Posts Tagged ‘QPAC

01
Jul
17

Woolf Works

 

Woolf Works

Royal Ballet

QPAC Lyric Theatre

June 29 – July 9 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Memory is the seamstress and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needles in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the ink stand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting…

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

 

Don’t think of the shapes…think of the transitions. That is where dance happens.

Wayne McGregor, Resident Choreographer, Royal Ballet, cited by Drusilla Modjeska

 

The Waves

Tuesday

 

This is what I imagine drowning to be…

 

Perhaps there is terror and panic too, and pain and sorrow, but mostly this peace and gentle release.

We know Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse, the one death she acknowledged she would never describe, but when the third act curtain goes up on Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works we’re struck with the immensity of the sea, as if we’re on the deck of a great ship surging forward, or standing on the shore watching it go. Wave after wave crashes towards us in slow motion, in a prelude to the dancers’ lane work, spanning the entire length of the Lyric’s back wall, with everything stripped from the space, leaving only lighting, the sea above and at first, the one tiny dancer below (Ravi Deepres Film & Daniel Brodie Projection). The continuous slow motion of the waves is mesmerising, and the dancers emerge from that eternity.

 

 

The sea – a man (Federico Bonelli) – appears from the darkness to embrace the woman, Virginia Woolf (Alessandra Ferri) and supporting her, he takes her deeper and deeper into her death dreams. The children she never had jump rope and skim stones, their movements are the essence of innocence and the sense of play we lose. They dance to cleverly tie reef knots in their ropes to join them, holding them aloft, encircling her, and disappearing from sight…

A desire for the children, I suppose; for Nessa’s life; for the senses of flowers breaking all round me involuntarily…

The company of dancers, the sea, wearing barely-there, incredibly delicate coral designs over their faces to make the milliner friends nod in appreciation, and zippered collared vests or long sleeves of fine transparent black, in a stunning ensemble sequence that plays out like a highly sophisticated open Viewpoints session, filling the space around her, surging and spilling across the stage – and if we’re watching a particular sequence it seems to be repeated, and then not – the dancers are in continuously changing configurations, pairs and trios, rolling and dipping and diving and floating and lifting, supporting. Always supporting, making death by drowning the most beautifully paced, poetic and protected way to go, as long as you’ve had it choreographed by McGregor and directed by Kevin O’Hare.

The sea will drum in my ears. The white petals will be darkened with sea water. They will float for a moment and then sink. Rolling me over the waves will shoulder me under. Everything falls in a tremendous shower, dissolving me…

I feel like that moment is actually in the score, after a powerful climax that literally dissolves into the sound of waves and a single searing violin over the repeated notes, repeating and repeating… And then suddenly, but not unexpectedly, just as death might come, nothingness. The movement swells and dissolves with it. I exhale softly, slowly. There’s a truly magical collective moment of complete stillness before thunderous applause breaks it, and we become part of the sea on the other side of the curtain, out front; a full house on their feet for the company and creatives of London’s Royal Ballet.

 

 

Max Richter’s 21-minute composition echoes the earlier sounds of In the garden and Meeting again (from part 1 of the triptych), and Gillian Anderson’s voice, reading Woolf’s final words, brings to the work the immeasurable sadness of the strings before they are reintroduced into the score. It’s so difficult to express the surge of feeling brought about by this piece in particular, the eerie, exquisite sadness of a solo soprano voice soaring over the relentless, sweet and sweeping melody, and yet, undeniably, there is bliss at its core, and at the centre of this work, which sees the life-death-life cycle of a woman, but also of the collective creative energy of all the disparate parts of a show, perfectly – actually perfectly – realised on stage.

 

Orlando

Becomings

Again, a voiceover sharing Woolf’s words sets the middle piece in motion, a single searchlight dances over androgynous individuals in gold and black; Baroque puffed pants, the top of a farthingale – is it a wheeldrum? – at some waists and ruffs at some necks. The overall appearance (Moritz Junge Costume Design) is of the most beautifully carved and polished and cherished chess pieces in the multiverses.

 

 

Richter’s score takes a sci-fi turn, with 80s-until-forever electronica and epic strings to take us through time and space, as the 1993 film did. This is rich, detailed, apparently typically McGregor choreography (I’ve not seen his previous work), dabbing and flicking and leaping. To my delight the same sassy motif, quickened, returns at times throughout the piece. There is a sense of urgency juxtaposed against the elasticity of time, and power and fragility, however; it’s not at all fragile. The choreography for Becomings is a new set of creative contradictions. Unlike the more narrative works that bookend this one, it’s an exploration of a more angular and frenetic physical vocabulary, of exciting ways to transfer bodies through space.

Carter’s laser beams cut through the haze, creating sky and sea and oil and water in a heady swirl of changing coloured lights, and delineating dance spaces to show us the Great Hall of an ancient-contemporary court. The flurry of more angular, geometric movement patterns creates the illusion of many more bodies in the space than there could possibly be, and the piece finishes with a Royal Court dance that could almost sweep us away and into the midst of it.

 

 

Like the voice of the cello in Richter’s The explorers, once again we are struck with the importance of genuine connections, however momentary, and the necessity of sitting with feelings of inexplicable loss before being lifted into another dimension, the sounds reverberating, echoing, the dancers appearing and disappearing, spinning and bending and over-extending between channels of shimmering light… I tell Poppy and Veronika, it’s Tron Wizard Chess, complete with frickin’ laser beams. They get the Harry Potter reference. Oh well. It’s the most abstract of the three works and it’s exhilarating, although not to everyone’s liking, if we’re to note the boredom and frustration of the eighty-something sir sitting beside me.

 

Mrs Dalloway

I Now, I Then

 

She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged.

 

The sound of waves and the sounds of the city merge into a single memory the next day.

We hear Virginia Woolf’s voice (yes, it’s her voice, recorded in 1937), “splendid”, speaking about words, as we see words and words and words, handwritten, projected across the space, foreshadowing images of the city and its flawed characters… Alessandra Ferri, a lithe beauty in her fifties, absolutely exquisite, clad in delicate gold lace, is Mrs Dalloway, on the eve of her party, moving between memories, her younger self (Beatrix Stix-Brunell) dancing out the daydream of a love affair with her friend, Sally (Francesca Hayward), which was never allowed to blossom as we see here that, under different circumstances, it might have.

Richter’s In the garden is sweet and sonorous, featuring piano, cello, violin; the voices of the innocent, the young and joyful and unaffected, and the older and pensive, perhaps regretful, perhaps hopeful, but not. Under the baton of Tom Seligman, the artists of Queensland Symphony Orchestra have outdone themselves, and if there were no ballet, we would be transformed just listening. We would close our eyes and let our minds wander, and let our hearts rest. At some stage, when QSO repeat a performance of this score, you must be there to experience for yourself, the magic of music of this intricacy and gravity, played by musicians of this calibre. The second International Series work, The Winter’s Tale, will have at the helm, QSO Music Director, Allondra de la Parra.

War anthem is sombre, desperately sad, offering us the story of war-ruined Septimus Smith (Edward Watson), who teeters between life and trauma, and finally, at the edge of his window before leaping to his death, having loved and lost Evans (Tristan Dyer). Their pas de deux demonstrates the strength and vulnerability of the human body, the heart, the spirit, and reminds us that deep connections are worthwhile, despite the inevitable pain when connections are lost. We hear this moment too, before the clock strikes and the characters from Woolf’s memories convene, and sway and twist and move together, in and out of time. A gorgeous sassy move continues to be repeated now and then, bringing the same sense of playfulness and sensuality from the opening sequence to the simple act of being and breathing together in the end.

Incredible design by Cigue places three towering and independently revolving shadow boxes on stage, through which the dancers move, and stop in repose and watchfulness at times. Lucy Carter’s golden lighting, cast across the architectural structures, and creating cold shadows in this segment, is so starkly different to the laser beams of the second piece, that it could be the work of another creative. But as the production demands, these creatives have moved fluidly across the literary works, and Becomings is something entirely new and different.

Dramaturg, theatre director Uzma Hamed, never lets us get entirely lost, though we may wander between our own memories, and remembrances of Woolf’s works, and simply appreciate Becomings for the abstract beauty that it is. You must read Hamed’s notes, included in the best-value-for-money souvenir and literary/history lesson masquerading as a program ever to be offered in a foyer, which explain the answer to the original question asked when this production was announced in 2014, ‘why Woolf?’

– because she renders, like no one else, the insoluble paradox at the heart of our human existence: life and death, body and spirit, ‘granite and rainbow’.

Uzma Hameed

 

Woolf Works is superbly realised, beautifully crafted and delivered, and sees us reconsidering the power and splendour and possibility of text-inspired narrative dance.

Our outstanding Australian dancers in this production are:

Steven McRae, Alexander Campbell, Benjamin Ella, Calvin Richardson and Harry Churches

 

Production pics by Darren Thomas

 

If you are int he UK or if it interests you to find a way to watch online, Woolf Works will be broadcast on July 9 on BBC Four.

 

21
Jun
17

Noises Off

Noises Off
Queensland Theatre & Melbourne Theatre Company
QPAC Playhouse
3 – 25 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

In all probability, an amateur theatre company near you has given Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, a red hot go, and perhaps they shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ve seen on a local stage for some time… Anyway, what a joy it is to fall about laughing at a full-scale professional production! This one’s a beauty, with a stellar cast, and a detailed two-storey set and full revolve (designed by Richard Roberts with lighting by Ben Hughes) to reveal the goings on of putting on a show called Nothing On; it’s all very meta.

Under the fearless direction of Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, and with many doors and sardines and rewrites involved (it’s all about doors and sardines), this cast tears through the text, slapsticks through the spaces in between, and quells any audience fear of having to lie through their gritted teeth at the opening night party to say we thoroughly enjoyed the three-hours, after it felt like we’d endured five. In bold defiance of the one-act-no-interval entree sized shows that have become popular, this feast is served up in three rich courses, each more complex than the next, and only as successful as each set up. Luckily, the hard work in setting up the many gags appears effortless, although we know it is not; with so many tiny details to remember to attend to, and never actually getting a break offstage, even when they are seen by us to be “offstage”, these performers demonstrate athletic endurance and artistic mastery.

 

It’s a uniformly excellent company. Simon Burke as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, leaps up the stairs from the auditorium onto the stage, but only when he feels he absolutely must make an appearance, to coax or console or clarify, as Zach does in A Chorus Line. We hear his voice first, the “voice of God”, a rich, authoritative tone that also captures his enduring kindness and patience, until he lets slip the weary tone of a repertory director who never made it to the West End. At times Burke’s pace is either slightly self-indulgent or beautifully realised – you decide – and when he disappears again, leaving the company in order to direct a highly anticipated production of Richard III (we get a surreal glimpse of the show within the show within the show), you might decide we all know directors like this and it’s the latter; he’s nailed it.

Ray Chong Nee is Gary, a vague actor when talking about the process, but a perfectionist within the process, so that when sardines and phones and bags and boxes are not where they should be, he flips out, unable to improvise or to take the cues from his fellow actors to get through a scene gone awry. We all know actors like Gary. And like Hugh Parker’s hilarious Freddie who plays Phillip, prone to nosebleeds brought on by the demands of being an actor. Steven Tandy is the most delightful elderly Selsdon, an alcoholic actor/bumbling burglar, the cause of much distress amongst the cast when he goes AWOL. Emily Goddard is the gorgeous and hopeless Poppy (ASM) and James Saunders is fantastically funny as Tim (SM).

Libby Munro is Brooke the brunette bombshell, who is credited in the program-within-the-program as being best known for roles such as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good, honest, natural froth’ in an unpronounceable lager commercial. Her fictional bio gives us an idea of the pretty, vacuous thing Munro gets to play as Brooke playing Vicki, proving her versatility after fierce performances in Disgraced, Grounded and Venus in Fur, and also the results of intensive physical training for her first feature film, recently wrapped in LA, Wild Woman. Louise Siverson is sensational as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett and Nicki Wendt as Belinda as Flavia adds a distinctly bohemian diva element to this dysfunctional theatrical family.

 

There really is nothing funnier, or more impressive, than witnessing such disastrous results so brilliantly orchestrated and delivered by skilled performers. Nigel Poulton (Movement Director) has had a field day with complex choreographed sequences of fast and furious physical comedy, and Strong’s attention to detail means that no plate of sardines is left behind…except when it is supposed to be left behind…or is it supposed to be? As well as executing some precision direction, Strong has promoted a generous sharing/mentoring culture throughout the process, having been ably assisted by Leith McPherson (Associate Director/Dialect Coach) and Caroline Dunphy (Assistant Director), with Emily Miller having been invited to share in the artful chaos (Director Observation). Our leading companies, becoming more transparent and accessible each season not only help themselves to promote the magic and wonder of the theatre, but also engage audiences earlier, earning loyalty through genuine relationships between patrons and creatives.

 

This production of Noises Off, probably the funniest meta-farce ever, while not a direct reflection of all that goes on in a theatre company (I guess it depends on the company!), certainly gives us a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, and why as creative types, we need to keep doing it, and guarantees all, whether or not you consider yourself to be a creative type or a comedy type or a trip-to-the-theatre type, an evening of raucous laughter and good old fashioned fun.

17
Jun
17

1984

 

1984

QPAC, ATG, GWB Entertainment & STCSA 

QPAC Lyric Theatre

June 14 – 18 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Lyric Theatre is a venue I rarely visit and I’m always overwhelmed by its grandeur. I witnessed a spectacular and mind-boggling theatrical adaptation of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Co-creators and directors, Duncan Macmillan and Robert Icke found that interrogating the appendix of the book provided a new access point into the work, and helped them devise an exciting and terrifyingly current production.

 

 

For those who have not read the book, this show will have you falling down the rabbit hole, discovering a strange world with fresh eyes, and being confronted with characters you don’t completely trust. Orwell’s dystopian classic, first published in 1949, follows protagonist Winston Smith (Tom Conroy) a citizen of Airstrip One that was formerly known as Great Britain. The world is at war and the government is keeping a close eye on their people. A very close eye. Party leader of the state Oceania, known as Big Brother, has his city under constant surveillance and is swift to persecute anyone who steps out of line. This is a world where individualism is snubbed.

 

Freedom of speech, even the right to own your thoughts, feelings and ideas, will see you “erased” from existence.

 

 

The play opens with Winston writing a diary. To whom he is writing to, even he is unsure. The next generation? Is it a warning to remember the past and history as he knows it? Winston is aware the world he lives in is vile and unjust, eradicating that which does not fit with Big Brother’s ideology, providing a clean slate and obtaining total power. Winston wants to stand up against his oppressors and provoke change. He is also aware of being watched, and could be seized by the Thought Police at any moment. After a romance is kindled between Winston and another citizen, Julia, they decide to risk their lives and fight for freedom.

 

 

Macmillan and Icke intended to create a visceral experience, and they succeeded. There was a tension sustained that never allowed the audience to settle or become complacent. We were continually searching for meaning and truth. Or was that even important in the end? The sound (Tom Gibbons) and lighting (Natasha Chivers) was electric, breathing life into the ever-present and watchful Big Brother, and sending out shock waves, warning the audience to pay attention, “Where do you think you are?”

 

 

The physicality of the actors was next-level and helped blur the lines of reality and false-memory within the show. The “book-club” scene was repeated and each time a new discovery was made, unsettling the audience, as well as Winston who becomes increasingly un-reliable as time goes on. The cast hit every beat that ricocheted seamlessly from one to the other, showcasing how engrossing live theatre can be. A favourite performance of mine was Parsons (Paul Blackwell), whose comedic timing and honeyed vocals made him such a joy to watch. He was the bright light in contrast to Martin (Renato Musolino) who was deliciously menacing; you couldn’t let him out of your sight.

 

 

Winston and Julia met several times in a secluded room where they were free to be themselves, to love each other, and discuss how they could contribute to the rebellion. This room was offstage with a video camera inside that was projected onto the set, allowing the audience to see and hear everything. The lovers were unaware they were being watched. I must admit the use of the video projection for some reason did not work. I understand the intention behind it: Big Brother is always watching, but I felt disengaged. I was straining to connect to Winston, who in these moments had important and illuminating thoughts. I found it funny since we are so used to viewing things on screens nowadays, but I came to the theatre for a reason. Perhaps this was a conscious decision by the creators (and by extension, Orwell) for us as viewers to continue to question the norm.   

 

 

Spoiler alert: when Winston and Julia are captured by the Thought Police and interrogated at the Ministry of Love, the set is torn apart, and in this moment, I screamed inside. I absolutely love when sets are transformed, alluding to a shift of perception; a change in the fabric of the world to which we had grown accustomed. The ending reveals the true identity of Big Brother, who comes to question Winston and everything he thought he knew about himself, about love, sanity, war, the list goes on. Terence Crawford’s performance is supreme as he digs into Winston’s brain, into the audience’s brain. His voice sent me into a trance and I was complacent in watching him torture Winston into admitting he was superfluous. I sat in my seat, gob-smacked, overwhelmed with information, filling up with questions.

 

 

Something that stuck with me is that power will continue to corrupt. There will always be someone at the top and someone at the bottom. This is what makes 1984 a timeless story, and why it’s important to continue interrogating. It speaks to the oppressed and why it is paramount that people stand up for what they believe to be right. I left the theatre terrified with the realisation that everyone is so vastly different. There are numerous cultures, languages, ideologies that often divide humans instead of uniting them. Every individual believes they are standing up and fighting for the right reasons.

 

This adaptation is magnanimous on so many levels. It steam-rolls Orwell’s novel into the 21st Century where the same themes are painfully current and expressed with renewed vigour. It rips you from your seat and spits you back into the world to question everything you thought you knew.

 

This 1984 is a glorious example of the power of theatre.

25
May
17

Behind Closed Doors

 

Behind Closed Doors

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Playhouse

May 19 to May 27 2017

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

Each dancer brings passion, dedication, vision and respect. I feel their trust in me and it is empowering. They are brave in the studio and brave in performance.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, EDC

 

Set in an upmarket hotel, Expressions Dance Company’s Behind Closed Doors marries live contemporary jazz and contemporary dance.

If only all dance performances could include live music! It might not always be practicable or even possible, but this work powerfully demonstrates how the two live artforms complement and enrich each other.

Artistic Director/Choreographer Natalie Weir and the EDC dancers have collaborated with contemporary music ensemble Trichotomy: Musical Director Sean Foran (piano), John Parker (drums) and Samuel Vincent (acoustic bass), with guest artists Kristin Berardi (vocals) and Rafael Karlen (saxophone). Compositions by the group have been reworked for Behind Closed Doors, and performances include improvisation.

Behind Closed Doors is a reworking and further development of the 2010 EDC production While Others Sleep, also created and performed with Trichotomy (then called Misinterprotato).

The ‘film noir’ hotel setting (design by Greg Clark, lighting design by David Walters) seems a natural one for a jazz ensemble. At the end of the show, the audience stayed seated for a while, enjoying a final number from Trichotomy – it was as if we were transported into that hotel.

The stage is divided into three spaces: an area for the musicians, with space in front of them that is a foyer or a restaurant, and a revolving set, with doors on one side opening into ‘rooms’ with missing walls on the other, into which the audience can see.

We see glimpses of hotel guests’ stories in vignettes featuring a range of characters. In between these vignettes, people pass through the public spaces of the hotel, carrying luggage, hurrying to meet schedules, and presenting their public personae.

Elise May is very moving in her role as The Lonely Woman, partnered by Benjamin Chapman as the memory or ghost of her lost partner. Their duo in their first appearance is fluid, poignant, and sad, with beautiful complex lifts executed almost in slow motion. The lyrical effect contrasts with the strength and control that the movement needs, but which is completely transcended.

The Lonely Woman’s costumes (design by Greg Clark) are stunning: a filmy black dress strewn with 3D appliqué red poppies; and a full-length cream wraparound dress, reminiscent of 1930s film star Jean Harlow.

In this role and in his solo as The Dark Man, Chapman is strong and compelling. The Dark Man appears to be escaping from life in the outside world. Tormented and desperate, he trashes his hotel room, and is found unconscious by the maid. The acrobatic contortions of Chapman’s solo as he ricochets around the room convey the character’s torment and desperation.

May and Chapman also have a scene in the hotel restaurant as a warring young couple, whose row extends to involve other patrons, as they knock over tables and chairs, and hit the suspended lights. The force of the movement and its representation of disregard for polite behaviour is both liberating and discomforting to watch. They are not people you would want sitting near you in a restaurant.

While The Dark Man appears driven by torment to escape from life in the outside world, The Chameleon (guest artist Xu Yiming) disguises himself to avoid notice. He wears a cherry-red suit that blends in with the curtains and bedspread in his room. His fluid and boneless movements are in peripheral planes: he lies on the floor, flopping along impossibly, hides behind curtains, and sprawls on the bed.

In another story, The Businessman (Richard Causer) appears in a suit, so formal and restricted that he must be hiding something.  Sure enough, when inside his hotel room, he sheds the suit and reveals a struggle between his feminine and masculine personae, posing in front of us as if watching himself in a mirror. Causer projects both vulnerability and strength in this role, engaging our sympathy.

Michelle Barnett and Jake McLarnon join Causer to represent The Female Side (represented by a dramatic and erotic dark-red dress) and the Male Side of the character, struggling with him and each other. Barnett and Causer fly and fling each other through a duo, and all three finish by grappling together. We are left wondering how long The Business Man will be able to endure the struggle.

Barnett and McLarnon express completely different emotions and physicality in their roles as Young Lovers. Their duo is passionate, playful and joyous, with Barnett memorably taking a flying leap onto McLarnon on the bed.

McLarnon and Causer also perform a ‘young love’ (or maybe ‘young lust’) duo. The two men’s encounter begins when they pop out of their doorways in bathrobes, and continues in a very physical, gymnastic display of muscularity and humour.

The Maid threads her way through the action as the constant among the shifting group of hotel guests. She finds odd things people drop or leave behind, accidentally sees people in vulnerable or compromising situations, fantasises about guests’ lives, and is harassed by guests. In this role, QUT student Tiana Pinnell did an outstanding job of filling in at short notice for the injured Alana Sargent*.

The publicity for Behind Closed Doors invited us to unleash our inner voyeur. I found that I was identifying with the characters instead – a tribute to the power of the performers to inspire our empathy.

It’s hard to write about the EDC dancers without gushing. They perform amazing physical feats which are at the same time evocative and expressive, and they transport us into other worlds.

*This review is of the second night performance, Saturday 20 May.

08
May
17

The Play That Goes Wrong

The Play That Goes Wrong

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Kenny Wax Lyrical & Stage Presence

In Association With David Atkins Enterprises & ABA

May 4 – 14 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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If you’ve ever seen, or been involved in your local amateur theatrical productions, you know this play.

This was the ideal production to see at the end of a massive week of the Masters course, with a number of things due and a third of the ensemble at my house for half the week, due to various configurations of groups and scene partners, the stress compounded by very little sleep and a whole lot of the usual travel on Sunshine Coast roads that are just not coping with the rapidly increasing number of drivers. We’re based at The J, Noosa, because our USC campus has offered the creative arts courses without having the facilities to house them. We love The J but nevertheless, we’ve all submitted a heartfelt survey response…

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Originally staged in a North London pub, then on West End and Broadway, The Play That Goes Wrong is a production that literally brings the house down. A genius notion turned into an award-winning cookie cutter formula from young actors/writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, has given us everyman’s Fawlty Towers meets Noises Off. While Noises Off may be the slightly cleverer, more sophisticated show (we’ll see it soon), The Play That Goes Wrong is right on cue, and it’s on right now and it’s precisely the right thing to see if you’re in need of a good, laugh-out-loud evening of entertainment. And who isn’t craving a bit of light release?

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The simple genius of this play is that it’s a total parody of everything amateur, with a delicious premise packed full of pompous performers straight out of the community theatre green room/club room/somebody’s living room, which makes us laugh because it’s what we know to be true of any well meaning community theatre company. I wish more of the locals would get to see this production, and I wish the same locals would get to see our Queensland Theatre, La Boite and Noosa alive! productions. They may wish to charge slightly less then, for the productions they’ve convinced themselves are just as professional as anything on a professional stage. Really? Have you seen one lately? If you’re happy to hop up and have some fun with some friends, please just ask for a donation at the door and give us all a large glass of wine with our ticket. I’ve said as much for years. I may also have said that the alternative involves actually taking on board the feedback you ask for, and getting better at putting on shows. 

Anyway, the conceit is this: here we are, at a dreadful, over-directed community theatre production of The Murder at Haversham Manor, a tidy little 1920s murder mystery in the tradition of the Agatha Christie style whodunnits featuring Inspector Hercule Poirot. The poor company has suffered from budgetary challenges and the loss of company members, making it impossible to stage their productions as intended. Instead, they have produced variations on the classics, including The Lion and the Wardrobe, Chekhov’s Two Sisters and Lloyd Webber’s CAT.

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The set is a brilliant disaster (Designer Nigel Hook), magically falling apart on cue, and making it a stage manager’s dream and their worst nightmare (Company Stage Manager Anneke Harrison and Production Manager & Head Mechanist David Worthy). It’s absolutely the stage manager’s show, and given a greater chance to flesh out their stereotypical characters, it might be a more satisfying show for the actors too. They clearly relish the physical comedy, accomplishing astonishing feats of balance and the expert juggling of props, as doors refuse to close (and then refuse to open), books fall from shelves, shelves fall from walls, walls and floors fall… you get the idea.

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Original Director, Mark Bell, has taken the play-within-a-play formula to the extreme, even including in the first half of the printed souvenir program, the actual program for Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s show. This includes a heartfelt note from Director, Chris Bean, who also plays Inspector Carter (Nick Simpson-Deeks, the very model of an actor who thinks he’s nailed the English inspector character) and the full fictional bios of Cornley Polytechnic’s company members: Jonathan Harris who plays Charles Faversham (Darcy Brown), Robert Grove who plays Thomas Colleymoore (Luke Joslin, every bit the pompous Leading Man/Lord of the Manor/Master), Sandra Wilkinson who plays Florence Colleymore (Brooke Satchwell, in all her smokey vocal jubilant glory), Max Bennet who plays Cecil Faversham (James Marlowe), Dennis Tyde who plays Perkins (George Kemp, hilariously timid and pathetic), Annie Twilloil, stage manager & initially reluctant stand-in (Tammy Weller) and Trevor Watson, the Duran Duran loving lighting and sound operator who thought he was signing up to a house rave (Adam Dunn). We also get glimpses of Francine Cain, Jordan Prosser and Matthew Whitty behind the scenes. It’s a stellar Australian cast, directed by Sean Turner, to bring us every fine, funny detail of the disaster that community theatre so often turns out to be. It’s fast-paced basic slapstick; Sam says it’s “dinner theatre without the dinner”. (He is of the opinion it should have stayed in the pubs).

Our party of four split up and the boys sat so far back in QPAC’s Concert Hall that they missed a lot of the nuance in the facial expressions, making the indulgent set ups and in-jokes a little too much to believe. But in Row D Mel and I missed nothing and we loved every minute of it. Ideally, for the vast majority, the more intimate Cremorne Theatre would be the place to see this show.

Is The Play That Goes Wrong just well-funded fancy comedy for the lowest common denominator? Or brilliant, entertaining worthwhile art? Is it a million dollar show? (It’s making close to that each night just at QPAC)! It’s certainly fun and fast and very funny if you’re prepared to see it for what it is, and give yourself permission to simply enjoy it.

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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.