Posts Tagged ‘sarah winter

14
Jun
18

The Sound of a Finished Kiss

 

The Sound of a Finished Kiss

Brisbane Powerhouse, Electric Moon & now look here

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 13 – 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

When an old mixed tape is unearthed, four friends rewind to Brisbane in the 1990s. Through a series of monologues interwoven with the songs they loved, they relive the events which shattered friendships and scattered friends to the four corners of the world.

 

There is undoubtedly more lively material than any of the music ever released by The Go-Betweens and if you’re not a fan, this might not seem like the show for you, but wait, there’s more to it than that. And when you make art, is it not right that you should make it the way you want to, using the soundtrack you want to, without having to tick funding application boxes, or satisfying sponsors or producers who are under the misguided impression that their dollars equate to creative talent or artistic decisions better left to the artists? Right. Here we have Kate Wild’s show, not yours, and not mine, and it’s clear from the outset that it’s a labour of love.

 

 

I love the story, which is penned by Wild with nostalgia and style, complete with colloquialisms and local references, which might not have the same impact anywhere else in the world, but here where everyone can picture very clearly, as we did during Zig Zag Street, the share houses and cracked coffee cups and odd, stoned characters at late night share house parties, the in-jokes and the bin references are appreciated. There’s a poetry and honesty to this work that leads us gently from four corners of the globe to our own back yard, begging us to recall the details of a decade. Nothing from your life? No one you know? Look closer. No hammer here with which to shape society, not really, but a mirror held respectfully within our reach while we gaze and wonder and remember, if we’re willing, crazy, hazy days and nights.

 

 

I adore these performers – Lucinda Shaw, Lucas Stibbard, Kat Henry and Sandro Colarelli – in their element as actors who can sing and move proficiently, and certainly in the case of both Shaw and Colarelli, as singers in their own right. This is clever casting, giving Stibbard another recognisable, relatable, beautifully underplayed super sensitive sad guy (you know, he can play happy people too!), and having Henry fill the shoes of a sweater-wearing, box-ticking, wide-eyed and impressionable Toowoomba girl on a fierce/lonely/dissatisfied life journey, Shaw delightedly swivelling and swaying and dancing her way into all our hearts, despite the distinct feeling at first that she doesn’t fit in here, and Colarelli – what a master, of sensual presence, poise and too-cool, disdainful and casual connection, enthralling us even as he reaches demurely for a mic hidden beneath the floor. I don’t know how we’ve managed to keep him in Brisbane… Can we still say parochial things like that?

 

 

Beneath some beautiful lighting by Christine Felmingham, Sarah Winter’s design puts us right at home in any number of share houses during uni years, making use of various levels and all four corners of the intimate Visy stage, and placing the accomplished musicians (James Lees, Ruth Gardner, Richard Grantham, Brett Harris and Karl O’Shea) behind a scrim and in an actual Paddington living room. Really. I swear it’s our place off Latrobe Tce. Or Susan’s Kelvin Grove house. Or Marnie’s Red Hill house. Or Lyndelle’s or maybe Annie’s parents’ place. Or a random St Lucia address that preceded coffee and gelato and too much wine and table soccer and intense conversations with actors and the Italians after knockoffs under the Eiffel Tower on Park Road… The memories come flooding back and I think there are probably really bad late-night, red-eyed, smokey, blurry photos of the parties in any or all of these spaces. You know, actual photos, in photo boxes, that have never been seen on social media (and nor will they ever be). 

 

This is one of the marks of a decent show, though, isn’t it? It pulls you in, even as you resist and don’t recognise much of the music (I don’t mind telling you that right through uni I was still listening to a heap of Single Gun Theory and Indigo Girls and show tunes and I don’t remember what else), and it doesn’t let you go until it’s time to leave, and drive home through all those roadworks (six sections, people, SIX SECTIONS OF ONE LANE OPEN ONLY AT 40KM/HOUR), and marking devising pieces before morning. No wonder I’m tired.

 

 

The Sound of a Finished Kiss is such a sweet new thing, I want to challenge the makers to lift it a bit and find the places it can continue to keep us engaged; these are in between sections of dialogue, with a number of the songs going on for longer than necessary, sometimes by two or three verses, so at 90 minutes it feels like the show drags at times. The pace at one point is helped considerably with the fun and ironic execution of Neridah Waters’ choreography.

 

With its deep insight and some dark and topical content, its wonderful reflection on an era and its bunch of misfit, perfect-for-each-other friends (yeah, c’mon, now you know them), this production could literally bring the party to wherever it shows. Like Soi Cowboy (it was one of those amazing creative developments, like Hanako, which I’ve never finished writing about and yet often reference), and unlike many others confidently charging you full price for the privilege of seeing them, this is one of the few new works to actually, genuinely be ready for their opening night, only begging the most minimal work, only in my opinion, before a return season somewhere, surely. 

 

The Sound of A Finished Kiss closes on Saturday. It’s not just for The Go-Betweens fans. Go see for yourself.

 

Production pics by Greg Harm

 

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13
Sep
15

Prize Fighter

 

Brisbane_Festival_Generic_2015

 

Prize Fighter

Brisbane Festival & La Boite

Roundhouse Theatre

September 5 – 26 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

These are the shows we don’t get to see… We don’t get to see these shows on the Australian stage.

Future. D. Fidel

 

These are the stories that are with us and amongst us.

Todd Macdonald

 

 

September sees Brisbane immersed in the most incredible, inspiring and life-affirming stories, with a Brisbane Festival prelude brought to us by Brisbane Writers Festival, which I’ve enjoyed for the last three years, thanks to Cinnamon Watson Publicity (#tweetingit #xsneverstops). One of the highlights of this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival was hearing Somalian refugee, Abdi Aden, speak about his incredible journey from Mogadishu to Kenya and back to Mogadishu before escaping the horrors of his home country and travelling to Australia via Romania and Germany without family, friends, money or any knowledge of the English language. Abdi not only survived, he thrived. You can read his inspiring story in Shining The Story of a Lucky Man. Like Abdi, La Boite’s Artist-in-Residence, Future D. Fidel, has come from the most frightening of circumstances to settle in Australia and succeed in creating a new life in a safe haven.

 

His story is one of resilience, endurance, ambition and humble gratitude.

 

When you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, “We’re all here to undergo a communion, to find out what is going on in this world.” If you’re not willing to say that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that.

 
― David Mamet Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama

 

prizefighter1_dylanevans

 

Prize Fighter is powerful beyond measure, affecting each of us differently and challenging us to consider the stories that are the newest strands of the cultural weave of our community. This is a “mythical” story tense with the knowingness of the past, and the anticipation of what might happen in the future. It’s not a call to action or a cry for sympathy, but more a long, low sigh of personal pain and regret. It’s heavily weighted with themes of ambition, redemption and forgiveness but it’s not all miserable. It’s about recognising our starting and finishing points and doing the best we can in between. It’s about the choices we make and the paths our choices put us on.

 

On opening night the show starts late, a little later than usual in fact (you can usually count on a 6-8 minute delay getting into the Roundhouse), but bearing in mind we’ve enjoyed drinks and canapés for the last hour in Brisbane Festival’s funky Theatre Republic precinct, everyone is relaxed and chatty on their way in. The beautiful up-cycled space (designed by Sarah Winter) has proven difficult to leave – the vibe is fresh and fun with plenty of food and drink and friends, and live music and inspiring conversations. There are other shows opening nearby tonight too because BRISBANE FESTIVAL.

 

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The action has already started as we file in to take our seats, and for fifteen minutes we sit in awe of the intense focus and physical activity at our feet. It’s actually mesmerising. In the front row of the Roundhouse, ringside, we see the first drops of sweat start to catch the light on well-toned black backs as the company warms up with an informal circuit session supervised by trainers from Brisbane Boxing. These guys have been an integral part of the rehearsal process but when they suddenly disappear we know the show is about to start.

 

A talented young boxer, Isa, is preparing for the biggest fight of his career. On the line is the national title and the promise of fame and riches beyond his wildest dreams. What unfolds is a modern-day fable of a Congolese boy orphaned by war and forced to become a child soldier by the very people who killed his family. His powerful left hook offers a new life in Australia, but his greatest obstacle is not his opponent – it’s his past.

 

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Prize Fighter is loud and bold, with video projected onto a seamless in–the-round canvas surrounding the raised boxing ring (design by Bill Haycock & video design by optikal bloc. Sound design & original compositions by Felix Cross and lighting design by David Walters). We strain to see the images from where we are but they must be at eye level for the upper rows of the Roundhouse. From the very top rows the experience might be akin to watching ancient gladiatorial combat, the original popular art/entertainment. Movement & Fight Director, Nigel Poulton, has had his work cut out for him on this production and he doesn’t disappoint. Even without being a fan of boxing the fight sequences are exhilarating.

 

The final match features a live HD camera feed, as well as a logo and a hashtag. Throughout the show bright white light exposes the desire to win and the dedication to training, and a much darker state employing a red wash takes us back to Africa, when our prize fighter is just ten years old, learning to kill or be killed.

 

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The development of the text has enjoyed support from Dramaturg, Chris Kohn, as well as other stakeholders including Michael Futcher. The structure of the work allows us to gain insight into both time frames, with the fights stopping to allow flashbacks utilising the same versatile actors in multiple roles. The technical precision from the box allowing this magic to happen is impressive and without it (and Stage Manager, Heather O’Keefe) I doubt the show, in terms of its storytelling, would work as well.

 

But the joy and pathos of this production is ultimately in its beautifully gauged performances (the acting is strong – it’s real, raw and honest), tenderly crafted by Director, Todd Macdonald. We know Pacharo Mzembe from The Mountaintop (also directed by Macdonald), and it’s a pleasure to see him in this role, literally flexing his muscles to play a prize fighter who doesn’t necessarily feel the need to be a champion, unlike his coach, Luke. Margi Brown Ash glows with motherly/trainerly pride (there’s nothing typically male about her apart from the name), and she grimaces for only half a moment, before compassion takes over, when overwhelming fear, guilt and the grisly past gets in between her own ambition and Isa’s success in the ring.

 

The tough love is real and the moments of understanding between them, the nuances of the relationship, are a joy to witness.

 

prizefighter4_dylanevans

 

The ensemble is a good lesson in casting with Gideon Mzembe (yes, the just-as-gorgeous and super talented brother of Pacharo), Thuso Lekwape (a standout with that rare star quality; there is such intensity and brilliant energy in his performance), and the beautiful, soulful Sophia Emberson-Bain (she sings superbly too and presents on a silver platter some of the sweetest and cheekiest comical moments of the show). They contribute enormously to the storytelling, switching between roles at a rate of knots and taking care to show us sufficient contrast between characters. Kenneth Ransom shines as an old “Aunty” particularly, offering a perfectly timed and nicely shaped momentary breath of comedy where it’s needed to break up tragic events. There are times when the actors’ words are not as clear as they should be, but the voices are so beautiful I have to forgive them their accents (talk about authentic), and stick to absorbing the story, its melody, and the impact of what, by the end of it, is left unsaid.

 

prizefighter7_dylanevans

 

In Prize Fighter, we experience one man’s personal struggles and the horror of a war affecting so many, but one which we continue to hear little about. It’s a terribly tragic and shocking story, to which most of us can’t possibly relate, but that’s why it’s vital. Prize Fighter is full of heart. It’s a story that can be appreciated for its authenticity and contemporary relevance. It might even help us to welcome other prize fighters into our communities rather than shrug our shoulders and be content to do nothing at all when they have nowhere else to go. We’re not yet so desensitised that we can walk away and forget about this one. And that makes it not just interesting festival programming or great entertainment, but life-affecting art.

 

…in a very real way this story is now our own.

David Berthold

 

prizefighter5_dylanevans

 

 

And there are plays – and books and songs and poems and dances – that are perhaps upsetting or intricate or unusual, that leave you unsure, but which you think about perhaps the next day, and perhaps for a week, and perhaps for the rest of your life.

 

Because they aren’t clean, they aren’t neat, but there’s something in them that comes from the heart, and, so, goes to the heart.

 

― David Mamet Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama

 

 

prizefighter8_dylanevans

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans Photography

24
Sep
14

대홍수 Deluge

brisbanefestival2014

deluge_header

 

대홍수 Deluge

Brisbane Festival, Motherboard Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

September 18 – 20 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Deluge. Anything that overwhelms.

 

We are all naked in the face of grief…

Director, Jeremy Neideck

 

 

Deluge Preview from Motherboard Productions on Vimeo.

 

During Brisbane Writers Festival, I was delighted to speak with Morris Gleitzman, mostly about tea. Not only a renowned author, he’s what you might call a tea connoisseur, quietly, humbly possessing vast knowledge on many varieties of tea, and the many ways in which humans have enjoyed tea for centuries. I’ve come to realise that tea expertise impresses me immensely and if you can talk about it, and make it well, you are a prince (or princess) amongst men (or women).

 

In our household tea is very special, even sacred (I quit coffee a couple of years ago); the drinking of tea is not to be rushed or denied. Our tea “ceremonies” enable a level of conversation and connection that we just don’t discover over any other shared beverage. Tea is the first and final thing we share each day, and it links events, friends and colleagues in between.
Considering my appreciation for a good cuppa, I delighted in the notion of a tea ceremony to open the show. During this time the house lights stay up and we watch as members of the company take tea orders from the audience. Black? Green? Milk? Sugar? They are relaxed, in no rush at all, waiting patiently to take turns to pour the water to make the tea from a towering urn centre stage, which sits in pride of place on a kitchen hutch. It’s not what Raymond Mao would do but it sets the scene and serves to focus our attention on the performers’ focus, kindness and control of the elements. A deceptively simple soundscape (Sound Designer Dane Alexander) and the alternating pace of the performers’ movements remind me of the imagery and viewing experience of Baraka. Although the slow-mo sets the pace of the show and establishes its ritual, which continues in the following moving water vessels sequence, what starts out as a quirky, gentle, delightful opening sequence feels, after 20 minutes, too long, even for me.

 

Other segments of the show feel indulgent for little gain or effect. Without a narrative – everything is symbolic – at times we’re left floundering (though no less fascinated or impressed by the movement itself), like the flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline. I try to go with the flow, to take in as much as possible on an experiential level. Despite its strengths Deluge is presented in an extended form that some may be reluctant to sit through again. This is unfortunate (or is it?) for the development of the piece, which might just need a new pair of eyes on it. Ultimately, despite some moments that are forever etched in my memory, this version of the show is one that is less mesmerising than it should be.

 

BPH_Brisbane_Festival_Deluge_10_2014-1180x663

 

The production’s strength lies in its design and ritualistic choreographic elements. The action happens in and around a semi-circle of pylons, rising up out of swirling mist like some structure’s ruined foundations at the edge of Brisbane River. Having waded through waist-deep, stinking black mud to get to Drift in the aftermath of the 2011 floods, and knowing there was a similar clean up required at Brisbane Powerhouse (and everywhere else), this picture alone elicits strong feelings. It’s the bold work of Sarah Winter, the head and heart behind A Dinner With Gravity, a rare production of pure magic, which has never left me. Here too, Winter creates a dramatic, quite magical scene out of very little. A fantastic final segment, the climax of the piece, utilises the majesty of the simple set, immense lengths of white fabric (and, are they plastic bags?), and the power of Neideck’s physical and vocal performance especially, to striking effect. Before that though, an extended trance sequence builds and builds, the performers shivering, trembling, and eventually leaping up and down on the spot, Maasai Warrior style, possessed by some dark spirit or inherent longing. They suddenly stop, and one by one disappear, drowned, beneath a shimmering green light, a body of laser brilliance that engulfs each figure. The audience gasps, collectively; the movement and music and flood of emotion has quietened all at once. This moment is why we gather together to experience live theatre. (It represents the way we come together after a natural disaster, in one breath, the same realisation, all at once). The award-winning lighting, surely, by David Walters, the stuff of illegal substance enhanced dreams, is easily his best work to date.

 

Another moment brings us Whirling Dervish sema bliss. Or is it grief even still? It’s mostly grief explored in this production – sorrow, despair and some hope. The sort of hope we hope a hot cuppa will bring.

 

Both female and male performers wear simple yet sumptuous layered, gathered skirts, which swirl and billow around the dancers just like Seven Angels Jasmin Lychee blossoms dance around our big glass teapot. Below a leather waistband cum waspie and above bare feet, the fabric swishes and swings around each performer beautifully, conjuring images of western women working new, harsh land and doing their washing in shallow creeks and rivers, in their entirely unsuitable, beautiful European garb (Costume Designers Kiara Bulley & Bianca Bulley. Originating Costume Design Noni Harrison). Most of the movement achieved draws on Korean traditional dance, most of the vocal work taken from Korean opera, leading us from the beauty and wonder of daydreams by a gentle stream, to the devastation of a stormy, horror story nightmare that is any deluge, or deluge of emotion.

 

Han is a word that is widely held to be untranslatable…it is sometimes described as a dark shadow, or a deep-set knot of sorrow that passes between generations and oscillates in that place between despair and hope. Han is presented as the voice of the pansori singer, and in the body of the traditional dancer. It is precipitated and released in endless cycles that require time for meditation and contemplation as well as cathartic outpourings of emotion.

 

Some would say this brand of art is self-indulgent, but I would say maybe the artists are still in denial about what the audience wants. Or needs. There’s a fine line between sharing ritual and respect for cultural traditions, and selling us a style and a story so that we desire more of it. Neideck has little intention, as far as I can tell, of making anything more commercial, but perhaps it’s time to consider entertainment value. It might not take much – it’s already a beautiful work of art. But for whom is the art being made? Why? Why in this country? Neideck is not only a master of the art form, but also, of knowledge and skill sharing, and nurturing the relationships between artists in Australia and Korea. There must be ways to gently bring this work, and work like it to a wider audience; to help bring all of the challenging cross-cultural collaborative work to an even bigger, newer audience, and not just continue to attract the connoisseurs.

 

Deluge has come a long way since its original work-in-progress showing in 2011 (Red Moon Rising & FreeRange Metro Arts), and it probably has something of an eternal life, or more accurately, multiple lives, should Neideck feel the need to stay so close to its themes. It should be cherished, like the oldest Puerh, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change and benefit from new infusions to be enjoyed by all. I think the beauty and strange power of Deluge in any of its forms is enough to stay with even the most impatient theatregoers, so let’s hope it finds its way across the sea, continues to evolve, and comes back to us on the tide someday.

 

In 2014 Deluge features Hoyoung Tak, Younghee Park, Youngho Kwon, Katrina Cornwell, Sammie Williams, Amy Wollstein & Jeremy Neideck.

 

In 2011 Deluge featured Tak Hoyoung, Mark Hill, Younghee Park, Mary Eggleston, Kat Henry, Ellen Rijs, Jung Minji & Amy Wollstein.

 

Forest – Deluge (2011) from Red Moon Rising on Vimeo.

01
Jul
12

A Dinner With Gravity

A Dinner With Gravity

A Dinner With Gravity

La Boite Indie & Sarah Winter

La Boite’s Rehearsal Room

27th June – 7th July 2012

What a magical evening! Again! What a week for La Boite Indie, simultaneously opening two new shows! So I’ve been wondering. Yes. That. What if La Boite didn’t exist? We wouldn’t get to experience the magic that is happening every time something new is created there. How many artists and audience members are currently getting something from La Boite? What’s it worth? What would it take to keep it going from strength to strength, rather than allowing it to be gradually, insidiously stripped of its funding or support? Would you miss it? Silly question.

HOW MUCH would you miss it?

You know what? If you can’t have your name in lights just yet, keep buying those tickets!

I know! You are! You guys are the people we see there! You’re the community!

(Now tell a friend who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre. La Boite Indie is the ideal introduction to the theatre. It’s never what you expect)!

You’re the village and you’re wonderful!

Sitting in La Boite’s rehearsal room on Friday night (we’d seen it last in its guise as The Rabbit Den), at a long table designed by (EVE’s) Backwood Originals and constructed from recycled timber window frames, I felt like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole at the top of The Faraway Tree!

Without shrinking or growing (there were no pills to pop, only buttons to pop onto plates in place of canapés), my perspective changed. I could see “theatre” as the place and the entity we’ve always talked about – a living, breathing work of malleable art that is always happening and always evolving, incorporating audience and artists all at once, sharing our original stories over a bottle of wine! As I say, we’ve always talked about it but our focus at XS has been on “putting on shows,” in that rather more traditional sense of making theatre. Even when we work with the event management gurus, we plan to put on a show. Here was somebody who created a space, set a table, placed food upon it – above it, actually – and invited an audience to become the artists, to become the show. She’s seamlessly merged theatre and event management. It’s brilliant.

“If you feed them they will be happy.”

She’s right. She’s the hostess with the mostess. And then she leaves the room.

Sarah Winter, who clearly dances to a different beat, a bit like Enid Blyton or Lewis Carroll, has created something quite unique: an intimate meeting of strangers…or of friends who haven’t yet met.

Beneath enormous black and white helium-filled balloons holding plates of hors d’oeuvres supplied by local catering company, Loaves and Fishes, with the help of elegantly printed prompts presented as our entree, mains and dessert menus, the conversation flowed as freely as the wine, between Nick, Leanne, Anna, Sam and I (at one end of the table). We found ourselves laughing, joking and sharing intimate details as if we were old friends.

Where were you born? What’s your middle name? Tell us about some misadventure. What’s your earliest memory? What does happiness taste like? What’s the meaning of life? Share a joke.

I noticed that at the opposite end of the table, the guests seemed to be powering through their menu options, taking on the physical challenges (Play the piano! Make something for someone!), leaving us far behind them and in deep conversation about the merits of Disney’s princesses and what it means to be a woman who reads and runs and talks back to people. (Say, “I’m a feminist!”)

There was no unease, no discomfort; it took barely a moment for introductions to take place and a conversation to begin. Immediately, we became both the audience and the art.

A Dinner With GravityWho was watching? Does it matter? Was it enough that we were there, taking part in the experience? Yes. It’s a very special experience and I hope that Sarah may find a way to offer it again (local restaurants, do you hear me?) because it’s a dinner that everybody should attend. It’s changing lives a little bit and in that, it represents a small way to help mend the world, if only we all took the time to get to know each other – everybody in the village – a little better. If only our dinner parties would bring about WORLD PEACE (no politics or religion at the table?! Imagine!). Of course, the thought is naïve and a little too idealistic but wouldn’t it be lovely if it actually worked?

If you feed them they will be happy.

If you offer topics of conversation they will talk.

And to talk is to connect.

Upon leaving the room we took out the iPhones and found each other on Facebook (as you do). A little ironic perhaps but no one wanted to lose the connections we’d made over dinner.

“With a little bit of creativity, strangers can become best friends.”

Sam Coward





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