Posts Tagged ‘todd macdonald



29
Jun
13

Venus In Fur

Venus In Fur

Queensland Theatre Co

QPAC Cremorne

27 June – 07 July 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Vanda: You dare to resist me?

 

Thomas: Yes, I dare.

 

Vanda: You little piece of nothing! You dust! You dare to resist a goddess?

 

 

“BRAVERY, WILL, AND COMMON SENSE ARE ALL AN ACTOR NEEDS.”

                                                                                                                 David Mamet

 

 

Libby Munro Vens In Fur

Libby Munro has all this and more. Much, much more. She’s the complete package, a goddess, which is so exciting; especially at this stage of QTC’s 2013 season, in this highly anticipated Australian premiere of David IvesVenus In Fur. Quite simply, actors of Munro’s calibre don’t come around often…and it was time. Just saying…no, but really! Wow! What a find! (Can we keep her?)! As Vanda, Munro completely spoils us; she’s the ultimate seductress, with strong principles and a Pilates-toned Honey Birdette clad bod to make even this gym bunny think about upping the weekly classes. If only I had the time to keep up with that kinda’ tone! If only I had the energy! That is commitment to the role.

 

Munro is the unequivocal star of this two-hander, and although Todd MacDonald does everything within his power to balance the power on stage it’s as if he can never do quite enough to get our attention for very long, David Ives has written Thomas this way and MacDonald does all he needs to as the adaptor and director of the play inspired by the erotic 19th century novella by Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch. When Vanda bursts in late for her audition, she brings with her a new perspective on the play, and the power struggle – and incredibly cleverly the play within the play – begins. The transformation takes place magically, in a single breath at the top of the stairs in a perfectly functional and evocative set designed by Simone Romaniuk (beautifully evocative lighting, including lightning, by David Walters and soundscape, complete with actors’ beats and thunderstorm by Guy Webster). When you see it you’ll see it. The transformation. And you’ll realise in that instant that this is the most perfect piece of casting we’re likely to see on a Brisbane stage this year.

 

Venus In Fur

Director, Andrea Moor, who brought William H. Macy and David Mamet’s Practical Aesthetics actor training to Australia in 1988, has taken such a bold, intelligent approach that we can’t fail to get every message here, however; ultimately the corny conclusion lets us down on one level, reducing the entire brilliantly layered gender argument to a comic book style statement (It’s Barbarella Barbie proclaiming, Spice Girls style, “Girls rule!” I was going to pop in an image here, actually, but Google gave me some of the most disturbing Barbie images ever, and Munro presents a much better picture in the end, regardless of my opinion on the statement she makes!). This image appears to please the majority but I was left wanting more, which, like all good erotica, may well have been the intention. I felt her win would have been even more momentous if these two had had their night of passion. AND THEN SHE LEAVES HIM. But no, not even a pash at the post! You can only imagine my disappointment! The gun was on stage without being fired! I’d love to know what you think about the final moments of the play.

 

David Ives has threaded throughout the text, the most enticing political tidbits; nothing new, timeless in fact, which is why the sentiments seem to ring so true. It has always been thus! But what if Vanda were to return the following day to continue working on the production? I can’t help but wonder. What fantastic theatre it is, making us laugh and gasp and talk for days afterwards about so many different aspects of the production (including, to my surprise, the notion of offering a program to every patron, included in their ticket price, which astonished my sister from Melbourne, where coffee is cheap and programs are not!).

 

What a beautifully captured production, to make me want to read the original novella, the play, AND the director’s notes in the margins of her copy of the script. Each time I see something of Andrea Moor’s head and heart on stage I do wonder why we’re not seeing more from her. More Moor, please. It’s rich, intelligent, actors’ acting that appeals just as much to the masses, who are getting so used to seeing good live theatre in Brisbane we can’t expect anyone to accept anything less.

 

Venus in Fur is a coup for Brisbane and for our state theatre company. Let’s hope our friends in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide (at the very least) demand to see it too!

 

19
Jun
13

Venus in Fur: Afternoon Delight!

Afternoon Delight with the cast of Venus In Fur

Meredith McLean

Venus_in_Fur_13_event

I can’t wait to see this one. Venus in Fur has been lurking on the posters and walls around the city for a while now and the preview is finally here! This Saturday, Venus in Fur will have its first run with an audience. Have you booked yet?

 

I went to the afternoon tea with the company – conversations and drinks. It was good to mingle and see them just chill out before the five week run of this production starting this weekend.

 

The venue couldn’t have been better. Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall hidden on Caxton Street was superb. Very New Orleans-ish, dim lit with champagne ready. On one of the moose heads mounted on the ceiling I even spotted a bra hanging off the antlers, so no doubt fun times have been had here in the past.

 

Libby Munro, the leading lady in this erotic duologue for a show, was beaming the whole time. No doubt running on the adrenalin knowing the show is so soon. She announced that they were doing the tech bump-in tonight and that’s how you know it’s really happening. She even confessed she was counting down the five weeks until she could have a strong drink, because you really need your wits about you when you are the energy of the show.

 

The lovely director Andrea Moor got into a discussion more on the lines of Brisbane it self rather than the show when I spoke to her. We all agreed no one realizes how culturally geared Brisbane truly is. The beauty of these smaller theatres is that they can be daring and risqué unlike others. QPAC, though certainly not a small theatre, often chooses these smaller casted plays over others Moor said, because Brisbane can facilatate them faster and better than a huge 12-man or more production.

 

But regardless of everyone’s opinions on brisbane’s theatre scene there was a collective buzz about Venus in Fur. With drinks and posters going around, the words on everyone’s lips was “I want to see it.”

 

Venus in Fur will be running at QPAC from 22nd of June to 27th of July before it makes the move for the tour. Don’t hesitate to see this one. Just because I can’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t – I don’t doubt there are good things to come.

 

The end of a long day of casting, and playwright-director Thomas (Todd Macdonald) can’t find the right woman. He needs beautiful-sexy-articulate, young, with a “particle of brain”. He needs someone to play a mistress, but has endured a parade of 35 misfires.

 

Thomas is adapting Venus In Furs, the infamously kinky 1870 novel by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch –the etymological father of masochism. It calls for a purring, confident dominatrix.

 

He gets more than he expected when the raging storm blows in Vanda (Libby Munro) – late, frazzled, with the very litany of the flaws he just decried. She talks of Venus in Furs as one might talk of Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

As the director takes a chance and allows her to read anyway, the balance of power tilts between actress and director, mistress and slave. Thomas and Vanda become two people handcuffed at the heart in David Ives’ deliciously sassy, sexy, character-driven power-play.

 

Take direction: Submit, and spend an evening at the mercy of Venus in Fur.

 

08
Nov
12

Bare Witness

Bare Witness

 

Bare Witness

La Mama Theatre/fortyfivedownstairs

Toured by Performing Lines

QTC The GreenHouse

Bille Brown Studio

9th – 13th October 2012

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

This review comes rather late. I saw one of the few Brisbane shows after re-arranging my life to see this production, let it haunt me for several weeks and then remembered that the tour continues and that I should still post something, especially for those readers interstate. I’m not happy with what’s here – I haven’t actually managed to get more than a few thoughts together – but nevertheless, here is something.

I was blown away by Bare Witness, a riveting 75-minute performance, by highly accomplished, passionate performers and a director who challenges everything we thought we knew about working in the theatre. It’s a new brand of theatre and it’s the first thing to have made me catch my breath in a long time. Achieving precisely what Catharsis wants to when it grows up, in terms of bringing various art forms together live on stage, this is an incredible work, inspired by the lives of the photojournalists living and working in war zones all over the world.

This production premiered in Melbourne in 2010.

When we enter the space, the first thing I notice, strangely, is a toolkit placed beside a cello (and lights. There is a light wall to my left and fluorescent cylinders and a chaotic mess of leads placed variously throughout the space. The actors cleverly manoeuvre these to become laptops and use them to light their subjects). I realise very early in the piece that the tools are tiny, shiny instruments of torture and the cello a body…another body. Another voice. Snap! Clap! An image is captured. The voice, the context, gone; lost in the dust.

What’s it worth? A picture tells a thousand words and might be worth thousands of dollars. Who are these people and why do they do what they do? Probably the first play about combat photojournalists, the snappers’ stories are all similar, and similarly bewildering. Writer, Mari Lourey, has deftly wound together several stories that shock and remind us how lucky we are. And how brave (or foolish) and incredibly dedicated the snappers are.

Without bringing on board a choreographer, the director and her close-knit, impressively fit company of actors, have devised highly physical theatre – it’s not dance, as the actors are quick to point out after the show – it’s theatre that comes instinctually from improvisation. The rehearsal process involved many hours of improvisation before any thorough text work was undertaken. I do hope the high schools are sending their students (and teachers) to see this work…

Bare Witness

I feel like I often talk about process here. Perhaps I think about it more often than write about it. Process fascinates me. The journey as much as the destination and all that stuff. The collaborative nature of the work and how it all comes together. Fascinating. In this case, the re-staging of the project received money for four weeks of creative development, however, Director, Nadja Kostich, managed to stretch it over seven weeks. She says the extra time was necessary to boost fitness levels; it worked like bootcamp with bonus improvisation exercises and movement rather than any sort of specific choreography. The actors said, of the pros of re-staging and re-developing the work, “We can fix bits.” (Ray Chong Nee) and of Kostich, “Nadja…she’s got the most amazing energy.” (Daniela Farinacci).

Improvisation helped the actors explore their feelings around the challenging content and themes of the piece; issues that we don’t, under normal, happy, safe, sheltered circumstances, need to face up to. “Through the repetition you find the meaning.” (Adam McConvell).

Bare Witness

With the writer, Mari Lourey, in the room the first to throw out the book, the actors enjoyed time and space to collaboratively explore subtext and come at the story from their own starting point. Two workshops shaped the story. Kostich, brought in books and imagery, which “informed the subconscious mind” (Daniela Farinacci), stimulating the actors’ imagination as well as their conversations. It shows. There is rich contextual detail at work here. We feel as if these actors have really been there to experience the full horror of a war zone. I feel like turning it off (you know I don’t watch the news) but of course I’m trapped there, unable to escape, as a rookie snapper, in the act of remembering, plummets through her award-winning photos numbered 011 through 01. I’m terrified and amused – there are lovely light, wry moments, and hilarious drunken moments, as well as terrific sexual energy and light-hearted banter between characters – but overall, this putting-your-life-on-the-line-for-some-picture stuff still terrifies me.

The final movement sequence performed by Todd MacDonald that, in one foul swoop, delivers the entirety of the story and all its evil machinations somehow had the same effect on me as seeing the end of Life is Beautiful. Well, it’s almost the end. You know the scene. It makes me consider the manipulative job of a parent. What are the sorts of images we allow our children to see? What do they see anyway? I’m left stunned in the same way, unable to breathe, tears streaming down my cheeks, wondering who it is who demands the snappers continue their snapping so we may see the “truth” of war. Is it them? Is it the editors? Is it us?

Kostich’s approach is very much to work with a vision that continues to funnel down and refract over time. She gives her company of actors free reign and then stops them to tell them, “THAT! Keep that!” It’s a matter of seeing the big picture and then refining it and refining it in order to get to the crux of the story. The inclusion on stage of Kristen Rule, The Unconventional Cellist, gives the piece yet another layer. The live music evolved the same way as the acting. It’s another language. A shared language. Shared history. Rule’s cello is 130 years old!

If you are anywhere near Ballarat, Mildura or Hobart, and you can catch the end of the tour, you must see this extraordinarily powerful piece of theatre. Bare Witness penetrates the mind and heart, and leaves an indelible impression on the soul.

Writer – Mari Lourey

Director – Nadja Kostich

Performers – Ray Chong Nee, Daniela Farinacci, Eugenia Fragos, Todd MacDonald, Adam McConvell

Designer – Marg Horwell

Musician/Composer – Kristin Rule

Lighting Design – Emma Valente

Video Design – Michael carmody

Production Manager – Natasha James

Stage Manager – Rebecca Etchell

Image – Jeremy Angerson, Rusty Stewart, Tony Yap

15
Oct
12

QTC Season 2013

QTC Season 2013

Queensland Theatre Company announces Season 2013

the journey continues…

 

Love, art, laughter, drama, catharsis, glamour, song and adventure in the spotlight

 

Just days before the official world premiere of David Williamson’s new play, Managing Carmen heralds the close of Queensland Theatre Company’s blockbuster Season 2012, the company has unveiled Season 2013 to a capacity Playhouse at QPAC.

If you were following @qldtheatreco or @xsentertainment on Twitter during the launch you will have got a sense of the excitement this new season brings to current subscribers (and reviewers! I have to admit my excitement about Red and Venus in Fur particularly. This may or may not have everything to do with my current explorations into working with visual artists live on stage or my totally professional critic’s crush on Associate Artistic Director, Todd MacDonald, who has just blown us away with his performance in Bare Witness. Keep an eye out here for my review of the show and an interview with Todd, and get to Bare Witness if you can. It goes to the Gold Coast next)…

QTC’s Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said QTC’s onstage journey would showcase a range of works that take ticketholders around the world, shine the light on home grown talents and create theatrical moments of national importance across a world of love, art, laughter, drama, catharsis, glamour, song and adventure.

Enoch’s inaugural Season 2012 has proven a bestseller. His invitation for patrons to join him on a journey into the theatre this year, led by a mix of classics, new comedies and big theatre experiences has proven a winning formula – 1000 new subscribers; 10,000 more tickets sold; a 13 percent increase in box office revenue, and a range of new works that challenged, entertained and enlightened; all in a year of buyer caution and a show stopping competitive set.

Season 2013 promises to be even bigger with the cultural journey continuing in full force. “In 2013 we invite our patrons to seek out interesting stories, engage in discussion and debate, step out of their comfort zones, get excited by artistic daring and genuinely seek more out of life,” said Enoch.

The Mainstage Program in 2013 features seven productions, including the acclaimed and six-time Tony-award winning masterpiece Red starring Colin Friels;  David Ives’ deliciously sassy, tony award nominee Venus in Fur with Todd MacDonald & Libby Munro; the blockbuster End of the Rainbow with powerhouse actor Christen O’Leary brilliantly cast as Judy Garland in her final troubled days, and the epic morality tale Mother Courage and Her Children in a stunning new translation with Ursula Yovich & David Page.

Continuing the exploration of relationships and reality, Other Desert Cities (five-time nominated 2012 Tony Awards and a 2012 Pulitzer Prize Drama finalist) will star Robert Colby and Rebecca Davis in the family drama where hidden secrets are laid bare; while popular Noel Coward comedy Design for Living will see Jason Klarwein and partner Kellie Lazarus form a “gentleman’s agreement” with Tama Matheson.

Opening Season 2013 on February 2 is the hilarious The Pitch & The China Incident. These two companion pieces written by acclaimed Australian writer Peter Houghton are an actor’s dream; two  tour de force roles with Hugh Parker fresh from rave reviews in QTC’s Kelly in The Pitch and Barbara Lowing in The China Incident.

Outside the Mainstage Program, QTC’s Bille Brown Studio will again host the remarkable transformation in 2013 that is The GreenHouse. The brainchild of Enoch and curated by Artistic Associate Todd MacDonald, The GreenHouse is a visceral incubator of art, ideas and exploration. 1001 Nights and Trollop are two highlights of the 2013 program.

A QTC and Queensland Music Festival co-production in association with Zen Zen Zo, 1001 Nights will be staged in July, starring traditional Persian musicians Pezhvak for an evening of riveting storytelling, dance and song based around Middle-Eastern magic. Full of action, mystery and romance, 1001 Nights has been adapted by husband-and-wife team Michael Futcher and Helen Howard, co-artistic directors of Zen Zen Zo.

In August Wesley Enoch directs Amy Ingram in Maxine Mellor’s Trollop, winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2012-13, in the Bille Brown Studio. Maxine Mellor is a multi-award winning playwright who is well acquainted with Queensland Theatre, winning the Young Playwrights Award in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Enoch, who is directing three productions including Trollop and mainhouse productions Mother Courage and Her Children and Design For Living, said he was looking forward to welcoming eminent directors to QTC this year. “We have three fantastic female directors for 2013. Continuing our partnership with Perth’s Black Swan State Theatre Company Artistic Director Kate Cherry will direct Other Desert Cities, Catarina Hebbard will join us for The Pitch and Andrea Moor for Venus in Fur,” he said. “David Bell will direct the stunning End of the Rainbow; Daniel Evans takes on The China Incident, and Alkinos Tsilimidos will bring us the acclaimed Melbourne Theatre Company production Red.”

“It is such an honour to present a mainhouse program which brings such acclaim to the stage, including the very best from Broadway –Red won six Tony Awards including Best play in 2010, as well as the Drama Desk Award for Most Outstanding Play; Venus in Fur was nominated for a Tony Award this year for Best Play; Other Desert Cities was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, plus has five nominations for Tony Awards with year, including Best Play, and the list goes on,” he said. “Our Season 2013 is a continuation of the journey we started this year, and we thank Queensland for embracing our shows so passionately. Next year is going to be another series of experiences, come on the adventure!”

(Wesley invited some of his 2013 actors and directors to join him for a chat on the lounge, which was in place for Managing Carmen. This – and the opening behind-the-scenes footage – helped to make the whole launch a little more personal and I told Wesley afterwards that I expect to see a season of Wesley’s Couch slotted in there somewhere!).

Season 2013 Ticketing Details

Tickets are available at queenslandtheatre.com.au or by calling 1800 355 528.

14 October – bookings open for current 2012 subscribers taking 7 or 5 Play packages

29 October – bookings open for current 2012 subscribers taking any Season Package

5 November – bookings commence for new season ticket holders

7 Play Packages saves up to 35% off Playhouse premium single ticket prices. 5 Play Packages up to 20% off and 3 Play Packages up to 15%.

15 November – single tickets on sale for End of The Rainbow.

4 December – single tickets on sale for The Pitch & The China Incident.

QTC The Pitch & The China Incident

Queensland Theatre Company presents The Pitch and The China Incident

By Peter Houghton

2 February to 9 March, 2013 at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

 

The Pitch

WINNER GREEN ROOM AWARD BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN PLAY (2006)

Director: Catarina Hebbard Designer: Simone Romaniuk

Cast: Hugh Parker

Down-and-out film writer Walter Weinermann is psyching himself up for the biggest pitch meeting of his life with a panel of powerful producers. He has an epic idea and a dream cast, but no decent ending.

After moving to Hollywood in the 1920s, screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz sent a telegram to friends back in New York: “Millions are to be grabbed out here, and your only competition is idiots.” It’s still true today; and by the time the credits roll on Peter Houghton’s witty, manic, one-man show, audiences will find out if Walter is destined to be a millionaire – or just an idiot.

 

The China Incident

Director: Daniel Evans Designer: Simone Romaniuk

Cast: Barbara Lowing

Companion piece The China Incidentis the story of one woman, a perfect storm of crises, and altogether too many phones. Bea Pontivec is a high-flying, highly-strung diplomatic consultant who’s quite literally well connected. She has hotlines to the White House, to the United Nations, to a bloodthirsty dictator. She’s a power-broker, a playmaker, a cast-iron negotiator, a control freak. But as this pin-sharp satire becomes more frenetic, and her personal and professional lives collide, Bea will learn the meaning of the term ‘communications breakdown’.

QTC End of the Rainbow

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre presents End Of the Rainbow

By Peter Quilter

2 March to 24 March at thePlayhouse, QPAC

Director: David Bell Designer: Bill Haycock

Cast: Christen O’Leary, Hayden Spencer and Anthony Standish

Lighting Designer: David Walters

Musical Director: Andrew McNaughton

It’s Christmas 1968 – and Judy Garland is not in Kansas anymore. The former child star is shacked up in London’s Ritz Hotel with fiancé number five, Mickey Deans, and her loyal friend and pianist, Anthony. A whirlwind success in her youth, the years have been unkind.  As her finances crumble, her celebrity continues to fade and the press savagely turn on her, Garland is clutching at the straw she thinks will save her career: a five-week run of cabaret shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub.  Peter Quilter’s poignant End of the Rainbow paints a warts-and-all picture of the beloved but tortured musical icon, her strained relationships with men, her struggle to stay in the spotlight – and the pill habit that would claim her life. After a show-stopping turn in Bombshells last year, Christen O’Leary returns to QTC Company to fill Judy’s ruby slippers and explore the destructive dark side of worldwide fame.

QTC & MTC RED

Queensland Theatre Company presents a Melbourne Theatre Company Production RED

By John Logan

27 April to 19 May at thePlayhouse, QPAC

WINNER OF SIX TONY AWARDS, INCLUDING BEST PLAY (2010)

WINNER DRAMA DESK AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING PLAY (2010)

Director: Alkinos Tsilimidos

Cast: Colin Friels

Set Designer: Shaun Gurton

Costume Designer: Jill Johanson

Lighting Designer: Matt Scott

Composer: Tristan Meredith

Colin Friels breathes life into tortured artist Mark Rothko as he broods and seethes in his Bowery studio, literally painting himself into a corner, in Red. In the 1950s, Rothko took a commission that would set him up for life – a series of paintings that would decorate the swanky Four Seasons Restaurant in the new steel-and- glass monument to corporate modernism, the Seagram Building on Park Avenue.  He forged his art into a weapon against the richest bastards in New York, vowing clandestinely to create stomach-turning crimson canvases that would “ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who eats there” – but in 1959, out of the blue, he stormily reclaimed the paintings and gave back the money. The catalyst of that event went with the abstract expressionist to his grave. It’s this mystery that is explored with stunning intensity in Red. From the pen of John Logan – acclaimed screenwriter of Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo and forthcoming James Bond film Skyfall – this six-time Tony Award winner is a true masterpiece.

 

QTC Mother Courage and Her Children

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present Mother Courage and Her Children

By Bertolt Brecht

Translated by Wesley Enoch and Paula Nazarski

25 May to 16 June at the Playhouse, QPAC

Director: Wesley Enoch

Cast: David Page and Ursula Yovich

Designer: Christina Smith

Bertolt Brecht’s epic morality tale about the ravages of war is given a unique twist by QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch and Paula Nazarski in a dazzling new translation.  Instead of the Thirty Years’ War of 1600s Europe, this near-future incarnation of the age-old story is set against the bleak backdrop of a post-apocalyptic desert where Mad Max might be at home – an Australia ravaged by devastating conflict, where life is cheap but business is still business.  Ursula Yovich is the titular canteen-wagon mistress, shrewdly driving hard bargains as she shepherds her brood of three through this unforgiving, harsh wilderness.  With an all-Indigenous cast, this fresh spin on Brecht’s play delicately folds in themes of land ownership, the impact of mining and the Stolen Generation.

 

QTC Venus in Fur

Queensland Theatre Company presents Venus in Fur

By David Ives

22 June to 27 July at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

NOMINATED FOR TONY AWARD FOR BEST PLAY (2012)

Director: Andrea Moor

Cast: Todd MacDonald and Libby Munro

Designer: Simone Romaniuk

Lighting Designer: David Walters

The end of a long day of casting, and playwright-director Thomas can’t find the right woman. He needs beautiful-sexy-articulate, young, with a “particle of brain”. He needs someone to play a mistress, but has endured a parade of 35 misfires.  Thomas is adapting Venus In Furs, the infamously kinky 1870 novel by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch – the etymological father of masochism. It calls for a purring, confident dominatrix.  He gets more than he expected when the raging storm blows in Vanda – late, frazzled, with the very litany of flaws he just decried. She talks of Venus in Furs as one might talk of Fifty Shades of Grey. As the director takes a chance and allows her to read anyway, the balance of power tilts between actress and director, mistress and slave. Thomas and Vanda become two people handcuffed at the heart in David Ives’ deliciously sassy, sexy, character-driven power play.

QTC Other Desert Cities 

Queensland Theatre Company and Black Swan State Theatre Company present Other Desert Cities

By Jon Robin Baitz

10 August to 1 September at the Playhouse, QPAC

NOMINATED FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR DRAMA (2012)
NOMINATED FOR FIVE TONY AWARDS, INCLUDING BEST PLAY (2012)

Director: Kate Cherry

Cast: Robert Coleby and Rebecca Davis

Assistant Director: Emily McLean

Designer: Christina Smith
Lighting Designer: Trent Suidgeest

Christmas in sun-drenched Palm Springs: a desert tomb, populated by shrivelled mummies with tans.

The Wyeth children are home for the holidays and conversation doesn’t flow easily: politics isn’t fit for table talk in a family as fractious as this. Neither is the war in the Middle East, nor the shadow of terrorism. But there’s one thing everyone wants to chime in on: troubled daughter Brooke has just finished her magnum opus, a tell-all memoir exposing a pivotal, tragic, ferociously-guarded family secret. As a quiet Christmas dissolves into feuding, there’s more than one meltdown brewing in the searing desert heat.

QTC Design for Living

Queensland Theatre Company presents Design for Living

By Noël Coward

19 October to 10 November at the Playhouse, QPAC

Director: Wesley Enoch

Cast: Jason Klarwein, Kellie Lazarus and Tama Matheson

Gilda loves Otto, and it’s entirely mutual. But Gilda is rather fond of Leo as well. Leo adores Gilda – but come to think of it, Leo and Otto have a bit of history, too.  So which of them will pair off, and who’ll be left out in the cold? Anything goes, it seems, when you’re an artistic type slumming it in a garret in 1930s Paris. Noël Coward’s subtle comedy Design For Living was scandalously risqué when it was written, painting a vibrant picture of the machinations of a muddled ménage-à-trois. Are this trio freewheeling, footloose bohemians, or amoral degenerates? Their mutual friend, strait laced art dealer Ernest, has a pretty strong opinion on what’s decent. What’s that all-too-common comment on relationships: “It’s complicated?” This one just happens to be rather more complicated than most.

QTC The GreenHouse 1001 Nights 

The GreenHouse @ Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Music Festival in association with Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre present 1001 NIGHTS

Adapted by Michael Futcher & Helen Howard, featuring the Pezhvak Traditional Music Ensemble

Director: Michael Futcher

18 July to 28 July at the Bille Brown Studio, QTC

Aladdin. Ali Baba. Sinbad. The names are as well-known as the stories behind them. They whisper the promise of adventure, exoticism and romance. Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre joins with traditional Persian musicians Pezhvak for an evening of riveting storytelling, dance and song based around the Middle-Eastern magic of One Thousand and One Nights. Adapted by Michael Futcher and Helen Howard, resident directors of Zen Zen Zo, and backed by the authentic sounds of traditional instruments such as the oud, the dohol and the kamanche, this energetic and enchanting show embraces Zen Zen Zo’s legendary physicality and boundless, joyful imagination.

QTC The GreenHouse Trollop

The GreenHouse @ Queensland Theatre Company presents TROLLOP

By Maxine Mellor

1 August to 17 August at the Bille Brown Studio, QTC

Director: Wesley Enoch

Cast: Amy Ingram

Clara is uncomfortably numb. Cocooned in her spartan home, she wallows in tracky-dacks and the misery of the recently jobless, feeding on apathy and the images of natural disaster piped into her living room the TV.  She’s haunted by what she could aspire to if she could break from her funk. Her relentlessly upbeat partner Erik has devised a plan for her to get back on her feet. Instead, she devises a series of increasingly gruesome ‘quests’ for him.  Then, one stormy night, a stranger calls – and the chinks in the pair’s relationship begin to widen. Uncomfortable truths are revealed and there are hints of horrors to come, as ancient myths are dragged, growling, into the modern day.

What are you excited about seeing?

28
Sep
12

KELLY

Kelly

Kelly

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

15th September – 20th October 2012

 

Reviewed by Matty Gharakhanian

 

Almost all of the facts in the script surrounding Ned Kelly are as true as possible. But the real history is a bit murky anyway. Keep in mind Ned was a notorious liar, mainly because most of what we have him on record as saying he was saying to the police – whom he had no qualms in lying to. And the police at that time would often lie to make themselves look better so no one really knows for sure. My goal with Ned is simply to capture the spirit of the man. To make audiences feel they’re really in the room with him. I don’t think anyone’s successfully done that yet.

The real Dan Kelly is something of a mysterious figure and there isn’t a lot of information about him in the history books. He tends to pop up in the confrontations, completely fail to do what is asked of him and Ned then has fix things. I used this idea as a building block to create the fictional character but took a lot more artistic license with him than Ned. Dan carries more of the folklore side of the story.

Do I think Dan escaped? I think it’s a fifty-fifty call. There are eye-witnesses that say he died. And there are eye-witnesses that saw Dan in the weeks after Glenrowan, heading for Queensland. There’s a grave with an unrecognizable body in it in Greta. And there are reports of a man named James Ryan out at Ipswich who claimed to be Dan and told stories about The Kelly Gang that no one else should know. I like the uncertainty of it all. It’s ripe geography for fiction. Matthew Ryan

 

Kelly

“Shotguns and body bags.”

 

Directed by Todd Macdonald, Matthew Ryan’s Kelly is a brilliant re-telling of Ned Kelly’s story, played out in the outlaw’s final moments. Kelly sits in a small jail cell, drunk and feeling sorry for himself until his brother visits and their shady past comes back to haunt them.

Simone Romaniuk’s set, lit by Ben Hughes, consists of a raised square platform with a dangling cage, ceiling and a tiny bed to represent a basic jail cell.  Nothing more was needed.  Why?  The entire show was one scene.  A single 90-minute scene with rapid lines, witty repartee and a cohesive story.  Sounds boring?  Are you asking, “How could this possibly remain entertaining for that long?”  Fear not, for not a dull moment was had.  Kelly integrates fact and rumour, such as Dan Kelly’s death and homosexuality, the family history and their many run-ins with and harassment at the hands of the law.

The acoustics are exceptional and Guy Webster’s eerie soundscape complement the show and its vibe. Having a limited and minimalistic stage, the cast show us that they don’t need fancy props or an elaborate set design to tell a story.  All that is needed is a little imagination and the ability to enjoy being taken on a journey through the words of less than a handful of talented actors. Before you know it, the stage is a ghostly replica of a grimy old jail cell containing a man about to be executed.

 

Kelly

“It’s your spirit they’re after.”

 

Now, if anyone reading this is sceptical about another story on Ned Kelly and the Kelly clan, they should feel free to leave said scepticism at the door.  For an old tale, this new spin on the Kelly story is nothing but fresh.  Matthew Ryan’s script is the key to this, injecting occasional humour into a play that boasts witty dialogue and a fluid, considered story.

 

I’m mostly known for my comedy so I think this one is going to be a shock for some people. My work tends to be very story driven. I’m very structured. I’m much more interested in the action of a piece and what’s happening between the characters than I am in any grand political explorations. I tend to just let that stuff bubble up gently. Matthew Ryan

 

Hugh Parker plays the role of the spiteful prison guard exceptionally well and Steven Rooke (Ned) and Leon Cain (Dan) are outstanding. Dare I say, Cain as Dan stole the show.  This production delves into the story of the weaker, lesser-known Kelly who lives in Ned’s shadow. The actors play their roles superbly, with such strong conviction.  Some throwaway lines have us chuckling while other lines leave us stunned into silence.  Their performances are intense and raw and their anger palpable and believable. Their booming voices and confident, no-holds-barred performances grasp the audience’s attention and wouldn’t let go.  Rooke is the bleary-eyed and angry imprisoned man, accepting of his fate. Cain is powerful as the complex, gutless and conflicted brother, posing as a priest and asking for forgiveness and a blessing (something that was not easy to ask for, given the circumstances).

 

Kelly

“You came to ask a dead man for the right to live.”

 

Dan and Ned play the proverbial tug of war between their recollections of past events as well as who was in the right or wrong and who held the moral high ground.  They take family dysfunction to a whole new level.  Problems start seeping through the cracks in their relationship as one big issue is alluded to early on. Eventually, through conversation and re-enactments, we are taken through various moments and past events until finally, we come full circle, back to the original problem and discover the unholy truth of what happened.

 

The banter between Ned and Dan is based on Irish rhythms of conversation. Their parents were Irish immigrants and while there is some debate as to whether Ned himself had an Irish accent, I really wanted to capture that amazing lyrical quality of the speech patterns – if not in the actual words then at least in the pacing and timing. It seems to be in my own blood because once they started talking in that rhythm I couldn’t shut them up. Matthew Ryan

 

Kelly is a 90-minute roller coaster ride in a jail cell and every Australian should take it.

10
Mar
12

so what will the state theatre company of the future look like?

Well now, let’s see. It’s Friday and the Forum (and the opening of The Greenhouse) was Thursday. It seems like an eternity ago! I’ve been busy, yes (I’m always busy) but I’ve been thinking. I’ve been listening to a lot of John Bucchino again lately and this is the core of what I came away thinking (and singing) during the drive back to the coast and upon getting home and going to bed instead of blogging until 2am…

RHYME IS WHAT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO DO UNLESS WE WANT IT TO

When we look at the state theatre companies across the country, do we not think they all look a bit like this?

Yes. It’s a neat street.

Of course the vision for the QTC of the future varies enormously, depending on who you ask to paint the picture. The many, many, MANY pictures are wonderful! And at least we all seem to agree that we would prefer to see something more like this:

And because we know we can, we want to feel that we are creating work that helps us to look like this:

Imagine what the street would look like if our state theatre companies all followed their dreams and each became a true home to their artists, producing sustainably, a vast array of work in traditional and non-traditional spaces, which truly reflected their communities; their people, their stories, their hopes, their dreams and their realities.

WOW!

So my point is this: it’s time to drop a great big bloody bucket of orange paint over each of our state theatre companies!

If there’s an Artistic Director game to do it, it’s Wesley Enoch. He has, better than any other as far as I’m concerned, established a firm platform of community engagement and open public forum. Wait. To trump Cate, he may have to appear on a community group’s stage himself somewhere, say in Ipswich…

Some stakeholders prefer to take a similar approach to that of Lucas Stibbard’s, by taking a look at what we don’t want. This is a fine approach to begin with; ruling out what’s not desired and leaving us with the perfect picture! Easy! But there’s no perfect picture, as we know. And that’s why it’s so hard to make the changes. What if we start small? What if we don’t even call our subscribers “subscribers”? Are they not now “season ticket holders”? Language and perception are two of the big orange splots within the bigger picture.

A number of artists mentioned that we might do better to look at the sporting model in Queensland. This is something that Sam (my husband) has been saying for years. A rare breed, he loves his sport AND the arts. Depending on the season and whether or not the art is paying, one will always win out.

Anyway, Paul Bishop, our extraordinary facilitator for the afternoon’s forum (really, he should have his own morning show), introduced by Associate Director of QTC, Todd MacDonald, gave us a brief history of the world’s culture and asked us to fill in the blanks for the last 50 – 60 years, specifically for Brisbane theatre. What? Oh, right. To appreciate where we are now and where we’re headed, we need to understand what’s gone before us. Fair enough.

So we had our afternoon’s schedule on a whiteboard and, armed with coloured felt pens, A4 paper, post-its (and iPhones), although we were already running 15 minutes late, we were ready to change the world!

We realised, after just a few minutes, that there has been far richer theatrical culture in Brisbane than many realise, for much longer than some care to remember. Kaye Stevenson commented that resilient artists have continued to work for a long time in this town. What a timely reminder (mentioned again later, during the Welcome to Country from Uncle Des and the opening address from Wesley Enoch) that we must keep asking our elders what has happened before us. We must be willing to listen and take down their stories. We must re-tell them. We must continue to value that which has gone before. I don’t doubt that we do, just as I don’t doubt that there is anyone who doesn’t want to do things better than they’ve been done before.

The question of sustainability was a major one – it kept coming up in conversation – and it took David Walters, the master of green lighting design (and by green I mean sustainable and not for Wicked), to point out that we had full lights on in the room for the day, for a discussion, rather than all of us looking like death-warmed-up under the ugly lights (he didn’t say anything about looking like death-warmed-up but we all know that’s the issue here).

The theatre is an aesthetic thing! Nobody wants to be photographed under the fluoros!

Luke Jaaniste spoke of the theatre company being more a part of our entire ecosystem, a living, breathing, feeding, inter-dependent organism, though his paper reads more clearly about this than his brief address to us on the day and I urge you to go back and read it. Lisa Erhart gave us the Galaxy Analogy and poignantly noted that she is one of the cool, older, red stars within our galaxy, while there are others involved who are the hot, new, young blue stars. She wants us to smash the elite theatre culture that appears to be – still – associated with the company and for it to become far greater reaching and responsive to community. Anna Molnar used the term “theatre without borders” and also noted, later, that to trademark it or copyright it would defeat its purpose. It was noted that the only “colour” in the room was in the paper and pens. Todd MacDonald summarised that the state theatre company has a responsibility to raise standards and tell the stories that truly reflect our community. This came up repeatedly. In Farmer Rob’s words, we must start to “sell to the farmers.”

Rob spoke about farmers who sing – they’re happier – and have “thrown out the farm”. (I’m waiting to see the link for this organisation and when I do, I’ll add it here.) This became more relevant as we began discussing the traditional space, the buildings and that “elite” culture of pre-booking, dressing “appropriately” and going to dinner and a show. Todd asked, “Should we lose the mothership?” There was deathly silence. As Wesley honed in on later, the place is significant. It’s important to have a home for artists and a place where people can gather together. As a little, tiny, independent company who floats from theatre to theatre, to Boreen Point, to Community Hall, to park, to beach, to living room, to vacant shop, I know this to be true. We feel it. All the time.

IMHO a company needs a place to call home.

The need to re-structure the company came up several times, with artists wanting artists paid first. Fair enough. On the other hand, it was acknowledged that admin need to be able to sell a show in order for the artists to have an audience! Andrea Moor said the company should be one that, “serves the fans and the artists first.” She also wants to see, as we all do, the companies working together. I don’t doubt this is happening more than ever before, with the dialogue now wide open between QTC and La Boite.

Emma Bennison spoke on behalf of Access Arts and expressed her frustration (echoed by many others in the room and on Twitter) at the funding bodies favouring young and emerging artists for far too long. She reminded us that it’s distressing for her sector of the community to see able-bodied actors playing characters with disabilities. There are actors with disabilities who are not even being considered for these roles. I was waiting for Suer Manger to pipe up. Emma also stated, quite rightly, that we can’t possibly become a more inclusive and accessible company while we continue to make assumptions about people (artists) with disabilities.

Angharad Wynne-Jones joined us via Skype (Sigh. There are always technical difficulties, aren’t there?) and shared with us these words:

We need to balance fear and hope. We need to do things better and differently. We need to hold hands before the paradigm shift.

And a wonderful, quirky, living room work, choreographed by Lucy Guerin for the homeartproject.com

Matt Delbridge spoke about London’s Green Theatre Project, citing excellent examples to balance the horrific stats of energy use (read waste) by theatres everywhere. You only have to Google “green theatre” to find enough material to occupy your reading time until Arcola Theatre becomes the first carbon neutral theatre in the world. And they will. Check out what they’re doing – for their theatre family and for their wider community – here. Our own Umber Productions achieved a small miracle with David Walters lighting their production of Elaine Acworth’s Water Wars. Their Education Pack provides nice, simple detail about how this was done. I wish the writers and implementers of the new you-beaut rigid bloody curriculum would see more theatre. Just saying.

“I limited the amount of power used. I know it was a kind of arbitrary thing, but I set myself the task – and the show was a touring piece – to run from a 10 AMP (domestic) socket. It simplified things.”

Walters told Kate Foy that the biggest challenge in Water Wars was, ‘getting my head around this approach to lighting. I don’t know of anyone else who’s taken it on. It’s challenging – bloody and dangerous at times but, at other times, very rewarding.’ He continues, ‘… and just because we have the tools doesn’t mean it’s good design. I’m conscious of LEDs being fitted in to what we’ve always known. We’re in transition. We’re in a catchup game now and, for the first time, we have tools we don’t quite know what to do with. We’ve now got computers which have given us extraordinary and sophisticated ways of controlling that light, once we’ve generated it.

Where I am learning is in the area of control. There are old ways of doing things but now there is so much flexibility. For example, there are 60, 80, 100s of channels of control. I’m having to learn to re-think in design terms.’

Right. What have I missed? What we believe is essential to the state theatre company of the future. And the observations from Steven Mitchell Wright. Hmmm. Could have heard a pin drop. Steven said aloud a lot of what has been unspoken. In order to move forward, QTC need to address a lot of problems.  He is an advocate for adapting our language and our labels to better represent the stakeholders. He sees a need for greater depth and transparency in the engagement with community and while he acknowledges that the discussions, debates and forums are happening already, QTC now need to genuinely respond and make the tough calls to bring about real change for artists.
Since I’m still up and here, here is a little something from Travis Bedard, in the middle of the current #2amt discussion (if you’re in theatre and not on Twitter yet, IT’S TIME), re the problem with theatre in America. I include it because we all have to remember that we all have something to do with making changes for a better future. That sounds awfully trite but, especially in our theatrical circles, I get sick to death of hearing the sneering and judgement before support and admiration for our fellow artists. Be a part of the change. Be the change you want to see. Stop wasting paper. Turn off the lights. Get to a show via public transport. Make braver, better, smarter choices. Keep creating new work. Keep sharing the work. Share the love MORE.
QTC is not UNloved. Far from it! We just don’t know how to show our love sometimes.
“You understand of course, given the size of this niche, there’s an almost 50% chance that YOU are a problem with theatre in America?”
-Travis Bedard
No problem here! No problems that are not being addressed, anyway. Keep supporting, sharing and inspiring change. The changes will come about because we continue to challenge, adapt and evolve. Meanwhile, The Greenhouse, the youth ensemble, Wesley’s regular newsletters and the engagement with community give me confidence that QTC are serious about change. For the first time, they are questioning – from the inside – the necessity of rhyme. The state theatre company of the future looks like it’s genuinely open to suggestions and will look very different if we just give them a chance and a bit of encouragement along the way. We need to keep reminding them:
RHYME IS WHAT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO DO UNLESS WE WANT IT TO
And we need to remember that sometimes, half of the audience – even the invited guests amongst them – are not going to find your art interesting, regardless of the changes you make. This actually happened last night, to my, er, horror. They will continue talking and drinking, regardless of what or who you have put on the stage in front of them. But no problem. Not everybody watches the grand final, either. Let’s not be so precious, let’s not waste time and resources dwelling on it (let’s not decide to leave them off the guest list for the next opening, which was one suggestion I overheard in the more attentive section of The Greenhouse crowd); let’s just get on with the show and bring on the theatre companies of the future.
Check out the forum gallery here and on Facebook.
08
Mar
12

QTC Forum: What Does the State Theatre of the Future Look Like?

We’ll find out in just a few hours! Well, we’ll certainly have a clearer picture of what it MIGHT look like. We’ll be live-tweeting from the forum but I thought I’d give you some pre-forum reading matter, courtesy of QTC.

THE FORUM PLAN

Luke Jaaniste:

Read his paper Liveliness: Conditions of a Lively Ecosystem (and state theatre) here

In a nutshell: We need to foster the five qualities required for liveliness: diversity, connectivity, flexibility, reflexivity and capacity.

How could a state theatre company be part of this?

EXCELLENT QUESTION.

IT’S A FORUM. LET US KNOW YOUR IDEAS, PEOPLE.

Lucas Stibbard, of boy girl wall phenomenon, offered a vision yesterday via Facebook, which I think is worth noting here. It’s a longer note but then, if you’ve had time to watch and share and debate KONY 2012 you can read this and process what you will.
“Me, I’m very fond of that image of the vase that becomes two faces when you look at it long enough. To me it’s always symbolised that by looking at the negative space around something you may be able to infer its shape, or to put it another way – if you work out what you don’t want something to be then, by a process of elimination you can start to understand the shape you desire.

So let’s look at what the state theatre company of the future shouldn’t be and by that same process of elimination we may begin to infer a shape:

It’s 2020 and the season is entirely composed of 7 one-person, co-pros and buy-ins that allow for costs to be met. The upstairs of the company is staffed at 50 and the shows at 3. The works are, for the most part, traditional fare with any risks being minimised into smaller runs in smaller venues. There’s a Williamson or Murray-Smith always. The gap between locally produced works (which are shown separately to the main season and included with education and youth programs) has widened now to being undertaken by what amounts to a different company. The staff is, for the most part, uninvolved in the workings of the downstairs where the one show that the company of the future is producing themselves this year, rehearses. Marketing is done with little consultation as to the actual project and locked in for the whole season before casting has been resolved and the creatives have started discussions. The creatives continue to work in a standard Writer, Director, Designers paradigm and collaboratively devised work continues to be met with a combination of fascination and fear as it doesn’t fit neatly into the systems in place. “Season of the stars” casting to bolster audiences has meant that the 7 one-person shows from the season are performed predominantly by celebrities or musical theatre performers. The audience turn up see their show and go home having been told again that this is what theatre is. Ticket prices are extortionate to cover the fact that subscriptions are much lower due to the fact that the generations that do subscribe continue their decline.

So that’s the darkest of all possible futures – the faces from the face/vase picture, the negative. So let’s not do that.

Now let’s look at the vase.

It’s 2020. The season is broad and varied – there’s an amazing show from overseas that everyone should see once before they die. There’s an insane experiment by a local group that only has one audience member. They’re both programmed and marketed as part of the same season. There’s a golden oldie – there always will be. There’s a pair of shows running in rep that are companion pieces – they compliments and comment on each other via contrast. There’s a musical and a blistering physical theatre piece, there’s a geo-locative city game/promenade thing. The company’s annual must-sees are the Christmas show and the local spotlight that takes a small company and lets them do what they do with a real budget and infrastructure but without interference. The marketing and promotion of the season is artful and true to the productions – this is partly because the consultations between the workers in all areas of the office and the artistic teams are fluid and constant. The venues, which are of all sizes and shapes have well appointed bars and food and act as places to go and spend time as well as see shows: destinations rather than venues. The season’s performers are drawn from the best the country has to offer as well as the company’s ensemble program, and one or two personalities (that bit is inevitable).

Bi-monthly talks like Improbable Theatre’s D&D’s in England allow for lots of discussion with the community and the well-managed online presence of the company of the future allows for dialogue with anyone willing to get involved. The “education” shows, now referred to as part of the season, are made at the same budget and managed by the same workers. As such the demand for arts workers and producers has meant that the project teams in the office are full of passionate and committed artists whose skills in making work extend into management and production allowing a permeability between time spent managing projects and time spent in projects. The company’s first response is “let’s see how we can make this happen” with a default position of “Ok so we can’t do that, however here are 3 other options”. At the center of every consideration is the work.

Subscription has fallen away as a generation that doesn’t do that comes to its prime. However, it is a generation that values live-ness and experiences and as such will come to what it perceives as worth its time and as such the range and quality of the season appeals (as it has to). Ticket prices have come to represent value for money, not an investment in a night of entertainment.
There are a mixture of creative paradigms in play in the rehearsal rooms of the company – one project is made under the traditional auteur/director, designer, writer model, another involves a collaboratively devised work, another somewhere in between and the company is flexible enough to be able to accommodate and adapt to the rhythms and styles of process undertaken.

The company’s ensemble program allows for young and emerging artists to continue to develop their skills and get vital contacts and time onstage as they train and work on the season in capacities that include stage-hand and office work, ushering, time spent in classes and observation of the processes of shows that are in rehearsal and development and in roles in the season. This work is backed by the opportunities afforded young makers, directors and facilitators who are also part of this ensemble and whose late in the year group work is another vital piece of the company’s yearly programming.

The company’s programming is applauded for it’s breadth, it’s depth and most importantly, it’s daring. It has no time for “creative industry” as art making is not an industry and no time for “cultural capital” as culture is priceless – it believes risk is it’s own reward. It undertakes to showcase talent, grow and nurture local creation and innovation and create experiences that cannot be replicated in any other medium as well as continually expanding the notion of what performance can be for both itself and it’s audience.

Now this is without offering solutions or budgets and with full knowledge that the future will probably be as much the faces as it is the vase. But it’s what I dream of.”

What’s terrific about this post, in addition to Lucas’s passion about the future (thank you, Lucas) is that Wesley Enoch got onto it, after sitting with us at Poe’s table last night at opening night of The Raven and commented:

“How exciting to read these thoughts…..that’s what we should be doing. Imagining the State Theatre Company of the future…together. It fact the future doesn’t have to be that far away. Love W”

When the Artistic Director of the company invests so much into ongoing public discussion about what the state theatre company of the future looks like, I’m pretty confident that it won’t look too shabby at all. What do you think? What are you hoping to see?