excerpts from Wilde’s work are Helen Duffy (Breeding Hen), Libby Glasson (Juvenile Male – a breeches role), Joy Marshall (Mature Hen), Jody Collie (Mature Cock) and Kennedy Fox (Jack Dawe). Overly indulgent and slightly insecure narration from Fox as lecturer/emcee slows the pace for me, and the show feels longer than its 70 minutes, but for others appears to be highly amusing and engaging at every moment. Such is the broad appeal of live theatre comprising solid source material and committed performances. It’s an older audience on opening night, generous with their laughter and applause, enjoying this old-school style of performance. Some excellent scene work, particularly in excerpts from The Importance of Being Earnest, provided some of the more entertaining moments from Grimley, Duffy, Glasson, Marshall and Collie.

 

Created by Anne Grant and Julie Bray, and directed by Grant with musical direction by Stephen Cronin, Wilde Life is a more traditional theatrical production, delivered in a more theatrical setting, but if you love the wit and flourish of The Irish Peacock, you’ll enjoy this offer immensely.

 

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02
May
15

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

 

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Brisbane Powerhouse & Metro Arts

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

April 22 – May 2 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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WARNING: This work contains nudity, sexually explicit material and poetry

 

 

On opening night Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis was cancelled due to technical problems so I had to find another night to go back to see it. It was a Wednesday night, nothing unusual about that, except all was not well with the world. With social media and our heads and hearts full of mixed feelings for the events going down in Bali at the time, there was already a slightly tragic and fragile air to proceedings. Terrified of being locked out and missing the show completely – even Kris Stewart wasn’t allowed into the theatre when he got there late the previous night – I arrived early, having driven through sunset and drizzling rain to be there with time to spare and discover plenty of empty parking spaces. I love Brisbane Powerhouse parking. (South Brisbane, why must you charge us so much to visit your venues?).

 

 

A capacity crowd queued all the way up the stairs and back to Box Office (it seems everybody now knows about the strict lock out policy!), and it took an extraordinarily long time for bodies to find seats. Actually, it probably wasn’t a long time at all, but Brian Lucas was already standing, naked, in a corner of white canvas walls, which would be his prison cell for the evening. It must have felt like an eternity for him.

 

 

The words and images projected across the canvas are integral to the production, helping to stitch disparate thoughts together and reiterate particular points, thoughts, names, dates. Flowers bloom and swirl like psychedelic digital postcards of time-lapsed desert wildflowers and quotes thrown across the walls are repeated. And repeated. And repeated. Combined with lighting states lulling us into a false sense of security before brightening and making us face facts again, I can understand why the opening night performance didn’t go ahead. It’s a challenging text and I’m pleasantly surprised to see just how well the elements combine – nothing corny or gimmicky in the design or the performance – to give us multiple ways in to this production.

 

 

I was worried that any contemporary adaptation of De Profundis would be the wrong sort of gritty; impenetrable, all doom and gloom, making us feel miserable, desperately hopeless and ultimately alone. Instead I was able to tell industry friends after the show that I’d enjoyed it! They looked at me strangely… #whatevs

 

 

Since seeing the show and actually stopping to write about it the question of what a reviewer should offer to artists and audiences has come up again across multiple social media platforms. Does it ever go away? I hope not. It’s a necessary conversation and one which, I’m pleased to say, the artists I know are always willing to continue.

 

 

I asked Lucas what he would hope to get from somebody responding to his work in any sort of formal, official sense. So, for current and future reference…

 

 

1. An honest response

 
2. An informed response

 
3. Constructive criticism, and

 
4. A sense of the “big picture” context (both in the immediate ecology of the sector, and in the on-going history/future of the sector).

 

 

Wilde was imprisoned and initially deprived of his books and writing materials so you can imagine the outpouring that occurred once he was given pen and paper towards the end of his incarceration. The 50 000-word letter to his ex-lover became De Profundis, and the musings and imaginings of Lucas and Director/Co-Creator David Fenton became this very intense version of the work. The stars above and the 1970s Tupperware toned linoleum floor beneath place us quite succinctly, without any fuss, within two worlds, two eras not so very far apart.

 

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In the intimate Visy Theatre there’s no hiding from Lucas’s measured gaze or his (mostly) warm, articulate words.

 

 

It’s a very personal experience, as if he’s speaking just to me…to each of us. The audience vibe is open, admiring, appreciative, contemplative. The industry peeps are here with members of the general public. There is something profound if that’s what you’re looking for, and something very simple if you want to take away a simple, single message. There are moments of pin-drop silence and stillness.

 

 

Lucas wears his nakedness completely naturally and performs his slightly more gratuitous acts as if he were alone in the space, however; there remains a distinct knowing that someone is always watching. (We’re privy to every other move he makes so why not microphone fellatio and masturbation?!).

 

 

Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis will return, there’s no doubt about that.

 

 

But I wonder how well it would ever work without Lucas? His movement, physicality and simple, raw realisation of the character without historical endowments or embellishments is beautiful. He’s an extraordinary performer. I just hope he’s cleared his schedule because this piece will surely bring Brian Lucas back to the Powerhouse before taking him around the world.

 

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