Posts Tagged ‘Wesley Enoch

24
Oct
15

The Odd Couple

 

The Odd Couple

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

October 22 – November 8 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

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Tama Matheson (Felix Ungar) and Jason Klarwein (Oscar Madison) ARE The Odd Couple.

 

The successful pairing of these two, after their hilarious antics in Design For Living (2013) make Neil Simon’s sharply penned, fast paced classic comedy the funnest and funniest night of the year.

 

With a superb supporting cast and an impressive inner city design straight out of Tribeca (Orlando Bloom might be a neighbour), Wesley Enoch’s final production for QTC in 2015 is all class.

 

High production values don’t always bring us closer to the action but Designer Christina Smith has considered every detail, inviting us in and making us feel completely at home within the walls and windows of Oscar Madison’s lofty New York City apartment…well, perhaps once it’s cleaned up. (A cityscape scrim works a treat to separate us from lightning quick scene changes). Lighting by Matt Scott (with assistant Daniel Anderson) and sound design by Tony Brumpton help to establish a New York state of mind in the stalls, while the dilemmas of living with anyone else but a cat are universally recognised. (Or say, a canary, although probably not both a cat and a canary at the same time in the same house as those with cats and canaries will attest. Actually, it was a Doberman)…

 

Anyway! Poor slovenly, beer swilling Oscar! His life is suddenly turned upside down by the overbearing presence of his new housemate, his smartly dressed and dangerously depressed, hypochondriac buddy Felix, a stickler for using coasters and ashtrays and doing the dishes before bedtime.

 

The set up is brilliant – the writing is light and lovely, old fashioned yet timeless in its innocence – and the opening scene involving a major disruption to the usual Friday night poker game with good friends is hilarious, establishing wonderful, genuinely interesting characters and firm friendships, delightful to follow. We want to see more of them, get to know them better.

 

Tim Dashwood (Roy), Steven Rooke (Speed), Colin Smith (Murray) and Bryan Probets (Vinnie) all shine, thanks to terrific choices that have clearly come from a playful rehearsal period, and the natural comic timing and well studied accents of the actors (Voice & Accent Consultant Melissa Agnew). This is beautiful ensemble work, showcasing briefly some of our favourite performers at the top of their game.

 

Jason Klarwein has never more fully embraced a role, perfectly channelling every lazy guy ever, all their dreadful habits and their appalling disregard, and truly appearing to live comfortably in the self-made mess, searching for the telephone beneath piles of discarded newspaper pages, leaping on and over the couch and upending ashtrays to make a point. In gorgeous, hilarious (entirely anticipated) juxtaposition, Tama Matheson brings to the role of Felix, as well as a cheeky little tribute to Bloom’s blue blanket, the OCD tendencies that are usually vaguely apparent from the outset of any relationship and which become more and more irritating over time. We could actually be watching any couple hard at work to keep their relationship going. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

 

Particularly enjoyable are the many moments of exquisitely executed reactions to the things we can all relate to, which are necessary to keep a household running reasonably smoothly but are dealt with in different ways by different folks. Despite the physical comedy not stretching quite as far as I’d expected it to (we never reach the point of furniture being overturned during a chase around the apartment for example, or a fully realised food fight following a bowl of spaghetti – sorry linguini – being flung across the pristine kitchen surfaces) there are nevertheless such well choreographed sequences (involving coasters and cushions and cloths and a ladle) that we end up with tears rolling down our cheeks by the end of each one. Some missed opportunities? Perhaps, but the show doesn’t suffer.

 

Here’s something I didn’t think I’d be able to tell you. So many moments in this production are in fact funnier than those in the much-loved film starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau (1968), which at times, strangely, feels almost laborious when I look back at it now. It sounds like sacrilege to say so until you experience QTC’s cracking production. Each set up is beautifully crafted by Enoch and expertly manipulated by the actors. Their timing throughout is flawless and the punchlines, delivered deadpan, are all dead on. It’s a shame the English girls from upstairs (Amy Ingram and Lauren Jackson) appear to have been directed to take things a little too far over the top, presenting highly animated stereotypes rather than just the lovely silly fillies they are, which prevents these two talented performers from fitting as neatly into this production as they otherwise might.

 

Now. There’s some question again in the foyers and online over the role and responsibilities of reviewers, so often confused with publicists it seems. I’m not sure why this is because I don’t believe the ticket purchasing public is stupid (and nor are the creative teams that work so hard to stage and promote the shows). As theatregoers we can tell the difference between an informed review and a pull quote on a glossy poster, and we pay attention to the opinions of those we respect, which should imply some regard for a writer’s knowledge and experience within theatre making and commentating. (Sometimes the two worlds align nicely, and a pull quote used in the publicity leads to a well informed, well written review! Hooray!). No one needs to be pandered to and an honest response is far more useful than a shiny, simple write up that treats a production and it’s producers as if they are part of a new reality television series or a presidential campaign.

 

I don’t give star ratings and I don’t give a rave review unless a production as a complete package blows my mind. I consider my writing to have gone through many stages but the voice remains the same. I hope I’m getting closer to consistently sharing a reasonable response to a production for all its merit, and considering what hasn’t worked quite as well as it might have done, mostly as part of continuing the discussions in this country around the creation and programming of new work and also, for posterity. And also, because I love reflecting on the way creative people can’t help but tell us their stories.

 

The Odd Couple is a stellar production starring an astutely cast ensemble of some of our most accomplished actors. The comedy is solid and the aesthetic spot on. If you miss this, you will have seen our state theatre company’s AD of five years come and go without enjoying his best work. Don’t do such a disservice to Wesley Enoch, or to yourself and your friends and family. This is a terrific show, to which you can take anyone and come away completely satisfied, happy to have shared in a little bit of lovely, light-hearted theatrical magic. It touches on real issues, reminds us to keep working hard to make real connections with other humans, and does it all in the most delightful, life affirming way. You’ll laugh until your cheeks ache…and then you’ll go home to recognise the familiarity and hilarity of a life lived with your own Oscar Madison or Felix Ungar! Good luck!

 

Use this link to book before October 31 to take advantage of a special offer from QPAC.

 

 

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22
Sep
15

Queensland Theatre Company Welcomes New Artistic Director, Sam Strong

 

QTC Welcomes New Artistic Director, Sam Strong

 

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A week after unveiling a much anticipated Season 2016 anchored by an important world premiere and a mainstage program featuring tales of change, Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has announced their new Artistic Director will be one of Australia’s leading theatre directors and arts leaders, Sam Strong.

 

Sam has been the Associate Artistic Director of Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) since 2013 and is also currently Chair of Brisbane-based Circa. At MTC, Sam has directed multiple sold-out productions, reached a paid audience of over 145,000 people and directed the mainstage theatrical debuts of visual artist Callum Morton and screen comedy legends Working Dog. To say the team at QTC is excited is an understatement.

 

“After a national search we are absolutely delighted to be welcoming Sam Strong to lead this company artistically,” said QTC Executive Director, Sue Donnelly.  “Sam has carved out a stellar career in Sydney and Melbourne, making critically and commercially successful theatre as a director, and growing the audiences at Griffin Theatre company as artistic director,” Ms Donnelly said.

 

QTC Chair Richard Fotheringham said audiences were set for a rich adventure ahead. “On the back of launching our Season 2016 program last week which stars 10 powerful productions as well as another incredibly strong touring program nationally, we can now celebrate the appointment of Sam Strong; what a wonderful future QTC audiences can look forward to,”Mr Fotheringham said.

 

Ms Donnelly paid tribute to outgoing Artistic Director Wesley Enoch who departs to take up the baton at Sydney Festival. “Wesley Enoch introduced a new era of passion to QTC; a champion of local and Indigenous productions.  He has launched world and Australian premieres and shone the light on important actors, directors and causes. His work with Black Diggers was inspirational, and he was pivotal in bringing Michael Attenborough to Australia to direct Macbeth 18 months ago. The importance of his legacy at QTC cannot be quantified and we look forward to many collaborations with him in the future,” Ms Donnelly said.

 

On his appointment, Sam Strong said: “I’m delighted to be taking on the challenge of Artistic Director of the Queensland Theatre Company. Wesley Enoch is an artist and a cultural leader I admire and it’s a rare gift to inherit a company in as great a shape – artistically and operationally – as QTC.”

 

“I’m excited about working with Sue Donnelly and the team to take the company to even greater heights. QTC is already a national leader in touring, Indigenous programming and working with young people. I want to grow this reputation and make QTC a national leader in everything it does,” Mr Strong said.

 

On moving to Queensland, Strong said Queensland represented a wealth of creative talent, one which he was thrilled to be working with. “My time with Circa has whetted my appetite to work in Queensland and with Queensland artists and I can’t wait to plunge myself into the Brisbane scene. I’m looking forward to teaming up with Queensland artists to take our theatre around the state, around the nation and around the world,” Mr Strong  said.

 

Prior to MTC, Sam was Artistic Director of Australia’s new writing theatre, Griffin Theatre Company. At Griffin, Sam tripled subscribers, expanded the program to include the revival of Australian classics, and directed the highest selling show in the company’s 35-year history. Prior to Griffin, he was the Literary Associate at Company B Belvoir, and the dramaturg in residence at Red Stitch Actors Theatre, where he co-founded Red Stitch Writers.

 

Sam won Best Direction of a Mainstage Production for The Floating World at the 2013 Sydney Theatre Awards, and has received multiple nominations for Best Direction at the Sydney Theatre Awards, the Greenroom Awards, and the Helpmann Awards.

 

He has directed many of Australia’s leading actors including Justine Clarke, Lucy Durack, Colin Friels, Noni Hazlehurst, Asher Keddie, Lachy Hulme, Robyn Nevin, Josh McConville, Luke Mullins, Pamela Rabe, Kat Stewart, Erik Thomson, Hugo Weaving, and David Wenham.

 

Sam’s directing credits include: Masquerade (Sydney Festival/Griffin/STSA/Melbourne Festival); The Weir, Endgame, The Sublime, The Speechmaker, Private Lives, The Crucible, Other Desert Cities and Madagascar (Melbourne Theatre Company); Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Sydney Theatre Company); The Boys (Sydney Festival/Griffin); The Floating World,  Between Two Waves, And No More Shall We Part and Speaking in Tongues (Griffin); The Power of Yes (Company B Belvoir); Red Sky Morning, Faces in the Crowd (Red Stitch) and Thom Pain (based on nothing) (B Sharp).

 

Sam joins QTC from November this year.

 

 

 

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Sam Strong & Sam Coward 2008

 

 

14
Sep
15

Queensland Theatre Company’s Season 2016

 

tales of change – 10 powerful productions – the best Australian writing – top Australian talent

 

 

 

 

Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has revealed its highly anticipated Season 2016 featuring 10 powerful productions, including the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a groundbreaking collaboration between QTC and Dead Puppet Society. From Molière and Shakespeare, to local stories from around the corner, international masterpieces and the best Australian writing, QTC is set to celebrate ambition and achievement.

 

In unveiling his final season before he departs for Sydney Festival, QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 would engage and challenge on the need for bravery and moral fortitude in shifting times, providing a forum for debate, diversity and the driving of change.

 

Art is nothing if it doesn’t make you feel.

 

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Season 2016 opens in January at the Playhouse with the devilishly funny comedy that journeys into old age, Quartet. Writer Ronald Harwood takes on retirement with tenderness, grace and hope – but no self-pity – in this moving and all too truthful tale of the frustrations and fears of getting old. Andrea Moor, fresh from directing the smash hits Grounded and Venus in Fur pulls the stage strings while actors Christine Amor, Andrew McFarlane, Trevor Stuart and Kate Wilson thoroughly enjoy themselves in this bawdy romp through the golden years. The show will then go on to tour regional Queensland.

 

He saw the smoke from the nearby ridge. He knew what it meant. Someone was coming.

 

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Based on the award-winning novel by Kate Grenville, the acclaimed The Secret River, winner of six Helpmann Awards including Best Play, Best Direction and Best New Australian Work, is a powerful story of the bloody beginnings of colonial Australia, when pardoned convicts clashed with the traditional owners of the land they settled. The Sydney Theatre Company production brings together celebrated Australian director Neil Armfield and adaptor Andrew Bovell, with actors Nathaniel Dean, Trevor Jamieson, Matthew Sunderland and Ningali Lawford-Wolf to tell the deeply moving tale of two families divided by culture and land in this showstopping Queensland premiere.

 

 

Here’s an interesting read before you go Googling those Sydney reviews…and this, which I thought I’d remembered reading at the time; an excellent piece from James Waites. In this case, I recommend reading the comments as well…

 

Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps!

 

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In April, QTC presents Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jason Klarwein, with Ellen Bailey and Tama Matheson as the young starry-eyed couple, leading an all-star cast featuring Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets. This romantic sparring is the tale of two pairs of very different sweethearts starring some of the best acting talent in the country.

 

Love is what interests me. And love is indivisible from murder.

 

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In May, QTC leaves the Playhouse until October, making its home in the Bille Brown Studio (BBS). From award- winning Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith comes Switzerland, a stunning new two-hander starring Andrea Moor, in an effortless move from director to on-stage lead. This is a theatrical thriller with famed author Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) centre stage, having to pen one last devastatingly brilliant book.

 

Send a trained naturalist into the field and every new discovery will reassure him of what he already thinks he knows. Send a young man who knows nothing, and there’s no telling what he might find.

 

It’s just a simple thing, but it might just explain the whole world.

 

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In July, QTC and Dead Puppet Society, in another ground-breaking collaboration, will stage the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a coming-of-age story about science and faith that recounts the tale of a younger Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle.

 

The Wider Earth will be a piece of visual theatre, placing strong emphasis on the staging and use of theatrical devices to paint our own vision of Darwin’s world. That means puppets – a lot of them. More than we’ve ever made before. At the moment, our plans for the production include more than 30. From tiny beetles to southern right whales, to the iconic Galapagos turtles. We’re excited that this work will bring human performers and our trademark puppet characters together in a meaningful way that isn’t often seen in mainstream theatre,” said David Morton from Dead Puppet Society, who penned The Wider Earth and will also direct and design.

 

Our story is one of breaking down barriers. Of inclusion, not exclusion……Because what you do is more important than what you believe.

 

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St Mary’s in Exile opens at the Bille Brown Studio on August 27 and is a tale that would be beyond belief if it wasn’t true. Gripping and inspirational, the play strikes close to home, telling the story of beloved priest, Father Peter Kennedy, excommunicated from St Mary’s in South Brisbane for preaching acceptance and equality. Written by acclaimed Brisbane playwright David Burton, the show will shock and inspire, with a star-studded cast that includes Chenoa Deemal and Caroline Kennison, under director Jason Klarwein, also moving from actor to director seamlessly in Season 2016.

 

It comes from you. Islam has no monopoly on fundamentalism. It doesn’t come from a text.

 

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Novelist and screen writer Ayad Akhtar’s dynamite theatrical debut, Disgraced, comes to the Playhouse from Melbourne Theatre Company in October. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is a stirring tale that poses challenging questions about identity, tribalism and the fragility of friendships and will be directed by Nadia Tass, and includes the wonderful Mitchell Butel.

 

True, it is something altogether scandalous. A stranger in the house with no idea how to handle us; He arrives with no shoes, his clothes not worth a cracker. No sooner in the door, than he starts to wag his tail.

 

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Proving that centuries old tales still have the power to resonate with audiences, Tartuffe is a bawdy play about power, hypocrisy and gullibility, pillorying religious fanaticism and moral weakness. Adapted by Justin Fleming from French playwright Moliere’s sinfully brilliant 17th century comedy, it demonstrates that perhaps modern attitudes haven’t changed as much as we think. Ribald and riotously irreverent, Tartuffe is a co-production with Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company and features stage darlings Darren Gilshenan, Hugh Parker, Rose Reilly, Steve Turner, Alison Van Reeken and Alex Williams.

 

The Territory’s like a bastard child. Everyone’s got an opinion on how it should be brought up, but no one wants to stick around long enough to do it.

 

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A little newer to Australian theatre is Bastard Territory, a confessional human drama about identity. This new Australian play from Brisbane-based writer Stephen Carleton, Bastard Territory mixes wry humour, raw insight and a killer 60s and 70s soundtrack, along with the talents of Benhur Helwend, Suellen Maunder and Peter Norton, for a powerful and affecting tale, directed by Ian Lawson.

 

When we left Russia, we didn’t look backwards. We held each other’s hands and we jumped, trusting we’d land safely.

 

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The finale for the 2016 Season is an elegant and sophisticated work. Based on fact, the epic and intimate Motherland is from Brisbane-based writer Katherine Lyall-Watson, and was recognised as a Patrick White Playwright’s Award Finalist. A tapestry of displacement and identity, it explores the casualties of love, ambition and politics.

 

 

Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 season was a collection of love letters to artists and audiences.

 

“There are shows that represent the plethora of conversations we have been having over the past four years and the wonderful rapport that we have been developing,” he said. “Theatre is a sacred place where opposing ideas are argued out to create drama, a place where audiences continue the discussion outside the theatre and where those ideas can take root in social movements. We all have examples of drama that changed our opinions, informed our positions or frustrated us. That is the joy of theatre; one of the last places where we can openly debate, be engaged and entertained.”

 

Now in its 45th year, QTC has a long history of performances that have engaged, entertained and sparked debate, and Season 2016 promises to celebrate diverse ideas.

 

The season announced today leads a full program of touring, education, children’s shows and more.

 

11
Aug
15

Entries Open for Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2016-17

 

Entries now open for the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2016-17

 

 

Continuation of page-to-stage award celebrates Queensland talent

 

 

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Australia’s only playwriting award that guarantees a professional production of the winning entry within two years has opened for nomination, as part of a long and successful partnership between the Queensland Government and the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC).

 

Premier of Queensland and Minister for the Arts Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Queensland Government had maintained its serious and ongoing commitment to the arts by calling for entries for the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award (QPDA) 2016-17 and celebrating previous winners who had seen their works developed and transformed into professional productions.

 

“Since its inception in 2002, QTC has developed 24 plays as part of this award, employed more than 160 actors, writers and directors, and generated audiences of more than 26,000 to new and emerging Queensland work. This is an excellent result for the Queensland arts industry,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

 

Queensland Theatre Company Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said the awards had helped discover some exceptional storytellers who had introduced Queenslanders to a variety of narratives that were sometimes complex and confronting.

 

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“Daniel Evans won last year’s award with his modern Australian-suburbia-meets-Greek-tragedy Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, following the 2012-13 winner Maxine Mellor’s controversial character play Trollop, chosen from a field of 83 entries from across the country,” Mr Enoch said.

 

The award covers a two-year cycle. In the first year, three finalists are selected and their works undergo creative development with industry professionals prior to judging and the announcement of the winner. The second year involves further development of the winning play followed by the professional world premiere production and the publication of the script.

 

The deadline for this year’s submissions is Friday 30 October 2015 with three finalists selected in December 2015. The winning entry is announced in the second half of 2016. Groups, as well as individual artists are encouraged to apply.

 

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Previous winners include:

 

2014-15 Daniel Evans for OEDIPUS DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE

 

2012-13 Maxine Mellor for TROLLOP

 

2010-11 Marcel Dorney for FRACTIONS

 

2008-09 Richard Jordan for 25 DOWN

 

2006-07 David Brown for THE ESTIMATOR

 

2004-05 Adam Grossetti for MANO NERA

 

2002-03 Sven Swenson for ROAD TO THE SHE-DEVIL’S SALON

 

The conditions of entry and entry form can be obtained by visiting Queensland Theatre Company’s website at www.queenslandtheatre.com.au or by contacting the Producer of New Work and Development on 07 3010 7607

 

04
Aug
15

Grounded

 

Grounded

Queensland Theatre Company

The Greenhouse Diane Cilento Studio

July 29 – August 22 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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If you want to see this year’s best performance and be part of the crowd who’ll say, “I saw her first” when she accepts an Academy Award one day, don’t miss Libby Munro in Grounded.

 

It’s an intense slow-burn one-woman drama and Munro is thrilling in it.

 

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2013 WINNER of the Matilda Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

 

You might have missed her in Venus In Fur – directed by Andrea Moor in 2013 – and wondered why ever since, since it’s one of the productions we haven’t stopped talking about.

 

Wesley Enoch explains simply, “A diva is a celebrated woman of outstanding talent…and Libby Munro is such a woman.”

 

George Brant’s brilliant insight into drone warfare from the female fighter pilot’s perspective is the best kind of contemporary poetry, without much of the punctuation you’d expect to see on a page, allowing the actor to find the natural cadence of the piece. On many levels it’s a quietly political piece but Grounded will endure and enjoy greater global success because it keeps the human story, like the heartbeat of Tony Brumpton’s soundscape for this superb production, at its core.

 

We walk into the Diane Cilento Studio – used for the first time in performance mode for Grounded – and hear the low hum of either the air con or the soundscape (it’s impossible to tell) and then see the indelible image of a woman in fetal position at the top of a small raked stage, a flight suit set below her. The suit, just for these opening moments, enjoys the most light. When she puts it on she doesn’t want to take it off, and says so. It’s part of her, her identity. It’s how she knows who she is. Later, she admits to having had sex in it. But only once.

 

The body becomes electric, the face becomes animated, almost like a child’s as she tells us with stars in her eyes, and Maverick arrogance and religious reverence, about the thrill of soaring through “the blue” in her Tiger, and laughing and drinking beer with the other Top Guns, her boys, at the end of each shift.

 

Then suddenly there’s the shock, surprise and delight that comes with love and the pink stripe of pregnancy, and the birth of a beautiful baby girl…who needs “attention”. We feel her confusion and commitment to both the family and the air force as she tries to adjust to the military’s version of “work-life balance”. We watch, dismayed, as she takes her place behind a screen every day for 12 hours at a time to become one of the Chair Force, wirelessly controlling a death-dealing reaper drone from a dark trailer in the Nevada desert. You can’t make out their faces but from their movement you can identify, without any doubt, The Guilty. Suddenly, we miss the blue too.

 

Through vivid description, though without morbid graphic detail (the economy of words and the measured pace saving us from the darkest corner of our imaginations), we see body parts flying through the air and what remains of the bodies merging with the grey sand on the screen as The Pilot “lingers”, safe from death, in her $11 million “eye in the sky”. The threat of death has been removed.

 

Can you imagine? The vivid pictures Munro paints with Brant’s prose will sweep you up and along on the journey so be ready; it’s one hell of a ride. You might feel your stomach turn – it’s the G-Force effect – or feel the need to shake it off and get your land legs back after such a tumultuous storytelling event.

 

Testament to the lasting impression this production leaves, on opening night there were many in the audience who stayed sitting in their seats after the curtain call, just sitting…perhaps hoping to be offered something stronger than champagne.

 

In what must constitute the acting masterclass of the year, Munro expertly shows us every tiny detail of her world, just as a “world builder” novelist does. We get a sense of the vastness, the magic of “the blue”, the comedy and tragedy of trying to schedule TV time, sex, sleep, and daycare drop-off “special time” in between 12-hour shifts surrounded by military males (staring at “military age” male targets). And all of this without the aid of over-zealous production elements, which are wisely kept simple, completely unfettered, thanks to an unassuming and super talented creative team, who have allowed the actor to take centre stage. No fancy projections here, just the blue-turning-grey of a quietly commanding abstract design to literally frame the actor…and the perfectly timed sound of a beating heart. (Designer Georgina Greenhill. Lighting Designer Ben Hughes. Sound Designer Tony Brumpton). Not that we can take our eyes off Munro for long to really study anything else in the room…

 

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A flawless brunette beauty, tall, slender and strong, even in the most sensitive, vulnerable moments, Munro has the striking looks and arresting presence of a supporting actress envied by leading ladies who fail to cast a similar spell over captivated audiences and can’t for the life of them understand why. The rich, nuanced vocal work is superb and the pace, as we leap across the hours, days, years, is as real-time as it gets. The performance is beautifully shaped and layered by Director, Andrea Moor. The repetition is almost too much at one point, but it serves to help us appreciate the strange routine of virtual warfare, which allows a fighter pilot to get the job done and make it home in time for dinner.

 

When you see Munro’s tour-de-force performance in the intimate space of the Diane Cilento Studio you’ll understand I’m not exaggerating. You’ll come under her spell and know too that she’s something special. She must be the spunkiest, sexiest, most compelling actress on an Australian stage right now. Hers is a sublime performance of a hard-hitting, game-changing text that could mean we won’t see Munro on a local stage for a little while after this season closes on August 22. Better be quick to book. Grounded is not to be missed.

 

27
Jul
15

Happy Days

 

Happy Days

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio, The Greenhouse

July 18 – August 15 2015

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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Winnie has a brave heart first and foremost. We are all trying to make our way through life as best we can and Winnie uses all the resources that are available to her, wisely husbanded, to get through the day. This script is like a piece of music and you must let yourself feel it through to the end, and then consider the journey.

– Carol Burns

 

 

Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days centres on a woman in the autumn years of her life buried to her waist – and then neck – in a mound of earth.

 

Joined only by her quiet husband Willie, Winnie passes each “happy day” combing her hair, brushing her teeth and babbling away until the bell for sleep rings. Her plight is familiar – a common theme in Beckett’s work and the work of several other Absurdist playwrights where man (or in this case woman) tries to find meaning in a meaningless world.

 

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In this production, directed by Wesley Enoch, we are once again at the mercy of Beckett’s darkly humorous world. The isolated world of Happy Days is displayed as bleak but warm by Penny Challen’s design: a large rock structure is set against the unchanging backdrop of a sunset, and Ben Hughes’ lighting design evokes images of the scathing sun. These design elements remain true to Beckett’s assertion that the whole setting should present “a pathetic unsuccessful realism” as the backdrop is poorly hung and the stage is quite literally framed by a large golden border. With this we are constantly reminded of our position as a voyeur, hesitantly peering into Winnie’s monotonous life.

 

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Carol Burns’ performance in the demanding role of Winnie is simply phenomenal: she is engaging, versatile and expressive throughout the 90-minute monologue.

 

Her portrayal of the eternally optimistic Winnie is simultaneously heartwarming and harrowing, especially when all that remains of Winnie is her head above the earth. What is most remarkable about Burns’ performance is the meticulousness with which she treats every word, every syllable and every pause, thus unlocking the musicality of Beckett’s text.

 

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Despite the density of the text, Enoch ensures there is never a dull moment, carefully monitoring the ebb and flow of the play and foregrounding Happy Days’ funniest moments.

 

In particular, Steven Tandy’s performance as Willie is playful and humorous, and his presence is always felt even when words fail his character.

 

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Queensland Theatre Company’s Happy Days is an engaging and enjoyable production – and no doubt an authentic realisation of Beckett’s text – however I am left questioning its relevance in our modern age. Why this play now? One could argue the timelessness of Beckett’s exploration of existence, however fifty years on I am left wanting more: what else can be brought to the table? Where else can this play take us?

 

 

Production pics by Rob Maccoll

 

02
Jul
15

Country Song: a chat with singer/songwriter Megan Sarmardin

 

Queensland Theatre Co’s Country Song opens this weekend!

 

We asked Megan Sarmardin a heap of stuff because MT ISA CONNECTION.

It’s true. We knew Megan back in Bobcat Dancing days (Queensland Biennial Festival of Music 2003. She was sensational!)You may know Megan from her band, BullDust, or Little Birung or The Sapphires.

 

 

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Tell us about Country Song. A fictionalised celebration of the music and life of Jimmy Little.

I am very happy and grateful to be a part of this exciting production. Although a fictionalised story, it shines a light on many of Indigenous people that have contributed to music in Australia, particularly country music. The people mentioned in this play are some of these people who have influenced me too in terms of being a singer/artist.

 

This is your QTC debut! Congrats! How did you come to this show?

I have been working for a while now & the journey to QTC has been a long one. ‘Working’ is, by my definition, singing & gigging. Be it locally in Mount Isa or here in Brisbane (when needed). Acting has been a small part of it, but not as prominent as singing. That’s what I have been doing since I was about 7; singing & playing guitar. The skills developed from this, has obviously put me in good stead to be involved with professional productions, i.e. Queensland Music Festival and to work with talented musicians and artists. I developed my show Little Birung with John Rodgers & started performing that. My profile began to build in terms of stage work. I was then offered a role in The Sapphires & toured with that production, nationally & internationally. It was quiet for me for a couple of years, until earlier on this year when I was contacted by QTC about Country Song.

 

Tell us about growing up and finding music/performance opportunities. What can you advise aspiring singer/songwriters/actors do to get a foot in the door?

Singing and performing to me has never been about being famous. I have done it because I have enjoyed it, it made me happy and it made other people happy. I think it’s about making the most of everything you are given and being as actively involved as you can. I have been incredibly fortunate with the opportunities I have been given, whether it’s being in Mount Isa or being here in Brisbane. I have a band back at home called BullDust with three other talented Mount Isa musicians. Our motivation is just playing music and enjoying it. I will be performing for Australian Forces overseas later in the year.

 

There have been three things on my ‘to-do list’ for the last 12 years. One: to be in The Sapphires. Two: to play in the black arm band. Three: to work with Wesley Enoch. I have achieved all three.

 

I think the best advice that I can give to someone, whether they be a singer, songwriter, actress, actor, painter etc, anyone in the creative arts industry is to just do, try & pursue your passion. There have been times where I have had self-doubt and had thought about giving up, but at the end of the day, it’s you. You have to do it.

 

Tell us about your music.

Little Birung is the music I have made so far. There are a lot of different styles within Little Birung; blues, gospel, country, rock n roll. I have listened to and have been influenced by many different styles of music. I’d love to continue writing more material. The goal down the track is to work on an album of originals. That’s slowly getting momentum.

 

Little Birung is about my family history and the stories of the women in my family, particularly the relationship I have my Great-Grandmother, Flora Hooolihan. I sing songs about my Great-Grandmother, My grandmother, Margaret Gertz and my mother, Dixie Sarmardin. It focuses on Aboriginal Australia in North Queensland, going back to the turn of the century until present day, using my family stories set to song.

 

 

My Great-Grandmother, Flora will be 100 this year in October and has seen the show twice so far.

 

 

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Tell us about Women In Voice.

Women In Voice is the ultimate. I got to share the stage with Brisbane’s best female vocalists and I am very fortunate to call them friends. It’s a great gig being mentored by these fine and talented ladies, in the setting that is Women In Voice. This is a chance for female singers to do what they want. Sing what they want. To tell their stories how they want.

 

How important is music to you in terms of telling stories and making political statements?

Through the medium of music, you can convey a story, a message, a personal connection and emotions. It is a much more powerful medium. Music is universal. They don’t call it tugging on heart-strings for nothing.

 

What has it been like to work with Michael Tuahine, Reg Cribb and Wesley Enoch?

Michael has been a great mentor with this production. I met Reg briefly during the first week of rehearsals. It is a lot of fun to be surrounded by these creative people. They bring a wealth of experience and have been great mentors.

 

I have always wanted to work with Wesley. When I first came to Brisbane and heard about acting, singing, cabaret – all the things I was interested in, Wesley’s name was mentioned all the time. I had heard about the Sunshine Club, but had never realised the impact that Indigenous theatre and stories have had until later years.

 

I was out of school for a couple of years and went to visit my Mum at her work on my lunch break. I remember going into her office one day and seeing Deadly Vibe magazine article about the stage production, The Sapphires.

 

 

I said to myself, ‘I could do that. I’m going be in that one day’. I walked away and thought nothing more of it until 2011.

 

 

What will audiences get from Country Song? 

I think you will get a trip down memory lane, revisiting some of the country music classics. I think audiences will also get an insight into Aboriginal Australia during the 1960s and how it was a difficult journey to take, but through the support of his family, Jimmy did it.

 

What’s important about telling Jimmy’s story?

What’s important about Jimmy’s story is that he was famous in a time when Aboriginal people weren’t considered citizens in their own country. But that did not discourage him. He paved the way for many other Indigenous artists to follow; Bobby McLeod, Lionel Rose, Auriel Andrew.

 

What can you tell us about the Jimmy Little Foundation?

I believe that the Jimmy Little Foundation works with remote Indigenous communities to ensure healthy futures for Indigenous Australians. This is achieved through community engagement & a ‘whole-of-community approach’. Chronic illness in Aboriginal Australia is concerning & I believe that the Jimmy Little Foundation assists in improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous families and children in remote areas.

 

To what/whom do you never tire of listening?

I was totally born in the wrong decade & have a fascination for country music as well as music from the 70s & 80s. Kiss, The Sweet, T-Rex, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Eagles, AC/DC (I have been to their concerts) – all of those of bands. I just love them. My Mum & Dad listened to a lot of that, so that’s what I grew up with. Dolly Parton is in the playlist as well. I used to work in a community Indigenous radio station back in the Isa, so country music is in my soul really.

 

What have you been watching?

Netflix is slowly taking over my life at the moment. I am pretty hooked on the TV show Californication. I don’t mind a bit of Hank Moody & his crazy life. The soundtrack to that show is great too.

 

Where do you go to escape?

I don’t physically go anywhere to escape at the moment I just get my guitar & play music. I find that family is a good place to escape as well. Grandma’s place in Townsville is great, especially when she cooks her famous rissoles.

 

Favourite meal to prepare at home?

Spaghetti Bolognaise. It’s good stuff. Especially when I make it. J

 

Favourite eats & drinks in Brisbane?

I recently discovered the Cobbler Bar in West End. Eats: there is too many to choose from. Anything is fine!

 

What’s next?

There is the mini-tour after the season in Brisbane, then a nice long extended holiday before the national tour in 2016. I have few gigs back at home, with a couple projects that I need to complete. Definitely looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation time.

 

 




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