Posts Tagged ‘travis ash





QTC & Force of Circumstance

Diane Cilento Studio, The Greenhouse

July 14 – 25 2015


Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris





Presented by Queensland Theatre Company and produced by Force of Circumstance, HOME is a rich, poignant and honest exploration of what home means. It has a pure intent to include the audience completely in this exploration, resulting in an experience that is evocative and deeply personal.



HOME is a journey across time and space that takes us to New York, Sydney, Brisbane, Texas and Egypt, encompassing everything from acceptance to growing up, family, love and ultimately, belonging. What emerges is a tapestry of stories from Margi Brown Ash’s own life that are intricately woven together by director Leah Mercer and powerfully performed by Margi Brown Ash and her son, Travis Ash.


We are told from the start of the performance that we are not one self but many across a lifetime. As a young person I find this prospect comforting and exciting, and I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Over the course of the play, Margi Brown Ash recreates herself over and over again: we see ‘Margi the Teenager’, ‘Margi the Mother’, ‘Margi the Actor’ and so on. Her performance is honest and magnetic, quite literally drawing audience members on stage with her to assume several roles within the play. Travis Ash’s performance as a storyteller is equally kind and generous and he gives voice to those from across the world with a fundamentally different experience of home.


In fact, warmth permeates through every element of this production.


Bev Jensen’s design creates an open and malleable space that contains reminders of the comforts of home, and the combination of Ben Hughes’ lighting design and Travis Ash’s composition is highly evocative. Moreover, the interaction of AV, lighting, set and costume design allows for endless opportunities for clever play throughout the performance.


HOME is comprised of many playful, familiar moments – such as the chaotic dinner table with newly proclaimed vegetarian teenager – alongside moments that are unfamiliar and distant from my own life. In particular, the story of a Palestinian man whose home is destroyed by the Israeli military is insightful and a moving reminder that I belong not only to Australia, but to a global community responsible for the safety and belonging of all.


After all, “your story is my story”.


HOME is a unique and special experience that connects artist and audience; past, present and future, and the many homes that we inhabit throughout our lives. The true power of HOME lays in its ability to awaken individual stories so that it is almost impossible to talk about this performance without talking about one’s own sense of home. HOME plays at QTC’s newly named Diane Cilento Studio until July 25. It’s a performance not to be missed.



He Dreamed A Train


He Dreamed A Train

Brisbane Powerhouse & Metro Arts

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

October 15 – 26 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



On the weekend my friend and I were almost killed by a driver who, prompted by the green arrow, obviously, plunged straight ahead and directly into us from an inner right turning lane as I took the outer right turning lane in Bowen Hills on our way to Brisbane Powerhouse from the Sunshine Coast. (Usually the trip is just slow and frustrating due to roadworks!). Also, I sat through one of the most poorly written and unimaginatively staged plays I’ve ever had the misfortune to see (I know; everybody else thinks it’s brilliant! WTF?!), and I drove six hours in a day, to Toowoomba and back (I know; Kate Foy does it all the time!), to join my family as we said our final farewell to my lovely grandma. As I held Poppy in my arms and watched my grandma being laid to rest I remembered the shooting star I’d spotted on Friday night after returning home from the car accident that almost killed Dee and I, which also meant we’d missed the first ten minutes of He Dreamed A Train. It blazed across the sky for what seemed like forever to remind me that we are okay. And we are still here. And our time is precious. And that it is vital to experience theatre that changes us, rather than choose to suffer through theatre – or anything or anyone in life – that does nothing for us.

He Dreamed A Train (the title of the show is from Margi’s brother’s book of the same name) is about the reverie of remembrance, and honouring our memories… Mindfulness cannot be our mantra. There is a place for the past, and if we can resist staying there, if we can pull ourselves back into the present to live it fully, there are important lessons to be learned. Or not. And that’s why those lessons – the unlearned – continue to come at us.



Margi Brown Ash is a storyteller and teacher of the finest sort. Her delicious stories are slices of an extraordinary life, informed just as much by experience as by ancient myths and thrilling tales of heroes, dragons, kings, caves, and the power of gods and men.





The combined creative forces of Margi Brown Ash, Travis Ash, and Benjamin Knapton means this company, Forces of Circumstance, lives up to its name, reviving notions of what contemporary theatre can look like, and sharing reverence for the traditions of oldschool storytelling. The forces of this circumstance are pretty powerful if you’re willing to listen.


Before there was ever a poor excuse for an animated film inspired by the book, Dr Seuss wrote The Lorax, and the magic of that opening, which I’ve heard read to me countless times, and read to hundreds of children over years of teaching is the mood established while we take our seats. Throughout the show there are the sounds of the Australian bush, evoking memories of my own. (I make a mental note: take in on Monday, my copy of The Lorax for our science unit, Save Planet Earth). Remember, we missed the first ten minutes of the show and Judy Hainsworth, that First World White Girl, acting as Brisbane Powerhouse usher extraordinaire, was obliged to keep us in the sound lock for a little while so my experience of the start of the show was the usual juggle of handbag, phone, wine (yes, you have time to check in and get to the bar when you’re late), and a short succession of single sounds; Margi’s gentle, soothing, telephone voice at one end of a conversation, footsteps and then static, at which point we were taken to our seats.


Note: If you are late to a show, don’t be uppity and expect to be seated after the show has started until a suitable break in the performance. Don’t be rude to the box office staff or the ushers. They’ve been told that a lock out period applies. This is a creative decision as much as it is a courtesy to the artists, and to the patrons who’ve arrived on time. There’s no need to begrudge anyone (ever). Everyone is doing his or her job. Ok? Ok.


Margi’s brother was diagnosed with a debilitating terminal illness, which changed everything and nothing. We journey with Margi and her son, Travis, in the role of her brother at the age of 23, to discover other worlds, the worlds in which they lost and found themselves as children, and then again as adults. These are compelling performances, gently guided by Knapton. I love the moments of furious pace (Travis Ash’s dramatic retelling of The Myth of Er, his impressive musicianship, and Margi’s moments of consternation as she sees her brother sitting, having fallen to the floor, waiting for anyone else but her to help him up) and the languid turns (Margi’s thoughts, spoken aloud as she wanders through the family home, not quite ever finishing packing the books into boxes and again, Travis Ash’s skill at the piano). We can’t help but join these two as they leap into paintings and their deepest memories. At just under 70 minutes, it’s a comparatively short show, and yet it feels like the longest time – time is stretched like a shooting star moment – in the presence of Margi Brown Ash & co.




The increasingly difficult task these days of keeping an audience captivated is made easier in this circumstance by the seamless incorporation of sounds (Travis Ash) and images, which are thrown across walls and gradually, magically bring to life Hogwarts style, a painting of a landscape from another time and place (Nathan Sibthorpe, Freddy Komp & Benjamin Knapton). Though I don’t mind it, Dee can’t stand the static sound, and so we see it serve its purpose to challenge sensory perception and unsettle entirely. In stark contrast to the harsh static, we are both mesmerised as much by the misty, moving, changing and raining painting as we are by the performances. I leave this show feeling vulnerable, and uplifted, as if my child has revealed to me her special secret fairy wish and I just know I can make it come true before the fairy fades away and…well, I mean I hope I can.



The energy & momentum of the storytelling, its ebb and flow, the naturalness and grandeur of delivery, the rich vocal work and dramatic images cast by the actors’ physical states and their connection with each other, as well as the tech wizardry, make for a fascinating insight into the mind and heart of Margi Brown Ash, a true theatrical treasure.



He Dreamed A Train is one of the most challenging and entirely engrossing new works you’ll see this year. I’m sure it will have another life after this (Sweet!) Brisbane Powerhouse season (I’d love to see it come to the Sunshine Coast), but if you can catch it in the Visy space, do. When there are magical, beautiful, inspiring and life-changing tales such as this to be told, there had better be a bloody good reason to endure anything less intelligent, or less lovely in life.






La Boite Indie & The Nest Ensemble

The Roundhouse

18th July – 28th July 2012

Dear Margi,

I just wanted to write and let you know how much I enjoyed the show last night. What a beautiful, beautiful gift you have given us. Thank you for sharing it with us. I know, it’s funny; usually I would simply post a review online but I decided to write you a letter, since I never wrote my letter to a random stranger after the last La Boite Indie production (it was Sarah Winter’s A Dinner with Gravity did you get to it?). Also, it seemed a more personal response to suit the nature of such an intimate show. You don’t have to reply, by the way, but if you’d like to play – and I know that you like to play – I expect I’ll be hearing from you soon!

The most remarkable thing about HOME is that it is all you. We see Leah’s insightful eye, her light hand and her loving heart here and there and we acknowledge that Trav’s multiple roles are implicitly part of the many tales you tell (how talented they both are!) but the fact remains: every piece of this show is you. How proud you must be. I have to tell you, I haven’t known you very long and we’ve never had the chance to work together (though I think we must!), yet the strange thing is I feel like we’ve known each other for a million years…well, at least thirty! It might have been in another life altogether because I think I know these stories. You were right. Your story is my story. Your stories are so familiar and yet… so unfamiliar. They happened and they didn’t happen. I remember and I don’t remember.

I remember sitting each afternoon, after school, with books and pencils spread out on the green laminate kitchen bench, threatening to take over Mum’s cooking space. Our kitchen always smelled of baking. She’d butter some Saladas and slice the cake she’d baked that day (chocolate cake or orange cake or – my favourite – plain butter cake) and I’d do my homework there, chatting about the day over afternoon tea and books and pencils. I told her the other day that Poppy does her homework at the kitchen bench while I bake and prepare the dinner. She doesn’t remember these afternoons, talking together like old friends. I remember.

I remember sitting up in Grandma and Grandpa’s bed, underneath piles of blankets before breakfast, with a proper cup of tea and a biccy – an Arnott’s break-a-finger biscuit – on the cold mornings when we would wake up there, during a visit to Toowoomba to see the relatives. I was little, maybe six, Poppy’s age. I could always smell Grandma’s stew cooking. I love Grandma’s stew. I used to write her letters. Real letters, hand written and with real photos and pressed flowers enclosed. She was so proud of me. She had a fall and was admitted to hospital on Wednesday night. I have Monday free to go visit her. I haven’t seen her for years. She probably won’t remember our mornings, with Roger the cat sitting at our feet. I remember.

I remember running wildly in the rain along Mooloolaba beach with my best friend, her bleached blonde hair streaming behind her as I sprinted past her and back again (I was really fast!), strands of her wet hair beginning to cling to her shoulders so she looked like a mermaid who’d just emerged from the water. She always looked like a mermaid. I always wanted to be a mermaid too. We ran and laughed and stumbled until we fell over each other and collapsed in the sand, in absolute hysterics, gasping for breath. I see my mermaid friend sometimes; a vision dancing in the water but I’m sure she’s actually overseas again, working. She might not remember these crazy days. I remember.

Margi Brown Ash HOME

HOME helps us remember. I remember and I don’t remember. At HOME, we are your special guests. Thank you for inviting us to share your stories, your memories and those of other people’s. When you enter the space everybody feels welcome. Your warmth is infectious and your joy contagious. Your delight is genuine and you are having as much fun as anybody else. Do you know what HOME is? It’s a tea ceremony. A very special, casual and surprisingly upbeat tea ceremony.

I love the way you embrace the audience. Leading them. Guiding them. Involving them. Sharing your applause with them. I’ve never heard such long, warm, appreciative applause! But you are so very generous and applause is our way of giving something back.

I ate up your original telling of the Isis and Osirus myth and then the throwbacks to it. The telling of it drew us in. You are a superb storyteller. The eating of words is such a simple, strange notion. You served up a great big, sumptuous feast of words – a degustation – story after story, in small amounts but giving us so many delectable dishes to sample. I’m full! I feel completely satiated.

Bev’s design is beautiful, her hand-carved Perspex set pieces and props lend a delicate, impermanent air, adding to the feeling that this is precious time, to be treasured. I think visitors to your HOME will be reminded that our time is, indeed, that precious. Perhaps they’ll start asking to hear the stories that are part of who they have become. We get so busy we forget to ask! We do something else instead of really listen! We are too busy. Who will tell the story?

Ben’s lighting is simply gorgeous, perfectly supporting the changes in mood rather than interrupting or distracting from your stories. He’s created sunrises and sunsets, the dawns and dusks of each tale. I’m glad there’s no real darkness in your show. Sometimes we need to forget the darkness and simply be reminded of the scope of the light.

I love the quotes you’ve woven throughout the show, visually and aurally; I love the singing bowl and Trav’s wide range of skills, especially his delivery of other people’s stories, used in such a way as to make us sit up and listen, refocus and remember how lucky we are, here in our home country. Here, home is whatever we desire it to be.

A little while ago (and again last night), you told me thank you for doing exactly what you have done yourself. Thank you for waking us up. Thank you, Margi, for your very special gift to us. Thank you for having us, for letting us in and sharing your HOME.



P.S. You can eat the chocolates…