Posts Tagged ‘QT

25
Oct
16

Disgraced

Disgraced

MTC & Queensland Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

October 14 – November 6 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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BELONGING IS IN OUR DNA

Brené Brown

 

The moment Disgraced was over I wanted to see it again, right away. It’s the most challenging and confronting play of the year, electric and impossible to leave behind. It’s our past, our present and an opportunity to ponder our future. It serves our confirmation bias yet dares us to see beyond what we think we know and what we keep telling ourselves is important. In the most delightfully bold and entertaining way, Disgraced reinforces everything we’ve been led to believe we’ve got to be carefully taught…and everything we feel sure we’re yet to learn.

The pre-show jazz is deceptively upbeat and sexy, and with Shaun Gurton’s Upper East Side aesthetic, pristine and spacious, and Nigel Levings’ pointed lighting in front of us, we instantly find ourselves not in QPAC’s Playhouse but in a New York City apartment, looking out at the skyline. The mood is privileged, warm; the picture of a perfect life. A perfect couple’s passion is put on hold for the sake of a portrait and plans for a dinner party. Emily is an artist (Libby Munro), and Amir a lawyer (Hazam Shammas). They extend a dinner invitation to his colleague, Jory (Zindzi Okenyo), and Jory’s art dealer husband, Isaac (Mitchell Butel). What begins as a pleasant evening marks the end of an era for these friends. It’s an eventful night!

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In this Pulitzer Prize winning text, Ayad Aktar tears open every racial and religious vein, leaving us bleeding on the floor with gaping wounds, our hearts in our mouths, and without answers on our tongues. You might be mistaken for thinking, at first glance, that over its 90 minutes Disgraced barely scrapes the surface of its ancient-current issues, but look closer. Make the decision to engage and really listen. The text is structured so that we get a hint of what’s coming and yet at every turn, at every spike, we’re met with a shocking, unexpected truth. It’s as if we’ve narrowly escaped saying something aloud ourselves during pre-dinner drinks, and we get to stay standing safely on the edge of the group, watching while somebody else squirms in discomfort for committing what might just as easily have been our own social sin.

Hazem Shammas is Amir, the Pakistani-Muslim carving out his success in New York by hiding his heritage to fit in and get ahead in a Jewish law firm. Having recently binge-watched The Fall, I’m reminded that we never completely know someone. The ordinary behaviour packaged neatly within our everyday routines and the original affection we may have felt for a person hides more than we care to uncover, often to the detriment of our own self-discovery, and our mental, emotional and physical state. Shammas fully embraces the complexities of this role, making empathy a possibility and distrust a certainty.

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Libby Munro (Grounded, Venus In Fur) worked with this cast for just 2 weeks after seeing the show in Melbourne, and with Director, Nadia Tass, for three hours the week before opening in Brisbane. Munro’s Emily, the white American artist and wife of Amir, is the voice of reason, vulnerability and compassion, exposing enough discrepancies in the popular diatribe to prompt our many questions (and make us think twice before posing them to the opening night after party friends). She is also the figure of appropriation – or misappropriation, depending on your perspective – and with these gentle prods and pokes towards the race, religion and gender politics at play, Munro is striking; poised and precise, and perfectly placed within this stellar cast. When she unravels and suddenly begins to shrink, almost disappearing before our eyes (an incredible accomplishment for an actor, to give up the space and the light and let oneself become less present whilst staying completely present in the story), we’re in the room with her. And we want to leave with her. You can guess the moment. The older woman in front of me gasps, she’s visibly shaken… I wonder, did she read the trigger warning? I also wonder, do we need a trigger warning? Imagine the impact of the truly unexpected! (And the further impact of a perfectly choreographed and executed strike! This far into the season, I’m sure the moment has been remedied). In this role, we see Munro continue to work quietly and humbly at presenting intelligent, fearless, unforgettable women on our stages. This is no rave, it’s just the simple truth, which you can see for yourself. There is no one else on the Australian stage consistently nailing the strength and softness of a woman as well as Munro; she’s in a league of her own. What a complete contrast she must offer in the upcoming award winning one shot independent feature film EIGHT. I can’t wait to see this next incredible work. 

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Likewise, Zindzi Okenyo, brings a fierce, self-assured energy into the space as Jory, the lawyer wife of the art dealer, Isaac (Mitchell Butel). With magnificent strength and grace Okenyo’s performance offers another lens, and plenty of razor sharp one-liners in case we forget to remember the history of the black percentage of America’s population. With perfect comic timing and scene stealing stage presence, Mitch Butel is one of the country’s most relaxed and dynamic performers, a superb Isaac. He’s a cliche but he’s not, he’s a Jew but he’s not, he’s afraid but he’s not; he’s a complete anomaly, playing by the rules and pushing all the buttons.

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And then there is Abe. As Amir’s nephew, Kane Felsinger represents the worst of humankind: the angry, politically engaged minority, determined to make his mark on the world by transforming it into the vision he’s gleaned from the descriptions found in the Quran. It would be easy to slip into a caricature but Felsinger resists and only gradually allows the true nature of his character to seep through, affecting and alarming us by degrees. His final moments harden us against the stereotype. My heart plunges into my stomach – I feel physically sick – and I wonder what on earth is the writer playing at? Abe represents the extreme violence we’ve been taught to fear. The shock and sadness and confusion and compassion that sweeps across Munro’s face as the final difficult conversation plays out in front of her mirrors my conflicting thoughts and feelings.

The beauty of Akhtar’s text is the ugliness in it and Tass, always the actors’ director, delves courageously into the intricacies and nuances of each human being and their deeply felt – and sadly marred – connections with one another. They are each as real and as flawed as they can be. They insist on blaming and shaming and yet expect to come out unscathed. They are beautifully, brilliantly thrown together into a melting pot that serves to shame us too, or else inspire us (you decide), into making choices every single day that derive from a place of love and empathy, rather than from ignorance and hate and fear. 

Disgraced is a pleasure, a power, and a terror; a terrible and timely reminder that nothing changes unless we show up, speak the words and take decisive and committed action to change what we cannot abide to see in our world.

30
Jul
13

Problogger Training Event: why I’m going to be there and why you might like to be my roomie for the weekend!

 

So will I be seeing you at the ProBlogger Training Event in September?

 

 

It’s my first. That’s right. I’m a ProBlogger Training Event virgin. And I can’t wait to pop my little conference cherry at the quirky QT Gold Coast September 13th – 14th.

 

If you’ll be there I’d love to hear from you, and if you’ll be there and you haven’t yet booked your accommodation, you could be my roomie! I thought I’d have one but she’s elected to go overseas instead. SO UNLESS YOU’VE ALSO BOOKED A TRIP OVERSEAS IT COULD BE YOU!

 

QT Gold Coast room

 

I have a gorgeous room at QT booked, so there’s no driving involved, and included in the package is breakfast both mornings and dinner on Saturday night! It will cost you just $255 for the two nights of the conference (that’s less than the ProBlogger Training Event special price per night!), and we’ll get to hang out!

 

Just DM me on Twitter or comment below if this sounds like you. We could be roomies!

 

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The Problogger event always has such a fantastic program, with so many awesome speakers, that the whole conference this year booked out within hours of the original tickets going on sale. I’m super excited about the recently announced Lounge Sessions, which are a little more intimate, giving attendees the chance to ask lots of questions.

 

And I have LOTS of questions! You see I need to decide what to do next.

 

I’ve been reviewing theatre for three years, and occasionally I write something about something on my other blog. Add to that a weekly arts column for the local print media, and I’m happy being in the thick of it! When we’re not making theatre we’re supporting it, and I don’t want to stop supporting it (I love it!), but I want us to make more of our own type of theatre. For Sam, this means directing and producing, being given free reign over a text or an idea that grabs him. For me, this might mean writing. Wow. See how non-committal I am? (This is driving Sam crazy!). This is because I’m also a teacher, and I can make better money supply teaching than writing at the moment.

 

But while I’m teaching I’m not writing. So instead of committing fully to one or the other, I’ve been STAYING RIGHT HERE, frozen on the spot, doing what I’ve always done online and teaching less. I’d love to be teaching MORE OFTEN. Because, you know, income. And routine. I can teach during the day, and review theatre and write at night! Yes, I can. It’s what I’ve been doing for a while now, this juggling thing. I don’t mind juggling. It means I can HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO MARTINI AND DRINK IT TOO. POOLSIDE. WHAT DO YOU THINK? Yes, I hear you…

 

QT Gold Coast drinks by the pool

 

Wouldn’t it be easier if I were happy to just stay teaching? YES. Yes, it would be. In so many ways, life would be easier. I envy my teaching friends who’ll never do anything but teach, and travel in their holidays. I’ve never stayed long enough at one school – or in one system – to earn long service leave, and I can’t even imagine that life.

 

I want to write – I need to write – and if I were going to just write, wouldn’t I be doing it? Yes, alright, thank you, I’m DOING IT, but the blogs the way they are are not what I mean. JUGGLING HAS ITS PITFALLS. And that’s why the ProBlogger Training Event IS GOING TO CHANGE MY LIFE. I’m going to come away BUILDING BETTER BLOGS. That’s right. Something, or someone there will be the thing that helps me get on track and really get writing. SAM, YOU’RE KILLING ME; DON’T SAY IT WON’T.

 

Remember, I HAVE A ROOM AT QT that I’d love to share with you if you’re going to be there, for the event or just for the weekend! For details just DM me on Twitter or comment below. It’s a great deal and I’m really nice to holiday/work/live with.

 

Down That Little Lane