Posts Tagged ‘QPAC

19
Apr
17

Behind Closed Doors with EDC

WHAT: Behind Closed Doors

WHERE: QPAC Playhouse

WHEN: Friday 19 May to Saturday 27 May 2017

A sneak peak ahead of the season…

By Ruth Ridgway

Behind Closed Doors

Coming up in Expressions Dance Company’s 2017 season is the new work Behind Closed Doors. Choreographer Natalie Weir and the dancers explore what lies behind the façade of outward appearance, and turn the audience into voyeurs. Taking us into the private lives of hotel guests and staff, they reveal human nature in its darkness, fragility, and playfulness. Behind Closed Doors features live jazz played by the contemporary music ensemble Trichotomy.

An interview with Natalie Weir, Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company

What inspired you to create Behind Closed Doors? Is it connected with your 2010 work While Others Sleep, which explores what happens at night in a hotel?

Yes, this is a re-visioning of While Others Sleep, taking some of the central ideas but we’ve moved into different areas this time. I’ve always been interested in voyeurism. I did a work called Insight years ago here at EDC, also with Greg Clarke, the designer. It used the Edward Hopper painting, ‘Night Windows’ as its inspiration and it was about looking through an apartment’s window. While Others Sleep in 2010 had so many ideas within it that I thought were great and I wanted to take to another level. I also wanted to work with Trichotomy again. Our audiences have grown and many have not seen the work, so why not set it in a hotel again and put it on a main stage? It has so many elements that are of interest to the audience and so many short stories within it. The audience have all stayed in a hotel and may relate to the story.

How did you and Trichotomy work together on Behind Closed Doors? Has music been especially composed for this work?

The music is part of Trichotomy’s quite extensive body of work over many years with a lot of pieces composed by Sean Foran. Sean is such an amazing person to work with – everything is easy. I felt like we really gelled when we worked together the first time. I’ve listened to a lot of his original music and this time I’ve spent a lot of time listening to his new stuff. There’s a lot of talking backwards and forwards with Sean. He alters his original music for me to match what I need, and then finds a way to blend the scenes together. Music is extremely stimulating and, because it’s jazz, it immediately sets the mood. When creating the show I imagined that Sean and the band are in the lobby playing in an expensive hotel. The music has a lot of range. It can be cool, sexy jazz but can also be very dramatic and dark. When we get into the rehearsal studio with the band they will watch the choreography and will be able to respond to the dancer in front of them – there might even be some improvisation. We’re lucky also to be joined by Rafael Karlen on Saxophone and vocalist Kristin Berardi. The great thing about these guests is that, not only are they amazing but, because they are a saxophonist and a singer, they can move around the stage and can become part of the action.

How did you and the dancers create the work? Did you create characters and a narrative for the characters, or did you follow particular themes or concepts?

Some of the characters have remained from While Others Sleep and some are quite new. I usually enter the studio with a strong idea of the characters and talk to the dancers about it – and then it’s collaboration between the dancers and me. They create a lot of the movement themselves and I direct it. They also research their characters, which is great because it takes them on a journey through the work. It’s my job to direct the dancers into the right place and to pull all the parts together. This is a big work with a lot of different parts including a set that moves and revolves, so I make sure this comes together seamlessly and keep the direction of the work moving forward. The dancers aren’t dancing what I tell them – it comes from them and then I shape it. I don’t tell them how to be a character they make that decision and own it, which makes it far more personal

The publicity for Behind Closed Doors has a ‘noir’ feel to it, but also mentions playfulness and fragility. How would you describe the balance of the moods and emotions in the work?

It is a balancing act because there are moments that are light and frivolous and others that are very dark. It’s finding a way to structure the work so that each of the moments has a time to be, but not detract from the other and that’s about finding the through line from the work from start to finish. Once you have all the parts you have to bring them together and the work has to be larger than the sum of the parts. While each part has its part as a small story and is part of the theme, it’s the strong narrative that brings it together. Some of the scenes go into the absurd and tongue-in-cheek and it wonders through the landscape of the human psyche. I think it will be very entertaining but it definitely has some depth and guts.

The publicity images of Elise May and Richard Causer in evening dress are very glamorous. Can you tell us more about the costumes and design of the work

The show is set in a very classy hotel and the costumes are designed to range from being quite real through to being quite fantastical. There are so many characters and scenes and the costumes are really important in bringing out the story and the images of the work and making us believe that the characters are real. Greg Clarke, the designer, has been influenced by the photography of Gregory Crewsden and films such as Blue Velvet and Mystery Train. There’s men’s suits, some glamorous dresses and even some underwear. And then some fantasy items that you need to see to understand! The design is really stunning. The costume design exposes the characters and helps inform the audience about who these people are and where they’re from.

The work can put the audience into the role of voyeur. How do you think they may feel about this? How has this potential audience response influenced the creation of the work?

At times the audience are like voyeurs watching something that perhaps they shouldn’t be, as if looking through a window or a door, but other times the characters really take the audience on their journey. That’s when the magic happens – the audience goes from being a voyeur to feeling like they believe in these characters and feel joy, sadness and darkness alongside them. It should be a wonderful theatrical experience for the audience because the gamut of the work is so broad from quite funny to very sad. It will be a roller-coaster ride. Isn’t that what theatre should do – transform the audience…?

Finally, what do you hope the audience takes away with them from Behind Closed Doors?

I know the audience will leave in absolute admiration at the beauty and physicality of the dancers and they will be in raptures over the incredible music played live. Having the musicians on stage playing live changes the theatrical experience. I hope the audience will recognise moments of their own lives, or someone they know within the work, and I hope they come away smiling and feeling moved. To connect to the audience is my ultimate aim. This work does not seek to alienate anyone, but to connect them. I always say that dance has the power to move people, even when you’re not sure why, and that’s its ultimate power.

Two quick questions for dancer Elise May:

What have you always wanted to know about what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ in a hotel?

As a dancer I’ve spent countless time checking in and out of hotel rooms on tour. There is a certain an allure to the homogenised hotel experience, no matter where you travel there are crisp white sheets, city views and monochrome corridors. But when you spend enough time in hotels you begin to notice the coming and going of other guests and wonder about the reasons for their stay or observe the odd hours that people keep. On occasions I have even started to project my imagination into the enclosed private spaces on the other side of the walls or behind the hotel doors… What is happening in the room beside mine? In a very identical room a very different scenario might be playing out, what could it possibly be? The inner private worlds of others has been a topic of interest in popular culture for some time. The concept of voyeurism has been featured in films such as ‘Rear Window’, ‘Minority Report’, American Beauty and countless others. For me, this fascination with the private lives of others is really an interesting starting point for a creative work and provides lots of meaty areas of exploration in terms of character development and movement creation. 

Can you briefly describe your role(s) in Behind Closed Doors, and how you have prepared for them?

My role in Behind Closed Doors is that of a lonely woman who is dealing with feelings of vulnerability and loss of her recently departed husband. We see her character first in the earlier stages of their relationship when they visited the hotel on their honeymoon. The romantic getaway was one of perfection in her memory and is an experience that comes back to haunt her as she returns to the hotel after his death. In an attempt to reconcile her feelings of grief and move on with her life she travels on quite an emotional journey throughout the work. In preparing for this role physically I have experimented with many different qualities of movement from abandoned, flung, weighty movements to angular, anguished and sharp dynamics. My role also involves a lot of incredibly intricate and sculptural partner work which is Natalie Weir’s choreographic forte. In researching the role I also looked into the 5 (or 7) stages of grieving as coined by psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross which can manifest as a mixture/ or ‘jumble’ of strong emotions experienced by those who face major life changes including loss, the prospect of death or the death of a loved one. Although my role deals with some very heavy content, I think Natalie’s choreography weaves these scenes and characters together in a way which is poetic and really casts a microscope or possibly even a mirror over the human condition.

Natalie Weir's Behind Closed Doors. EDC. Image shows EDC's Richard Causer 2. Image by Jeff Camden COLOUR.low res. jpg

Two quick questions for dancer RIchard Causer:

What is your most memorable ‘behind the scenes’ experience at a hotel?

A few years ago I worked part time in a five star luxury hotel in London called Cafe Royal. There I was privy to many behind the scenes moments. One exciting memory I have was something I thought only happened in the movies. I worked as the restaurant host and events host. We would be given a guest list of names that we would expect to arrive for certain private functions or events. As these guests arrived I realised I was welcoming many A-list celebrities who checked in under fake names. It was extremely exciting as this happened on many occasions and I would have to contain my excitement which I never did too well. Instead I would lose all use of words and just smile from ear to ear. Not subtle at all!

What has been the creative process for you, as a dancer, working with Natalie Weir as the choreographer for Behind Closed Doors?

Working with Natalie is always such a heart-warming experience. The rehearsals are always calm and everyone is very respectful and supportive of each other. Working on Behind Closed Doors has been a fun satisfying challenge, we are all working with specific characters and get to play dress ups a lot. I have enjoyed researching my character by watching some great films and reading some interesting online forums which continue to feed me with new stimulus. What is great about working with Natalie is she allows us the freedom to continue developing our roles from the beginning of the process to the very last performance.

14
Apr
17

Model Citizens

 

Model Citizens

QPAC & Circus Oz

QPAC Playhouse

April 12 – 15 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Melbourne’s Circus Oz, under new Artistic Director, Rob Tannion, returns to QPAC after an absence of some years (you might remember Steampowered  in 2011) with a wink, tongue in cheek and two thumbs up, in Model Citizens, a boldly conceptualised, powerfully political look at what it means to be a resident in our lucky country.

 

In a beautifully designed (Michael Baxter), dramatically lit (Sian James-Holland) model-kit playground of oversized ordinary objects, this newly assembled troupe surpasses expectations, bringing their entertaining physical feats and cheeky Aussie humour to the Playhouse stage for a strictly limited season. It’s a shame it hasn’t enjoyed a longer run right through our school holidays.

This is not so much a new direction for Circus Oz – they’ve always been politically and socially cheeky and funny, and had the band on stage and performed all the tricks – but more a refinement of the mischievous, clever form, which takes the most entertaining and exciting elements from circus, cabaret, dance and theatre, and combines them to create a refreshingly different circus style. The real difference here is Tannion’s uncanny ability to fuse concept, design elements and content, making Model Citizens a more polished show than we’ve seen previously, and without having an actual narrative, is just about as seamless as circus gets.

In an Arts Review interview last year, Tannion noted, “Having a broader pool of artists to draw from will open the possibility for numerous and concurrent collaborations for shows and acts that may evolve into intimate smaller shows, site specific performances or develop into our Big Top productions … This will continue to challenge our preconceptions of the creative process and expectations of what our audiences will see and experience on stage.”

Tannion’s dance and choreographic background comes through in both the fast-paced super busy sequences, with the performers running and leaping and balancing and tumbling all over the place, and in moments of relative stillness, such as the opening sequence when we find ourselves grinning at ironically stereotypical frozen statues that come alive and eerily, like mannequins or Stepford Wives, peer at the emcee Mitch Jones AKA Captain Ruin, and run away from him, playing a sort of hide-and-seek-milling-and-seething ensemble game. Just to note, in case you’ve also gone back to school and ended up studying composition this year, Tannion’s direction is the best application of the Viewpoints I’ve seen in a while (only Natalie Weir’s work with EDC regularly does anything remotely similar). It’s an interesting, discerning use of triangular floor space, and giant everyday objects, including a peg, a cotton reel and a safety pin.

The giant safety pin serves as our Chinese Poles (actually opening and shutting with the weight and agility of the performers, a brilliant realisation of design and purpose) and an enormous pair of Bridget Jones’ knickers provides a unique take on a classic aerial act, with silks dropping from overhead on a peg. A balancing act on a house of oversized credit cards has us considering our economic situation when, proudly and precariously teetering at the top, Luke Ha is offered yet another card i.e. more credit, which, to the delight of the audience, he adamantly refuses.

Jones as Captain Ruin, heavily inked and sporting a pink punk mohawk, a gold tooth and a tutu, sings and roller-skates and gets himself out of a straitjacket in record time, which we’ve seen a good friend do too, sure, but not whilst hanging upside down by his ankles! Jones is irreverent and enigmatic, irresistible, driving the show and stitching many of its pieces together.

The most surprisingly erotically charged knife throwing act ever sees the bewitching Freya Edney ducking and weaving, then blindfolding Jones to finish the act. Her hoop act astounds and then, upping the anti, a giant roue cyr (cyr wheel) is manipulated by another performer while the ensemble members roll bowling balls around him.

A series of silly puns throughout the show have us groaning in a good way, and the original songs elicit raised eyebrows, some dropped jaws, wide eyes, and lots of raucous laughter. A small herd of sheep causes hysterics in the audience at the beginning of Act 2 as a sheep dog rounds them up and puts them into their pen, which also holds a Webber barbecue and Captain Ruin. In an undeniably Amanda Palmeresque performance style, Edney plays ukulele and sings straight-faced about how tolerant and accepting we are of others, “but not in my backyard.” The undercurrent of pseudo-political correctness and self righteousness is, unfortunately, easily recognisable and appeals to the collective sense of humour on opening night. Jeremy Hopkins and MD Ania Reynolds add heightened energy and sass on stage as well as strong musicianship skills.

Historically, Circus Oz has found it difficult to resist having a go at the world’s most famous circus since Barnum & Bailey, Cirque du Soleil, and refreshingly this time, rises above the seemingly typical Australian need to take a swing in their direction. This time no reference or comparison is made. Circus Oz has grown up and gotten confident, claiming their space in the contemporary Australian circus arena.

Model Citizens boasts a beautiful sense of childlike playfulness and innocence without forsaking any of the sheer thrill we expect from circus, and on the other hand, offers a wizened, wry look at the way we see ourselves. It’s perfect whole family fun at an affordable price, right here in our own backyard.

 

Model Citizens features the many and varied talents of Freya Edney, Jake Silvestro, Jarred Dewey, Jeremy Hopkins, Lachlan Sukroo, Luke Ha, Mitch Jones, Olivia Porter, Rose Chalker-McGann & Steph Mouat.

 

04
Jan
17

Fawlty Towers Live

Fawlty Towers Live

Michael Coppel and Phil McIntyre in association with Louise Withers

QPAC Playhouse

December 28 2016 – January 22 2017

 

Reviewed by Michelle Widdicombe

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When I stepped inside QPAC’s Playhouse and saw the transformation of the stage into that little seaside hotel at Torquay, I knew I was in for a trip down memory lane. And it was a nostalgic trip, which didn’t disappoint.

Fawlty Towers Live took me right back to Summer nights watching the much-loved 1970s British sitcom on the TV with Dad, only this experience wasn’t in front of a small box, but live and large, close enough to almost catch the drips of sweat from the forehead of a frustrated Basil Fawlty and feel the heat escape from a jaw-clenching Sybil.

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John Cleese’s own adaptation blends plot lines and scenes from several episodes – The Hotel Inspectors, Communication Problems, and The Germans – into a two-hour show. It leaves you wanting more; more laughs, more of Basil’s over-the-top reactions, Manuel’s confusion, Sybil’s annoyance and her throaty laugh, and more of Polly Shearman, who you’d swear was the young Connie Booth on stage.

The set is almost the same as we remember seeing in the television show. Everything is retro, reflecting the original Fawlty Towers hotel. There is even an upstairs bedroom on stage, built above the reception/dining area. The characters move seamlessly from reception to dining to kitchen to bedroom, never missing a beat between scenes. Liz Ascroft (set and costume design) is to be applauded for recreating a stage which mirrors the landscape of the original Fawlty Towers.

Steven Hall as Basil Fawlty strikes the perfect balance between the original character and his own interpretation of it. Physically, he’s just as tall but not as lean and his gestures are almost identical. When Syd Brisbane first appeared on stage as waiter, Manuel, I thought for a second Andrew Sachs was before me on the small screen. Brisbane’s faultless execution of Manuel’s utter confusion and limited grasp of the English language kept the rumble of laughter going throughout the audience. His ‘I know nothing’ line is such a familiar and popular scene that some of us say it with him. Brisbane dedicated his performance to Sachs, who recently passed away.

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Deborah Kennedy, cast as the selectively deaf Mrs Richards, is absolutely brilliant. She commands the stage, delivering a performance which reflects her 40 plus years in the industry.

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The script for Fawlty Towers Live is the original, with a few tweaks: a celebration of the genius work of John Cleese and Connie Booth. As a Fawlty Towers tragic, I absolutely loved the show but wondered if it had more appeal because I had grown up watching the British sitcom over and over again? Certainly the young woman in front of me (probably aged in her early 20s) seemed more interested in nibbling on her partner’s ear than watching what was happening on stage. It’s fair to say most of the audience inside QPAC’s Playhouse were of an age that would have watched the original Fawlty Towers over and over again. I guess we all wanted to relive some of the happiest moments from our past, and going by the roar and the applause that came at the end of the show there were no unsatisfied customers.

Thank you John Cleese for believing that Australia would be the “perfect fit” to mount your world first stage production, with an all Australian lineup. In Basil’s own words, “Thank you so much, goodbye”.

05
Dec
16

Matilda the Musical

Matilda the Musical

Royal Shakespeare Company

QPAC Lyric Theatre

December 1 2016 – January 8 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Matilda the Musical is hands down the best made and the best promoted show we’ve seen in this country. Not many productions live up to the hype preceding them but this one exceeds expectations. The elements combine in a perfect alchemy of joy, morality, imagination and witty, wicked humour, delighting kids, and daring adults to look around, pay attention to the children and begin to listen again to their own inner child.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda is the extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.

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Queensland’s Matildas are Izellah Connelly, Annabella Cowley, Venice Harris and Eva Murawski.

On opening night we saw Venice Harris, and as the rockstar chocolate-cake-eating Bruce, Exodus Lale, both superb. We will have to return a little later in the season to see our Eva perform! Last night she was on standby and she was able to appear on stage for a very special curtain call with the standby cast, and composer and lyricist, Tim Minchin.

We rarely see a genuinely rapturous, heartfelt standing ovation from an actual full house at QPAC.

(Don’t believe every accolade you see on social media. I’m so often surprised/bemused to see claims of a standing ovation when only a smattering of the audience is on its feet!), but the opening night Matilda audience was as excited and appreciative and awestruck as you’ll ever get at the end of a show. 

It’s no secret that opening nights are a special kind of magic but Matilda the Musical is a show with a buzz that makes you feel like every night is opening night. If there’s a person in the world who hasn’t enjoyed it, I’d like to meet them and ask, “WHAT’S YOUR DAMAGE?” There’s nothing to dislike here (except Miss Trunchbull and the Wormwoods and we’re supposed to loathe them). Matilda the Musical is an uplifting, life affirming, incredibly moving experience, and the cast of children a dynamic new breed of Australian talent. (Minchin has said the girls who play the Brisbane Matildas are four of the best, in this extremely demanding role, in the world. High praise indeed!). We recognise them by their tremendous hearts and rich, clipped voices, their explosive energy and their neatly contained egos. There are adults in the industry who can learn from these hard working and humble kids. (Those adults are not in this show!). And the synergy between adult and child performers makes this show extra special. The ensemble’s opening number, the fast-paced, bright and brilliant, memorably cheeky Miracle, followed by Matilda’s Naughty, and the School Song, choreographed and executed with military precision, testament to the extraordinary talent on stage and off.

There are also a number of must-be-something-in-my-eye moments.

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One of these moments is the beautifully bittersweet When I Grow Up. This is a smiling-while-tears-are-running-shamelessly-down-cheeks scene, reminiscent of Mary Poppins’ Let’s Go Fly a Kite. The use of a slippery slide and timber seated swings hanging from the gods creates a child-sized whimsical world of wide-eyed possibility. I want a swing hanging from the gods in my backyard! When the “big kids” fly out over the audience we gasp in surprise and delight and abandon – even those of us who have seen it before – and our hearts fill to bursting.

It’s not often that a production succeeds in pouring pure glee over an entire audience. 

A fully engaged little kid sitting next to me, so smart, asks his mama if they are sad because they don’t want to grow up. The kid is no older than four or five. Other innocent comments throughout the evening earn smiling, murmured responses from a lovely older gentleman in front and giggles from the rest of us. There’s a little bit of healthy fear happening too. True to the original story, there are some quite frightening moments in the show, just as there are in our dreams and ordinary lives, and the mother does her best to quietly comfort her child. I know parents sometimes avoid taking kids to the theatre because they know it will be their kid to shout out something in the middle of a show. They think this will annoy the other punters and leave themselves embarrassed and apologetic so they decide to give it a miss until the kids are older, and they and the child miss out on an awesome experience and lifelong memories. If you’re a parent wondering whether or not you should take the kids to the show, STOP WONDERING, BOOK THE TICKETS AND TAKE THE KIDS TO THE SHOW.

If the teens and the spouse are slightly wary, they should know Matilda the Musical is also, obviously and subversively, a very grown up show. If nothing else, tell them to hang in there until the final number, the epic kid rock anthem, Revolting Children, which is a showstopper they’ll be singing (and stomping!) for you for days, even weeks. Probably for the next six weeks…of school holidays…lucky you.

The burning woman, hurling through the air with dynamite in her hair, flying over sharks and spiky objects, caught by the man locked in the cage…

The Acrobat and the Escapologist, the story-within-the-story, which has been somehow magically more fully woven through the production since last seen, and which Matilda tells to Mrs Phelps (the fabulous Cle Morgan, a delicious performer of exquisite expression and passion; she shines in this underwritten role). You’ll remember it doesn’t appear in Roald Dahl’s book. The dramatisation of – spoiler alert – Mrs Honey’s parents’ romance, is a neat theatrical device to move us into another realm of storytelling, the segments perfectly placed throughout the show now to allow us to wander through Matilda’s imagination. Her voracious reading and imagining is her escape from a despicable family and horrible home life (loud, brassy, not-real-classy caricatures of the worst possible parents, in Daniel Frederickson & Nadia Komazec in Marika Aubrey’s absence).

There are so many dark themes and dastardly deeds detectable in life, which children need to be able to process just as grown ups do. Roald Dahl knew this, and Minchin and Dennis Kelly make a considered art of serving it straight up, without apology.

Elise McCann is a stronger, more focused and better settled Miss Honey than when we saw her early on in the Sydney season, her rendition of My House poignantly, perfectly delivered, the vocal tone just divine. And the incomparable James Millar, as the formidable Miss Trunchbull, takes the cake (and makes poor Bruce eat it!). Millar’s hilarious, highly physical performance is another highlight. His performance is so polished and so perfectly ridiculous and reasonable at the same time that you might have a hard time now, as I do, listening to the original Trunchbull, the much-loved Brit, Bertie Carvel. Sorry, Bertie.

Can we have an original Australian Cast recording please and thank you. 

Hugh Vanstone’s lighting and Rob Howell’s costume and set design transfer spectacularly well to the Lyric Theatre and MD Peter Rutherford’s orchestra is spot on. The only superfluous number for me is Mr Wormwood’s Telly, but others love it. 

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Matilda the Musical lifts our spirits and raises the musical theatre bar. It’s a show that proves the book, the film and the real life lens we look through every day can be improved upon. YES. The way we view the world is a choice we make every day. And Matilda reminds us that putting things right and standing up for ourselves and for others is easier than we’ve been led to believe.  

Don’t even think for a second you can miss it. There is no gift more magical or inspirational you can give yourself and those you love than Matilda the Musical

 

Brisbane Opening Night Company:

Matilda – Venice Harris
Bruce – Exodus Lale
Alice – Tahlae Colson
Amanda – Isla White
Hortensia – Madison Randl
Lavender – Charlotte Smith
Eric – Elias Geffen
Nigel – Alfie Jamieson
Tommy – Jake Binns
Adult Cast as follows:
Miss Trunchbull – James Millar
Mrs Wormwood – Nadia Komazec
Mr Wormwood – Daniel Frederiksen
Miss Honey – Elise McCann
Mrs Phelps – Cle Morgan
Ensemble – Stephen Anderson, Reece Budin, Travis Khan, Daniel Raso, Rachel Cole, James Bryers, Leah Lim, Adam Noviello, Patrick Whitbread
Swings – Cristina D’Agostino, Matt Douglass, Hannah Stanton, Clay Roberts, Danielle Cook

 

 

 

 

 

18
Nov
16

Tartuffe

Tartuffe

Queensland Theatre & Black Swan Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

November 12 – December 4 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Queensland Theatre’s final production for the year is a co-pro with WA’s Black Swan Theatre Company, and Director Kate Cherry’s last for the company before she takes up the reins at NIDA. This delightfully fresh reimagining of Moliere’s Tartuffe has Black Swan stamped all over it, largely due to its clean, white, luxe, functional design by Richard Roberts. I love it. The orange accents not so much. Still, we could be in Sydney, or Noosa; it’s elegant, understated and stylishly lit (David Murray). The full revolve allows for seamless transitions and all the anticipated hiding-and-overhearing shenanigans of traditional farce, because as Roberts notes, a set designed for the best actors and directors should be “Like an adventure playground that allows kids to play imaginatively”. This is evident from the outset, with a raucous party appearing to be taking place. The music evolves as the set revolves (and the characters regress, misbehaving in all the best ways while the father is away), from an unsurprising baroque lilt to a surprisingly upbeat, very contemporary shake & stir style orchestration. And suddenly it dawns on us that this is simply the good, fun, wealthy life without apparent consequences, which we all (still) want to be living! And so the tone is set for a riotous take on this French classic.

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A wonderfully funny scene has the maid, Dorine (Emily Weir) and the bride-to-be, Mariane (Tessa Lind), on the second floor balcony in a frenzied discussion about her limited options as the daughter of the house. The hysterical young girl, having been promised by her father to the titular character, a conceited con man, performs a little miracle of props mastery, both impressive and hilarious, taking urgent drags on a cigarette, chugging desperately from a champagne bottle and inhaling necessarily, her Ventolin, though not necessarily in that order. This is a fabulous scene Cherry has stitched up for Lind because Moliere gives her little else to do in the role except fawn over her lover, Valere (James Sweeney, the smartly dressed playboy/pool boy/Noosa Main Beach boy of the story, and somehow looking not a little unlike Rob Mills here. Not a bad thing…), and protest loudly to her father, Orgon (an infuriatingly upright Steven Turner in a perfectly pitched performance), re the match he’s made for her with the awful Tartuffe in his awful wig.

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Tartuffe (Darren Gilshenan) is the easily recognisable, much lauded, and laughable spiritual guru, ghastly in every sense, sleazy and sneaky and suddenly the master of the house through his devious machinations and double standards. Orgon, incredulously, falls for his every word and allows him to have his way…almost. A short, rather silly but successful scene, in which Orgon’s wife (Alison van Reeken) is as sexy as Tartuffe is shallow, slimy and simpering, has Orgon hiding under a table at her insistence, until he deems the monster has gone far enough in the seduction of his wife to convince the poor, stupid man – FINALLY – that everything the family has told him is true, catching Tartuffe with his pants down.

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Jenny Davis delivers an accomplished performance as the intolerant matriarch, Madame Pernelle, and Alex Williams takes the opportunity to claim the spotlight on more than one occasion as Damis (offering our second actors’ lesson for the evening in dealing with difficult props, as he rescues a runaway green apple and then has to use it until the scene’s end without creating further distraction. Hugh Parker, one of our faves, is a gallant-arrogant Cleante, perfectly balancing the scrutiny, wit and wisdom of this character with an appropriately unapologetic air of superiority. There’s a hint of Bottom the Weaver, as he instructs his players and whether a conscious choice or not, it works to endear us to him. The fans tend to feel endeared already towards him and we can look forward to seeing more from Parker in QT’s 2017 season.

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But it’s the new QUT Fine Arts grad, Emily Weir, who neatly and boldly steals the show. Her comedy is so bold and witty, and precise, and for one so new to the table, she plays every hand like a seasoned pro, such a pleasure to watch. So much of her character comes through her gesture and facial expression, as the other characters interact around her, unwittingly perhaps making her the centre of their actions. She employs her full vocal range and incorporates a fantastically funny and irritating Australian nasal twang, playing with the language to extract the vivid colour of the piece and placing it smack bang in contemporary Australian money-not-necessarily-indicating-style suburbia.

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Justin Fleming’s astute adaptation is the other star of the show, making the 17th Century text brand new again, retaining the original structure and adding without shame or apology, our favourite Australian colloquialisms. Fleming also delivers a more conclusive and satisfying end than the original, during which Parker shines again, in the fitting guise of a reporter for the ABC.

Kate Cherry’s cheeky, savvy, slick Tartuffe demonstrates the power of redressing the classics in a truly contemporary way, delivering timeless messages wrapped in timeless style.

30
Sep
16

Singin’ In The Rain

Singin’ In The Rain

Dainty Entertainment Group

QPAC Lyric Theatre

September 22 – October 30 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Scott J. Hendry’s staging of Jonathan Church’s Singin’ In The Rain is sensational, the most visually spectacular and enjoyable evening we’ve had at the theatre this year. Perfectly cast, beautifully staged and choreographed, light-hearted, fun and entertaining, this is a slick show we could easily enjoy more than once. And if you’ve managed to avoid seeing A Clockwork Orange all your life you’ll enjoy it so much more… NOT linking to that.

The title number was originally supposed to be a showcase for the three leads but Gene Kelly figured it would work well to illustrate his character’s joie de vivre.

I love Rohan Browne and Brisbane loves Rohan Browne, and thanks to a savvy somebody in production or marketing who also loves Rohan Browne (perhaps Casting Director Lynn Ruthven), we were privileged to see Rohan Browne open the Brisbane season. The ideal Don Lockwood (The Production Company thought so too, in 2013), Browne is just swell; suave, sophisticated and funny. He dances up a very stylish storm (well, a downpour at least), executing Andrew Wright’s swanky choreography effortlessly. The title number is the epitome of pure joy, complete abandon, and it comes complete with authentic rain soaked swagger, precision lamp post swinging, splashing and smiling like any silly, lovely, completely lovesick schoolboy. If ever there was a performance as competent and confident as Gene Kelly’s this is it.     

Although uncredited, Gene Kelly had two incredibly talented choreography assistants. These ladies were none other than Carol Haney (The Pajama Game (1957)) and Gwen Verdon (Broadway star of “Can-Can”, “New Girl In Town”, “Damn Yankees”, “Redhead”, “Sweet Charity” and “Chicago”). In fact, Kelly’s taps during the “Singin’ In The Rain” number were post-dubbed by Verdon and Haney. The ladies had to stand ankle-deep in a drum full of water to match the soggy on-screen action.

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Don Lockwood’s love interest, Kathy Seldon, is recreated by the gorgeous Gretel Scarlett, a fantastic singer and dancer, and unlike Debbie Reynolds, she performs every number herself! She’s pitch-perfect, tap-happy and finds just enough fire in the belly of this character to give Lockwood a hard time before a happy ending. These two are so sweet together, somehow finding that elusive chemistry that sells a show without upsetting the off-stage other halves. 

In the “Would You” number, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) is dubbing the voice of Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) because Lina’s voice is shrill and screechy. However, it’s not Reynolds who is really speaking, it’s Jean Hagen herself, who actually had a beautiful deep, rich voice. So you have Jean Hagen dubbing Debbie Reynolds dubbing Jean Hagen. And when Debbie is supposedly dubbing Jean’s singing of “Would You”, the voice you hear singing actually belongs to Betty Noyes, who had a much richer singing voice than Debbie.

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As Cosmo, Brisbane’s Jack Chambers is no Donald O’Connor but as far as the opening night audience is concerned he’s worthy of their whooping and cheering. His is a polished, fast-paced performance and thoroughly entertaining, but lacking in substance. Chambers presents an uber confident, slickly marketed stage persona and a well rehearsed performance but he’s yet to dig deeper and give us more. The simple fact is that on any other stage Chambers might shine but he shares the space and the spotlight with a couple of brighter stars.

The “Make ’em Laugh” sequence was created because Gene Kelly felt that Donald O’Connor needed a solo number. As O’Connor noted in an interview, “Gene didn’t have a clue as to the kind of number it was meant to be.” The two of them brainstormed ideas in the rehearsal room, and came up with a compendium of gags and “shtick” that O’Connor had done for years, some of which he had performed in vaudeville. O’Connor recalled, “Every time I got a new idea or remembered something that had worked well for me in the past, Gene wrote it down and, bit by bit, the entire number was constructed.”

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Erika Heynatz (you’ll remember she whipped us into shape in Legally Blonde), almost steals the show once more, this time with her original portrayal of the glamorous, self-serving silent movie star Lina Lamont, pulling out all the stops and eliciting screams of laughter at her screeching vocals and department store mannequin mannerisms. We haven’t seen anyone posture quite so beautifully since Ladies In Black. Heynatz creates a gorgeously groomed train wreck of a character, whom we can’t stand and can’t wait to see again. Her Act 2 dressing room solo What’s Wrong With Me? brings down the house.

Ian William Galloway’s AV perfectly complements the plot, bringing the show up to date in terms of production values, and the production itself into a seamless cinematic realm that we’re privileged to see quite often in Brisbane actually, on a slightly smaller scale, because optikal bloc. Production elements combine perfectly to keep the focus on the performers, with design (Simon Higlett) and lighting (Tim Mitchell) showcased in the title number, and in company numbers All I Do, Beautiful Girl and the epic Broadway Ballet. It’s a fantastic ensemble with standout performances from Broadway Ballet Girl, a sexy, naughty Nadia Coote, and Make-Up Girl, Rachael Ward, both completely captivating, easily drawing the eye in a bevy of triple threat beauties, which is no mean feat in any company. 

Of course it’s quite a feat to make it rain onstage – even looking up at the source of the rain doesn’t spoil the effect, in fact we have time to marvel over the making (and lighting and sound) of it, and the disappearance of it in time for the second act. Throughout, MD Adrian Kirk leads a stellar group of musicians.

Browne, Scarlett, Chambers and Heynatz lead this company in the most spectacular theatrical production of the year, bringing childlike joy to our backyard until October 30. Brisbane, we are living the meme.

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21
Sep
16

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

September 9 – 17 2016

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

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It is a rare thing to be an hour into a show and still have no idea at all where it is going to go. And in the case of Filter Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this is a very good thing, given the absurdity with which the group has taken what is arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play and transformed it into a giddy and gleeful postmodern romp.

That said, it does start a little slowly with, like so many Shakespearean works, a prologue, delivered with true Irish charm, but of frantic pace by Peter Quince (Ed Gaughan). Drifting into tangents about the Royal family, for example, he tells audience members that they are about to enter the Ancient Athens of ‘fantastic architecture and thriving homosexual culture’. He promises that the part of Bottom is meant to be played by a famous actor, but a technical hitch means that an ‘audience volunteer’ may have assume the role. It is all in keeping with the clumsy craft of the play’s Mechanicals’ amateur dramatics, and, as the curtain rises on the Athenian court, Shakespeare’s society is represented in the play by three distinct class groups, lovers, mechanicals and fairies. A series of mix-ups orchestrated by king of the fairies Oberon (Harry Jardine) causes lovers’ quarrels between Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena, frantic chases and general chaos that needs to be resolved before King Theseus’s fast approaching wedding.

What the audience sees, however, is no ethereal forest setting, with set design placing the action within a run-down public bathroom of white tiles, water leaks and paper-walls through which characters literally burst on to the stage. Staging is chaotically creative as pieces are destroyed and as Puck (Ferdy Roberts) flings blue liquid gel love juice around, to instant aphrodisiac effect. Oberon, dressed as superhero in all-in-one suit and cape, flies, falls and is covered in flour as part of an epic food fight (with audience involvement). Rather than unruliness, this makes for a hilarious experience that flies by without realisation of its near two hour duration. It’s not all froth and frivolous bubble, however, for as contrast to the mania of the Mechanicals, the lovers, speak only Shakespeare’s words.

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This is a high-energy and physically-demanding show and all the performers deliver accordingly. Francesca Zoutewelle is solid as Hermia, Cat Simmons is an initially dignified Titania and John Lightbody is sensationally smooth as the lustful Lysander, once transformed entirely from his former unassuming self in reaction to the love potion. And Demetrious (Karl Queensborough) makes music out of the Bard’s iambic pentameter. Another standout is Ferdy Roberts as grumpy, tattooed and mischievous rocker roadie/stagehand Puck, from his commanding entrance to the dignified delivery of his final wishes of good night unto all. And Fergus O’Donnell makes the scripted chaos of Bottom’s ascension to stage seem spontaneously improvised. Together, they provide a refreshing interpretation of the characters.

Despite its anarchy, in many ways, this A Midsummer Night’s Dream keeps with Shakespeare’s original text though its weave of comedy through all three of the plot strands and, in particular through the ridiculous mirth of the working class Mechanicals and their presentation to the audience of an abbreviated Pyramus and Thisbe, making us laugh at them rather than with them, in a way different to many other of Shakespeare’s jesters and clowns.

Every comic device is evident in this fast-moving funny-fest. There are moments of stand-up (showing that apparently 20 years is in fact too soon for a Michael Hutchence suicide joke), celebrity impersonations, spontaneous songs, slapstick, clowning and innuendo. The greatest laughs come, however, from notice of the little details, like the lameness of a lion costume and Oberon and Puck’s pull up of picnic chairs and crack open of drinks to watch the lovers battle it out.

Filter Theatre have made their reputation mainly for inventive takes on classic plays and this is especially evident in their sound innovation, and Chris Branch and Tom Haines’s sound design and original music is masterful . Music is effectively integrated into this production and the live band, doubling as Mechanicals, in break from their play of retro kitsch Barry White and The Ramones numbers, add the necessary magic to assist the audience in imagining the invisible fairies to life and suggesting Bottom’s transition to donkey by the sounds of coconut-shell hooves clapping. And a fight between Lysander and Demetrius is enacted as a video game, with Puck at the console, with the noise of gunfire and explosions.

Although a modernisation of a Shakespearean classic is hardly a ground-breaking idea, Filter Theatre manages to bring something truly unique to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Characters and scenes are presented with new purpose, freshly realising, in particular, the text’s sexual innuendo. It’s not always cohesive, but it is superlatively funny in its gleeful irreverence. Cutting and adding so much text is filled with risk, but it is risk that exists at the foundation of all exciting art. And, in this instance, the liberties taken with the text make for not only a highly-entertaining, but a genuinely accessible version. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much in the theatre.

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A scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Created by Filter and Directed by Sean Holmes and Stef O’Driscoll (Opening 25-02-16) ©Tristram Kenton 02/16 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com