Posts Tagged ‘UQ

03
Mar
14

The Bomb-itty of Errors

 

The Bomb-itty of Errors

Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble

UQ Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio

February 24 – March 8 2014

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

The Bomb-itty of Errors

 

The Bomb-itty of Errors by Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble is a rapid-fire humoured take on Shakespeare, irreverent and pantomime-like in its silliness, and very entertaining.

 

The energetic twist on one of the Bard’s earliest works, The Comedy of Errors tells the story of lost identical twins and ridiculous mistaken identity, all while a DJ spins and actors rap. Despite this modernisation, the play manages to retain much of the Bard’s original text. William Shakespeare’s template features two sets of twins—a pair of masters both conveniently named Antipholus, and a pair of servants, both named Dromio—who are separated as infants. In The Bomb-itty of Errors, they’re quadruplets—two pairs of twins—left abandoned. When the duo that was raised in Ephesus shows up in Syracuse, this comedy of mistaken identities ensues.

 

Shakespeare demands intensity of actors and this is especially so when there is the additional vocal pressure of 90 minutes of hip hop. And the ensemble cast is more than up to the challenge, with just a few dialogue slips, easily forgiven given the frenzied nature of the show, with four actors, playing multiple characters and multiple genders, all while rapping and rhyming. Indeed, frequent entrances and exits, and frantic costume changes only add to the farcical nature of the chaos, especially when they see actors revealing in Shakespearean drag tradition.

 

The quartet has as much fun acting as females as in their male roles. In fact, as ‘dumb as paint’ Luciana and her fierce sister Adriana, Zac Kelty and Silvah Rus steal the show. Contrastingly, Colin Smith and Luke Cadden find their strength in their male roles as the two strutting and fretting brothers Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. And then there is Artistic Director, Rob Pensalfini’s appearance as Rastafarian apothecary, Dr Pinch, which heightens audience engagement as he eyes the ladies.

 

The fast-paced nature of this ‘ad-rap-ation’ means that audience members must be on their toes, not just due to its fourth wall breakdowns, but to catch all the lyrics as they tumble word play and pun upon alliteration and rhyme, with a rhythm not unlike that of Shakesepare’s iambic pentameter. It really is a feast for the ears, clever and lewd, and very Shakespeare. The dialogue is infused, not just with bawdiness, but pop culture references such as to twerking and quidditch, and phrases like cray cray and OMG, which is fitting, perhaps given that the work is based on that which would have been the pop culture of its day (given that way in which his works are so influenced by the world around him.)

 

bomb-ittyoferrors

 

Visually, too, the show does not disappoint. Although there are some early lapses in the precision of lighting transitions, the colour and movement of the show are almost to the point of animation, with The University of Queensland’s Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio set transformed to into a hip-hop cultured, cartooned world of brothels and convents by urban artist Will Powell.

 

As such, The Bomb-itty of Errors becomes more than just slapstick silliness; rather it shines as an exuberant celebration of the Bard that retains the integrity of the original text as much as it transforms it.

21
Aug
13

A Give Away – Win a Double Pass to Bat Boy: the Musical!

Batboy Banner

 

Underground Productions presents the musical comedy hit Bat Boy: The Musical, the hilariously dark tale of a half-boy, half-bat discovered living in a cave, and the obstacles he faces as he tries to integrate into a small, rural town in West Virginia.

 

It’s an explosively entertaining take on how we fear the strange and unknown, set against a score that mixes rock with contemporary musical theatre.  With elements of satire, comedy-horror, irony and forbidden love, Bat Boy is a thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining work that has garnered massive critical and public acclaim, including the Outer Critics Circle Award for best off-Broadway musical in 2001.

 

Because we loved Underground’s Urinetown so much we want you to see Bat Boy: The Musical so we’re giving away a double pass to the opening night performance on Friday August 30 at The Schonell! Just tell us in the comments section below the best thing about Brisbane theatre!

 

BatBoyFlyer1-Front

 

Matilda Award nominee Alex Feifers jumped at the opportunity to direct this exciting, yet challenging show.  Undaunted by the imposing text, she says “The real challenge is perfectly balancing the dark and dramatic themes with the comedic irony and wit.  But backed by such a strong creative team and crew, not to mention the stellar cast, I have a big feeling this is going to be the highlight of the local Brisbane musical theatre scene this year.”

 

By the writer of the recent hit Legally Blonde The Musical, Underground Productions couldn’t be more proud and excited to present the Queensland premiere of Bat Boy: The Musical, running from August 29 until September 7.

 

BatBoyFlyer2-Front

 

About Underground Productions:

Underground Productions is the University of Queensland’s resident theatre group.  It has been running (under different names) since the 1970′s, with artists such as Geoffrey Rush and Bille Brown beginning their careers with the company.  Since its venue transition to the wonderful 440 seat Schonell Theatre in 2010, Underground has evolved to produce some of Brisbane’s finest theatre, whilst still maintaining its close-knit and fun-loving attitude.  Along with 4 mainhouse shows a year, Underground Productions provides opportunities for all things theatre, including drama workshops, backstage crew training, arts festivals, and an annual musical.

 

Underground also strives to showcase original works that the talented Brisbane community has to offer and provides a thorough sense of fun to both members and audiences alike.

 

N.B. The story deals with many dark and mature themes.  Although respectfully handled and often punctuated with humour, we nevertheless recommend that audience member be at least 15 years of age.  There will also be strobe lighting effects, and loud sound effects and music.

 

Bat Boy Official Poster 1


Performance Dates:

Thursday – August 29 at 7:30pm – PREVIEW NIGHT1

Friday – August 30 at 7:30pm – OPENING NIGHT*

Saturday – August 31 at 2:30pm

Saturday – August 31 at 7:30pm

Tuesday – September 3 at 7:30pm – STUDENT SPECIALS2

Wednesday – September 4 at 7:30pm

Thursday – September 5 at 7:30pm

Friday – September 6 at 7:30pm

Saturday – September 7 at 2:30pm

Saturday – September 7 at 7:30pm – CLOSING NIGHT

*After the opening night performance, stick around for free food, drinks, live music and a meet-and-greet with the cast and crew

 

Tickets:
$20 for adults / $18 for students / $15 for Underground Members
Tickets available from July 15 and can be booked online: http://www.undergroundproductions.org.au

 

1 $18/15/12 tickets for adults/students/members on Preview Night

 

2Students and members pay only $12 on Student Night

 

For your chance to win the opening night Double Pass follow this blog, like us on Facebook and tell us in the comments section below what you love about Brisbane theatre! Winner will be notified via email and announced on our Facebook page.

 

24
May
13

Machinal

Machinal

The University of Queensland

Geoffrey Rush Studio

21st – 25th May 2013

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

Sophie Treadwell’s critically-acclaimed Machinal premiered on Broadway in 1928 with Clark Gable.

Machinal, directed by Dr Sean Edgecomb, is a confronting production, which combines elements of carnival, 1920s freak sideshows and vaudeville. 

“The passion, talent, intelligence and drive that these students demonstrate in the performance, is quite simply, amazing,” Dr Edgecomb saidThe strong research background of UQ’s drama area, encourages us to consider different acting theories for the play, namely Meyerhold’s theory of biomechanics (where actors use gestures and movements as a way of expressing emotion physically). 

The powerful drama is based loosely on the murder trial of Ruth Snyder and her lover, Judd Gray, who together murdered Snyder’s husband in the late 1920s. Snyder was found guilty of the crime and executed by electric chair. In Machinal, the lead character Helen, attempts to negotiate through a woman’s role during this era in history – confined and regimented to wife, mother, housekeeper, and sexual partner. She is a woman trapped in a dependant status, living a hellish life in a loveless marriage. Then, a man gives Helen a momentary glimpse of passion and her life is forever changed. 

Helen discovers how society confines her and how her husband unconsciously dominates her every decision. With a feeling of hopelessness, she commits an egregious crime, murdering her husband to free herself from the constraints of society. 

This heavy play is a powerful expressionistic drama about women’s forced financial dependency upon men during the 1920s and their trapped existence in a male-dominated, oppressive wasteland. 

The production team includes: Sean Edgecomb (Director), Heather Fairbairn (Dramaturgy), Alana Tierney (Chorographer) and current UQ drama students. 

 

Machinal

I had no idea what to expect for Machinal. I knew it was expressionism, I knew it was a classic and all of this gave me a pang of my high school drama days. This however wasn’t a school orchestrated show. It was a step up, University of Queensland’s drama students would be putting on the show tonight.

 

I loved Les Mechaniques played by Alice England and Regan Lynch. Both loud, both confusing and devilish they were the glue between scenes.

 

Mr. J or Mr. Jones taken on by Kristan Santic matched the mechaniques loudness with creepiness. Each syllable, wrist flick and slicking back of the hair sent trembles down my spine.

 

There was one incident if there really can be an incident in a play about incidental murder. Early on in the first half the curtain was jerked just that touch too vigorously and one of the poles holding up the material was yanked from its secure holding. For a good fifteen minutes we watched the performers shut and close the curtain, all the while the audience were eyeballing the pole waiting for it to crash on one of these poor students heads.

 

Thankfully no drama students were harmed in this production.

 

The stage manager made a formal announcement that there would be a ten-minute interval while a technical error was rectified. Namely, the pole dangling just above her head.

 

I took this impromptu break as a chance to admire the foyer of the Geoffrey Rush drama student. I hadn’t set foot in that room since I’d defected from my arts degree at UQ and changed to QUT at the end of 2011 (QUT Represent!). They had transformed it into an eerie circus tent with streamers and mirrors everywhere. It’s a unique little studio after all. But before I had a chance to guess all the meanings of the eerie tarot cards dotted along the mirror it was time to be pulled back into the vaudeville nightmare.

 

Another note of appreciation is the choreography to this production. Whether it be the struggles between the lovers, the dance numbers from Les Mechaniques or the human-machine blocking and movement in the background you could tell these students had worked hard to nail each move.

 

Certainly on the obscure side, this dark retelling of Sophie Treadwell’s expressionist piece Machinal is certainly thrilling. These performers are no baby-faced kids fresh off the block – they’ve come ready and willing to terrify you. But only until tomorrow night so be quick and book for the final two performances.

 

26
Mar
12

sweeney todd

Josh Rowe (Sweeney Todd)

Sweeney Todd

Ignatians Musical Society

Schonell Theatre

22nd March – 13th April

Ignatians sure know how to put on a show. And boy oh boy have they picked a doozy this time! Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, inspired by Christopher Bond’s 1973 play of the classic story (Bond was the first to show Todd as a man who had been wronged by the law and not motivated entirely by greed), is certainly not the easiest of musical productions. In fact, it could be considered one of the most challenging, with its complex orchestrations, multi-layered ensemble work and dark, difficult story to sell to contemporary audiences with ever-decreasing attention spans, accustomed to being sitcom-spoon-fed.

Director and Musical Director, John Peek, has accomplished something special with this Sweeney Todd. A strong, bold ensemble, filled to overflowing with top-notch part-singers and character actors, a brave creative team, an orchestra fit for a recording studio (led by Conductor, Edgar Chan) and a cast of leading players who include a couple of Brisbane’s best.

Opera singer, Josh Rowe, despite his Russell Crow demeanor (or maybe because of it. Russell Crowe was to have originally starred in the film and was to have been directed by Sam Mendes. Personally, I’m okay with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton having scored the gig), was a little underwhelming on Saturday night (the third performance of the run). Rowe may have the title role but this is Miranda Selwood’s show. Their relationship becomes more interesting and Rowe’s reactions and expressions become more animated in Act 2, by which time I felt he’d really settled into his boots (I don’t mean vocally – the outstanding vocals were there from the outset, exemplified in the sinister song, My Friends, sung to his razor (singular, yes), glinting in the light – I mean that he must have gone out and got his Sweeney shoes on at interval, only fully exploring the range of the character later. I should make mention of Pretty Women; sung with Judge Turpin (Chris Kellett), it used the right mix from both men, of devious and delighted and By The Sea, performed with Selwood (she is an absolute scream in this number; hers is a fearless performance) is made that much more hilarious by Rowe’s facial expressions and in this well-loved song, although he remains seated, we see his ability as an actor start to come through, in addition to the stand-and-deliver-singer we’ve seen thus far). It’s Selwood who is simply superb, as the bustling, busybody, bonny cook of The Worst Pies in London, Mrs Lovett. She is feisty, cheeky, fast, furious and vocally, absolutely glorious. She clearly relishes the role and why not? It’s a plum one and it seems she was born to play it. I’m sure Selwood must have taken a leaf out of Helena Bonham Carter’s book and practiced her baking whilst practicing her singing, in order to perfect the syncopation in her songs, which are surely the most difficult of the show.

James Gauci is also perfectly cast, as the young, romantic lead. He’s a good-looking lad who can hold a note and tell a tale…oh, who am I kidding? He’s just gorgeous and he sings to sweep the ladies off their feet! Please somebody get him in front of Frosty already! His Johanna, Jordana Peek, is suitably lovely – a picture of innocence – though I found her a little pitchy and breathy in the song that should seal the deal for this character, Green Finch and Linnet Bird. She made up for it in the duet with Gauci, Kiss Me, and also, in the Reprise of Kiss Me (the Quartet), demonstrating the confidence we expected to see from the start and a much more polished performance, finally winning me over. Toby (Ben Hickey) is a tough-nut sweetheart and does a truly beautiful job of the often over-sung Not While I’m Around. We expect this to be a poignant moment (it’s the beauty before the full extent of the horror) between Toby and Mrs Lovett and we’re not disappointed. Pirelli (Andrew Scheiwe), whose accents are spot on and Lucy Barker (Sarah Jensen), who manages to make us laugh as well as make our hearts break in the very same instant, get the other honorable mentions, giving us wonderful, multi-faceted characters.

James Gauci (Anthony) and Ben Hickey (Toby)

James Gauci (Anthony), Jordana Peek (Johanna) and Chris Kellet (Judge Turpin)

It’s a highly technical show and there are massive demands placed on the set. This design (Shane Rodwell) is intricate in terms of its levels but there is something at odds here and I feel sure it’s the massive, mechanical revolve trying to upstage everybody. So much emphasis has been placed on the working set that we are lucky to have had such strong performances, avoiding anyone paling into insignificance. I love a revolve as much as anybody but it must serve the purpose and I felt that this one – it was clunky and slow – was out of step with the pace of the show. The Chair, however, is another matter altogether; the mechanism is brilliant and the effect is truly chilling and strangely comical, as things tend to be when they are mildly discomforting… I don’t want to give away all of the effects but if you’ve ever seen a squib sliced, you’ll appreciate that somebody in makeup has done their fair share of research into the fine art of throat slitting. You will squirm, just as you should. The tale is, after all, ghastly.

Dark, gothic lighting – not too much and not too little – casting shadows and drawing our eyes towards the most minimal action is just right. Andrew ‘Panda’ Haden has done well to achieve such an evocative and intimate lighting design within the large-scale Schonell Theatre. Gutter colours dominate the structures and the costumes, all trash and no treasure, except for Pirelli’s carnival suit (but he’s not around for long), Johanna’s pretty blue frock and Mrs Lovettt’s sassy petticoat of delicious pink under, which we catch glimpses of, just as we see the brighter shades of each character from time to time – but only for a moment.

The staging of the prologue seems unnecessary, an anti-climatic opening; a solitary figure (a dishevelled man) crossing the apron of the stage to pull a rope, in the action of ringing a bell and at the same time, opening the curtain onto a scene of madness – the streets of London. A bold directorial choice, it was probably not ideal. Far more effective would be the first sounds of Sondheim’s strangely seductive score and the curtain opening upon the ensemble standing, imploring us (really very At the End of the Day and there’s no doubt it works), to “Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd”…

Another unusual moment, wasted; we missed, “At last, my right arm is complete again!” It’s the definitive Demon Barber character line and it was thrown to the wings, dismissed during an exit, rather than used to achieve the climax of the Prologue. Whether by actor or director, I thought this an odd choice.

"At last, my right arm is complete again!" Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's film.

I cannot stress enough how good this company is in terms of their ensemble singing. Like any company, they have their “stars”, though none seem aligned or affiliated with this or another company, we see them everywhere, and Ignatians always work really hard on producing an exceptional ensemble, as we saw (heard) in RENT and as we see (and hear) in Sweeney Todd. I’m always in awe of a good choir master/MD (our local Oriana Choir is off on their European tour soon, led by the extremely capable and super confident Daniel Calder) and if you’ve ever considered joining a terrific no-pressure-no-audition choir, Ignatians provides another Brisbane option. Check the website for details.

As far as Brisbane theatre goes, there is a huge amount on at the moment and this production must be one of the hot ticket items. On Saturday night, I noticed UQ uni life was alive and well (clearly, it was pizza and red wine night) and a horde of younger audience members filled the Schonell theatre foyer at least 20 minutes before the Box Office opened. These are some keen kids! How wonderful that the theatre rather than the cinema is where they choose to spend some of their money! I would not recommend taking children to see this show. I would wonder at its appeal for those to whom Sondheim’s score is largely unknown and at the same time, I would encourage all and sundry to go see Peek’s Sweeney Todd and support Ignatians’ mammoth effort and their solid commitment to the growth of the Brisbane musical theatre scene. Really, you’d be silly to miss this production – there’s too much to like about it!