Posts Tagged ‘QPAC

12
Nov
17

The Wizard of Oz

 

The Wizard of Oz

John Frost & Suzanne Jones

QPAC Lyric Theatre

November 10 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.

– Marilyn Monroe

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s London Palladium production of The Wizard of Oz hits the right glittering rainbow tone for its Australian premiere in Brisbane. L Frank Baum’s beloved story, enjoyed by generations since 1900, is brought back to life in a revel of colour and rich scenery. While it seems remiss to miss making more of the famous field of poppies and the flying monkeys, particularly with such talented aerialists amongst the cast, we’ll remain focused on the otherwise visually arresting aesthetic and enduring appeal of the show!

 

 

However, we’ll also just take a moment to note that some of Jon Driscoll’s digital design appears to be used in lieu of  – or in front of – old-school scene changes during blackouts, which others love but by which I’m unconvinced. Without having the same effect as the original film’s black-&-white-to-Technicolor wow moment (remember when you thought the TV must be broken?), it lacks the edgy sophistication to put it at the same level as the rest of the design. The visual impact of both the Emerald City and the witch’s tower for example, reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, is more lasting. Perhaps, like a lot of things Lloyd Webber, it seemed like a good idea at the time and even just a few years later – this version of the show premiered in the West End in 2011 – the projections, including the pre-show scrim design – feel dated. Fortunately, none of these quibbles detract from the overall effect, which is supported by Hugh Vanstone’s cinematic lighting design.

 

 

Director and Co-Adapter Jeremy Sams has worked with Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to bring the YES vote boldly to the stage, which in and of itself is nothing new, The Wizard of Oz (1939) having been claimed long ago as a gay fave film, and Judy Garland the global gay community’s kween. The updates are witty and funny and apt. When the Lion (John Xintavelonis) declares, “I’m proud to be a friend of Dorothy,” he earns heartfelt applause from Brisbane’s loud and proud opening night audience. For some reason the Lion has become that camp character, and Xintavelonis gets the balance just right, without us feeling we’re being beaten over the head with a blunt object.

 

 

He’s an adorable, loveable Lion and with Alex Rathberger as the tap-dancing Tinman, and Eli Cooper as the vague, scrappy, very funny Scarecrow, these three make the iconic characters their own. The very definition of ensemble, they generously support Samantha Dodemaide in her breakout role. (Yes, you might argue that her breakout role was Kathy Seldon in Singing’ in the Rain but I’d maintain that more people will see and retain a lasting memory of her beautifully realised Dorothy).

 

 

Dodemaide is sweet enough and strong enough vocally to make this iconic role her own; she represents all the misunderstood little girls who run away from home and grow up into their big, full, open hearts along the way to their Emerald City. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is sincerely, superbly delivered to us in the most beautifully measured mix, to us and to Toto (this coveted role shared by the most well behaved and affectionate Australian Terriors we’ve ever seen, Trouble and Flick, trained by Luke Hura).

 

To sell a song that’s been over-sung for decades is a tough gig and Dodemaide, with perfect optimism, nails it.

 

 

The indomitable Jemma Rix reprises the green skin and ghastly cackle of Wicked’s Elphie, but this Wicked Witch is the original, and she’s comic book kind of nasty rather than really vulnerable and vengeful, her unforgettable lines delivered with fresh, fun, mischievous energy, and without a spit of sarcasm. In anyone else’s hands this could be the less meatier role and while it’s lacking depth on the page, Rix gives the Witch multiple dimensions and emotions, making her a proper James Bond movie worthy megalomaniac. Her black feathered gown is the fantastic creation of Scenic and Costume Designer, Robert Jones, reminiscent of Maleficent’s high fashion look, and with her conical high hairdo rather than the black peaked witches’ hat of old, this is a savvy and stylish design choice.

 

 

And is there a better fit in all the world for a good witch other than our beloved Lucy Durack? She’s as Glinda as Glinda gets, and again, reminiscent of the role in Wicked, Durack is just as sweet, but without being saccharine, and gentler and kinder from the outset. This role too contains less depth on the page and as testament to the skill sets of both these leading ladies, the characters are made just as relatable as their contemporary counterparts.

 

Also, Durack’s spectacular sparkling gown allows her to enter from above, in full flight, descending like some glorious faery queen, and then the length of skirt, part of the scenery only seconds before, is whipped away to allow her to step into Munchinland. It’s a dazzling effect, but then Durack’s appearance always is.

 

 

Anthony Warlow is in top form as both Professor Marvel and The Wizard, bringing us an original wizened man of many tricks, with a genuine attitude of concern and care for Dorothy’s wellbeing (and, eventually, for her friends). Warlow emanates a warmth that makes both Marvel and The Wizard absolutely loveable.

 

 

The company includes the Sunshine Coast’s Rachael Ward, which is not the only reason she gets a special mention (although we’ll continue to claim her!), but also because our eyes are drawn to her every time she appears on stage. This is an exceptional ensemble – every performer looking and sounding sharp – so it’s no easy task to be a standout amongst them and yet, the statuesque Ward shines.

 

John Frost continues to bring the biggest and best looking musical productions to our venues, and I’ll be genuinely surprised if there’s anyone who is left unmoved by The Wizard of Oz this time around, with its updates and upscaled set (obviously, such a sap is in need of a heart). It’s retained a sense of nostalgia and allowed a whole new generation to see the land beyond the rainbow, and the love that – we have to hope – surrounds them at home.

 

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14
Oct
17

Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

 

Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

QPAC Presents A Barking Gecko Theatre Company Production

QPAC Playhouse

October 11 – 15 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

How does a story write itself?

 

It only takes a wish…

 

How weird theatre is, or my head while I’m in it. The ancient Greeks recognised the River Styx as the point between this world and Hades, and this with its ferryman, Kharon, is the image that fills my head as we watch Bambert, an impossibly small man with an enormous love for writing, cross over to the other side of the dream.

I cry, and usually I can brush away any tears before the house lights come up but something is different and I let them fall. Poppy hugs me – she’s almost as tall as me and as skinny as my grandmother, her great-grandmother, Ena; I’ve been thinking about her – and we don’t hang around, even though my friend knows this cast and I could race around with her to Stage Door to give every one of them a huge hug to say thanks for stopping by and stopping other things happening in my life for a little while. Katie Noonan’s exquisite cover of River Man, from Elixir days, haunts me for the next few hours, despite Poppy’s insistence that we listen to Next to Normal all the way home – I will keep the plates all spinning – and then, when we get home, the noise of the neighbours’ parties pervades our house, and our little street. This used to be a neat street…

 

 

Children’s stories make us think of other children’s stories, and this one, a Helpmann Award winner in 2016, brings up all sorts of stuff, including my hero, Mr Plumbean, and for some reason (because we get a sense of how simple and complex death is?), a favourite Little Golden Book about the changing of the seasons, The Four Puppies. And always, The Neverending Story. ALWAYS The Neverending Story. Some stories stay with us…

 

Child-like, old man Bambert lives in the tiny attic above Mr Bloom’s grocery store, writing his stories beneath the gaze of his friend, the moon.

 

 

“He realised that all his stories were just words on a page. All these years he thought he was writing himself into the world but the truth was, if Bambert knew nothing of the world then the world knew nothing of him.”

 

One day Bambert sends his stories out into the world, tearing the pages from his book and attaching each to a balloon, with instructions for the reader to send the story back so that he may use the postage stamp to give each story a location.

 

Bambert’s stories are rich with meaning. I enjoy the first one the most, about a headstrong, and socially, politically and environmentally conscious princess looking to appoint the next leader of her kingdom. She sees through the gimmicks of potential suitors who have been asked to give her the key to truth, exposing their flaws and fake news, and we are left to assume that she herself will take the reigns. Frightening tales follow this one, in which a pigeon woman in London, Lady Brompton-Featherly-Poselthwaighte-Huntington-Moore the Third, finds lost and hungry people to add to her collection of living wax figures, another in which two writers will have to put their faith in an imaginary child to escape their prison cell on a ray of light, and a brother and sister who will have to find their way through the stark winter forests of Poland before the Dark Angels (no, not those who frequent the fetish club, but something more like Dementors, or…Nazis), find them and force them into a deep hole in the freezing earth. And finally, it’s the tale of Taruk, whose drawings come to life as he completes them, reinforcing Bambert’s wish that creativity and good choices will change the world.

 

Directed by Dan Giovannoni and Luke Kerridge, who came across a copy of Reinheldt Jung’s book in a London bookstore and carried it with him for years of backpacking around the world before returning home to turn it into this show. (Kerridge’s other favourite book is The Little Prince). In these sophisticated stories, Kerridge recognised Jung’s simple storytelling device, that it’s the children who are the protagonists and the children who can save the world.

 

It’s a much darker show than you might expect to be seeing with the kids, but here are 5 things I noticed during the Friday night performance at QPAC’s Playhouse, which makes me consider how much we need darker stories told in a theatrical context, and how much we need kids to continue taking their parents to experience live theatre.

  1. we need darkness to see the light
  2. kids are more prepared to hear difficult stories than their parents appear to be
  3. kids are more comfortable hearing difficult stories than their parents appear to be
  4. kids and parents experience similar difficulties trying to quietly consume hard candy in boxes
  5. theatres should resist selling hard candy in boxes if they would like to maintain a particular quality to the storytelling and audience experience
  6. parents should resist accompanying their kids to the theatre unless they are going to follow their own advice, including not speaking or using phones during the performance because as well as being distracting to those seated nearby, the performers, who all real people exisiting in real time in front of you, can hear you and see you.

 

Of course most of the kids work out how it works before the house lights have dimmed.

 

 

The magic of Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories is not only in the allegorical tales themselves, but in the telling of them. Igor Sas is the thoughtful, gentle Mr Bloom, who intercepts Bambert’s stories in favour of seeing his small friend’s delight rather than disillusionment with the world. A talented ensemble play the roles required to bring the story characters to life. Tim Watts is Bambert’s gibberish voice and head and heart (and also, Lord Byron and the princess’s tall, gangly, funny father, the king). Amanda McGregor, Jo Morris and Nick MacLaine are exceptional across multiple roles demonstrating their versatility and flair for comedy and Bunraku puppetry.

 

 

Designer, Jonathan Oxlade, has created a beautiful, intimate two-storey set of intricate detail, which we would ideally have seen in the Cremorne Theatre, only somebody probably thought they could sell every Playhouse seat to any production from this award winning company (I would have thought so too). With ever-changing evocative lighting by Chris Donnelly, and a cinematic soundscape and original music by Ian Moorhead, there’s nothing about this show that’s not perfectly crafted and polished for audiences of all ages and sensibilities. I’ve seen nothing on this scale, of this calibre, for young children since Slava’s Snowshow and Wolfe Bowart’s suite of works. We miss so much as adults (and with an older child now), not even trying to get to similar work at QPAC’s Out of the Box festival for under eights or so-called “children’s theatre”. If only we could get to everything, and if only everything was this sweet and enthralling and entertaining. 

 

While you’re at QPAC, drop in to see Puppet People, a free exhibition in the Tony Gould Gallery with extended opening hours during the Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories season:

Saturday 10am – 6.15pm and Sunday 10am – 1.30pm

03
Oct
17

Under Siege

Under Siege

Brisbane Festival & Philip Bacon Galleries

In Association With QPAC

September 27 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

underseige

You are surrounded by enemies you cannot see.

 

You ambush me. I ambush you.

 

Yang rewrites the epochal tale known in Chinese opera and lore as Farewell My Concubine with a high-octane mix of performers from ballet, hip-hop, kung-fu and Peking opera. Under Siege is an extraordinary feat of theatre, a visual and kinetic treat that sears the senses.

 

Under Siege is her stunning vision of the climactic battle between Chu and Han armies – an encounter that changed the course of Chinese history – and a love story between the besieged warlord Xiang Yu and his self-sacrificing concubine that would transcend death.

 

Beneath thousands of suspended steel blades a climactic battle rages; the Battle of Gaixia will change the course of Chinese history. Two mighty, ambitious warlords stake everything for the ultimate prize. A legendary beauty will prove that love and loyalty outlive death.

 

undersiege_red

20 000 pairs of scissors hang and clank and descend and rise and bend and arc above the stage, inciting a gamut of emotions and creating all the settings of an epic story across time and space until – spoiler alert – thousands fall to the floor, clattering and settling amongst nearly naked bodies and delicate red death feathers.

 

Yang Liping (Artistic Director / Choreographer) worked with Oscar winning designer, Tim “costume is always related to movement” Yip (Visual Director / Set & Costume Designer), to create her first full-length work, a visual degustation befitting a Chinese battle tale told through contemporary dance, martial arts and delicious design aspects you won’t see anywhere else.

 

Under Siege is undoubtedly the most visually arresting show of the year, premiering here for Brisbane Festival before it moves to Melbourne Festival. The changing colours of the sea of scissors, and the final spectacular image of flailing, dying bodies falling beneath a flurry of feathers are just two of the moments to leave a lasting impression.

 

The visual splendour and physical specificity of this production is unparalleled, featuring elegant balletic traditions, blurring the lines between Eastern and Western styles, juxtaposed against fierce, angular sequences, which to my eyes are more in keeping with Wayne McGregor’s second instalment of Woolf Works, but which draw from ancient Chinese operatic, martial arts and dance traditions. There are fluid formations created by an ensemble of warriors, in all-black-everything, moving as one, twisting and somersaulting and throwing themselves across the space and over one another. And there are the tribal tendencies and shadow selves / bipolar characters of others (Han Xin, for example, the brilliant tactician who struggles with opposing loyalties), lunging and reaching across the floor, holding the liminal space and our wonder…are they even really there?

 

undersiege_kings

 

A virtuosic physical performance is delivered by the tall, slim, graceful He Shang as the Western Chu’s Xiang Yu; he presents just like Dairakudakan’s principal dancer, Daiichiro Yuyama, who made such an impression on us in Japan. The Han’s Liu Bang (Gong Zonghui) is shorter, cheekier, and bounds around, playing games with his rival that involve balances and counter balances, and stomping one foot in front of the other’s, to get ahead of one another, eliciting delighted chuckles from the audience.

 

The Concubine, a role traditionally played by a man (and yet, unforgettably by Gong Li in the 1993 film Farewell My Concubine), is the sublimely beautiful male dancer, Yu Ji (Hu Shenyuan), dressed ceremoniously in red by (her) attendants. He’s an astounding, contorting, arresting physical beauty, almost defying description and leaving us quite breathless with the performance of the night.

 

undersiege_silhouettes

 

Wang Yan, a woman in white sits downstage in one corner for the duration, cutting masses of paper into snowflakes and Chinese symbols depicting the names of the characters, while the Narrator, Qiu Jirong, also clad in white, leads us across time and space into the epic battle and safely out of it again. There’s an element of The Never-ending Story and the Empress here, although the story is their own and in fact, there are never enough surtitles to tell the non-Chinese audience exactly what’s happening. Does it matter? Not really. It’s enough to take in the beauty of each stunning  image, and understand that the rivalry for power and prestige has existed for an eternity. It’s precisely what we continue to witness in contemporary contexts around the world, without the elegance and ravishing beauty of a full-scale theatrical production.

 

With a shorter opening sequence (we sit and listen to the overture for eight minutes or more while the house lights stay up, surely an oversight), and a story made more accessible to Westerners, Liping’s first full-length piece might enjoy a broader audience here. As it is, 100 minutes of Under Siege reminds us just how exquisitely beautiful the violence of past events can be made to appear.

27
Sep
17

Kinky Boots

 

Kinky Boots

Michael Cassel Group

QPAC Lyric Theatre

August 26 – October 22 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

The most beautiful thing in the world…

 

You realise we’re talking about shoes, don’t you? Callum Francis, completely gorgeous, is unequivocally the SUPERSTAR of this show. Admittedly, Kinky Boots is written to make a star of any performer who lands the role of Lola, but I doubt that just any performer can play the role – own it – the way Callum Francis does. 

 

Of course it’s the right show for right now, when we must continue to challenge everyone in our circles and on the outskirts, to accept a person for who they are. A true celebration of the individual, inspired by real life events, Kinky Boots is honest, uplifting and utterly heartwarming.

 

The medium is the message, with a fabulously talented and diverse cast directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, sharing the story of a failed guy made good through Cyndi Lauper’s music and lyrics, and a lively book with a stack of priceless one-liners (mostly Lola’s) by Harvey Fierstein. It feels like there are too many songs in the show, but who would dare cut anything from a celebrity penned award winning piece?

 

 

Charlie Price is struggling to save the family shoe business and live up to his father’s expectations. Determined to keep the factory from bankruptcy, Charlie meets a fashionable new friend who gives him an outrageous idea that could change both of their destinies.

 

The message couldn’t be clearer. A change of mind can change the world.

 

It’s refreshing to get a complete story unfolding on stage with enough early detail to add colour and depth to the factory setting of Act 1. Otherwise, it’s dimly lit and a bit dull, as befits the daily grind of the family owned business, until Lola’s Angels appear (and we close Act 1 with a fabulous conveyor belt finale), but it’s a space that’s cleverly designed around a central stairway leading to a platform, which oversees the factory floor. This structure also serves as the backdrop to Lola’s more colourful up-late cabaret performances and the bathroom cubicle in which she hides at one stage, when she feels she is at her most vulnerable.

 

 

 

It takes time to establish this charming story though, and the entire first act to reveal the kinky boots! The pace slows each time we come to a ballad and there are several; they make fantastic big sings for the performers but they’re not the most memorable musical theatre numbers of recent years. Fortunately, it’s a talented company with terrific voices (and legs!). Highlights include the showstoppers Sex Is In the Heel, Everybody Says Yeah and Raise You Up/Just Be (with its cheeky Too Funky type vibe). Not My Father’s Son is beautifully, sensitively sung and becomes a poignant turning point in the tale. On the other hand, Lola’s epic Hold Me In Your Heart appears to be included solely so we may enjoy a Whitney Houston moment. And we do, perhaps even more so than during The Bodyguard

 

 

 

Toby Francis as Charlie, gives his heart and soul to the role, his first commercial lead role. He’s in fine voice and despite the plot requiring him to stack it on the catwalk, he wears the two and a half feet of irresistible sex very well! It’s worth noting that the friendship between Charlie and Lola is actually a little like the cheeky, loveable picture book siblings of the same names created by Lauren Child, with the same tenderness and special bond between them, so it is strange that there’s a moment between them involving raised voices and an obstinate decision that takes them in different directions for a bit. This is not anything lacking in the performances or direction, but in the book. No one seems to have stepped up during creative developments or rehearsals to say aloud, that doesn’t seem right. Let’s change it.

 

 

Sophie Wright is hilariously OTT as Lauren; her solo (The History of Wrong Guys) demonstrating superb comic timing and her ability to read the crowd, taking the joke well beyond where others might. The little we see from Tegan Wouters is great, but she’s stuck with one of those underwritten girlfriend roles that doesn’t give her much to do, when we know she’s capable of much more.

 

 

When the music is upbeat and totally sexy you won’t be able to resist clapping along, and you may shed a tear during more sensitive moments.

Kinky Boots has a big heart and it’s a big hit! It’s a fantastic, current, funny and moving family friendly celebration of life in all corners. With a whole lot of glitter and glam and soul to nourish (and decorate) us by the end of it, the message is abundantly clear: the whole world changes when we accept people as they are

 

 

 

 

11
Sep
17

PER TE

 

PER TE

Brisbane Festival & Aurecon

QPAC Playhouse

September 9 – 16 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

She could tell a story through her eyes…

 

PER TE (Dedicated to you, dear Julie) is an astonishingly beautiful and tender production featuring charismatic acrobats with all the skills, and a circular set up of wind machines on stage to lift inanimate things into the air, creating breathtaking moments for little more reason than that it can be done. It’s perfect festival fare, a feast for the senses without making perfect sense. An Australian premiere, exclusive to Brisbane Festival thanks to David Berthold’s relationship with Compagnia Finzi Pasca (Switzerland), PER TE is almost a show and so much more than one. Can I even explain it? Do I even need to? I just want you to experience it.

 

Dramaturgically challenging for those looking to find a narrative thread through it, PER TE is unashamedly a work of sheer beauty, complex memories and raw emotion, dedicated to writer and director Daniele Finzi Pasca’s late wife, the visionary Julie Hamelin Finzi, who died last year after a long illness at the age of 43.

 

NEXT YEAR I WILL BE 43.

 

 

The profundity of this production is not in its circus tricks but in its arresting images within the aesthetic of a dream, or a dream of a dream, or of several dreams woven together over decades, with sheaths of white plastic floating and dancing above the stage, red and gold silks billowing and becoming fire-breathing dragons, frolicking, fighting…newspaper pages whirling, snowflakes swirling, an aerial hoop descending chillingly like a noose, and in the same instant containing all the beauty of the world, a thousand red rose petals twirling around it, tiny dancers in the air.

 

An entire sequence will stay with me forever, an extended anime fight, private, child-like – SCHOOM! – until the performer’s exhaustion sets in and she continues to fight – what? The world? Herself? – despite physical, mental and emotional fatigue, causing real tears to spill down my cheeks as I ache for her.

 

The second act opens with a plate spinning spectacular-spectacular, the stage filled like a field or a forest of light, or a jungle if we go by the sounds the acrobats make, with poles upon which the plates are placed and spun until they’re suddenly gone, and I don’t notice when they’re struck, or how, or by whom…the angel’s story has me captivated.

 

 

PER TE’s meta-premise lets us in on the secrets of creating a show and paying tribute to a life. With only a box of memories and a garden bench we are three months out from opening night, so things can change and there are members of the stage crew still moving props and set pieces about in plain sight, but basically the show exists, right? Why? And for whom? As the performers explain to the audience the way a show comes together, they reflect on their practice and the creative process. They play games, childlike in their glee, and they remember the things that Julie had said or done. The live music and vocal work is integral to the melting, sweeping, changing moods of the show. This “show” is in fact a love letter, a memoir; an homage to beauty, passion, love, belonging and longing.

 

 

When we begin we are in a garden, with a red garden bench and a darkened doorway, its edges lit. (Finzi Pasca’s Icaro also features a darkened doorway, which opens to the light). It reveals the performers, wearing suits of armour that weigh 30kg each, inhibiting movement, but not much, and adding clanks and creaks to the soundscape. At times it seems like something more will be made of the armour – at one point the tiniest female performer offers a guy his breastplate to put on, but there is no deeper meaning other than what we ourselves read into it, no extra moment there unless we ourselves choose to languish in it. At the end the armour is removed, piece by piece, and each performer lays it on the stage in front of them. This meaning is clear. But with a number of moments that seem less specific we can decide that either there are missed opportunities or that we have missed something that probably wasn’t meant for us in the first place. When such a deeply personal work is shared, we can either embrace it and find morsels we wish to keep forever for ourselves, or simply let it wash over us and look forward to the next festival piece.

 

PER TE is a private place of grief and glee and reverie and community, or a strange and visually stunning circus piece.

 

PER TE for me, more than a secret garden, is the distant memory of a series of decadent grown-ups’ dinner parties, which we would catch a glimpse of for years before being sent down the hall to bed; it’s magical, elusive and it might make more sense next time, or never.

 

05
Sep
17

Cabaret de Paris is back!

 

MOULIN ROUGE STAR BRINGS PARISIAN BRILLIANCE TO BRISBANE

FOR THE RETURN OF CABARET DE PARIS

 

TWO SHOWS ONLY AT QPAC ON SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 9

 

 

 

A burlesque hip hop circus mash-up, a glamorous package of exotic dancers, illusionists, adagio performers and a razor-sharp resident clown.

 

After sold out shows in 2016, the glamorous Parisian revue show CABARET DE PARIS will return to Brisbane for two shows only on Saturday September 9. The two shows will be the only for Australia this year.

 

Cabaret De Paris is a stage spectacular celebrating old-fashioned showgirl glamour combined with the skill of adagio dancers, aerial pole artistry, comedy circus performers, quick change performers, illusionists and of course the famous French Cancan Dancers! (please note: the 2pm show will be covered, while the 7.30pm show is topless)

 

Australian born and trained Marissa Burgess, the longest-serving performer in the Moulin Rouge‘s 120-year history, stars in show. The legendary showgirl, with a string of accolades to her name, became the toast of Paris and the subject of many French TV talk shows and a US documentary. Marissa will be joined by the crème de la crème of showgirls, with dancers who have graced the stages of Moulin Rouge, The Lido and other French cabaret revues also featuring in the 90-minute production.

 

 

The show features over a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of lavish costumes crafted in traditional Paris style, with feathers, sequins, rhinestones and jewels (some covering barely anything)!

 

Cabaret de Paris is choreographed by Todd Patrick, one of Australia’s dance leaders who began his formidable career with Disney, before working for Versace, Dior, Issey Miyaki, Gucci and Chanel, across Europe and Asia. As a dancer he worked internationally, one of the highlights being the principal in The Lido in Paris.

 

Additionally, acclaimed illusionist and Australia’s Got Talent finalist Michael Boyd will perform some of his greatest illusions, mind-boggling disappearances and magic. Two shows only at QPAC on Saturday September 9.

 

 

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.

 




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