Posts Tagged ‘thomas hutchins

10
Jun
15

Dust Covered Butterfly

 

Dust Covered Butterfly
Metro Arts, Thomas Hutchins & Jake Shavikin
Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre
June 2 – 20 2015

 
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

DCB_suffocation

 

 

Dust Covered Butterfly invites you along for a morally challenging ride of epic proportions ignited by fictitious story and fuelled by real events of serial killers, survivors, and kidnap victims. This new performance locks performer, character, and narrative in a basement with live original music where only the strongest can survive.

 
Plastic bags. Holy. Hundreds of them. White plastic shopping bags, having attained a reputation for languid beauty thanks to a famous film and awful infamy thanks to a number of killers. (I started a serial killer Google search but it was too disturbing). It’s a creepy set, living, breathing, and pulsating, but corpse cold at first, until later when it bleeds red. I don’t remember seeing the Sue Benner Theatre like this, although I recall sitting at a long table in the space where our seats are, with our bare feet in the dirt below, to join Robbie O’Brien and Erika Field for dinner during The Raven. Still, I’m disoriented, which is probably the ideal state in which to view this show.

 

We sit at the base of a stage of steps – the rises where the seats would be if we were not sitting in them on the stage – and slowly, a male silhouette appears to reign over this strange, silent white world. Microphones have been pre-set in their stands on the bottom step, the apron as it were. As if it were a stage. As if it were a cabaret show about to begin. AND WITH CHRIS FARRELL’S ENTRANCE IT DOES.

 

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Think of Llorando in Mulholland Drive and, I don’t know why, but you’ll have the sense of it. Somehow Farrell manages to contain immense sadness veiled by something approximating sheer determination to enjoy the good times whilst struggling to behave appropriately in public places. When you see Farrell perform that might make more sense. Or…it might not.

 

 

 

 

Farrell is a beautiful, complex performer, taking us on a journey in this show that feels like we’re watching Dexter, in chapters, on the National Geographic Channel. It’s kinda’ wrong but it kinda’ works.

 

 

The text is Cotter’s, borrowed and torn apart and stitched together again from various sources, interviews with serial killers and personal accounts from survivors of the most unimaginable atrocities in basements for extended periods of time. I think I hear later, literally on the street outside Metro Arts, that the original concept was for a show without text. This almost explains the contemporary dance element, each performer indicating through shivers and ticks and leaps, an aspect of their character or their actions throughout the piece. It almost works at times, and at other times it’s distracting or not quite clear enough to warrant the extent of the repetition.

 

And the single plot line is not quite as clear as it could be – we need just a few more obvious clues as to what’s happening, but perhaps these are present when the players switch roles. So, there is work to do, but in this stage of its four-year life cycle, Dust Covered Butterfly is nevertheless an extraordinary combination of intriguing elements and formidable talent.

 

There are SO many elements, so many layers to this show, and just one disturbing theme.

 

 

What happens in the mind of a serial killer to make them decide to…

keep someone? AND THEN WHAT HAPPENS?

 

 

Captor – Captive – Bait

 

 

Three figures prepare to take on the roles and apparently, due to the audience vote; there is a different outcome for each performance. (And this as interactive as it gets, however; you might find this is confronting enough and not even feel comfortable to raise your hand!). On opening night we witnessed Katy Cotter as Captor, Bella Anderson as Captive and Michael Whittred as the Bait. Each is as comfortable in their role as if it were the only role they play during the season.

 

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Anderson is stunning, or if I were to apply senior student speak, Anderson is a total babe; I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more from her. She’s a trembling, remorseful captive with SPUNK. Poor thing. My heart breaks while my head whispers, “You stupid, stupid girl!” This is obviously the desired effect, it feels right. As Whittred, clad in a trench coat and jocks, leaps between the role of the Bait and his other as ROCK GOD. Robbie Williams, we love you but just stand still sometimes like THIS. OK? OK.

 

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Very effective. Whittred’s presence and his haunting, searing rock musical score make this show the Something Rotten of the season and I expect to see a few noms on the table, regardless of the final outcome in the popularity stakes. (There are only 50 seats per performance). There is strong work here. Whittred’s rock mini-score is so polished, it’s ready for the studio. In fact, there’ll be a recording available at the end of the season. Leave your details at Box Office to get a copy so you can say, “I heard it first”.

 

In its current form it really does feel as if the show is crying out to be a musical. I’d love to see it put in front of James Millar and Peter Rutherford (then see them get behind it!). Dust Covered Butterfly is the stuff of New Musicals Australia, a development process that takes its successful participants to Hayes Theatre for a full season. AND THEN THERE’S THE NEW YORK MUSIC THEATRE FESTIVAL. Of course, with the final shows this weekend, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s part of the Queensland Cabaret Festival. GUYS, YOU REALISE THE LINK HERE IS KRIS STEWART.

 

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As you might expect, Cotter plays the Killer coldly, and as you might not expect, warmly, with devastating compassion for her captive. Her care and concern becomes chilling and we get a glimpse into a serious case of Stockholm syndrome, which continues to fascinate me because of course, anybody in a long-term relationship is familiar with it. No, really, you must recognise the cycle of seduction and isolation and protection and obsession and intimidation and destruction… Is it just me? Okay, don’t tell Sam I said that. Maybe tell him? No, don’t tell him. Okay, tell him. I’ll just be here…waiting.

 

Cotter’s pink top reads not, “This is my dance space” but “KILLER”, and Anderson is dressed in a flirty white Some Like It Hot baby doll Marilyn frock with curious blackened – dead – fingers and toes, like Laura Palmer, dead, wrapped in plastic. But it’s not David Lynch throwing this party; it’s Thomas Hutchins, in his directorial debut, and it’s impressive. I like the choices here and I’d like to see it live again. Go catch it in this form though. It has a very short lifespan in this interesting space, with the current season ending June 20.

 

Production pics Morgan Roberts

 

 

10
Mar
15

The Seagull – now look here

 

The Seagull

now look here

Metro Arts Warehouse

March 3 – 14 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

It’s Chekhov, but not as you know it…

 

theseagull_header

 

“You can’t do Chekhov with bad actors.” Director, Kate Wild

 

 

“I”M SO UNHAPPY!” #sochekhov

 

I know of three productions of The Seagull happening this year in Brisbane alone. QUT (April 22 – May 2), QTC (August 29 – September 26) and now look here (until March 14) are all indulging in a bit of a Chekhov Crush. And I can understand why. We love Chekhov’s language, we love his dismal characters, the hopelessness of everyday life and the shrewd and sorry observations that we laugh about…so we won’t cry. There is tragedy in each fleeting moment of comedy, and there’s never a happy ending. Chekhov’s intensive study of the humdrum and dull horror of daily life makes me grateful for the abundance of love and joyful activity in my own.

 

AND particularly with the guidance of an intelligent and insightful director, Chekhov is glorious food for actors.

 

 

Chekhov is to actors what Colin Fassnidge is to foodies #usethewholepig

 

 

In this case, our director is also writer, adapting the original text over the course of an intriguing year, which involved workshops with various actors. (In fact, Kate Wild tells me after the show that amendments were being made right up until opening night!).

 

This adaptation impresses me greatly, and learning about Wild’s association with London’s Young Vic doesn’t surprise me at all, since it’s the NT Live productions that consistently show us how a classic can successfully be reimagined for contemporary audiences. Wild’s version of Chekhov’s classic is pared back and relies on the actors’ ability to present real characters, really. No, REALLY. There’s nothing that is surface level, no token anything here. Deeply inspired performances, which come directly from the text (just as Mamet wishes), mean we are privy to a new world of old-school values; it’s the same dysfunctional family but shown in more modern light. The language and the references are updated so that a whole new audience might not even think to question the origin of the play. The contemporary outback setting is about as far removed from 1800s Russia as we can get, however; it’s not dissimilar. Created with nothing more than a curtain, a table and chairs, some lamps and three white curved timber structures, which become walls and door frames and seats and a bed, the scene is sensitively, economically realised, and is made all the more poignant in the suddenly silent, extremely small space of the 4th floor Warehouse in the Heritage listed Metro Arts building on Edward Street (Designer Gordon Fletcher). It’s as if we’re in the room with them. It’s salon theatre in disguise…

 

Wild told scenstr, “I’ve seen a lot of innovative work, a lot of very creative directors doing a lot of very exciting things. But I felt I wasn’t seeing a lot of text-based theatre being done very centrally with a very simple sort of aim of telling a story. So I think I needed to show what theatre could be like if we went back to the basics and I made it very writer and actor led rather than maybe led by the concept of a director.”

 

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Wild fills the gap with this production, a beautifully configured statement on the value of reinvention whilst simultaneously honouring theatrical form and tradition and never losing sight of the story. The cast is superb, with fine performances from Louise Brehmer, Michael Forde, Matthew Filkins, Pip Boyce, Peter Cossar, Kevin Hides, Ayeesha Ash, Thomas Hutchins and Lizzie Ballinger. Special mentions to the gently placed Blake La Burniy, the quietly competent Kristian Santic and Courtney Snell (Stage Manager), and Erin Murphy (Composer & Musician). Murphy’s cinematic underscore makes my heart ACHE.

 

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Ballinger is feminine and fragile and wild, improbably beautiful as the aspiring actress, Nina. She is fierce and tragic, truth and hope and loveliness all rolled into one. Her easy movement, rich vocal work and bright eyes make her a joy to watch. Hutchins is our tall, dark and brooding doomed writer, Kostya; oh, how we feel for him! Again, the character is wholly realised by the actor, his nuanced voice and movement (and again, the eyes have it), convincing us utterly. This is Hutchins at his best, deeply invested and heartbreakingly believable. In this intimate space we feel a part of every move, every word, every breath, including his last. There is need of a true sound effect to finish though, and with it would come genuine shock and a real sense of loss, rather than the gradual realisation of the situation, which we understand from Irina’s confusion and the doctor’s measured reaction. Hides nails it; his doctor is the epitome of gentility, compassion and honour behind a sparkling family friend smile. I find myself watching him watching the others… It’s the strongest, sweetest performance of the night.

 

 

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As Ilya the farmer Cossar delivers his best performance to date – such is the magic of perfect casting – and as his long-suffering wife, Boyce, although she is Ausssie chook lit mis-styled, is in fine form. It takes me a little while to warm to Ash as Masha, but when she finally settles she is lovely and detached and just as dissatisfied and downright miserable as she ought to be. And Filkins’ Boris?  He’s the perfect love-punched poet, disarming and frustrating. Damn those well to do, attractive, creative types in suits, huh? A-hem.

 

 

 

 

Wild’s adaptation condenses four acts into two and if you don’t need to hit the highway to get home you can be in bed before 11pm…unheard of! This Chekhov rocks! I actually want to buy a copy of this adaptation from Wild since it’s the first time I’ve been truly swept up in the complexities of the story without questioning anybody’s objectives. Drama departments everywhere will want it! Venues everywhere will want it…hello, La Boîte?

 

 

If Wild is here to stay, be sure to see whatever it is she does next. Hers is a sophisticated yet simply stated theatrical world in which we feel warm and welcomed and challenged. If you want to experience a more intimate, honest and personal form of live theatre this year, this is The Seagull you should see.