Posts Tagged ‘suzie miller

14
Jun
18

The Mathematics of Longing

 

The Mathematics of Longing

La Boite, The Farm & The Uncertainty Principle

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

June 2 – 23 2018

 

Reviewed by Nicole Reilly

 

 

My passion is to translate, if you will, the beauty of maths and physics into something visceral, narrative, human, ‘emotional’ if I dare. This play The Mathematics of Longing is an expression of that desire to merge two of my worlds, two of my ways of seeing, and to invite everyone to share the wonder of mathematics in a completely different and experiential environment. And it is also very much about uncertainty, not just the physics theory of The Uncertainty Principle, but uncertainty as it comes up close and personal, opening up possibilities, emotional journeys, tears, laughter, sadness and joy in human lives.

– Suzie Miller, playwright and co-creator.

 

An ambitious experiment in collaborative play-building between La Boite, The Farm and The Uncertainty Principle, The Mathematics of Longing is a fast-paced 60-minute non-linear collision of art, mathematics and humanity. As promised by playwright, Suzie Miller, the audience is invited to share in the wonder of mathematics. This is for some a frightening concept, but thankfully it’s tackled through the familiar lens of love…between a physicist (Todd McDonald) and a playwright writing about physics (Ngoc Phan), and their daughter (Merlynn Tong), and a rockstar and his artist girlfriend (The Farm’s Gavin Webber and Kate Harman, who are both thrilling to watch in these demanding physical and emotional roles).

 

 

 

Each scene, or event, opens with a monologue detailing a mathematical theorem, providing a framework within which to contextualise the on-stage actions. And assumedly, due to the collaborative nature of the work, the designers (lighting by Ben Hughes, sound by Regurgitator’s Ben Ely and set by Ross Manning), are able to incorporate the beauty of mathematics into all aspects of the show quite effortlessly. It is somewhat apt, however, that after outlining a mathematical theorem, what follows is an experiment, executed with varying degrees of success. One such success is of attachment theory, with the rockstar and his girlfriend entangled in red cabling whilst below them, the physicist and the playwright attempt to divide their belongings as they navigate their separation. Even in relative stillness above, allowing our focus to go to the physicist and his wife as they collect and sort the domino-effect-fallen books surrounding the stage, the entanglement of the two dancers is nothing short of entrancing.

 

 

In an earlier scene, an alternate universe sees the physicist and the playwright lament the loss of their daughter. An attempt at profundity is made, but this is an example of when a director is necessary, rather than five co-creators. Full of potential, primed to be heart-wrenching, it fails to reach the emotional heights needed to affect the audience, or even to portray a real experience. The scene lacks vision and clarity, and feels as though every line between the physicist and the playwright was chosen for its profundity, lacking authenticity as a result. An underplayed scene that when revisited later and re-contextualised to take us into a different universe with a different set of circumstances, never offers stakes high enough for us to care.

 

 

 

 

By far the most satisfying experiment of this new work is between the physicist and his daughter, as he explains the sheer beauty of maths with such passion and intensity that the audience can’t help but smile and be swept up in his delight. Miller’s writing of her lived experience is poignant and emotive, carried with ease by both McDonald and Tong. The additional layers, in the transformation of the stacks of books lining the stage into dominoes and a helix, as well as the installation-like floating and spinning tubes of light, vividly illustrate the beauty of mathematically seeing the world. Cleverly, as the lights spiral above the audience, that sea of faces, now lit and enlightened, is revealed.

The Mathematics of Longing, in its debut season, is a promising first draft, enjoyable and full of potential, though at times it feels like an unfinished version of Nick Payne’s brilliant Constellations.

 

 

 

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15
Nov
17

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

 

 

La Boite Theatre Company has unveiled a trailblazing 2018 season, putting vital female voices at the heart of a season of new Australian works.

 

“It is no surprise that our 2018 season has a vital and strong group of female artists leading the charge,” La Boite Artistic Director and CEO Todd MacDonald said. “Throughout its 90+ year history, La Boite has been heavily influenced by formidable and talented women, from Barbara Sisley and Babette Stephens to Jennifer Blocksidge and Sue Rider. “In 2018, our season tackles global issues, personal narratives, innovative forms, and a host of exciting new collaborations, including four world premiere productions.”

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 season opens with The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek (10 February – 3 March); a new dark-comedy by acclaimed Queensland actor and playwright Kathryn Marquet (Pale Blue Dot), co-produced by Playlab. Set in the isolated wilds of Tasmania and described as “McDonagh meets Tarantino”, The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek stars John Batchelor, Julian Curtis, Kimie Tsukakoshi and Emily Weir (pictured), directed by PlayLab’s Artistic Director and CEO, Ian Lawson.

 

 

La Boite 2018 also sees the return of La Boite and MDA’s sell-out, participatory verbatim work The Village (30 April – 5 May), based on the real-life stories of refugees and asylum seekers. Featuring a fearless company of six sharing their life-changing true stories of survival in the face of adversity, The Village stars Cieavash Arean, Arwin Arwin, Silva Asal, Joyce Taylor, Lili Sanchez and Ngoc Phan.

 

Long-time La Boite collaborator Suzie Miller (Snow White; Medea) returns in 2018 with her highly-anticipated new work The Mathematics of Longing (2 – 23 June); a collaboration with internationally acclaimed Gold Coast based dance-theatre company The Farm. Also premiering is a contemporary feminist response to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, by 2016 Text Prize winner Claire Christian, set on 21 January 2017 when women all over the world amassed to protest a Trump-led free world. Led by a fierce female chorus of women including Brisbane’s own Amy Ingram and Hsiao-Ling Tang, Lysa and the Freeborn Dames (21 July – 11 August) features some of Queensland’s brightest emerging talents, with QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts Final Year Acting students completing the QUT Creative Industries co-production.

 

 

Rounding out the main stage season is Neon Tiger (27 October – 17 November); a roaring new Australian play with songs by Julia-Rose Lewis (Samson), composed by Gillian Cosgriff (pictured). Directed by Kat Henry, this world premiere production, in association with Brisbane Powerhouse, stars Courtney Stewart, fresh from her star-turn in 2017’s runaway hit Single Asian Female.

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 offering also sees two of the company’s most-loved works from recent years on tour around the country, including Future D. Fidel’s smash hit Prize Fighter, which returns to south-east Queensland in a special presentation at Logan Entertainment Centre in September. Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female, which premiered to universal acclaim at La Boite in 2017, receives its interstate premiere at Belvoir in February. Also returning is La Boite’s popular HWY (12 – 24 March); an annual festival of readings, showing, workshops, masterclasses, conversations and pitches. Since its inception in 2016, HWY has proven a vital pathway for countless artists and championed several acclaimed new works including Single Asian Female and The Mathematics of Longing.

 

MacDonald said the 2018 program continued La Boite’s ongoing commitment to the development of new work and artists. “2018 is the year of extraordinary collaborations and brilliant local talent,” MacDonald said. “We hold a special responsibility to not just entertain and challenge but to listen and make space, so we will continue to do just that in 2018.”

 

Playwright Suzie Miller said she was proud to be part of this pioneering season of new work. “To be part of a season that’s led by female writers is such an incredible experience,” Miller said. “I remember when I first started my career in 2000 noting that there were very few women playwrights in main stage seasons, so to have come this full circle where that’s the predominant voice in the season is incredibly exciting.”

 

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21
Sep
16

Snow White

Snow White

La Boite, Opera Queensland & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 3 – 24 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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My mother just spent more than 50 days in hospital – two hospitals actually, between two ICUs – and she continues to recover at home from complications following surgery, all due to a bug that travelled with her from one of the 5 Stans. I’ve also been sick since Brisbane Festival opening night and have stubbornly attended as much as possible, in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, where people forget I’m based, without managing to keep up with the follow up, i.e. writing about what I’ve seen. I have, however, perhaps as some sort of procrastination, insisted on (mostly successfully although the place could be tidier) running a household with two extra people in it, getting to some social engagements, camping at North Shore despite coughing up a bigger storm than the one to hit us on the day we came home, and before that, finishing a 5-week teaching contract because unlike reviewing Brisbane theatre, teaching pays. An exhausting term, physically and emotionally. I’ve missed yoga and coffee dates and drinks and events. Everything online needs an overhaul, the garden needs love, and I’ve been postponing the spring cleaning since this time last year. I need new writers, I need new clothes and I need a new focus. But more on that later.

Luckily, most of the shows I see stay with me. And let’s quietly appreciate the archival value of even a late response. Here’s the first in a succession of catch ups, well overdue. Sorry about that.

snowwhite_stephpickett

We enter The Roundhouse to a Disney soundtrack and chirping birdsong, eliciting an eerie sense of foreboding and at the same time, a false sense of security. This is a grim tale, much more so than the Grimm tale.

For the record, Disney’s classic animated Snow White unnerves me to this day.

The forest is inside, on the ceiling. The darkness is broken by fairy lights. Mirrors, the autumn leaves, the branches, a blood stained timber floor, musical instruments and kitchen chairs hanging from the forest canopy. Later, rose petals, sparkles… A tree house, the stairs running up the middle of it, musicians beneath it (the evocative space designed by Sarah Winter & striking lighting designed by Ben Hughes). I recognise Kanen Breen, like a lithe, glittering, corseted Cabaret Emcee, swanning around with his glass of red until it’s drained and settling next to a member of the audience for an intimate chat. He grins like The Cheshire Cat and moves on to the next victim, seated in front of us. I love Breen’s sparkling red nails and mouth, the essence of the infamous red apple, a reminder of the inherent evil and glamorous violence of this fairytale. He’s The Mirror. Of course he is.

snowwhite_silviacolloca

The Queen (Silvia Colloca) epitomises everything we love to loathe and fear and admire about the evil stepmother stereotype / ancient mother archetype. She’s sophisticated and sexy, intimidating, alluring…actually, she’s intoxicating. Colloca’s voice is a fallen angel’s, her lower register particularly rich and warm. Scintillating in black and red lace like a Spanish lady of the night, she’s exquisite, a Diva, seducing us effortlessly. As per the original version, without differentiation between biological mother and stepmother, she is one, she is all. Mother. Woman. Crone. Queen. Her tango with The Mirror is a luscious, almost lascivious affair. Choreographed by Rosetta Cook and Gavin Webber it’s the perfect vehicle to set these two up early as the stars of the show.

Zulya Kamalova’s compositions – enchanted swirling, pulsing, living, breathing things – take us out of ourselves and into this dark, dangerously glistening, shifting world of elegance, innocence and broken trust. A waltz spells out the mother-daughter relationship more clearly and succinctly than a few shouted lines of dialogue can do. We feel for them both. None of us actually want to grow old and weary and weathered, after all. Suzie Miller’s libretto succeeds in capturing varying perspectives on the power and fragility of women and the way we can examine our potential, our power, our perceived limitations, our ambitions, and what it is we’re prepared to do to be “happy” when we dare to look at ourselves in the mirror.

snowwhite_death

This Little Lolita Snow White, the fairest of them all, is an innocent princess turned teen seductress. An innate talent, an inevitability; the product of her environment, perhaps… In her last desperate attempt to escape the clutches, and the axe, of The Hunter (Michael Tuahine), this Snow White becomes every mother’s worst nightclubbing, shame-walking nightmare. Steph Pickett gets the mix just right – she’s ingenue and expert, and sings like Fiona Apple/Jesska Hoop/Katie Noonan (and I see Katie in the bank of seats opposite us but miss her later to say hello to). It’s Act 1’s most contemporary piece, reminding me of the first 16 bars of Katzenjammer’s Hey Ho On the Devil’s Back in both its shape and tone. This is the moment the little girl becomes a woman, beautifully, frighteningly, authentically captured. The most amazing, game-changing piece of the show though is The Queen’s lament, truly exemplary vocal work, which must be heard to be believed. Colloca’s wailing resonates with us no matter how great or small our individual losses, and becomes a cry of utter despair for all mothers everywhere, for all humanity. She wails and groans her immense grief, singing over the unmoving body of her daughter. Singing over the bones. Lost. Empty. Willing her flesh and blood, her little Snow White, to come back to life, even when it will bring about her own undoing. This extended moment in time holds us in collective stillness, breathlessness, until the final haunting note fades. It’s the greatest Medea moment we’ve seen yet. This is an indescribable ache, which I’ll retain from this show for years yet. 

snowwhite_kanenbreen

The production continues past its perfect end though, redundantly taking us ten years into the future, when Snow White is with child and we see the pattern repeating. The story goes on… I would love to have left the story to go on unseen, leaving us hanging, after the devastating look that is exchanged between the two once the girl has realised her mother has tried multiple times to kill her. The rest amounts to the beginning of a poor sequel and undoes a little bit of the brilliance that is this new extraordinary work, so funny and lovely, and witty and gritty and gory.

I also enjoyed less than others may have, the opening of Act 2 involving Colloca-as-performer-as-The Queen, wrapped in her iconic cape, gliding down the stairs and moving through the audience to offer an apple to bemused audience members – “It’s not poisonous” – and sitting on stage to share a story from between the pages of Grimm’s Fairytales before morphing back into The Queen proper to go on with the tale. A gimmick that seems unnecessary in a work of such quality but one that must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Think about it. Do audiences need these breaks from the narrative to connect, to relate, to remember they’ve come here to experience another world? To help them recognise their world? Despite my questions, I see the opening night audience embrace every element of the production and so I muse, again, who am I to find fault with any tiny thing? Snow White is truly a work of art and I hope we see the original cast recording soon, if not a beautifully filmed version of the show at some stage.

Masterfully directed in this space by Lindy Hume, Snow White is an important, potent new work that reflects our enduring obsession with beauty, power, the mystical feminine and the wonder and majesty, the vital lessons of storytelling. An accomplished piece for a world premiere and perfect festival fare, Snow White is destined for lands far, far away. I hope you saw it here at least once. 

13
Jun
15

Medea

 

Medea

La Boite Theatre Co

The Roundhouse

May 30 – June 20 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

  

Medea is a strategic, ambitious, political woman; sharp, quick and strong. In Jason she meets her ambitious and strategic equal, as well as a lover. The passionate union between the misunderstood foreigner Medea, and the all-Greek golden boy Jason was unlikely, but allows Medea to invest in the very empire building she was made for.

 

When Jason betrays Medea, she is outraged. He has betrayed her as a husband, but more importantly he has also betrayed his oath, their pact, and their very empire. His desertion denied Medea all sources of power in this patriarchal Greek world of Corinth. So too has he set in motion the fate of his sons, who are now, unacknowledged by him, relegated a latent threat in this land.

 

Medea will not abide by injustice or broken oaths and is compelled to balance the scales. So we watch as this modern character plots to cut Jason down and to protect her sons from the horrors of torture and death. 

 

medea_candles

 

 

If Suzie Miller had written a one-woman Medea Christen O’Leary could do it.

 

 

This is O’Leary’s show, with Helen Christinson getting a good look in, thanks to the playwright’s astute version of the story (commissioned by Chris Kohn), and The Australian Voices largely contributing to the atmosphere, pace and shape of this piece. It’s powerful and magical, and it’s the best we’ve seen at La Boite for a long time.

 

 

In Todd McDonald I have found a director who embraced this furious version of Medea, and interrogated it with great insight and talent.

Suzie Miller

 

 

It’s well and truly time to see a production in The Roundhouse that actually fits the purpose built space, and not only does Sarah Winters’ gothic design fit (lit and un-lit superbly by Ben Hughes), it sits so well within the space we almost feel like we’re home again, breathing in the old wooden floorboards of Hale Street. This may be an entirely unrelated design choice but I’m going to imagine that the stripped-back boards are a magical, subliminal message that this Artistic Director is here to stay for a while. If you don’t believe in signs from the universe or the bones of the city telling our story as they’re sung (and smudged) over, you can just appreciate the raw, earthy, honest quality that this floor brings to the production.

 

medea_helenandchristen

 

Miller’s Medea is a well crafted text with a strong feminist take that sits perfectly with the 16-year-olds we take to see the show a week after opening night. We talk afterwards, as we often do, about withholding judgment of the characters’ actions. Medea’s not mad, she’s vengeful and willful and stubborn and strong. She’s scheming, unforgiving and relentless in her bid to make Jason’s life a misery. She’s a murderer. She’s misunderstood. But she’s not mad. Somebody commented after the show, in true Roxie Hart style, “Why didn’t she just kill the bastard?” Well, because then he wouldn’t continue to suffer, as she has been made to do.

 

 

When we put Medea in a position where her children are about to be torn limb from limb by angry crowds, is it not the most compassionate thing she can offer them – a calm, kind and loving death?

Suzie Miller

 

 

O’Leary is absolutely spellbinding in gorgeous draped and gathered dogstar style garb to perfectly complement the new Ruby Rose/Alan Cumming inspired tough-chick haircut. All the costumes are fabulous, ready to wear, designed by Nathalie Ryner (The Danger Ensemble’s Caligula) and cut by Bianca Bulley & Leigh Buchanan. (I’d wear every piece!). O’Leary captures motherly tenderness and everywoman’s vulnerability, which is so often overlooked by actresses (and directors) who insist on making Medea only angry. In O’Leary, we feel her loss long before she’s committed the crime and whenever we get a glimpse of the love she once felt for her husband, she flips it and tosses it in his face with sharp wit and wicked humour. She’s brimming with brilliant, gleaming, delighted spite, and an indescribable grief that’s so well contained we would naturally think her monstrous if her story popped up in our newsfeed (before clicking “Like” on a friend’s Friday night #styleinspo photo. Just saying).

 

medea_helen

 

Speaking of style, as Nurse (although, perhaps more beautifully, innocently “handmaiden” than “nurse”), Christinson is attentive and warm. In stark contrast, as Glauce she is necessarily cold, overbearing and unforgiving. And wearing a sensational ensemble that I bet our Cate wouldn’t mind throwing on for the school run. Ryner should send it to her after June 20! This is the additional role, which Miller includes to highlight the struggle between powerful women. The scene between them is intense and Christinson shines, but it’s O’Leary, losing her composure and rolling hysterically on the floor at the foot of Glauce’s steps, which creates one of the lasting images from this production. It’s the sound of her laughter as much as the vision that resonates. Is that wrong?

 

medea_theaustralianvoices

 

Composer, Gordon Hamilton, has created the entire eerie soundscape and a stunning Greek Chorus using his own voice, a bit of techie trickery and four exquisite vocalists from The Australian Voices (Annika Hinrichs, Yasmin Powell, Simon Carl & Connor D’Netto). These four figures are present as onlookers, concerned citizens, warning Medea until she can’t stand their foreboding any longer, “Careful, careful, careful, careful!” I can’t explain the technicalities of the musical work as he does so here’s an extract from Hamilton’s blog, which is excellent by the way, and if you’re at all musically inclined you should probs be reading it/him on a regular basis. I love the almost subliminal inclusion of Never Tear Us Apart, working like a haunting and heartbreaking Judas kiss. This is a truly contemporary ancient chorus, used to breathtaking effect. The show would be really dull different without it…

 

 

Our chorus is partially but not completely based on Euripides chorus. They are worried onlookers, on Medea’s side, but not yet aware of her murderous intentions. They sing a mixture of English and Greek. Suzie Miller’s chorus text sometime echoes the lines of the characters, hurled back at the actors. They sing in modern Greek “mitera, politeftis, erastis” (mother, politician, lover), three aspects to Medea’s identity. Todd and I have borrowed the INXS song Never Tear Us Apart to woven into the fleece – usually to ironic effect – as a sad contrast to the literal and metaphorical tearing apart of this family.

 

Some sound is heard from speakers: I recorded myself singing the three aforementioned Greek words on a single tone, then digitally slowed it down to 90 minutes (the approximate duration of the play). We let this recording play for the entire work, at times faded up or down, depending on what’s going on. Thus, all sound heard in the thing is made by a human voice either speaking or singing.

 

I have the chorus sing in Greek scales: aeolian phrygian and dorian. I don’t know how the Athenians preferred their choral tonalities, but for me, the nod to these three Pythagorean tonalities is a satisfying connection.

 

medea_chrsten

 

Damien Cassidy seems a rather bland and gentle Jason, despite his harsh treatment of Medea. I love the moment he is brought undone, pressing himself upon Medea when she calls him out and pushes him away, having given us the silent looks of tedium ad infinitum. Yeah, you know the looks, guys. It’s a brilliant interpretation of the moment, making Jason an absolute rotten fool rather than showing Medea simply as seductress.

 

 

Indeed, it is too easy to make Medea “mad” – it is far more difficult to try to understand or unpack her reality.

Todd McDonald

 

 

medea_milk

 

 

While Miller’s Medea is not new in the way Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore resonates with a new generation via their own (#MOFO) lingo and activity, in the hands of this creative team it’s a version that’s easily taken on board, especially if you’re new to ancient tales theatrically retold, and so beautifully interpreted by O’Leary that it’s certainly worth a look.

 

 

O’Leary, trapped within her sorceress’s circle of curiosities and melted wax, and her mind made up to save her sons from a fate worse than any death she can orchestrate, delivers an incredible performance that shouldn’t be missed. Medea finishes June 20.

 

 

 

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans

 




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