Posts Tagged ‘steven mitchell wright

17
Aug
17

The Hamlet Apocalypse

 

The Hamlet Apocalypse

The Danger Ensemble

Judith Wright Centre

August 9 – 19 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Danger Ensemble refuse their audience to be complacent. They demand you listen, give yourself over, interrogate, ask questions, and to leave the theatre with something burning in your gut – good or bad. The Hamlet Apocalypse has had seasons at La Mama, Adelaide Fringe and La Boite Theatre Company (2011), and now explodes into the Judith Wright Centre.

 

Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is used as a portal for the audience to observe the familiar, crumble it into dust, and seek out the truth. In the beginning each actor introduces themselves and their character(s). This show is about welcoming the end, following each person traversing their own path to inevitable doom. Shakespeare’s words are used to reveal the actor’s true self and expose their own personal regrets, fears, and secret longings. Counting back from 10, each section shows the world of Hamlet disintegrating and the character’s fighting to utter their last words as the actors burst forth to have their say.

It wasn’t all depressing. There were moments of lightness and hilarity, embracing the absurdity of the Bard’s language, and poking fun of the process of making theatre and (yes, sometimes you can’t afford to have a horse on stage) its limitations. If you’ve ever witnessed a Danger Ensemble show, you know the movement is meticulously precise and beautiful. A favourite moment for me was when someone sat down too late or moved at the wrong time, only to be scolded by the rest of the company and insisting they repeat said movement before continuing. GREAT, YES!

 

 

The essence of this show is about discovering what or who you value the most at the end of all things. Who is your last thought? What is your last defiant act? The audience is privileged to hear the actor’s whisper or scream out their confessions and this is what makes the work powerful. I can only say I wanted more stillness in these moments. Wait! Slow down. I didn’t hear what you said. Stay with me! As the countdown continued, the delivery of the text quickened as the madness of the apocalypse was taking hold. I was lost in the blur between fiction and reality and grappling with the meaning of it all. That was the point. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always get what we want. We are caught up in moments, wishing time would slow down.

The Hamlet Apocalypse is stunning, and will shock and surprise you. It may take some time to figure out what it means to you personally. For me, the experience is a fist punch to the heart. It’s the moment you see an ex-lover on the street and your stomach lurches. All the memories flood back. The first kiss, those last words. It’s beautiful and harrowing, and in a flash, they pass you by.

Artistic Director Steven Mitchell Wright continues to deliver captivating productions that keep you up at night questioning everything, perhaps yearning to live a little more dangerously. His creative team are courageous and it was clear that the performer’s left their hearts and souls on the stage opening night.    

 

 

 

10 years ago, The Danger Ensemble was founded and named such – not to demonstrate an aesthetic or overt risqué attitude but to remind the company to always be uncomfortable, to be in danger of failing. This last decade has provided much opportunity and support for the company and Brisbane has been a wonderful home for us.

As our birthday rolled around the company asked itself big questions, including are we relevant? does our investigation sustain us? should we continue as a company? is Brisbane the best place for us to be? are we still uncomfortable?

We have grown and changed in this last decade too. We have made works that we vehemently stand behind, we have made works that we would prefer to never speak of again. We have always tried to uphold an ambition in the work and risk failure. We have been supported and funded by almost every organisation or venue we could have been – we have always had great audience numbers and good support from local media. We have worked with incredible artists, producers, creatives and it was amazing. was.

The ecology here has changed dramatically, this is true nationally also – we are now in an era of increased conservatism in programming, in funding and in audience attendance. This is a reality. Money is difficult, it always has been. Opportunities are fewer for everyone. The avenues for independent organisations have dwindled. This is hugely problematic as often they are the ones that provide genuine opportunities for emerging artists – investing in their artistry, and provide work that sits in counter to main stage commercialism. Brisbane City Council and Arts Queensland need to take a very serious look at the way they are supporting local artists as well as young and emerging artists through their funding and venues as right now, independent companies are being forced to grow like weeds out of the cracks in the concrete. It’s not healthy and these companies may not survive, let alone thrive. Our theatre is boring and dying. We would be remiss if we didn’t call these things out but they are secondary to our announcement.

Brisbane, despite being our home and such an incredible supportive city – we have become too comfortable here – and it is time for us to leave you.

It is with smiles slapped across our mouths and some tears in our eyes that we announce The Hamlet Apocalypse will be our final major theatrical work* as a Brisbane-based company. In 2018, we will be making the pilgrimage that many artists have before us and planting roots in Melbourne: to be inspired by a new place and new artists, to force ourselves to redefine who we are and what we do, to reunite with old lovers, introduce ourselves to new ones and to make ourselves nervous and uncomfortable again.

Brisbane, thank you – we love you and we will be back – you will always be our home but no longer our house.

Photo by Morgan Roberts. The Hamlet Apocalypse rehearsals – East Brisbane Bowls Club.

*keep eyes peeled for a limited ticket event-come-goodbye party in November.

 

 

 

     

12
Sep
14

A Doll’s House

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

adollshouse

 

A Doll’s House

La Boite & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 10 – 27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.

Victor Hugo

 

Writer, Lally Katz, and Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, have recreated A Doll’s House for a new generation.

 

I’m not sure exactly what the new generation will get from it though because I feel the conclusion is slightly skewed. Is it just me? I always wonder what other people will take away from a show. I think the opening night crowd loved it! But the ending? Not so much.

 

Tara-Moss

The feminist message is so overstated by the conclusion of this production that I feel sure I would have been happier to miss the final gear change and escape before the end, still anticipating, as Lally’s mum’s English teacher put it, “the door slam that was heard all over the world.”

 

 

The end of the three acts is an anomaly, completely at odds with the style and sophistication of the rest of the piece. The poorly matched bag and shoe colour-blocking fashion statement takes us defiantly back to the eighties, the music brings us well and truly into the nineties, and its strangely staunch feminist diatribe, after the fluid, modern, poetic language of the play, transports us stubbornly back to the seventies, when women’s lib was a thing. Okay, so it’s still a thing (it’s always been a thing), but in a very different way. In this country at least, we’ve been talking intelligently for a while now about equal rights, without having to burn our Honey Birdette bras and shout about it from the rooftops. In fact, I listened last weekend to Tara Moss talk very intelligently about it. (She’s actually my new favourite public person, right up there with our Cate).

 

At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to explain. I don’t want you to avoid seeing A Doll’s House because the ending is wrong for our time and place.

 

Like all good drama, the play speaks for itself. We don’t need the contemporary voice here to sum it all up in case we missed the point, in case we’re stupid. It just doesn’t ring true. Until this point Lally’s version is exceptionally clear – there’s no missing the message in this fresh and insightful adaptation – and when the essence of Ibsen’s original play (illuminated more brightly than ever through the beautiful, subtle changes in text and Mitchell Wright’s unnerving, alienating staging), is lost in the explanation, it’s like listening to the host of the party trying to break down a joke when someone doesn’t laugh at the punchline. Look, seriously, sorry, but the thing is this: if you’re having to explain a joke at your own event you need a) a new guest list and/or b) new material.

 

Admittedly, I was feeling slightly wary of Steven Mitchell Wright’s treatment of Lally’s updated text. (Wary is my defense mechanism. I don’t like to be disappointed). By this I mean, after recently experiencing The Danger Ensemble’s very challenging Caligula, I went into A Doll’s House not knowing what to expect! (N.B. This is a good thing in theatre). This neat team comprises Lally Katz and Steven Mitchell Wright, and Designer, Dan Potra, Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes, and Composer & Sound Designer, Dane Alexander. Hughes’ lighting states and Alexander’s soundscape whisper discreetly together, with NCIS ad break clunks to punctuate plot points and the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters, until the ambience morphs into some sort of subterranean club scene. I’m already freezing and by the time I begin to visibly shiver I have to get out. I’ve never been so cold in The Roundhouse. The temperature and the volume are moving in opposite directions, forcing me outside into the marginally more comfortable night air of the Theatre Republic. It’s so discomforting it’s brilliant. Talk about experiencing the theatre! When I go back in, the space is still too loud and too cold and too small. It’s claustrophobic and if it were hot it’d be cloying. Because I’m still freezing I’m tapping my foot in spite of myself. It’s so not tapping-your-foot-to-the-music music. It’s music to go mad to. (And the bass clearly takes others to the point of madness about three quarters of the way through the final act, persisting underneath something classical, but I don’t mind it. I’ve slid down venue doors and heard that beat for hours longer. It’s sort of vaguely comforting, and it makes me think, responsibly, “THE BATON PASSES ON!”)

 

The company has achieved something extraordinary with this play (because let’s just forget that dreadful ending ever happened), which is to create an entirely new experience of one of our greatest feminist (or rather, free choice) plays. I always loathed it until I read it so many times I loved it. Nora annoyed me, and yet I chose A Doll’s House for an extended study unit in Senior Theatre (back when we called it just Drama). I designed costumes and a shoebox set, complete with actual doll’s house furniture. I didn’t consider this to be cheating; I thought it demonstrated my initiative, and an uncanny ability to source precisely whatever it was the production needed. It’s taken years for my skills to be truly appreciated in an actual theatre. Anyway.

 

desperatehousewives

Potra’s creepy Grimm Brothers’ fairytale hair cum forest trees and tendrils (Wisteria Lane, anyone?) literally trap the inhabitants of Torvald’s house – a sort of a Sleeping Rapunzel Beauty effect – and the first few times our actors break into song, I expect to hear the princes’ refrain from Sondheim’s Into the Woods. (When they don’t sing it, I hear it inside my head anyway!). It’s a device that allows the opportunity for melodrama and many mini comedic moments. Each song also offers a glimpse at the complex machinations of the characters. But what I suspect is that it may simply be a bemused statement on musical theatre. I could be wrong…

 


 

I love the clever, slightly untidy action leading into the final moments of the play, when the actors connect additional power sources to light up the pallet parquetry floor from beneath, only to reveal its cracks. The cracks in the floor (in the faces, in the hearts and minds and souls of so many men and women), were always there, but until they’re illuminated it’s possible to stubbornly/naively/foolishly/destructively ignore them.

 

It’s brave, of course it is, to stage something so known so drastically differently, to trust your actors so completely to bring new aspects to each character, giving us new insight into an age-old story. If you’ve never seen A Doll’s House, originally staged in 1879, a month after Ibsen penned it, this one is a fascinating production, well worth making the effort to get to. And interestingly, when much younger members of the audience laugh (well, let’s say they are not that much younger), I feel a rush of sadness for Nora and still, despite our “progress”, a tenderness for women everywhere. I overhear an older couple discussing whether or not the young people are “getting it” and I can only conclude they are “getting” something completely different from the show. Or maybe not so different at all. It’s in that (and in my own response to the work), that we see the real magic of this version of the play.

 

I didn’t think I could ever sit through another production of A Doll’s House. We just don’t accept anymore that a woman relinquishes the right to answer back to her husband, or to manage her own affairs, but in this entertaining and moving production, it’s entirely believable. Of course this is largely due too, to the superb cast, comprising Helen Christinson (Nora “Hummingbird” Helmer – a delicate and precise little kewpie doll creature, like our Wife in Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, whose silent scream is loud and clear and whose Tarantella is, for one moment in time, just as wild and desperate as it should be. It’s at this point that a new production might find its finish. Christinson makes me ache for her…and wonder what it is the redheads in Brisbane theatre circles have been taking. I want some is all.), Hugh Parker (Torvald Puppet Master Helmer), Chris Beckey (Krogstad), Damien Cassidy (Dr Rank) and Cienda McNamara (Kristine).

 

If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman,
don’t worry, there is still time.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

We continue to see Steven Mitchell Wright create the most incredible original work, and with the support of La Boite Theatre Company and Brisbane Festival, this time he’s turned straw into gold, pulled Granny from the belly of a wolf and planted a magic bean at the end of the rainbow. I’d say this production marks Steven Mitchell Wright as being well on the way to joining our country’s directing giants.

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Director, Steven Mitchell Wright

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

We asked Director of La Boite & Brisbane Festival’s A Doll’s House, Steven Mitchell Wright, to drop everything and tell us about the show and his process and he did! Hooray! You HAVE booked now, haven’t you?

 

Steven, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

We don’t need to but the work is rich.  It’s deeply relevant still.  The work has undeniable feminist readings. I believe (despite recent social media phenomena) that we are in a world that still requires an argument for feminism and equality. Nora’s position within this work is not just about an individual but also an entire culture.

 

For me, it’s also a story about individual happiness, and about the sacrifices we make for other peoples happiness and the cost of our own.  Particularly in Love and the ways that in relationships we can love someone so much that we lose ourselves or when we spend so much energy on making sure our Love is ok that we forget to make sure our lover is. I’m not sure that will ever fall out of a place of relevance.

 

What’s different about this production?

Well, Lally made it a bit of a musical. Well, not a musical, a show with songs.  For me, the inclusion of songs shifts the form in a really challenging way.  I abhor domesticity in theatre and I don’t really believe in realism so that makes this production different to the way it is often perceived and presented in the majority of the works theatrical history.  That said, Mabou Mines and Pan Pan have both presented very experimental versions of A Doll’s House in Brisbane in the last decade or so and our version is in no way that irreverent… but it is also not a domestic sitting room drama, we are playing with time and space in a different way.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

I believe I read it when I was at university but I have little to no recollection of having any feelings about it. I saw Mabou Mines production at Brisbane Festival many years ago but really my first deep engagement with it was reading it last year when we were in early discussions about programming the work for La Boite.

 

Can you relate to any of the characters?

I relate to all of them, I think that’s one of the greatest things about the work and one of the reasons the work has endured time.

 

What do you think made Lally Katz the ideal writer for this gig?

Well, I don’t think there is such a thing as an ideal artist, the creatives on the work make them what they are.  Had it been a different writer it would have been a different show entirely.  What I think is great about Lally though is her rhythms, her sense of poetry and the idiosyncrasies she writes with, it marries with my philosophies.  I don’t like watching theatre that asks us to forget that the actors are acting.  I like theatre that is undeniably theatrical and Lally’s writing is great at keeping the theatrical bouyant and the poetic in her work is unexpected.  I’ve been an admirer of her work for a long time so it’s an honour to be working with her.
What do you think would happen in the sequel? What does Nora do next?

I think the power in A Doll’s House comes from the potential and possibility at the end, I would never speculate as to what becomes of Nora, I think that could kill and crush A Doll’s House.

 

Which directors do you admire and why?
I feel like I’ve answered this question for XS Entertainment before, and I’m scared that my answers haven’t changed. Jan Fabre, Robert Wilson, Simon McBurney, Robert Lepage, Tadashi Suzuki, Barry Kosky, Anne Bogart, Tim Etchells – I admire them all for different reason – largely they give me something to aspire to.

 

Locally, Daniel Evans‘ work constantly inspires and challenges me.  I’m really interested in the work of The Rabble and The Hayloft Project but I haven’t seen enough of their work.

 

What made you start directing and keep directing?

I think I started creating first, I wanted to be a maker largely because I wasn’t seeing much work that excited me and I wanted to perform in work that excited me and audiences.  So I started making work and directing them so I could perform in them.  As my work matured and I was able begin to articulate my process more, I found performing and directing became too complicated and was doing a disservice to the work and the other actors.    I’m not sure why I kept directing, it’s in my blood I think. I don’t have much of a choice about it.

 

Describe your creative process and the rehearsal process for a production such as this.

I don’t know that I’m the best person to describe this – my process on this show was an evolution of some ideas I’ve been playing with in different processes over the last few years. This process has been very different for me as it’s the first time in years that I’ve been on the floor with a completed script at the beginning of rehearsals so I’ve had to reassess and relearn some processes.

 

I asked the actors to give me a line each to answer this question.

 

Hugh Parker said, “an intense physical work out that forced me to examine where I was skipping in my own process”.

 

Helen Christinson said, “an incredibly free process that was supported by foundations that encouraged creativity, specificity and nuance.”

 

Chris Beckey said, “it was a process that afforded me the opportunity to explore the minutiae of the text and it’s physicality, a luxury that few processes afford an actor”

 

Cienda McNamara said, “working for specificity and when you think you are being specific, you need to go specifikerer”.

 

Damien Cassidy said, “a rigorous commitment to placing the mundane and the default and the familiar with a precise yet fractured quiet virtuosity”.

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s lovely to be programmed as a part of the festival. To be programmed along works of national and international significance.  It gives local artists the opportunity to be involved in the international conversation, to contribute to our greater ecology.

 

stevenmitchellwright

Steven Mitchell Wright

What’s next for you?  

I am directing a work as a part of Awkward Conversation curated and artistic directed by Daniel Evans at Metro Arts. The piece I’m directing is currently embargoed so I can’t spill that but it’ll be announced shortly and I’m really excited and terrified by it. After that it’s basically next year and The Danger Ensemble (the independent company I Artistic Direct) are going into development for a large new work for 2016 and you may see some of our existing works getting a redevelopment and another presentation.

 

I’m also looking to get back on stage next year as a performer and some conversations around that have also begun.

 

 

 

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Writer, Lally Katz

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

 

Lally Katz has written a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for La Boite and Brisbane Festival. Of course you knew that. But have you booked yet?

 

Lally, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

I guess as a culture we’re still fascinated by a woman who leaves behind all the things that women are taught to value and base their identity on. Plus the characters and story are great.

 

What’s different about this adaptation?

There are songs in it. And time is used differently. But it also keeps very closely to the original structure.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

My mother told me about it. She said her high school English teacher used to say, ‘It was the door slam that was heard all over the world.’ That always resonated with me.

 

How do you relate to Nora?

I am very different to Nora in lots of ways. But I have hidden longings and dreams too, like Nora, like most people.   I have an almost opposite life to Nora, unlike her, I don’t have a husband and family. I have a career I’m obsessed with and I travel a lot. I don’t have to answer to anyone within my household, except my cleaner, who I really don’t want to lose. She comes once a week, and whatever she says, goes. I relate to Nora in that I wonder how can you have a family and keep yourself. I know lots of women must do it, but I have never worked out how to do it.. Sometimes I try to be like Nora in the beginning of the play. Sort of like a very happy housewife- because I think that will make me acceptable. But it never works. Often I find this heartbreaking, but relieving. I think there’s something women are still taught about how to see themselves. And we can go against that, but there is always a price. Also, like Nora, people sometimes treat me like a child. I can act like a child sometimes. I feel comfortable there. But I’m trying to change that. I’m currently learning to drive so I can leave that persona behind.

 

 

What do you think makes Steven Mitchell Wright the ideal director for this gig?

Steven has a brilliant theatrical imagination. He sees and hears theatre in a very unique way. I’m really excited to see the world that he creates. Steven and I talked a lot in the lead up to my writing this adaptation and he gave me these songs to listen to, that really brought me into the world and the heart of Nora and of the play. So I think we came to this together on the same wavelength. Steven makes arresting theatre, watching him in early rehearsals I was fascinated by the textures that he was building into the characters and the world. He has a very special and arresting way of seeing things. I think this will be fantastic for A Doll’s House.

 

Do you feel the need to write a sequel? What Nora Did Next?

No, not really. I like imagining lots of different stuff for Nora.

 

Which writers do you admire in the literary and theatrical worlds?

In Australia there are so many playwrights I love and admire. And they’re all so different from each other. Andrew Bovell, Joanna Murray Smith, Hannie Rayson, David Williamson, Wesley Enoch, Brendan Cowell, Andrew Upton, Jenny Kemp, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius, Nicola Gunn, Tommy Murphy, Tom Holloway, Simon Stone, Anne Louise Sarks, Kit Brookman, Nikki Bloom, Tom Wright, Angela Betzien, Rita Kalnejais, Melissa Reeves, All the people who’s work I’ve watched and learned from and my peers. I’m forgetting LOTS of people. But I love the work of the writers in the Australian theatre industry. Outside of Australia there’s lots I love too- I love Caryl Churchill, Thorton Wilder, Tennesse Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Sarah Cane. But so many others. I am also reading a Stephen King book at the moment. I love his writing, But actually I can’t read it because it’s too scary. And I love lots of new plays and playwrights, but I can’t think of all of them now.

 

What made you start writing and keep writing?

I always wrote. I have always had a passion, a hunger and a drive to tell stories. I live for it. And I still do it because I’m still obsessed with it and I still live for it. Even though I am always behind on all my work. So really I live to procrastinate….

 

If you could write a letter to anybody and be sure they’d respond, who would it be?

Leonard Cohen. I just love him so much. And I wish I knew him and that we talked all the time. And I think I would really get a lot out of reading his letters. He’d be a great letter writer.

 

Describe your creative process/writing routine.

It is very chaotic. I spend a lot of time getting inspired and getting experiences and living everything enough to be able to write it, then I procrastinate for months and/or weeks. And then I sit down in a panic and write the first draft very quickly.

 

How much time do you spend “in the room” with the actors and director?

It depends on the production. Less as I get older to be honest. When I was younger I thought they needed me all the time. But now I find that it’s okay if I’m not there. The show doesn’t fall apart- sometimes it’s better because if I’m there then I can keep re writing too much and it doesn’t let everyone settle into and commit to the script. But that being said, there are definitely productions that are better if I am there a lot. Especially if the script isn’t quite done, or there’s still a lot of mysteries people need insights to inside the world and the characters.

 

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What are you looking forward to seeing in this production?

I’m really looking forward to seeing the set and the costumes! And the actors in them of course!

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s really exciting for me. I love Brisbane and it’s the first time I’ve ever had a work in the festival. It’s thrilling.

 

What do you want to see/keep seeing in Australian theatre?

 

I want people to their rich imaginations. Australian writers have great texture and life in their work. But I think we can keep challenging ourselves more in structure and story.

 

 

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Lally Katz

 

What’s next for you?

I am going to be acting in an adaptation of my stage show STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON for ABC Arts.

 

 

 

07
Jul
14

Caligula

 

Caligula

The Danger Ensemble

With support from Judith Wright Centre’s Fresh Ground program

Judith Wright Centre

July 3 – 12 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

CALIGULA+hero

 

Right after seeing The Danger Ensemble’s latest visual feast mindfuck, Caligula, Sam offered Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, the most apt description I’ve ever heard of his work:

 

“Someone shot you in the head, and the bits of your brain that slid down the wall to land on the floor is what you’ve made this show with.”

 

The design elements are beautiful (Designers Benjamin Hughes & Nathalie Ryner), the first ten minutes – otherworldly beautiful – and then, once we’ve heard from two tour guides (not your usual suspects and serving in this moment as Greek Chorus) about Caligula’s character and infamous short reign over the Roman Empire, all descends into chaos. We transcend time and place to find ourselves lost somewhere between “history” and the fetish clubs of the 21st century. It’s loose, it’s a little wicked, and it’s not anything at all like you might expect, even if you thought you were familiar with The Danger Ensemble’s work. And that’s the thing.

 

The Danger Ensemble is the only company in the place doing this work. It’s bold and cheeky, and it’s quite often crass and downright revolting (it’s no secret that I disliked Sons of Sin), but it’s being made and THAT is a beautiful thing.

 

The work itself usually contains, on some level, a whole lot of brutality, sensuality, classically derived text, and new interpretations of ancient beliefs or popular opinions or bits of history. This work, just as Loco Maricon Amour did, boasts moments of immense beauty, and subtlety too. The images conjured (and they are conjured, as if by magic; as I’ve noted before, Steven Mitchell Wright’s expertise in painting pictures on stage is impressive), are capable of affecting us in a way that only art can. Each piece or tiny moment is unique and we respond to it in such a personal way that sometimes the effect is difficult to describe. Sometimes, when I’m writing up a show like this, I just wish you’d been there. You need to get out more! Experience the work!

 

Had you been there, you might have breathed more quietly, or held your breath, or tried not to visibly squirm, or tried to stop yourself from digging your nails into the palm of your hand as the beating of your heart quickened…

 

Have you ever sat through a delivery boy’s litany on the pros and cons of fisting (Stephen Quinn), or listened to the deadpan delivery from a woman wearing the horns of Beelzebub (Lucinda Shaw) on how to skin an animal while the “animal” twitches and tenses and dances and stumbles and eventually dies in front of you, collapsing into a deep pool of plastic party cups? No? See? You just don’t know how you’ll respond to that! How good is live theatre!?

 

The cast has been literally cast to create white plaster torsos that hang from the gods and rise to reveal the actors behind them, only to stop and hang in mid air, to look over the strange, sordid action that follows. The effect is a haunting reminder that somebody, whether or not we believe it to be a pantheon of gods, is always watching. We are, each of us, responsible for the way we choose to feel but we realise too that our words and actions have an impact on those around us.

 

DRIVE CAREFULLY, PEOPLE.

 

Sometimes while Sam drives I write, and as I write I’m grateful the P Plater in front of us has wrenched himself back onto the highway instead of dying in the gutter tonight. How close we can come to death. How sad it is that we need these reminders to truly value our lives. And then there are those who ignore the reminders and continue to live ungratefully, recklessly, selfishly, and viciously. They make me sick. And then I remember I can try not to feel disgusted by their apathy for the feelings of others. Try to frame it differently. Try to feel compassion. Poor, stupid people who go through life hurting others… That’s right, isn’t it?

 

An entire section of Caligula (and, it seems, the Dharma), has been completely lost on me; it’s almost a stand-up comedy segment comprising Chris Beckey and Nerida Matthaei using hand held mics to hold a rather odd conversation about the ways she wishes to be hurt by him.

 

I want you to hit me with your car.

 

Really? YOU WANT HIM TO HIT YOU WITH HIS CAR. Who would want that? Is it a metaphor? Is it a kiss with a fist?

 

 

It made me think of a few things, including another song, you know, the Swedes singing about driving a car into a bridge? I’m appalled that Poppy knows the lyrics and we’ve talked about how crazy and ungrateful it is that she wouldn’t even care, about her life, about other peoples lives, about what happens in the lives of the people she leaves behind… I also think of an ex-boyfriend who was genuinely an emo (I know, what was I thinking? I’m actually a beach baby! And I love happy endings!), and that stupidly disturbing and unnecessarily revoltingly violent film, which I never finished watching and never will, Irreversible.

 

There’s the thought too that Nerida Matthaei’s choreography makes Caligula a convincing “dance theatre” piece (it’s a term that seems to be bandied about a bit at the moment), as much as it is a work of theatre or contemporary performance art. I can imagine this show performed in all its parts at various times of the day and night in a place like MONA.

 

I enjoyed Beckey’s voice – rich and salubrious – vocally and physically his is a consummate performance as always, right to the glittery end. And the twitching, dying movement sequence mentioned earlier, performed by Gabriel Comerford, will be sure to sear some sort of cruel image on your mind so you’ll certainly remember him the next time you see him (or hear about Anna Krien’s Us and Them). Even without Steven Mitchell Wright on stage – he cut his role the day before opening, as it seemed superfluous – this is another bold configuration of one of the country’s most confident, most consistently challenging creative companies. What we’re seeing here is the earliest version of this piece, thanks to The Judy’s Fresh Ground program; it’s a slightly messy birth but we know that whatever this baby looks like in the first instance, we’ll give it a chance.

 

Caligula comes to us at the perfect time, challenging our perceptions of what art is, what is acceptable to see and to talk about in public, and what parallels are to be drawn between historical and current leaders and followers. Power, wealth, sex, power. Power. Who else is asking the questions? Who else is presenting multiple possible answers for us to discuss and digest?
It’s true (and unfortunate) that The Danger Ensemble flirts with financial ruin when compared to the obvious commercial successes of our pretty, lovely, light and fluffy theatre companies but then, why compare? The work is unapologetic, pushing the proverbial boundaries and promising nothing at this stage but a unique night out, which you certainly won’t forget but you might not want to remember. Regardless, let’s see more of it!

 

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19
May
14

Five diverse arts projects need your support via pozible!

 

METRO ARTS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

FIVE DIVERSE PROJECTS NEED YOUR SUPPORT

 

How much does is take to kick start five arts projects?  The answer is $16,500!

 

 

A diverse range of artists participating in Metro Arts’ development programs are set to receive dollar-for-dollar matched funding from Creative Partnerships Australia through its program MATCH: Crowdfunding for the Independent Arts Sector – to qualify for this funding they need to raise $16,500 through their individual crowd funding campaigns which will take place online through pozible.

 

The five projects include three creative developments of new works, an international dance exchange and a repertory season of eight pieces of contemporary theatre.  All five projects will run in the second half of this year and will be housed at Metro Arts.  Supporters can find the campaigns online at www.pozible.com/collection/detail/86 under the Metro Arts Collection.

 

Each campaign is offering different rewards for different levels of donations and range from a postcard direct from Eastern Europe in return for a $10 donation, to dinner with one of the city’s best directors for $500.  Every little bit counts, so supporters shouldn’t be shy!

 

Daniel Evans’ (The Good Room) project sees him produce eight plays, that wouldn’t otherwise be seen in Brisbane, directed by eight local directors in a two-week repertory season titled Awkward Conversation.  Joining the directorial ranks are those names well known to Brisbane such as Lucas Stibbard, Steven Mitchell Wright and Catarina Hebbard.

 

 

In contrast, curator and producer Britt Guy is looking to support the fourth year of the Croatia-Slovenia-Australia Artist Exchange which sees one dance practitioner from Croatia and one from Slovenia join two Australian artists, Jess Devereux and Zaimon Vilmanis, in an international cultural exchange to be housed in Brisbane at Metro Arts and Darwin, as part of Darwin Festival, before heading back to Croatia and then Slovenia.

 

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Hybrid performance maker and director, Genevieve Trace – after premiering Aurelian at Brisbane Festival last year – is raising funds to commence the development of her new performance work, The Lavinia Project, which tells the story of modern femininity in Australian culture in

 

Theatre maker Thomas Quirk wants to return to Brisbane to continue the development of The Theory of Everything which sees artists from both Brisbane and Thomas’ new hometown of Melbourne, collaborate to discover the theory of… well everything!  With characters such as Einstein, Queen Elizabeth I and Milley Cyrus onstage it should be interesting night in the theatre!

 

Rounding out the group is early career artist Lucy-Ann Langkilde who has graced Brisbane stages in such productions as Trollope (Queensland Theatre Company, 2013) and The Wizard of Oz (La Boite Theatre, 2013), but now wants to turn her focus to directing with her new work Las Pozas which has been selected as a Shortfuse Residency at Metro Arts.

 

This group of artists have the ideas and passion to match and really they are half way there.  Head to www.pozible.com/collection/detail/86 to donate and assist them over the line.

 

ABOUT METRO ARTS

A multi-artform incubator for independent practice, Metro Arts provides a platform of infrastructure, mentoring, development and producing support, networks and leadership for artists at all stages of practice, while concurrently promoting new and emerging ideas, forms and practices to the market.

 

The Lavinia Project – Pozible Video from Genevieve Trace on Vimeo.

20
May
13

Sons of Sin

Sons of Sin

Judith Wright Centre & The Danger Ensemble

Judith Wright Centre

17th – 25th May 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward and Meredith McLean

 

Featuring: Alex FowlerWilliam HoranThomas HutchinsAaron WilsonRon SeetoChris FarrellSamuel SchoessowCharlie Schache & Stephen Quinn

 

 

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What makes a man a man?

 

 

SONS OF SIN, The Danger Ensemble’s most provocative production to date, lays bare the hopes, dreams and expectations of young men moving through rites of passage and across a minefield of history, pressures, demands and taboos towards manhood.

 

Classical text collides with raw confession. A lone voice stands against a call of the pack. Killers rise, angels fall. Love and brotherhood survive.

 

 

 

”Perhaps one of the most dangerous things is a kid who thinks he’s a man.”

Anna Krien Night Games

 

 

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I haven’t noticed anybody jumping up and down, and shouting at the top of his or her voice to go see this show but I hope you’re not taking any notice of those who are muttering, “Don’t bother.” This is a particular type of theatre. It’s not “nonsense” and its not “a complete fucking waste of time”, but it is anywhere between ninety minutes and just over two hours of your life that you won’t get back, and I question its purpose and its impact on audiences. You’re either gonna’ love it or hate it. But don’t miss it.

 

After an hour and forty minutes I actually left, the show clocked in at just a little more than two hours. Wearing heels was a big mistake; if I’d known how long we’d be standing I would’ve sacrificed fabulousness for comfort. I recommend flat shoes if you go. M

 

  • Wear flat shoes and dark colours (boots and jeans and something with pockets, you know, like, if you search my Facebook photos for long enough, what you would have seen me in during the Mt Isa years)
  • Stay against the walls if you don’t want to get wet (and that’s not just water we’re talking about, that’s beer, paint and bodily fluids we’re talking about!)
  • Drink (a lot) before the show. Or don’t…

 

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The question is: did Sons of Sin get boring because my feet hurt or did my feet hurt because the show was boring? M

 

I kinda’ wish I’d had more to drink before stepping inside the belly of this show and it’s intense insane drinking game. Of course I was driving, so I enjoyed a cab sav at the glass bar next door with the show’s director, Steven Mitchell Wright, director of The Judy, Ruth Hodgman, Program Manager at The Judy, Lewis Jones, and The Courier Mail’s Nathanael Cooper. Instead of the vino, we should have had several rounds of Truth or Dare tequila shots, which would have better set the tone for the evening. But in retrospect, I’m glad I wasn’t the one throwing up in a bathtub centre stage…

 

There is no hesitation from any of the Sons of Sin. Peeing in a bathtub? Sure, why not. Strip tease? That’s the tamest part of the show. I’m really torn on how to respond to this. Imagine a giant interactive game of King’s Cup… I remember them fondly from my college days. Actually, that’s a lie; no one remembers anything if they play King’s Cup properly. But like any game of King’s Cup, the players and onlookers get bored as the cards get repetitive and the players get so drunk everything descends into chaos. 

 

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Brevity is lacking, and in some instances, so is sincerity. Before I departed I could almost hear it in the voices of these men. Was it the third King by then? God, we’re tired. There were moments of sadness for the sake of sadness, controversy for the sake of controversy.

 

Provocation is nothing but crudeness if it’s forced. M

 

I’m actually completely stunned by this production, and not in a buzzing, amazing, WOW! kinda’ way. A perverse “fuck you” at religion and women, The Danger Ensemble’s Sons of Sin is as impressive in parts as it is disappointing. So already, I’m telling you, if you’re at all curious about this show, go see it…at least half of it! I think they lost about forty percent of their opening night audience when they foolishly took a “drinks break” (no break for the actors, they came out to the bar with us and tried their best to boost bar sales); a strange interlude, which many took as their only chance of escape! ROOKIE ERROR.

 

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It’s not that the show was unbearable – well, I was tired and it was getting close to unbearable by 9:05pm – but this is a show destined for greater things, and it’s as if this is the out of town try-out…in town. Unfortunately for The Danger Ensemble, most of the problems might have been remedied during the rehearsal process, if only there had been a realistic look at things, including the show’s duration, repetition, efficiency and potential impact on audiences. I know Steven invited randoms via social media into the rehearsal room the week prior to opening, and I know there were changes made in the space of 24 hours, between the preview and opening night, but here is our strongest case yet for the addition of a few more previews to the season. With Broadway money, Broadway shows might enjoy (not sure if enjoy is the right word!) up to thirty previews with paying audiences in attendance before critics are invited in, and changes are made throughout that process, as the writers and producers gauge audience reactions to their material, and make adjustments accordingly, as in the case of shows such as Cinderella and Kinky Boots.

 

Purporting to lay bare the hopes, dreams and expectations of young men, Sons of Sin begins beautifully (“Never use the word ‘beautiful’…men are not beautiful”), with a pre-show ritual involving nudity and blindfolds (not what you think!). The actors share the same space as the audience and let us exist there and watch, in our own discomfort or curiousity (or whatever), allowing us time to adjust, and to accept that anything could happen. And anything – and everything – does.

 

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Ben Judd ‘reckons this is a show that “under-skilled theatre writers would describe as a stylistic gang-bang” and he’s right…there’s a bit more to it. It seems a shallow exploration of what it is to be a man…but thank Allah, Buddha, God and Jesus most of us know there is more to most men than the stereotypical beer-swilling footy bogan living on campus during uni years, which appears to be the popular character choice here. The other popular version of a man is the confused (or not) gay one (I wasn’t sure). It’s a shame we don’t see much of “what it is to be a man” outside of these realms.

 

Sons of Sin left me utterly exhausted, bewildered and depressed. If this is it, if this is all that young men are hoping, expecting and dreaming, the world is in a bigger mess than we thought. If that’s the message of this piece it’s a real downer, and it comes predictably after a while, and then repetitively, for TWO HOURS of standing around the edges of the space and being herded like cattle in order to gain the best vantage points for various “scenes”. I was surprised when the show kept going and going…after about nine o’clock I was anticipating the card-carrier chicks or the director to step in and surreptitiously scoop up at least five or six superfluous cards, bringing us nearer the end much earlier.

 

The success of this type of theatre depends largely upon the continuing acceptance of the audience; the fact that they are happily rather than reluctantly still playing along. If the energy begins to lag, if disinterest sets in, it can be felt and a savvy company will accept that this is part of the experiment – part of the experience – and either up the anti or get to the end of the show without further ado. In this case, there would have been nothing lost by doing so except perhaps a couple of strokes to egos.

 

I loved the set up: the drinking game using super size playing cards, the circular staging in the massive, open space and the use of scaffold, and an impressive (at least the first and second times it was used) art gallery style reveal, the lighting (Ben Hughes), the sound (Henry Collins). I especially loved the Beyonce mash-up and dance sequence – a good seven or eight minutes of it – featuring, not by accident, obviously, Thomas Hutchins & Chris Farrell.

 

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The random acts continued as random cards were selected from the floor. Picking up the King card dictated that some sort of sad confessional be delivered during contemplative clockwise and then anti-clockwise circling of the bathtub. The problem with all three monologues is in the writing; each might have been more effective had it been improvised. The subject matter is clichéd and each conclusion is so typical that we’re not shocked, surprised, reassured or inspired by any of the pieces. The monotonous (some would say “stylised”) delivery tone of each, consistent throughout the show, doesn’t help us accept the subject matter. It was a relief to hear the whooping and shouting of the company at the conclusion of each card-induced state. *pours the remainder of a bottle of beer into bath tub*

 

I don’t want to put a damper on the show though. It was at times beautiful, at others hilarious and even terrifying. One of the funnier and more natural moments was when the audience was invited to ask one of the sons a question that had to be answered by him truthfully. One woman took possession of the microphone and spewed forth some long-winded question about white middle class males having it easy (and some additional feminist jargon, which I struggled to listen to). The boy on trial shouted over her, true to character, “This is fucking boring!” and when the woman implored the crowd, “Is this question really boring?” some mumbled inaudibly while others yelled, “YES!” Shunned to a corner,  she provided an amusing turn to the live theatre element. M

 

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For the actors, Sons of Sin provides a full inventory of emotional and physical risk-taking opportunities. This is a bunch of super confident performers. I can imagine the only question asked of potential company members might have been not, “What can you do?” but “Is there anything you won’t do?”

 

Still, I’ve seen better treatment of the epic, the appalling, and the intriguing by The Danger Ensemble; The Hamlet Apocalypse blew my mind, and I was fascinated by Loco Maricon Amor. Likewise, I loved much of Children of War. But in these previous productions – a stronger narrative featured in each – there appeared to be little or no attempt to be risqué or shocking for the sake of it; no false agenda to fit anybody else’s idea of what The Danger Ensemble does or doesn’t do. The Danger Ensemble, from what I can gather, continue to do whatever the hell they like. And sure, there’s an audience for that! As well as actors lining up in the wings for a chance to work with the company. Perhaps this production is to prove that, once and for all, The Danger Ensemble are a force unto themselves.

 

I still have some questions.

 

 

Why do we make theatre? Who is the work for?

 

 

The Dare

Do we need to see an actor scull two bottles of beer and vomit into the tub?

 

Do we need to see an actor piss into the tub? (I spoke with Prue, the chick who had offered the piss-in-the-tub dare and I was not at all surprised to find out she felt absolutely mortified! She hadn’t expected the actor to do it!).

 

Do we need to see another guy make out with Anna? Well, all right, you got me; that one was extremely entertaining.

 

The Truth

Mini scenes came out of truth-telling sessions, utilising audience members where necessary, to play out the scene at the heart of the matter. Do the only important truths revolve around menstrual blood, masturbation, and sexual relations with one’s mother? Really? I hope I’m not wrong when I give most men greater credit than that.

 

Sadly, we see only evidence of strippers, sex changes, simulated rape and gang rape, torture, Truth or Dare, drinking games and nights of debauchery. Such is the (ever amusing) stuff of men. Apparently.

 

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What I LOVE about this show is its sensational imagery. Steven Mitchell Wright is a master painter, using actors and theatrical tricks like there’s no budget bed time tomorrow to create pictures of such intensity that there are times when I have to look away. But getting from one picture to the next is a frustrating, tedious task, which could be made much less painful by simply bypassing a lot of self-indulgent study of a very narrow view of man, and speeding up the process so that we enjoy more of the show. To be fair, a few punters obviously enjoyed the whole thing a lot more than I did. There is more good stuff going on here than bad, but it’s not my kinda’ stuff.

 

It’s a long, repetitive production that, reshaped and reborn, will make perfect fringe festival fodder. For me, a memorable show – for all the right reasons – comes down to experiencing moments. My favourite moment? Thom’s tears (apparently he never cries in this segment), during prolonged eye contact with a girl from the crowd, as he delivers to her a tender, heartfelt monologue. She is captivated. We are given the chance to hold our collective breath. It’s a moment of rare beauty.

 

 

“Never use the word ‘beautiful’…men are not beautiful”.

 

 

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I wish there had been more beautiful moments. The actors are up for it. The audience is up for it. I don’t think we saw all of what makes a man a man… At least, I hope we did not.

 

As Steven said, “I don’t think we struggle to watch violence at all.  I think we are largely comfortable as a culture with violence. I think we find beauty, honesty and sensuality much more confronting.”

 

Personally, I abhor violence and I struggle to watch it in any form. Why do I need to see it at all?

 

 

Bring on the beauty.

 

 

These are some of the things I look forward to seeing a glimpse of again – beauty, honesty and sensuality – in Steven’s next production: The Wizard of Oz, for La Boite.