Posts Tagged ‘trevor stuart

15
Feb
16

QUARTET

 

Quartet

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

January 30 – February 21 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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QTC’s production of Ronald Harwood’s Quartet coincides with the passing of a great artist and industry leader, the much-loved Carol Burns. This production is dedicated to Carol, “matriarch of stage and screen”, honoured last Monday night in a moving tribute, which took place on the Playhouse stage, beneath Bruce McKinven’s beautifully realised conservatory set. The industry – our close-knit arts community – came together to celebrate her life and her craft, at which she worked tirelessly until December last year. Many friends generously shared their stories about working with Carol. You can read what Kate Wilson shared with us here.

Carol Burns – was one of the most uncompromising, truly alive human beings I have known. To have known her is to have experienced a force of blazing energy that came from deep inside her – on stage and in person. At times, she seemed almost to glow.

– Kate Wilson

Quartet brings together on stage four extraordinary artists – Kate Wilson (Soprano, Jean), Trevor Stuart (Baritone, Wilfred), Andrew McFarlane (Tenor, Reginald) & Christine Amor (Mezzo-Soprano, Cecily) – to remind us of so many things… Director, Andrea Moor notes, “The themes of Quartet are acutely in focus for the Queensland theatre community right now, resonating with the universal nature of Ronald Harwood’s writing. We expect a rich and brilliant cultural life and yet how much do we support those who give us this experience?” As a show of the utmost respect and support, Moor has enveloped this play and its players in a big, warm embrace to emanate the sort of gorgeous feelings you get when you walk into Grandma’s kitchen and smell the cookies she’s baked especially for you, just because.

There is a “peculiar fascination some opera lovers have for superannuated opera singers who still perform before the public. Their frailty and artistry combined with a reluctance to see their careers end is part of what is so touching about these rare people.”

Opera lovers will realize that Harwood and, perhaps, Hoffman took inspiration from the marvelous documentary, “Il Bacio di Tosca” (“Tosca’s Kiss”), about the life of real retired musicians at the Casa di Riposo in Milan that Giuseppe Verdi, who conceived of it, paid for its construction and is buried there, called “la mia opera più bella” (“my most beautiful work”). I have visited this home often and have had the pleasure of meeting and listening to performances by these wonderful old artists. 

A recent development at the Casa di Riposo is that young musicians from foreign countries also live there, studying with the older artists and providing company and a loving ear for recollections. This is a wonderful place for opera lovers to support. The institution counts among its past supporters Renata Tebaldi and Luciano Pavarotti, whose names are carved into a wall in the atrium.

– Fred Plotkin

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Quartet celebrates the individual – our talents, our quirks – but more so, community and connection, drawing attention to the unlikely friendships we form and lose and rediscover…

Harwood’s text is tightly, neatly penned, pulling together the stories and precious memories (as well as those that are less precious and best forgotten) of four retired opera singers who have been put out to pasture – imagine the most elegantly appointed pasture if you will, romantically lit by David Walters – and in doing so, opens our eyes and awakens our senses to the simple joys and frustrations of every day, elderly lives. (You might remember the 2012 film, directed by Dustin Hoffman). We recognise the strength and fiery spirit of independent souls still very much alive inside frail, failing bodies. Balancing wistful glances into the past with bright-eyed glimpses of the future (or what’s left of it!), this show is a strange, sweet comfort, directed and delivered with full, glowing hearts. It’s easy to forget, after all, that one day, given good health and good fortune, in just no time at all, we too will be old…er.

The grace and wisdom and wit and pensiveness of old age comes across beautifully, as does the dry, mostly gentle humour of those who were once “great” in the eyes of their peers and the public, and some more comfortable now than others in their new state of grace. With each performer displaying various physical ailments, and the unique qualities of his or her character, these fascinating people become fully realised on stage (there are no simple stereotypes, nor any over sentimentality), earning our admiration and heartfelt sympathy. Hilarity comes with their wry observations and the relentless sexual references from Trevor Stuart’s character, Wilfred, which are more often than not directed at Cecily, brought to life with gusto and child-like joy by Christine Amor. She’s rather forgetful and fidgety, and I bet you know – or once knew – someone just like her. 

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Stuart might be that odd and slightly creepy ageing guy who steals a look at legs and breasts when you stop at the library or the IGA if it were not for his delightful grin and rapid-fire delivery of all things a workplace or public place or shared living space should now be proudly void of. His comic timing is impeccable. For Wilfred, a cheeky pinch on the bum isn’t sexual harassment, it’s simply friendly, and persistent efforts to bed Cecily are light and funny, despite our acknowledgement from the stalls of his rather old-fashioned and increasingly tiresome behaviour. Had it been seen in real life, he might be the uncle or the father-in-law who misses out on a return invitation to the Christmas dinner table. Wilfred is THAT GUY. Stuart’s second act costume takes the cake and he clearly relishes every opportunity to draw our attention to it.

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Kate Wilson’s Jean is the disregarded diva, a woman of substance and immeasurable talent but with few real friends left in life and so little self confidence that when the mask drops we see at first only a shadow of her former self. She hides a deeply realised fear and the private shame of letting a vital relationship dissolve into nothingness. Andrew McFarlane’s Reginald, a true gentleman, all class, is debonair and adorable to watch. The connection created on stage by these two is that magical thing of theatre, an intimacy that transpires as something we might seek ourselves if only we’re brave enough and true enough in our everyday lives.

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Act 1 feels limited by a garden terrace design utilising the narrow space in front of a lush green curtain, which allows very little room for movement, however; it’s a text focused play, and there are four back stories that must be established early on to make this fine character piece ring true. Each story is gradually revealed through the insights (and snipes) of the other personalities on stage as much as it is by the individuals themselves. Act 2 opens up splendidly, putting us inside at last, the stunning atrium of the establishment, a living and entertaining space that also serves as the dressing room (ladies on one side, gents on the other) before our four stars step forward into their light to perform the famed Quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto. They lip synch it (does anyone expect them to actually sing?), and so well studied is the technique that we are quite convinced of their past success in the opera world. Sound design by Tony Brumpton is on point throughout, down to the last pretty twitter of birdsong.

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Quartet is a beautiful, lingering, lovingly crafted character piece boasting great moments of quick, witty comedy and rare insight into the whimsy and reality of the elders of our tribe, perfectly suitable for all ages. Continues until February 21 at QPAC before touring.

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Production pics by Rob Maccoll

 

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19
Dec
15

The Mad and Ugly Show

 

The Mad and Ugly Show

Brisbane Powerhouse & Cocoloco

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

December 17 – 20 2015

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Cocoloco believes in poetry, cinema, tennis, laughter, sex over lunch, lunch over sex, parties, dinners, oysters, red wine, sashimi, fresh orange juice, marmite, vegemite, Lenny Bruce, Radio 4, dolphins, volcanoes, Malcolm Lowry, surfing, Idiot Wind, lavatorial humour, crop rotation, dressing up, the art gallery cafe, karaoke, Lumiere & Son, Eric Dolphy, Incident at Owl Creek, fondue, Noam Chomsky, Sisyphus, Bob Dobbs, Zippy, schadenfreude, nudes descending staircases, authenticity, appropriation, synchronicity, serendipity, sunrise, the specific, the general, Buster Keaton, Samuel Beckett and more…

The Mad and Ugly Show comes to Wonderland from the UK, and also Brisbane Festival (2009) and regular appearances at Woodford Folk Festival. You may know real life couple Trevor Stuart and Helen Statman as Alice and Alice, a creepy, pasty faced pair dressed in matching blue frocks, white bloomers and petticoats, and grimy blonde wigs, from the streets of Woodfordia, where they roam hand in hand, quoting in perfect unison obscure children’s rhymes. They behave as if they’d been locked in an attic for a decade rather than having had tea down a rabbit hole for a day and frequently scare actual children. The first time I stood in front of them they actually scared me.

The Alices are the most unnerving, atypical street entertainment of Woodford Folk Festival, probably of many festivals, and likely to be the strangest opening act of any of the shows at Wonderland.

Following the delivery of their classic childhood rhymes and handclaps that remind me of Benjamin Schostakowski’s diabolically funny A Tribute Of Sorts, Stuart returns not as an Alice but as a madman, wearing a grubby straight jacket and utilising the only available appendage to drag a Buddha on a skateboard through the obstacle course of cabaret seating. This performance piece shows serious commitment from the actor to his art but could be considered the token “art for art’s sake”, a surprising inclusion because its meaning is unclear and it’s not overly amusing or entertaining beyond its initial shock. I hear the discomfort of the young guys sitting behind us and realise it’s the first of a number of moments from which the more squeamish among us will elect to look away. The tone of the evening has been set!

Statman returns to the stage as a whinging, whining guttersnipe lower class bogan who gives birth on stage to a doll and offers to fry up the placenta for us, which comes neatly, conveniently packaged, unlike the tattered rant she delivers about the difficulties of rearing a child. The piece ends abruptly and without a smooth or easy transition into the next. Perhaps its intentional, anything to unnerve us and all that stuff. How very postmodern…

In another sketch, as a superbly studied Hitler, annoyed at the discovery of so many Hitler parodies on YouTube, Stuart plays piano across a baby harp seal as he uses a blunt object to slowly and methodically, in between bits of witty oratory, bludgeon it to death. Its teeth are shattered and its blood pools beneath its body and begins to soak into the white linen tablecloth. 

Another shocking scene involves Stuart’s take on a bonafide mind reader wearing a tall red fez containing the brain he’ll consume, spoonful by spoonful, as he slowly descends into the most disturbing madness you will have seen enacted live. Having enjoyed Stuart’s beautifully drawn portrayal of Henry in La Boite’s Cosi, I was sickened by this graphic demonstration of how a mind can literally turn to mush and leave its owner in a ranting, raving, blubbering and eventually, catatonic state. As I watched I reacted violently, experiencing real physical revulsion to the consumption of the “brain” but also by Stuart’s devastating portrayal of a man beyond anybody’s reach. If you can stomach it, this brilliantly executed, perfectly measured and manipulated performance is the highlight of an intriguing and incredibly challenging evening.

Unless of course you love a good British pair of narcissistic cocks in the style of Little Britain, holding a jovial porn parody chat over their unzipped trousers and pissing into the pint glasses they’ve set down moments before on the stage in front of them. These two are the Alans (Alan and Alan), and they get the last laugh.

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This is not the sort of theatre we’re accustomed to seeing on a regular basis in Brisbane, and when, towards the end of the show, we’re presented with photos of Cocoloco’s many European and special festival appearances (hello, David Berthold!), we see some more of the avant-garde involving, for example, the wearing of colourful clocks or cacti on heads. There are times when these inclusions make the show feel a little too kitsch but the live elements of this performance make up for the lack of exciting AV. 

We see elements of Monty Python, Buster Keaton and The Goons, and yet something so original, so quirky, so oddball… My preferred act is still the haunting Alice and Alice but in seeing such a cross section of Cocoloco’s macabre and mysterious comedy, I have new admiration for the pair. Like The Kransky Sisters, this darker, quirkier style of cabaret/performance art might not be everybody’s favourite theatrical form but it’s one that should be experienced. It challenges popular culture, and on a more personal level, our minds and stomachs and long-held beliefs. But look, it’s not The Sound of Music.

Regardless of whether or not you enjoy their show, there’s no denying that Stuart and Statman are completely off the wall, weird and wonderfully talented!

The Mad and Ugly Show is sometimes strange and vile but always intriguing, subversive, brilliant theatre.

 

29
Oct
13

Design For Living

 

Design For Living

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

19 October – 10 November 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Design for Living

Noel Coward’s Design For Living is Queensland Theatre Company’s final production for the year and I think it’s safe to say they’ve saved the best for last!

 

I loved QTC’s last offering, Other Desert Cities, and this final show is a sophisticated chaser, and a fitting finish to the 2013 season. Design For Living leaves nothing wanting; it boasts a terrific cast, an exquisite design aesthetic, a swellegant soundtrack and – of course – a laughing-til-you’re-crying typically witty and wicked text from the scandalous banter meister, Noel Coward. No, no relation, Sam’s family were Vikings (no surprises there!).

 

This is by far the best we’ve seen from Director (and Artistic Director of QTC), Wesley EnochDesign For Living is fast, fun and so cleverly contained that nothing is too OTT, despite some outrageous moments that, in less capable hands, would draw rolled eyes and sighs of exasperation rather than giggles and guffaws.

 

Jason Klarwein, who we’ll see in the titular role in Macbeth next year (it’s a co-pro between QTC and Grin & Tonic), is perfectly cast as Otto, who is in love with Gilda, played by his real-life wife, Kellie Lazarus. And oh, what a glorious role for Lazarus! She effortlessly embodies Gilda’s energy and effervescence. (Yes, a bit of the Year 5 alliteration coming into play there!), but it’s Klarwein and his antics that fuel the comedy and pace of the play. His is the role that drives this piece, though only by a little. Academic, actor and director, Tama Matheson, is Otto’s partner in crime, the ever-so-slightly more subtle Leo. Perfectly underplayed, I’m reminded (and I had to find it again so I could link to it here) of something Matheson told the SMH earlier this year about directing opera… “You never let the audience off the hook; you never let them sit back.” Matheson’s compelling stage presence ensures this is the case in a straight play too…well, in fact it’s not THAT straight, is it?!

 

Matheson and Klarwein are perfectly matched and make the greatest theatrical comical duo Brisbane has seen in a long while. Directors and actors alike, do go see these two do their very best “drunk acting”, to spectacular comic effect!

 

So both gentlemen are in love with Gilda, and she is in love with them both. This makes for a most elegant and exuberant, and ultimately satisfying, ménage-a-trois, with the play traversing years in the lives of these three bohemes, as a tryst becomes betrayal and indecision (or denial, largely due to society’s expectations that one should end up with one other person only) eventually leading to marriage….and its rapid dissolve. The themes, of love and art and freedom, and living by one’s own rules, are timeless, and if it were not for the society manners and sophisticated 1930s style conversation, and the exquisite set and wardrobe by Richard Roberts, one might assume the play had been written only recently.

 

There are, of course, several additional characters, including Ernest, Gilda’s other-other-other male friend, brought to us by Trevor Stuart, and in a strange sort of gesture, we see Fez Faanana play both Miss Hodge and Matthew. I think Miss Hodge works very well for him. Matthew, not so much. I loved the reporter, Birbek, played by the incomparable Andrea Moor; it’s a comprehensive character study and a coup for the transgender casting effort, which, a little like neon, should not be worn by everyone just because it’s once again become the current season’s trend. It certainly suits some better than others. Just saying.

 

Speaking of the latest trends, if you’re seeing Design for Living on a Friday night, remember to frock up! FROCK UP FRIDAY is the follow up to FUR FRIDAY, which was enjoyed by so many during QTC’s run of Venus in Fur.

 

If all the world is a stage, then it must be a catwalk too…

 

Do frock up, drink up, and enjoy the swell party that is QTC’s splendid Design For Living. Be quick! This is one that you’ll be truly sorry to have missed!

 

 

27
Feb
12

la boite’s shakespeare: as you like it

As You Like It 

La Boite Theatre Company

The Roundhouse

18.02.12 – 24.03.12

La Boite’s theatre is perfect for Shakespeare: it’s open and alive and allows actors and audiences to come together to share the joy.”

La Boite Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, David Berthold.

Have you ever been a part of Woodford Folk Festival’s shared joy? For the first show of La Boite’s 2012 season, David Berthold has brought a little bit of Woodford to The Roundhouse Theatre and it’s truly wonderful. The Forest of Arden IS Woodfordia and Berthold’s As You Like It is full to overflowing with the same joy, love and good karma. Bill Hauritz will be pleased.

Boasting exceptional performances and containing the best bit of fight choreography we’ve seen at La Boite, indeed; the best we’ve seen in Brisbane in a good while, by (Lead Fight Director this time) Justin Palazzo-Orr, this is a show for everybody. It’s funny and witty and heaps of fun. We are reminded by this play, that Shakespeare’s writing is so good, not only does it stand the test of time but also, it continues to appeal to all sorts.

Probably the most convoluted of the comedies, with a massive cast – in terms of programming, it often loses out to the more popular Twelfth Night – the plot of As You Like It may be unfamiliar. In simplest terms, the love story is central: girl meets boy, they fall instantly in love, girl disguises herself as boy, boy meets girl disguised as boy and they hang out in the forest together, become mates and wed, the girl’s true identity revealed on their nuptial day. Duke Senior and his merry men also inhabit the forest – their commitment is more permanent, their lifestyle a good deal greener and they provide much of the perspective of the play.

Director, David Berthold and Designer, Renee Mulder, have created, with suits and city skirts and jeans and flannel shirts, the look and feel of last year’s Woodford. Woodford has changed since its humble beginnings in the Maleny show grounds and the new mood has been perfectly captured. Rosalind (the remarkable Helen Howard) and Celia (Helen Cassidy) wear black, Cue-style suits and the latest season’s chunky suede shoes, which is just as well, because in narrower heels it’s a challenge to tread the shredded playground rubber that covers the floor of the theatre. As the god, Hymen, in his glittering, high-heeled disco diva boots, Alec Snow is a standout amongst student interns and puts to shame with his confident strut, many of the women in the audience (no offence, no-less-confident women in the audience. It’s just that Snow got to rehearse and as such, he looks to be a contender for the next run of Priscilla)!

Centre stage is a circular dais, which suddenly rises, in a simple, beautiful and breathtaking reveal, earning surprised applause from the opening night audience. Colourful lanterns, indie folk music (props to vocalist Lucy-Ann Langkilde, ready for a Chai Tent chalkboard gig), Tony O’Connor style forest sounds by Composer and Sound Designer Guy Webster and pretty, dreamy lighting, all amber and blue and pink, thanks to David Walters’ trek-out-to-the-Amphitheatre-after-the-Lantern-Parade-passes-by inspired lighting design, all combine to bring the magic of Arden Forest to our midst.

It’s not just the design that is stunning. The performances are superb. We can see the company at work on the next generation of actors, with a stronger focus on training and mentorship this year (there are eight interns in this production), doing their bit to close the gap between accomplished performers and the new, eager actors. Holding their own, in that middle ground where the graduates dwell, are Luke Cadden and Dominic Nimo, in their La Boite debuts.

Bryan Probets, as the jester Touchstone, manages to steal the show early on and later, whips up the audience in a riotous chorus; an old-fashioned, call and answer, effortlessly interactive theatre moment. His comedy is cleverly marked and he appears completely relaxed – delighted in fact – to be entertaining us. How lucky are we? The other exquisite moment in this piece belongs to Trevor Stuart, as Jaques. His delivery of the famed “All the world’s a stage” seven ages of man monologue is magnificent. If it has never stayed with you before, it will linger with you now.

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Kate Wilson and Hayden Spencer, play their parts beautifully; the first, kind and wise and generous as Duke Senior, as comfortable in the forest digs here as if it were home, high on the Range, and the second, the mincing miss shepherdess, Audrey, in his hippie mountain chic attire, posing and pouting to make us laugh ‘til we cry. Kathryn Marquet brings Phoebe to life.

Helen Cassidy is a lovely Celia and she is well paired with Helen Howard as Rosalind. These two are a celebration of the sisterhood! Howard is a striking woman and it’s easy to watch her every move. That being said, it’s just as easy to be completely distracted by the Adonis good looks of the Bard Boy of Brisbane, Thomas Larkin, in the role of Orlando. We’ve seen his naked torso for some time now, in an image for his upcoming role (Romeo) in QTC’s Romeo and Juliet. But you know this. You’ve seen the poster and you’ve had your say on Twitter too, I’ll warrant. For those who have been living under a tree at Woodford, Larkin’s co-star, Melanie Zanetti, looking extremely young (just as Shakespeare intended… half her luck) has been the subject of some controversy, stirred by a single complaint from a woman on the Gold Coast. While I look forward to seeing him in Romeo and Juliet, as Orlando, we see Larkin in his best role to date.

As You Like It is a show of superlatives. Whether or not ideas are borrowed, this is a brilliant interpretation; it doesn’t miss a beat. If you’re feeling like a bit of a lift, this is the best show you can see in Brisbane this month. It’s gorgeous, guaranteed to please. It’s what the world needs now; love, sweet love, and pure, unadulterated Woodford-all-year-round shared joy. Do yourself a favour and see this one. It’s guaranteed to reinvigorate your soul and warm the cockles of your heart.




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