Posts Tagged ‘wonderland

11
Dec
17

Elizabeth I

 

Elizabeth I

Brisbane Powerhouse & Monsters Appear

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

December 1 – 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

At a glance, Elizabeth I is a one-woman show about Elizabeth, a seemingly ordinary royal enthusiast from Sydney. When delving a little deeper, it becomes apparent that this production is also a one-woman show about the Virgin Queen’s ghost entering the world of 21st century Australia. When tentative and vulnerable present-day Elizabeth, and fearless, resilient Queen Elizabeth I join forces during an inciting threat of doom, the far-removed females combine the paradoxes of history to present a surprising development of wits and self worth.

 

Despite all of her endearing qualities and quirky antics, royal enthusiast Elizabeth is introduced to the audience as a faltering woman who relies on small pleasures and simple prospects to fill up her modest life. She loves her pug, is working her “dream job” managing complains at a Sydney pharmaceuticals company, and gains most of her thrills from office parties and unrequited desires for mysterious work colleagues. However, when a number of tragic developments multiply before her, Elizabeth is propelled down a terrifying path that leads to life threatening danger in a single afternoon. Lost and helpless she calls up her love of historical monarchs to source the power needed to face her looming peril. With this comes the hilarious yet harrowing entrance of the infamously powerful Queen Elizabeth I, and with her a split from a single character’s journey to a more complex battle between two women’s considerably conflicting attitudes towards danger and intimidation.

 

The Virgin Queen enters Elizabeth’s body as a kind of guide to offer commanding counsel and an essence to drive effectual action. With a simplistic, relatively supernatural usurping of Elizabeth’s internal control, the frail and susceptible woman is engulfed and her inner warrior is released. Within moments following her introduction Elizabeth I reveals her dated historical perceptions of gender roles and attitudes towards physicality and its dictation of power. However, her value of inner strength and devotion in times of confrontation is a welcomed reinforcement of modern day empowerment for any woman, let alone one as uncertain and self-doubting as Elizabeth. The contrast between the women through time and stance is an exquisite dynamic that pushes the piece beyond a playful fusing of timelines and closer to a more profound reflection of past, present and future musings.

 

Sole performer Emily Burton’s performance is rich in personality yet sweet and endearing as modern day Elizabeth. She matches vulnerability with admirable comedic timing and keeps the character entertaining in office-based contexts that could have quickly become tedious. As the two Elizabeths Burton showcases her diversity, combining a meek and charming demeanor with a guttural and commanding presence in a sharp retort. She portrays a delicate amalgamation with a controlled splitting of characters, or personalities if so inclined, while fixated from a singular spot on stage. Burton’s control of movement, body positioning and inner strength is what truly makes this complicated hybridisation work; her ability to bring out the shades of light and dark within both Elizabeth characters is impressive, and it is executed with evident depth during moments that require stark contrast.

 

Director Benjamin Schostakowski also deserves praise for his ability to lead Burton’s detailed delivery of the two women. Overall Schostakowski manages to embrace the piece’s melodrama and predictable plot developments and harness their impact in a hilarious fusion with effortless style. His control of pace and surprising contrast strengthens the work’s evolution from comedic charm to thrilling theatricality as the plot progresses towards the climactic cliffhanger.

 

Notable mentions must also go to this production’s stellar design team. Neridah Waters’ choreography and Wil Hughes’ sound and AV design compliment one another fluidly to layer atop the comedic yet intrinsic elements and enhance Burton and Schostakowski’s coordinated craft. Jason Glenwright’s lighting design holds the shows’ realistic beginnings together with imaginative depth, as well as exploiting moments of mystical proportions with sophistication and pertinence. Glenwright goes from creating simple yet beautiful atmosphere to exploring eery environments to differentiate the Elizabeth psyches. Through smooth alterations and understated overlays Glenwright progresses from playing with sparkling disco dance floor or flashing thunderstorm to splitting the stage and the characters’ essences visually through juxtaposing green and orange hues. As distinctly different colours cast across the space and divide Burton’s body, the Burton’s physical performance of the two Elizabeth’s is extended into a purposeful yet beautiful manipulation of space.

 

With powerful creatives joining forces, Elizabeth I at Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival is an exhilarating first instalment of a what looks to be a promising full-length production in the future.

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03
Dec
17

Love / Hate Actually

Love / Hate Actually

Brisbane Powerhouse & Act/React

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 30 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Two friends, Amy and Natalie, come together after ten years of friendship and countless Christmases of debating, to share their annual tradition of desperately debating and aggressively assessing the worth of the infamous 2003 Christmas rom-com film Love Actually. Love/Hate Actually is a fun and playful dissection of the Christmas cult classic with the key goal of determining whether it is a loveable product of Christmas joy or a plot-hole filled problematic mess.

 

Taking a sharp stance for or against the film, Amy and Natalie enter the space with gusto and clear attitudes of positivity or condemnation ready to break open the Christmas can of worms that they declare is causing arguments everywhere. First, Natalie affirms her critical stance against the film and enters the debate prepared with an in-depth analysis of every relationship depicted. She supports her arguments with visuals of hilariously detailed pie charts weighing up the annoying, the implausible and the uncomfortable subdivisions of content. Natalie is detailed in her breakdowns, sharp in her deliveries and altogether hysterically exasperated with the relentless love for what she sees as film created with a foundation of problematic, sexist and hollow content.

 

Amy on the other hand, bases her arguments in defence of the film in more persistently joyful and aesthetically dedicated love for the overall season itself, with the film working as an iconic product of worship for her devout seasonal spirit. While Natalie impresses with pie charts, logic and aggressive argument instigation, Amy electrifies with an exceptionally vibrant personality almost as bright as her Christmas tree-eqsue costume that combines festive colours and decorations, with a pope-like hat and sceptre. Her adoration-filled reasoning for the film’s worth stretches across a range of Australian Christmas traditions, a deep love for holiday rituals and an unwavering appreciation for romantic comedies. Her analysis of the film highlights memorable or charming flick moments, however her initial dismissal of Natalie’s more serious accusations against the film leaves the debate open for further realms of cheeky combat.

 

As the women delve further into the film’s assembly they break down their debate into a detailed examination of each storyline. With each new issue or problematic element discussed, the women veer into hilarious tangents including the dissection of workplace sexual harassment and audience-lead deciphering of content to differentiate pornography from art. Thanks to Natalie’s active investigation, a feminist lens drives much of the debate surrounding the film’s problematic elements, with particular distaste being expressed towards the film’s lack of diversity and its blatant sexist or one-dimensional depiction of women. Amy joins forces with Natalie during assessments of blatant sexism, body shaming and hollow relationships resulting in amalgamated respect for the need to address the film’s oppressive and toxic representations, dismissed every Christmas.

 

As a united duo the women are charming, hilarious and unapologetically themselves.

 

Their casual costumes and realistic banter feels uncannily like watching friends debate the film in a lounge room during a Christmas movie night. With delightfully silly PowerPoint slides and hilarious summaries of relationships and storylines, even audience members who haven’t seen the film in years, or have intentionally avoided the niche content altogether, can laugh along to the pair’s hilarious argumentative techniques, saucy and sarcastic skits, and overall cheeky comedic choices.

 

At its core Love / Hate Actually is a fun and friendly debate that welcomes both joy and bitterness from its audience and combines the passion and intelligence of two female friends, despite their opposing opinions. As an admitted hater of the film, like Natalie, I found the women’s hilarious show spectacularly surpassed the film in cohesion and insight. Whether a lover of the film or a hater of its problematic elements, this cheeky cabaret encourages a loving Christmas spirit and value of friendship regardless of your stance.

 

29
Nov
17

WURST

 

WURST

Brisbane Powerhouse & Jacqueline Furey

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 23 – 25 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Armed with a lineup of  chiseled “Menu Men”, Jacqueline Furey and her team grace the Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival with Wurst: a delicious assortment of meal-themed stripteases and cabaret acts. Hostess Jacqueline Furey sports a collection of glamorous gowns and an elegant demeanor as she serves up the diverse evening of comedic cabaret and beguiling burlesque. A collection of sexy male performers, affectionately referred to as the “Menu Men”, come together to present a selection of bawdy, cheeky and tantalising acts. Be it ballet or hip-hop finesse, an enthralling exhibition of acrobatic ability, or cheeky exploitation of accents, the erogenous men demonstrate their diversity and embrace their distinct backgrounds throughout every performance.

 

Graceful Furey lays out the food-themed showcase like courses in a sexy feast of flavoured variety. From raunchy roast dinners to sweet yet sultry ice cream and milkshake mess for dessert, the show is loaded to the brim with variety to suit a range of tastes. While the focal food theme allows for sweet dance numbers – highlights include a cheeky lollipop trio and a playful whole-body baking demonstration, the showcase unfolds in a staggered progression of underlying premises and unpredictable maturity levels. Performance content may link together with a lens of food or audience devouring of the young men overall, however the ordering of the pieces ensures that one theme, style or performer entices the audience with distinctive substance and well paced deliveries. The acts also range in stimulating intensity and physical exposure, keeping the audience on their toes during unpredictable skits during what could have been a predictable lineup of repetitive strip sequences.

 

 

The only downfall of the work is the choice to include two considerably similar hip-hop dance sequences. Perhaps the recent Magic Mike popularity justifies the inclusion of one clichéd grey-singlet adorned, hip-hop dance work to break up the indulgent food-based content, however two in an evening offered little more than diverting movement. The two acts also lacked in the striptease element that the show promises, leaving audiences calling out for more if only to match the physical reveal reached in the other acts. This audience teasing helped to rekindle appetites for the remaining performances mid-show, but unfortunately rendered the respective floor grinding and muscle manipulation uncanny and undistinguished.

 

Gender blending Raven and physically diverse Dan are the standout Menu Men of the night, offering up twists to traditional role archetypes and stretching the recipe for where the evening’s content could reach. Traditionally handsome and classically trained Dan Venz plays with the subtle eroticism of his ballet body and the assets that come with tight-fitting white stockings. In stark contrast is Raven sporting a dramatic white mask with intense lashes and black crosses over his nipples while performing as the night’s stand alone drag queen. With a shocking opening 50s housewife skit exploring roast chicken sensuality and a dominatrix dog training session breaking comfort levels at the lineup’s climax, Raven’s acts were definitely the most provocative and potent.

 

 

Amongst the diversity and intensity of the male acts, the night’s hostess’ performance was equally as praiseworthy. Despite an innuendo segment being delivered overdone for a contemporary cabaret context, Furey’s overall performance is elegant and erotic from start to finish. However, amongst poised audience captivation, it is Furey’s humane responses to audience heckling and humble admittance to hilarious speech stumbles that pushes her performance beyond a stale, simplistic cabaret host that is seen far too often. Furey entices her audiences with glamour and prowess but truly wins them over with her sassy humanity and well-timed sense of humour.

 

With rich yet simplistic costumes and stage design the production focuses on the raw attraction of the performers and their presence on stage. By combining an array of performance strengths and fusing together styles and techniques from both cabaret and burlesque, Wurst forefronts the power of simplicity and reinforces the joy of a playful night at the theatre.

 

25
Nov
17

There’s Something About Mary(s)

 

There’s Something About Mary(s)

Brisbane Powerhouse & Cassie George

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 23 – 26 2017

 

Reviewed by Amelia Walker

 

 

Wearing a black lacy slip and sloshing around a glass of rosè, Cassie George is the hot mess we all know from university. In her autobiographical show There’s Something About Mary(s), Cassie details her love life in a familiar story of ‘crazy girl’ stereotype, falling in love with practically every man she meets.

 

From overly dramatic teen flings, to misguided crushes on an unavailable best friend, Cassie manages to crack jokes and belt pop ballads about her cringe-inducing missteps in love. If there is a term for that balance of awkward humour that makes you snort-laugh, Cassie coined it.

The audience is taken through a chronological look at Cassie’s romantic endeavours, briefly visiting her Christian upbringing with a well-placed handjob joke. I wanted to hear more about this religious impact on Cassie: what was her take on the repression of her clearly active sexuality? It had the potential to be a thread that was perhaps revisited more through humour or through personal development, but instead served as another ‘plot point’ for Cassie to bounce off.

Her ability to laugh at herself, her circumstances, and her series of bad luck was inviting as an audience member. She lured us in with self-deprecating humour, and then made me lean back into the kind of discomfort that only my dad’s worst jokes can do. Outrageous humour had a place to land in this theatre full of friends.

Working on an ‘actor’s budget’, this production did well to create the feeling that it was taking place inside the bedroom of a young woman. This operated in conjunction with lighting to give Cassie just enough dramatic flair to stage dream sequences and even a dance that had the potential to be sexy if not for Cassie’s spectacular ability to take everything over the top.

The ‘queen-in-waiting’, as she calls herself, uses a cart-load of colourful terms to reference one of the biggest influencers in this struggle of romance: her gay, male friends. Cassie has nothing but love these people, and when she tells her story it is done with an endearing honesty. I worry, however, that naming her sample of gay, male friends ‘the entire gay community of Brisbane’ is at best a joke that doesn’t land, and at worse, a step back for representation.

Luke Volker’s onstage presence went a long way to bring something new and different to this delightfully tragic cabaret. His musical direction allowed Cassie to shine in what I believe worked best for her: self-referential jokes punctuated with an overly enthusiastic smile and an unhinged laugh.

Volker also managed to bring back some humanity to the gay men in Cassie’s life, as they sometimes only served as a backdrop to her extremely heterosexual cabaret. Navigating how to avoid making queer people merely a functionary element in a story about someone who is not queer is difficult. Rather than existing just for sassy comments and an indulger of gossip, Cassie finally gave some depth to her queer friends by acknowledging their flaws. It would have been satisfying to hear more about the struggle of a self-identified unhealthy symbiotic relationship, but it was only addressed briefly.

 

The underlying love story here is a platonic one between Cassie and a community she fully emerged herself in, but I’m not sure why it took the backseat so often. Love on just about every angle has been covered, so it felt like a missed opportunity that the intricacies of well-developed friendships were glossed over. The show was most successful when celebrating friend love and all the difficulties that come along with it.

 

There’s Something About Mary(s) is a fun new work that has a place in a theatre space such as the Powerhouse’s Wonderland Festival. Although it felt inspired by the problematic women behind the “gay best friend” trope, it was able to laugh at itself and acknowledge the troubles in desiring such a relationship. Celebrating friendship and platonic love in the age of Tinder is a nice spin on the saturated topic of young women and romance. And I can always get behind a rendition of Cher’s Believe.

07
Nov
17

Elizabeth 1 – a chat with Emily Burton

 

Elizabeth 1

A Chat With Emily Burton

 

 

 

Ascending to the throne at age 25, Elizabeth I of England reigned for 45 years.

 

What you might not know is that she secretly considered herself an artist.

 

A ghost-like vision of The Virgin Queen takes her audience on a shamelessly theatrical trip into her deep dark artistic pursuits, poems of pugs, a knack for knickers and mountains of makeup.

 

Part historical fan fiction, part stand-up comedy, and part late night slow dance – welcome to the strange and wonderful world of one of history’s most powerful women.

 

Emily Burton is an actress, theatre-maker, and teaching artist. Her past main stage productions include: Single Asian Female and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Boite Theatre Company; and The SeagullOedipus Doesn’t Live Here AnymoreA Tribute of Sorts at Queensland Theatre.

 
Since graduating from University of Southern Queensland in 2010, Emily has collaborated on numerous independent theatre projects including the multi award-winning A Tribute of Sorts, for which she won a Matilda Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Premiering at La Boite Theatre Company, A Tribute of Sorts was then awarded a return season at the Queensland Theatre in 2014 which boasted a second sell-out season.

 

Emily has toured nationally with acclaimed theatre companies, Dead Puppets Society on The Harbinger, and Grin and Tonic Theatre Troupe. Emily has worked as a teaching artist across Australia with numerous companies and organisations and has a particular passion for bringing the arts to isolated, regional areas of Australia.

 

Emily says ‘When you’re dealing with a character like Elizabeth I, who is so familiar to many people, the challenge becomes about finding a way of portraying her that
hasn’t been seen before. Luckily Ben and I have stumbled on a very strange version of the story, one that also humanises her in a funny way. We go to many different places and periods in the show, it’s ridiculously fun’.

 

How do you tackle a role such as this, one of history’s most powerful women?

The more I learn about Elizabeth I, the more I’m amazed by her contradictions, her courage, and her public vs private persona. I’d be more intimidated, I think, if I was taking on a Cate Blanchett-like interpretation of the character. The brilliant thing about working with Ben, however, is that we’re just jumping whole-heartedly into our own interpretation – which means things can get a little wild and weird. And Elizabeth I isn’t the only character we’re dealing with in this show…

 

What drew you to her, and to this production?

Ben came to me with a rough concept and these poems that Elizabeth I had written. We found them hilarious because some of them are so….well, awful. They reveal Elizabeth as a very normal, flawed person. You don’t often see this version of Elizabeth in the history books. That’s what started it all.

 

How did you prepare? (do you watch all the films or none of them?)

I watched the Blanchett films and parts of some TV shows, but what proved to be the most helpful thing was a massive collection of Elizabeth I’s prayers, poems, speeches and letters. She truly had an incredible intellect. She was writing letters in Latin at the age of twelve. When you immerse yourself in someone’s personal writing you begin to pick up unique traits. For example, I noticed she gave some people she cared about nicknames. All the nicknames are animals – Frog, Little Crow, Ape (poor soul who got given the nickname Ape!). These kinds of discoveries are absolute gold as an actor. Little clues and ideas as to how you might choose to portray them on stage.

 

Have you co-created and co-written with Benjamin?

Yes, this show has been a collaboration between the two of us. It’s being produced as a new work from Monsters Appear.

 

Are there any obvious or not so obvious parallels between women in Tudor England and now?

I imagine there’s a person far more qualified than me who’s written a PhD thesis on that topic! I certainly find that contemporary women (and men for that matter) have a lot more in common with historical figures like Elizabeth I than they might at first suspect. Elizabeth was a human (even if they thought otherwise back then – they considered her Holy).  She worried about whether she was doing the right thing, she didn’t want to let anybody down, she was in love, she grieved her friends when they died – I can relate to all of that and I think audiences can too.

 

Are there any particular aspects of The Virgin Queen’s reigning period that you have enjoyed bringing to light?

Without giving too much away, there’s some dancing in the show that I’ve found particularly enjoyable! However, it’s probably important to note that this isn’t an historical period piece; we don’t overtly look at specific events from Elizabeth’s life. We have integrated significant elements of her life far more subtly into a new story. There are plenty of films and television out there that focuses on major events of Queen Liz as an historical figure. We didn’t want to give an audience something they’ve already seen. We hope to reveal a more vulnerable version of Elizabeth, inspired by her poetry, letters, speeches and prayers. We’ve been more drawn to the strange facts and knowledge about Elizabeth’s life like how many dogs she owned and their names, and why she owned a brooch in the shape of a frog. It’s our attempt to humanise her in a really, well, daggy, unique way. Personally, I find that appealing and she becomes far more relatable as a character on stage.

 

Can you talk about the style of the show?

 

As one might expect from Ben and myself, it is a show that will look beautiful and sound strange. We’ve created the show for touring and festivals so it’s quite stripped-back and minimalistic. The show isn’t 100% about Elizabeth I – there’s another character too, a woman from a different time, who calls upon Elizabeth I for help in a time of crisis. The show is part comedy, part tragedy, part seance.

 

Can you talk about your vocal work in this show?

I did a lot of research into what kind of accent Elizabeth should have. Because there is no recording of her voice, no one really knows how she sounded. This allows some freedom, but there is a tricky balance to strike – Ben and I didn’t want to pick an accent so extreme that it becomes a distraction for the audience, but you still want something that represents her status and time period. Hopefully we’ve found that balance. With a second character in the show, I’ve been working on vocal transitions between these characters quite a bit. It’s a part of my job that I find particularly fun!

 

What are your top tips for performers to keep a healthy voice, healthy body, healthy mind?

 

Well, the voice and body are relatively simple (although certainly not easy!) – eat healthy and exercise. Sleep is absolutely vital for me and is something that I think a lot of people underestimate!

 

Keeping a healthy mind is less simple. Mentally, spiritually, self-compassion is incredibly important. Ultimately though, my best advice for other performers would be: Don’t try to be everything, just be you. That is your strongest asset. Use it in every moment.

 

Can you talk about working with Benjamin Schostakowski?

It’s been a series of ongoing disasters. In the best possible way. Strangely, we both became new parents within two weeks of each other, so we have been making a new show with the added delight of raising newborns. The scheduling has been interesting to say the least. I love working with Ben. It’s rare to find a creative companion where you collaborate so easily. When we’re working together the ideas seem to bounce along and flow very easily. We have the same unusual, warped, sick sense of humour. We make each other giggle, which is fun.

 

What’s your favourite part of the creative and rehearsal process?

Well, usually it’s getting to work with the other actors and finding that unspoken language within an ensemble, but considering this is a one-woman show, that doesn’t really apply here! I also particularly enjoy the process of pulling a character apart and searching for all their quirks and mannerisms, then slowly building them up again. I’m a perfectionist, so I love getting down to the nitty-gritty details.

 

What does down time look like?

Rare, now that my husband and I have a new baby. But overall pretty normal I think. Every day usually ends with me and my husband on the couch with wine watching television! We’re watching Star Trek at the moment. Stranger Things next. Ooooo, and binging Selling Houses Australia…that’s normal, right?

 

Are you the person at the party who gets funnier as things get louder / quieter / later?

I’m the person who doesn’t go to the party. Or if I do, I’m with the other introverts in a corner giggling and talking about how much we’d prefer to be quietly drinking beers over some nerdy boardgames.

 

What’s the significance of presenting the show within Wonderland?

Wonderland’s a fantastic space for performers, and I’m really proud to be associated with a program that so strongly supports Queensland artists. That’s vitally important. There seems to be a dwindling number of roles for Brisbane/Queensland performers, so a festival that provides opportunities for us to show what we’ve got is exciting. Wonderland will be the premiere for this new Australian work. We’re planning to develop it more and tour it to festivals/other companies in the future, which is an exciting prospect.

 

Do you subscribe to a particular method/approach to acting?

No. Whatever works for you is the right way to do it. I do think there’s a danger in subscribing too much to one method and limiting yourself. I’ve learned a lot from my mentors that you’ve got to keep yourself open. However, having said that, I’ve studied/read nearly every acting method out there. I think it’s important to keep a wide range of tools in your toolbox, so to speak. Personally, I’ve found every show/character is different and I tend to use different methods according to what it needs.

 

What are your top three audition tips for actors?

 

When you can, read the whole play.

 

Learn your lines.

 

Don’t build your audition off what you “think” the director might want. That’s impossible to know. Build your audition as to how YOU would perform it. A director wants to see you, that’s all.

 

 

What do you love about performing?

Comedy is the best drug.

 

Live performance, connecting with an audience, all believing in the make-believe for a little while, is the greatest reward.

 

 

 

 

Can you tell us about your training and getting a foot in the door of a highly competitive industry? (What keeps you in it?)

I studied acting at university – and generally speaking, I still advocate for training at an institution. Mostly, for the community that it connects you with. Community is everything. Apart from that, it’s all about auditioning and saying yes. My connection with Ben came about because I did a super small reading at La Boite years ago that I just got through uni mates. Once you get a gig, be kind and be pleasant to work with. The more positive connections you make, the more work you tend to get – in saying that, I’ve just had over six months where I haven’t done much work, and you get patches where the tide goes out – but that’s true for everyone. You’ve got to find a way to be okay with that. That’s the job. It’s certainly hard, but I stay in it because I love it and I believe (perhaps rather romantically) in the power of theatre and it’s ability to move people and affect change in the world.

 

How do you feel about work / life balance?

It’s like a beautiful destination, always on the horizon, that I never actually arrive at. Like everyone else, I’m still figuring it out.

 

What would you be doing if not acting?

A psychologist, probably. Or Speech pathology. Dog groomer? Although I must say I’ve enjoyed helping to write this show and other writing I’ve done this year. Or maybe I’ll just run away and open a fruit barn, get some bees and chooks and live in the country somewhere. 

 

How do you feel about arts awards?

They’re very nice, but not important.

 

What do you feel are the strengths and challenges of Brisbane’s performing arts scene?

 

In regards to challenges, Brisbane seems to mostly have the same challenges as the rest of Australia. Audiences are getting smaller and we need to get creative about how we solve that. I don’t think the answer is solely in getting more funding from the government. Often it feels like we look to that as the answer that will solve all our problems, but in my experience, more money doesn’t mean more work OR better quality work.

 

In terms of strengths, Brisbane has some of the most creative artists in the country, even in the world. As a state, we generate a LOT of new work. We’re very good at that. While we aren’t necessarily always accepted down south, (for reasons that are unknown to me) internationally, we are incredibly successful.

 

What’s your next challenge?

I’m thrilled to be performing in the Opera House with the Dead Puppet Society as they take their show The Wider Earth to Sydney Festival next year. I’ll also be reprising my role in Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female when it’s remounted at Belvoir Street Theatre next year.

 

What’s your next treat/trip away/special event/break?

Christmas! My family lives at Coffs Harbour, so very much looking forward to the beach, beers, and fresh seafood!

 

 

Emily Burton stars in Elizabeth 1 during Wonderland Festival 2017 (November 23 – December 3) at Brisbane Powerhouse December 1 – 3.

Book here.

 

16
Dec
16

Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Brisbane Powerhouse & Christopher Wayne

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

December 4 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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It’s the music of Michael Jackson but not as we know it.

The odd couple of the entertainment industry, Joel Turner (world champion beat boxer and platinum selling hip hop artist) and Luke Kennedy (The Voice & The Ten Tenors), make a perfect pair on stage in a celebration of the music and the memory of the King of Pop. Who would have thought this unlikely combination would bring any sort of success? Producer, Chris Wayne, that’s who, and together with Turner and Kennedy, his gamble paid off with a single sold-out show at Brisbane Powerhouse during Wonderland, and subsequent talks to take this universally appealing show on the road.

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The magic of Smooth Criminals – n.b. there’s no nakedness or actual magic tricks – is a unique take on Michael Jackson’s discography, taking us on a journey through his unenviable life, from boy to man to immortal. It’s not a succession of greatest hits but rather, a poignant and personal account, seen mainly through Kennedy’s eyes, as he shares his encounters with the man’s music, reimagined and thrillingly remixed in collaboration with Turner and talented musos, Michael Manikus and Scotty French.

Smooth Criminals offers to a new generation a truly original take on MJ’s classic pop sound, but it caters to the die-hard fans first.

 

732a0363Kennedy, front and centre, demands our full attention. He’s as relaxed as we’ve ever seen him, gracious and respectful to the living memory of Michael Jackson, and confident, cute and actually flirtatious, inviting one guest to join him on the edge of the stage as he serenades her. This is a perfectly orchestrated crowd pleasing moment – we might think it’s a gimmick (she’s surely a plant!) – but Kennedy retains an ease that’s impossible to fake. We believe. He has us in the palm of his hand. AND he has this gorgeous Heath Ledger thing going on, as if he’s ready to bound through the tiered seating, singing……

 

You’re singing it now, aren’t you?

 

Kennedy emits the same sort of abandon, irresistible. Despite his protestations, he retains a crooner core, but Kennedy boasts a much broader vocal range and emotional spectrum than most, and he has the technical precision to sing just about anything. If you were privy to his Gethsemane several years ago (or anything since, really, let’s face it, even his National Anthem is nothing less than spectacular), you can imagine the power and control rendered behind even the simplest pop song. Yet, he remains humble and grateful.

Ben is a bittersweet treat, and Kennedy brings to it a sense of such simplicity and purity that we might imagine it’s the first time we’ve ever heard it, and for the very youngest audience members, it might be so. How lucky are they?! The Girl is Mine bounces beautifully between the artists, demonstrating an easy camaraderie and a great sense of cheeky comedy.

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Smooth Criminal and Dirty Diana delve a little deeper and darker, although not once is there anything that goes into shadowy controversy, nor does there need to be. The crowd is on side from the outset (Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Remember the Time) and we need no reminders of anything other than the genius and the music of the man. The genius of these new arrangements is in Turner’s work, providing depth and soul beneath Kennedy’s vocal line, and on the odd occasion, the perfect harmony as well. The guy can sing. 

The collective energy is palpable during an earth medley, linking Heal the World, We Are the World and Man in the Mirror. (When was the last time you heard these numbers straight up, unparodied, with feeling?). It’s almost an anti-climax to hear the sensitive Gone Too Soon. A bigger, bolder finish would leave this show at Man in the Mirror, and make an encore of Billie Jean, bringing Turner out front too, with both amazing artists wearing one white glove. It seems remiss to keep Turner behind his mixing table, sans iconic symbol. Perhaps that’s as he wished. Let’s hope he wishes for more of the spotlight next time.

With Kennedy’s talent and a natural flair for performance, and Turner’s uncanny vocal and technical ability making each number an exciting and unique immersive musical experience for all ages, these two are not as unlikely a pair as they first appear to be.

Smooth Criminals is a sure hit, a thrilling tribute to Michael Jackson – the man and his music – and if you missed it in 2016 I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you’ll see it at a venue near you.

Remember The Time from Chris Wayne on Vimeo.

10
Dec
16

Phelan Groovy

Phelan Groovy

Brisbane Powerhouse & Kurt Phelan

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

December 1 – 3 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

– Kurt Phelan

Kurt Phelan is one of those hard-working, long-time-coming “overnight” success stories. You may have heard of him. He’s been in such shows as Kiss Me Kate, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Singin’ In the Rain, Saturday Night Fever and Dirty Dancing. Phelan hails from Townsville and his cabaret show, the fantastically funny Phelan Groovy, is both a tribute and a tongue-in-cheek exposé of what it’s like to come from the tropics and conquer the world of musical theatre.

A natural performer, warm and genuinely welcoming, Phelan demonstrates from the outset perfect comic timing, a flair for rewriting our favourite musical theatre songs and a knack for nailing the sort of impersonations usually left to the drag queens. His delivery of Memory in (broken) Debra Byrne style, with her permission, of course, and complete with enormous dark sunglasses, an oversized martini glass and what could be a wrap or the green room rug thrown across his shoulders, is sidesplittingly funny and painfully accurate. Byrne is just one of the celebs Phelan dishes the dirt on during the show. When the balance is struck between a little bit nasty and a little bit naughty, these moments will land with greater aplomb.

A re-worked Dream A Little Dream paints the picture of Phelan’s birth on the laundry steps of his parents’ house up north. I Dreamed A Dream describes his heartbreak upon seeing the woeful film version of Les Miserables. And I’ve Had the Time of My Life is dedicated to the women who groped him during the touring production of Dirty Dancing (during the show!). Whether the entirety of this story – or any story – is truth or fiction we’ll never know, but the question doesn’t keep me from laughing until mascara tears stream down my cheeks.

When Phelan leaves the stage momentarily to slip into “something more comfortable” it’s to lose his dress shoes to flip flops. Only in Australia. And later, we’re certain only Peter Allen could be as comfortable as Phelan appears to be in a garish tropical shorts and shirt combo. Phelan wears it proudly. He’s a gorgeous performer with a cheeky grin that lets him get away with saying the most outrageous things in the most outrageous dress ups. Bare-chested and bold before conceding defeat in the face of Disney, he shares the infuriating discomfort of all the dads whose children are still singing/screeching Frozen’s Let It Go.

The show takes a serious turn when Phelan reflects on the too-soon deaths of some industry friends (Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles, stunning in its unadorned delivery) and again, as he shares JRB’s superb song, Someone to Fall Back On. It’s an incredibly difficult number to do, vocally demanding and emotionally complex, but Phelan sells it with a stirring, stinging honesty, just as he did during a masterclass with the composer.

There’s no ceremony about Phelan; he’s the real deal, as frank and honest, and as heartwarming and entertaining as any cabaret performer can ever hope to be. 

Joined by Luke Volker on keys for this Brisbane Wonderland season, Phelan shows us what it is to be human and fallible and funny and loveable and laughable, in that typically Australian, incredibly ironic sense. While the show in its current state is clearly meant for our audiences, and probably the more theatrically inclined among them, with a few tweaks it could travel, and it should. Phelan’s appeal is universal, and talent such as his in this context deserves a larger, broader audience.




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