Posts Tagged ‘the danger ensemble

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.

 

 

 

     

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

 

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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!

 

CALIGULA2

18
Sep
13

Brisbane Festival: The Wizard of Oz

 

The Wizard of Oz
Presented by La Boite, The Danger Ensemble & Brisbane Festival
Roundhouse Theatre
7 – 28 of September 2013

 

Reviewed by Guy Frawley

 

 

Image by Morgan Roberts

 

 

The Wizard of Oz is not so much a modern retelling of the classic story as an entirely new piece of theatre that has borrowed extensively from the L. Frank Baum novel and MGM film of the same name. There’s Dorothy and Toto and even a yellow brick road, but this story as created by Maxine Mellor in the world premiere of her new play, is definitely not the tale you were raised with.

 

In a saccharine coloured fantasy land the cast and crew bring to life Mellor’s gaudy fantasy, with Margi Brown Ash taking the spotlight as ‘Judy, Goddamnit!’. Brown Ash revels in the role and gives a diva worthy layered performance. Judy Garland, an aged Dorothy, a mentally ill mother, a faded remnant of a star attempting to claw her way back to her halcyon days. Much of the humour in The Wizard of Oz is dependent on Judy G, and Brown Ash carries this easily; her sense of timing and characterisation is spot on and I enjoyed watching her immensely.

 

Polly Sara’s Wicked Witch of the West presents us a refreshed version of the classic MGM Wicked Witch who appears to have just flown in on her broomstick after a sojourn at the Haus of Gaga. Her performance crackled with a vicious darkness that balanced the obvious camp sensibilities of such a role. Sara also provided the performance with two of its musical numbers, the first of which became a part of the tornado carrying Judy G to Oz and was utilised to great effect. Sara’s voice is powerful and sonorous and set the tone for the rest of her performance. Her second number, Regina Spektor’s All the Rowboats, whilst sung well didn’t seem to have any point.

 

Steven Mitchell Wright as director, presents us with a hyper stylised, fluro-coloured Land of Oz for his players to inhabit. His use of the space, from the moment the audience enters the theatre through the set to the inward facing finale, was excellent and helped to create an aesthetic akin to a pop-up book on acid. This same sense of psychedelic reality is found throughout the performance and not always to the show’s benefit.

 

Certain directorial choices (some of the musical numbers, an explosive vomiting scene, a blow up sex doll) offer style and pizazz but at the expense of purpose or meaning.

 

I do wonder how much of this was done on purpose though, one of the central parts of The Wizard of Oz show the Wicked Witch and the Wizard atop a platform (pulpit? throne room?) engaged in a duologue devised to philosophy. The more you hear though, the more you start to wonder platitude or profundity? Are these snippets of deep wisdom or did I read that last week on a Pinterest inspiration board?

 

The performances from Thomas Larkin (Scarecrow), Thomas Hutchins (Tin Man) and Lucy-Ann Langkilde (Lion) bubbled with energy and life. The physicality of their performances added colour, however there were times when their squealing portrayal of excitable children strayed into grating caricature. They work brilliantly as a team together, shuffling through several different roles each and always maintaining the sense of a cohesive unit. As the story progresses this adds immensely to the growing sense of paranoia and disconnectedness as Judy G begins to realise all is not as she initially believed.

 

Special mention must go to Simone Romaniuk for the set and costume design and to Ben Hughes for his lighting design. The sets and costumes bring the story to life in a technicolour assault to your senses. The lighting design is equally dazzling, never more so than during the tornado scene when the effects used to create the vortex were quite impressive.

 

There was so much to enjoy in this new work. Maxine Mellor has created an entertaining script that offers itself up to the cast and begs for big performances. The playful way that Mellor has used the familiar Oz-ian story blended with shades of Judy Garland’s personal demons (including her relationship with daughter, Liza Minnelli), provides a script ripe with allegory and layered meaning. Yet I was left wanting as the house lights went up. The performance maintained an ever growing miasma of foreboding that intensified the further Judy G moved towards her story book ending. However when the final blood, angst and guilt ridden finale arrived, the script’s handling of the plot and meaning began to unravel faster than Judy’s mental state.

 

The Wizard of Oz at times struggled when Style and Substance were forced to battle it out with each other for dominance, but it is a thoroughly entertaining show. The cast give a wonderfully frenzied performance and whilst I’ve noted my criticism with Mellor’s script, on the whole I loved her work. This is an exciting world premiere piece and if you have any room left in your Brisbane Festival schedule you’d do well to make the trip to The Roundhouse to see it.

 

 

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

 

 

Sons_of_sin2013_hero

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.

 

15
May
13

Steven Mitchell Wright Speaks about his Sons of Sin

Who run the world?

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another
Proverbs 27:17

 

Sons of Sin

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.

Featuring a bold and fearless cast of twenty-something male actors and riding a tidal wave of eclectic, cataclysmic beats and a haunting soundtrack (created and played live by the UK’s Henry Collins, aka The artist formally known as Shitmat, Planet Mu) SONS OF SIN inhabits an open, immersive space, placing the audience in the belly of the beast.

 

Part confessional, part music festival, a sporting match, a drinking game, a punch in the balls and a whole lot of testosterone, SONS OF SIN opens up the heart of manhood in crisis.

 

HOW’S THIS FOR A WARNING?!

 

WARNING
Suitable for ages 15+
Contains adult themes, full nudity, strong violence, coarse language, weapons, strobe lighting and theatrical smoke effects. Due to the visceral nature of Sons of Sin, patrons may get wet, dirty, splashed or spoiled and may wish to dress accordingly. 

 

Get ready. Steven Mitchell Wright is a director who gets people talking.

 

Before you see A Clockwork Orange see Sons of Sin.

 

Previews Thursday and opens Friday at The Judy.

 

Sons of Sin

SONS OF SIN. Who are they?

The cast has been assembled from a number of places. The cast is a group of young men that have all come from either Griffith University, Southbank Institute of Technology or Queensland University of Technology. I chose from this age group and those places because it’s essential for this work that the performers are age appropriate and can bring an authenticity to the material we are exploring.

 

The group of men the show is about is a much more difficult question to answer. They are the guy that lives next door, the guy you read about in the newspaper yesterday (the one who did that thing you can’t even fathom); they are the horror stories parents imagine for their children, they are your father or uncle or grandfather, they are the actors themselves, they are characters from history, myth, religion, Shakespeare…  they are the guys with fake tans and stringlets drinking fire engines at the Normanby on a Sunday.

 

Where did this story come from?

I’m reluctant to use the word story, or at very least reluctant to use story in a singular sense.  These stories have come from a lot of places… the actors themselves, history, myth, religion, news, and our imaginations.

 

Is it violent? The publicity images look as though it will be violent.

I just googled the definition of violent, just so I was sure… and no, I don’t believe the work is violent.  It is about a culture that is violent, it is about a world that is violent, the work itself is not violent.

 

All of the synonyms in the dictionary, vehement – fierce – intense – severe – furious – forcible,  the work is all of those things, but not violent.

 

Do we struggle to watch violence? 

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.

 

What do you think are the current taboos – the things we don’t/won’t/can’t talk about – surrounding men?

If I tell you, I’m basically taking the lines out of the actors mouths for one or more of the scenes in the show and to be honest, I’m not sure what they are anymore, we’ve spent far too long in the rehearsal room – actually going into them and talking about them and exploring them that my sense of the faux pas is in no way indicative of current culture.

 

Is it always your intention to make “provocative” theatre?

I think all great theatre is an active provocation (to call forth – challenge), evocation  (to call out, rouse) or invocation (to call upon – implore), at times moving across all three.

 

Can you talk about your rehearsal process?

It really depends on the show, the form of the show, how the audience engages with the work and the other creatives/performers on the show.  I spend the majority of my time in the early stages trying to work out what the actors way into the work is and therefore what the heart of the work is, then the latter part of the rehearsal is a process of discovering how to deliver that heart to an audience.

 

I’m rarely the kind of director that will tell his actors what to do or how to do it.  I think my job is to create an environment that allows actors to make choices that are true to them and then problematise those choices, by problematise, I mean create a space where the choices are not achievable, that they are always being reached for.  I don’t believe acting is what happens when we arrive at a truth but rather the pursuit of it.

 

What about your creative process outside of the rehearsal room? When does it start and finish?

Again it varies on the work, but I find inspiration in all sorts of places. Then begins research, associative research, image based research, music based research, and once I have a feeling about a work that I can articulate or invite other artists to feel then I can begin discussing it.

 

I think the process actually really only finishes when I feel like the work needs to be killed, and that is either because it’s no longer relevant or I have lost interest or fallen out of love with it. (Some shows feel like lovers that can only be a short term fuck buddy, others feel like a lover you’ll keep coming back to because it’s just so good and some are those toxic mistresses that you fall for but they hurt you everytime and occasionally they feel like a meaningful darling that gives you as much as you give it and you meet and part amicably every time).

 

What would you suggest aspiring directors do to get a foot in the door?

  • Make work.
  • Don’t wait for the perfect time to start or the ideal environment to create in, there isn’t one.
  • Just start, make mistakes, learn.
  • See everything, discover what you like, what you hate, search for what you are passionate about or what angers you or baffles you – dig into that.
  • See international work.
  • Make work you don’t understand, try to understand it, don’t let the fact that you haven’t seen it before make you think you can’t do it, give yourself time (not too much), allow yourself to get it wrong.
  • Don’t ever think you have ‘got it’, you haven’t, it will evade you again.
  • Don’t forget it’s fun. Never underestimate how hard it can be. Remember again that it’s fun.

 

What do you wish you’d learned years ago about creating theatre?

Nothing.  I think you earn the lessons.  You can’t learn them too soon, you have to learn them by doing.

 

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Is there a director who has had a profound influence on your work?

I don’t think I can name just one, the work of Jan Fabre is the work that I think still inspire me the most, the philosophy and training of Tadashi Suzuki, Howard Barker’s writing…

 

I’m also profoundly influenced by work I hate, by work that bores me or angers me, often I find that inspires me in ways that great work doesn’t.

 

What keeps you going during rehearsals?

The actors inspire me and motivate me to no end and the company members and team around the company are hugely supportive, hard working and inspired by the work we are doing. I think that makes all the difference.

 

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. I think tea tastes like dirty sticks.

 

Wine or spirits?

Both. Occasionally at the same time, tequila and sparkling are pretty good together.

 

Favourite film?

No. I can’t commit to a favourite for forever. Right now, I think my favourite film is Silence of the Lambs. I’ve watched it 5 times this year.

 

warholphil

What are you reading?

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

 

What are you listening to?

Lots of Alloy Mental, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s latest album, Die Antwoord, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald and I’ve been seeing a couple of local bands a lot recently that I’d recommend: LeSuits and The Worriers.

 

I know you don’t believe leggings are pants. Thousands would disagree. But what else should we know about you?

Ummm… I hate onion? I don’t look good as a blonde. I used to rollerskate, a lot.  I secretly love two musicals, only two.  I once auditioned for Popstars, I told everyone it was a joke, but secretly I dreamed of discovering a voice I never knew I had and being swept up into a world of stardom and glamour.  Grey’s Anatomy never fails to make me cry.

 

What does down time look like/sound like?

It looks like home-made pizzas, makeshift cinemas in my lounge room, dinners, beers, cocktails and poor-excuses-for-sleep-ins.

 

Preview – Thursday 16 May

All tickets: $19

Season

Full: $28

Concession/Groups 6+: $24

Student: $19 (one teacher free per 10 students)

Judy Tuesday: all tickets $19

 

18
Nov
12

Steven Mitchell Wright: Children of War

Children of War

On Friday night at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre in Kelvin Grove, an epic theatrical event took place.

 

The Danger Ensemble’s production – La Boite’s final indie installment of the year – Children of War opened.

 

We asked Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, a few things about theatre, life and art…

The world is no longer safe from art

 

Can you tell us about your new production, the epic mythical mash-up, Children of War

The work is a part of a larger play cycle that Chris Beckey and I have been collaborating on since late 2009, We have been drawing on different sections of The Illiad and The Orestia across 3 different projects, In God We Trust, i war and Children of War. This particular section of the story investigates the lesser known characters on both sides of the Trojan War. To say that seems almost a blaspheme, that is to say that, that is certainly where we started, but the life of the work has developed it’s own voice, Chris Beckey has shaped the work in a way that sits in a timeless space, the innate history and passion embedded in the myth collides headlong with the brevity and energy of today.  
 
The work is huge, it’s completely unashamedly epic. It has to be. In a lot of ways it is a departure from the kind of work people expect of me as a director and expect of us as a company but we never promised anything, we allow works to find their own voice and that voice dictates the form and style of the work.

What inspires you to imagine such stories and variations on stories? 
 
As a company, we pursue relevance and excitement, I think the fundamental question of why? why this story? why now? why these actors? why this space? why bother? It’s those questions that drive the variation on the stories we explore, it’s about aggressively pursuing the now and the why.
 
Your dreams must be in vivid colour! What’s your process and approach as a director once you’ve seen the possibilities of an idea? Can you describe your directing style?
My directing style is probably best described as a combination of giving the actors and creatives a lot of freedom to discover their voice and reasons for doing the work and then a demanding exactitude for detail and clarity of choice after that exploration has completed. On the floor I am, quite extreme, I find myself going from very quiet and internal to extremely animated. When the energy in the room is working I often find myself pacing or swaying.
 
Children of War
Do you bring the actors or the creative team in first? 
 
Actors, I always begin with actors in the space. Whenever possible. It goes back to that pursuit of relevance. I think the voice of the work has to be found through the actors before it is shared with anyone else. I look for the heart of a work through the actors choices and instinct.

You are up to some more incredible things next year, which we are not allowed to talk about yet! What can you tell us about, in terms of upcoming projects/ambitions/ideas?
 
Ha! I can’t say a lot about next year, except to expect two new works from us. Both very different to each other and again different from what we have produced this year. In writing this, I realise just how different the works are, one is very much about reality and real-real life and the other explores more fantastical and escapist ideas.
Do you think it’s a responsibility of the artists to experiment in form, content and delivery? Do you think this is happening enough (in Brisbane, in Australia), and what is it that helps to grow audiences (in Brisbane, in Australia)?
 
I think it’s a responsibility of artists to continue to build our culture, to broaden our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in, I also think it’s our responsibility to respect audiences enough to challenge them somewhat. To assume that an audience is not ready for experimentation is simply patronising. I think all work is in a way an experiment, there is a hypothesis entering and sometimes a conclusion drawn at the end of it all. I don’t believe all artists need to be overtly experimental, they need to service their work and they need to speak to an audience.
 
How do you wind down after a show (each night and at close of season)?
 
Often very briefly, this year has been insane and by the end of the season we are usually already in rehearsals for something else. I’m actually fairly terrible at taking down time but I’ve been working on it, I’ve been spending more time with friends, music and vodka. I struggle to wind down because I find the energy of a work has a roll on effect for me, I am motivated by it and it drives me into the next thing. I am aware that this isn’t sustainable long term though, so I’m aiming to catch up on cinema, television, books, music and lovers over Christmas.
Children of War
 
What are you reading?
 
The Bible, actually…
 
What’s on your playlist a) in the rehearsal room b) in the car c) in the kitchen at home?
 
Godspeed! You Black Emperor is a staple to my life. Children of War has forced me to listen to a lot more Ke$ha and T-swizzle (Taylor Swift) than ever before.
 
For my enjoyment I’ve been listen to Fleetwood Mac (I got kind of obsessed with them during Loco Maricon Amor), Mirah (recently introduced to me), Amanda Palmer’s Theater is Evil album (which is a nice departure from her other stuff, has a depeche mode kinda vibe) and The XX’s new album (which I don’t love, it feels like a sequel to the previous album…)
Children of War
 
Who would you most like to work with one day and why?
I would love to collaborate with a lot of musicians, A Silver Mt Zion and The Faint spring to mind – I’d love to make a musical with them. I’d love to collaborate with The Blondes on a show. I would LOVE to work with Pamela Rabe and Paul Capsis. Jan Fabre. Michel Gondry. Lars Von Trier. The list could go on.

What strengths have this current group of performers brought to the production? 
 
The actors are amazing. They are actually just incredible. I am not going to say much more. Come see it.
Children of War
 
Do you seek out specific feedback from those whose opinion matters to you? Throughout the process? How does that help or hinder the process?
 
It depends on the process, sometimes, with this project I did. Sometimes, I don’t feel ready for people to see the work until we are in the theatre and with all the elements in place. Often when devising and presenting from a devised space without a scripting process, I don’t bring people in.. when working with a script I feel more comfortable bring people in to give feedback. It’s about energy, it’s also about where the actors are at. 
With what will Children of War leave us? Are there lessons for us?
 
I don’t believe in telling anyone what they SHOULD leave a work with, I know what I see and find in the work, and I know how I’ve shaped the work and I know what the heart of the work is at – I don’t really believe that my role within theatre is to teach the audience anything. There is a lot in the work and I suspect different people will find different things. If people are engaged, if people are moved then I have done my job.
 
An incredible opportunity exists for performers, writers, directors and teachers to take part in an upcoming workshop with The Danger Ensemble’s Artistic Associate and the writer of Children of War, Chris Beckey, who will lead participants in consideration and exploration of topics relating to his work as a writer with The Danger Ensemble and Vanguard Youth Theatre. Be quick and book or miss out!
COST: $50 (Full) $20 (Concession) or $10 for patrons who have already purchased a ticket for Children of War (14 Nov – 1 Dec)
LOCATION: Theatre Rehearsal Room, Judith Wright Centre Level 3 
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, 27th November from 4pm – 6pm
23
Aug
12

Loco Maricon Amor


Loco Maricon Amor

Loco Maricon Amor

Metro Arts & The Danger Ensemble

Sue Benner Theatre

17th August – 1st September 2012

Let me go. Let me go. Let me go. Let me GO. Let me GO.

LET ME GO. LET ME GO. LETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGO. LET ME GO.

 

process. exploration. repetition. inspiration. revelation.

 

“I’m an actor. I am Death speaking.”

This show should be your drug of choice this month. See it as often as you can before September 1st. Seriously. You cannot OD on it. Go and go again.

The first point of exhilaration and confrontation is a stark white set, flooded with bright white light (and later, the spectacular states of Tecnicolor a la Ben Hughes); it’s like nothing you’ve seen before in the Sue Benner space and it’s brilliantly conceived by Xani Kennedy. Then, in the same moment of perception, within that space, the strange, surreal setting created by black lace and leather clad actors seated or standing in their various poses, wearing ladies’ shoes, regardless of gender, and waiting. Against a blank canvas. Waiting for…something. For life to start. For a brush to be raised. For a story to be told and for the time to come when it is their turn to step up and play their part in the telling of it.  The atmosphere is arresting; like the perversity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show…if it were to happen in a Frida Kahloesque Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s perfect!

 

 

I’m immediately struck by this picture and then by the extraordinary vocal work that happens next. It’s out-of-this-world strong. And aggressive. And seductive, all at the same time. These figures suddenly sing at us, as if possessed by a creature of the night, some poor soul who has been left behind in the Manhattan apartment of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party (incidentally, the show enjoyed a three week return run in NYC, at The Secret Theatre in July this year. When and where, I wonder, will we see it here? Oscar Theatre Company, I’m lookin’ at YOU!). The vocal work is extraordinary not only because of its quality and consistency throughout the show but also, because the director and the company members have worked themselves on their vocal arrangements and delivery, rather than inviting an outside MD and perhaps a Vocal Coach to work with them. This is self-sufficient theatre making at its most successful and The Danger Ensemble’s model is one that we are beginning to see more and more signs of. Thank goodness for that. It’s the ensemble philosophy that goes something like, “Just get the thing done and go on creating.” (I love also, the notion of the person closest to the broom does the sweeping but more on that in another post). It’s what we all need to do more of, leaving no time to lament the changes that a change in government has brought about or wonder whether or not we are making “good” art or “bad” art or the “right” kind of art. It was Brian Lucas, currently working on the return of his original work, Performance Anxiety, who reminded me that it is imperative to just get it done.

 

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

― Andy Warhol

 

Loco Maricon Amor

 

The non-storytelling that follows – the retelling of vague thoughts, memories and passionate feelings – reveals to us the imagined extremes of the torrid relationship between Federica Garcia Lorca (in perfect contrast to the inestimable Caroline Dunphy’s predatory Gala, we see a beautiful, quietly sexual being in Thomas Hutchins) and Salvador Dali (Chris Beckey at his most bemused and confused best. We do love this Dali.). The actors who play these fascinating men create an entire world, purely for the purpose of us understanding their story, in which they exist together, exclusively, outside of convention, tradition and expectation. Their relationship speaks volumes about the collision between Tragedy and Surrealism; a conflict that Director and Designer, Steven Mitchell Wright, has explored in this production to the nth degree.

As a director, Wright says he is “interested in moving away from ‘naturalism’ and ‘realism’ and moving towards a new form of storytelling (or non-storytelling) specific for our culture.” This approach means we are re-entering the realm of experimental theatre, a term that Wright is proud to reclaim. He explains, “Experimental in the sense that the work is an experiment, that there is an hypothesis behind the work, that the success or failure of the experiment is not measured in terms such as good, bad, like or didn’t but…in the experience created by the work, in the reaction each element within the experiment has to each other.” The audience is the final variable. He wants us to react.

And react we do. There are gasps and lots of laughter. A sense of wonderment and intrigue pervades. Our senses (and our sensibilities) are struck upon time and time again. Dunphy gives us her gorgeous, glamorous Gala, in all her formidable glory and Lucy-Ann Langkilde, Polly Sara and Bianca Zouppas confront us with a Greek Chorus that seduces, amuses and terrifies us, much like the lovers we had and had to dispose of just as hurriedly as we’d found them. Each as terrifying as the last and so good – and bad – for the soul!

Peta Ward, as Moon, almost turns this piece on its head, playing beautifully (delightfully, hilariously), in and out and amongst the meta-theatrics, challenging us to reconsider our perceptions of theatre and the nature (and purposes) of storytelling. She’s the delightfully subversive force that, were it a classroom, you would rather be rid of it/her (or at least have her medicated so you can get on with the work!). However, her comical character reveals much of the fun and mischievous intent behind this work and this production could not do without her, nor would it be what it is without the additional element, which I won’t give away, suffice to say that it’s crazy colourful and sensual to the point of almost becoming a gorgeous distraction from the action; enough on its own for actors and audiences to revel in. (But I’ve sworn not to reveal the secret ingredient! Let me know if you work it out!). Props must go to the hardest-working stage manager in town, Candice Diana and her team, for THAT cleanup each night!

Loco Maricon Amor is a long, desperate, passionate embrace, intriguing and difficult to become untwined from. Dali clings for dear life and Lorca allows it, perhaps even enjoys it (at times, its difficult to tell and I think this is the idea. Is he experiencing rapture or slight annoyance and fatigue? Or self doubt or disappointment? I thought of Stephen Schwarz’s Pippin, who is asked at the end of the show by Catherine, “How do you feel?” and having settled down with her, after experiencing everything there is in the world, Pippin replies, “Trapped.”). We are never caught between Lorca and Dali; we remain quite outside of them, always looking into their world rather than becoming immersed in it. We are happy to be the voyeurs, instead of getting any closer to the action (be a bit wary of getting too close; those wearing white or dry clean only garments should stay out of the front row!). In the intimate space, the proximity to the actors, their unfaltering gaze and their commitment to the tale will unnerve you and also, serve to confirm your suspicions that these are some of the most courageous risk-takers and makers of theatre in current contemporary performance circles. Steven Mitchell Wright has a big, bold vision of what theatre is and he ain’t afraid to show it, in the broadest of brushstrokes. This show, in whatever form it may take next, should go everywhere and be seen by everyone. This is how we just get it done and continue to reinforce what art – that vital life force, the life of the party – can be. More of whatever THAT is, please!

Loco maricon Amor Chris Beckey