Posts Tagged ‘wonderland

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.

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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.

06
Dec
16

Other Women

Other Women

Brisbane Powerhouse with Charming Rebel & Wax Lyrical Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Platform

November 25 & 25 and December 3 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Lizzie Moore’s latest show doesn’t quite match up with Joel Devereux’s slightly erotic and very inviting publicity image for it, but this bold cabaret makes a strong statement about the way we continue to view the women in our lives and the way we present ourselves, as women, to the world. Featuring a cast of circus, burlesque and musical theatre performers, Other Women asks the tough questions, and leaves us to come up with the answers we’d like our sons and daughters to hear. Are we going to keep putting every sort of woman in a box? Are we going to keep measuring every sort of woman by the same yardstick? Are we going to continue to laugh uncomfortably at the misogynist jokes and references our friends and family members and the media make rather than actually make changes to the language we use every day, and fuck off the cultural lies that keep women from just showing up and feeling genuinely confident to be who they want to be without shrinking or making themselves invisible or putting on an unsustainable OTT Wonder Woman act? Phew. DISCUSS.

We were all allowed to call ourselves feminists…as long as we were not pricks. We were allowed to have one but just not behave like one.

– Barry Stone

Who are the other women? Moore is joined on stage by circus dilettante Freyja Edney, burlesque darling Rosie Peaches and aerial artiste Eliza Dolly, with special guest vocalist Chloe-Rose Taylor, who also performs a contemporary dance. She brings Mad Men ordinary-housewife-and-mother gritted teeth to the story, along with the infuriating, smiling, winking sentiment of Wives and Lovers. That’s before I’m invited up to hold a placard that reads JUST A HOUSEWIFE, alongside other audience members self-consciously displaying STUD and SLUT and BOSS. These labels appear to be self-nominated since we came by them via an audience elimination survey, in my case, judging damning leaving with hands up, only those who chose to have children and stay at home with them for longer than 2 years.

But this is how quickly and casually we assess ourselves and each other.

 

Each individual in the Other Women lineup has her own skill set and distinct style, adding colour and texture, perspective and fierce energy to a show that could almost as easily do without all of it…and perhaps the original concept was just that. Moore could certainly carry this show on her own. But that’s not the show. That’s an entirely different show, and perhaps that’s worth exploring another time. Moore is such a strong, super sexy performer, she doesn’t need anyone but the band on stage. (And the three-piece band is fantastic… Bradley McCaw is actually everywhere again at the moment, isn’t he?!).

In February during MELT you can see Moore in her original one-woman show On a Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience

An engaging, entertaining storyteller, Moore minces and sizzles on stage and off, and sings up a storm of epic feminist street protest proportions. Her bold Man-Eater entrance through the audience sets the tone from the outset and The Other Woman offers a glimpse of the stripped-back, rather more raw Moore. In this show she’s a provocateur and she’s here to disrupt, but nicely. It seems she’s here to “misbehave with integrity” (Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes).

The show is strongly political – we can’t possibly miss the message (a Big Book of Misogyny segment spells it out in case you weren’t already paying close attention) – and if we don’t feel any more empowered than we did when we walked into Wonderland, at least (At Last), we feel uncomfortable enough to continue to challenge the status quo.

24
Nov
16

Wonderland – 10 Top Picks

Wonderland!

 

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Wonderland opens tonight! Get ready for three weeks of high energy entertainment in the intoxicating heat of Brisbane’s Summer nights.

Wonderland is Brisbane’s end-of-year carnival of surprise and delight.

With 31 shows over 14 days, you’re invited to flirt with the unexpected and step into a euphoric world of body bending antics and late night temptations…

 

1. Phelan Groovy

Don’t miss the star of Dirty Dancing in Phelan Groovy, part auto biographical, part celebrity dish and ALL entertainment. For if there’s one thing Kurt Phelan has learned through life, it’s to only say 10% of what he thinks. Now you get the other 90% but only from tonight until Saturday at 8:45pm.

 

 

 

2. Wild Heart

Grand Finalist of The Voice and one of Australia’s most gifted singer/songwriters, Ellen Reed, won the hearts of a nation with her soaring voice and unshakable spirit as the Team Jessie J favourite. In Wild Heart, a one night only concert on Wednesday November 30 with her band, we can experience her national television defining performances live in the Powerhouse Theatre, with soulful renditions of Sia’s Chandelier, Demi Lovato’s Stone Cold, and Pink’s Perfect. Ellen Reed will also debut her new single Wild Heart and perform her upcoming album of original tracks including Ask Me to Stay, Blur and Not Tonight. A special Wonderland treat, not to be missed!

 

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3. Smooth Criminal

Not only is Christopher Wayne one half of the global success story, The Naked Magicians, but he’s also producing some of the hottest shows we’ll see over the next couple of summers. Smooth Criminals brings together the odd couple of Australia’s entertainment industry, Luke Kennedy and Joel Turner. For one show only, on Sunday at 4pm, audiences will get the chance to experience Michael Jackson’s back catalogue as they’ve never heard before, when Kennedy (The Voice, Season 2 runner up, The Ten Tenors) and Turner (world champion beat boxer and platinum selling hip hop artist) join forces to share in their love for the greatest entertainer to ever live, in a musical experience like no other. This is the must-see Smooth Criminals.

 

Remember The Time from Chris Wayne on Vimeo

 

4. More Than A Boy

Starring Tom Oliver, More Than A Boy is a playful rite-of-passage about family and adventure, do-or-die situations and seemingly random events that build character and shape destiny. Featuring an eclectic mix of original songs written by Tom, Andrew McNaughton and Wes Carr (Australian Idol winner), theatre tunes and reworked contemporary hits, More Than A Boy magically weaves together the stories of a Croatian refugee forging a new life and a grandson who follows his dreams. Backed by a live band, get the adrenalin pumping and experience Tom Oliver shoot for the stars in this lively quest journey.

 

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5. The Lady of the House of Love

If you’ve never seen this show – or this artist – you’re in for a real treat. Performed by award-winning artist Sandro Colarelli, The Lady of the House of Love is a darkly eerie and exotic one-man show exploring the themes of desire and destiny. With original music composed by award winning singer-songwriter Jake Diefenbach, this combination of evocative narrative and stunning songs harks back to the darkest roots of cabaret.

 

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6. Other Women

This is the season’s sexiest circus-cabaret! Starring Lizzie Moore, Eliza Dolly, Rosie Peaches, Freyja Edney with a Chloe-Rose Taylor. Other Women: Temptress or tempting? Fast woman or free-spirited? If a man is a stud, what is a woman? Enter the world of Other Women: a provocative and witty circus-cabaret celebrating female sexuality and exploring sexual double standards. A thrilling live band, circus soloists and burlesque cheek electrify the stage in this World Premiere performance. Featuring an eclectic mix of songs by artists such as Nina Simone, Goldfrapp and Prince; Other Women explores promiscuity, and our contradictory views towards women and their sexual behaviour.

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7. Emma Dean in Concert

Heralded for her captivating vocals by the New York Post, Brisbane’s own Emma Dean is a consummate performer and has released over ten independent original albums/EPs.She has toured the world, performing alongside Jesca Hoop and Kate Miller-Heidke, and in support of Macy Gray, Jinkx Monsoon, Katie Noonan, Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls. Emma will be joined by her brother, Tony Dean to perform an eclectic catalogue of songs exploring love, loss and light. One show only on Saturday December 3 at 4pm.

 

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8. The Chaser’s Australia

Discover The Chaser’s Australia with Charles Firth and James Schloeffel. A very special multi-media presentation of The Chaser’s Australia. Covering politics, culture, religion, sport and jokes about Karl Stefanovic, it includes a special segment on Australian cooking, and why chicken salt is the only ingredient you’ll ever need. It also includes an extra special presentation on the environment entitled “There’s Absolutely Nothing to Worry About”, sponsored by the Minerals Council of Australia. If you only attend one event this year, you should probably go out a bit more often. The Chaser’s Australia; it’s everything you wanted to know about Australia, but were too apathetic to ask. One show only tonight at 7:15pm.

 

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9. Mills and Boom!

Join the Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary, a fictitious amateur writers’ group of oddball characters with fake hair, fake lashes, and real passion, for its personally acclaimed stage show. Mills and Boom! is a simply stupendous salon of bosom-heaving, lip-quivering ecstasy during which we regale you with our smouldering romance stories. Featuring Pascalle Burton, Carody Culver, Adam Hadley, Michelle Law, Ian Powne, Tessa Rose, Jackie Ryan, Leah Shelton, Lucas Stibbard, and Neridah Waters. One show only on Sunday December 5 at 5pm.

 

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10. House of Mirrors

The House of Mirrors is a grotesquely fascinating walk-through installation composed of a labyrinth of seemingly endless mirrors. Since the 19th Century, mirror mazes have been trapping and reflecting participants, challenging those that venture into them, both physically and psychologically, resulting in delight, amazement and sometimes, fear. The House of Mirrors includes Kaleidoscopic like chambers, voids, doorways and darkened breaks, the purist and most traditional form of a mirrored maze. No added gimmicks, no special effects, no special lighting, no sound track or soundscape.  The primary ingredients of carefully arranged mirrors, geometry and pure optical illusion.

Please be aware that during busy period, long wait times are possible. We recommend if you pre-book a ticket and plan on experiencing House of Mirrors before another show, to give yourself ample time in case of lines. Your House of Mirrors experience could take anywhere between 5 minutes and 20 minutes, depending on how fast you solve the maze.

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19
Dec
15

The Mad and Ugly Show

 

The Mad and Ugly Show

Brisbane Powerhouse & Cocoloco

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

December 17 – 20 2015

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

18
Dec
15

…him

 

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…him

Brisbane Powerhouse & Theatre Beating

Brisbane Powerhouse Park Mezzanine

December 16 – 20 2015

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

…him is the story of a man immersed within a world he seems to have built for himself. The home-like space is lined with newspaper pages which create a comforting homely environment, that somehow also possesses an unsettling rejection of décor, not unlike skin peeling away after a bad sunburn.

 

Barnie Duncan emerges from his newspaper nest, slides out from underneath the embrace of a makeshift companion or lover, and begins his daily routine. His only companions are a white button up jacket stuffed with newspaper to resemble a human figure, an array of stationary items, such as a pen dangling from the ceiling from a string or a roll of masking tape, and the newspapers that greet him each day by shooting through the mail slot of the door of the performance space.

 

Quickly, we are introduced to a peculiar world and a particular human being.

 

With an instant sense of routine and organisation amongst a chaotic paper covered shelter, the focal character is evidently both a complex and conflicted human being.

 

The show’s beginnings are shaky at best. With the entrance of the daily newspaper comes an opportunity for the inhabitant to add layers of pages, information, entertainment, and challenges to his already overwhelming surroundings. The intriguing entrance of the newspaper unfortunately instigates a repetitive, and at times frustrating, jumble of mumbled crossword puzzle questions, calculated criteria statistics, excerpts from articles to read aloud, and an ongoing search to find, store, and connect pieces of information. While each instance of the performance’s beginnings were initially entertaining, their length and repetition became tedious as fast as the first newspaper shot through the mail slot. The second half of the show, however, made sitting through the initial tedium worthwhile.

 

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Through the creation of wings made from newspaper pages and a line of masking tape that stretched across the room’s width, Duncan finally claimed the space as a performer and soared into our hearts with a welcome show of simultaneous bravery and vulnerability.

 

While the production’s beginnings demonstrated evidence of a human ironically trying to escape the outside world by hiding within a room made of information about the outside world, the second half initiated a shift in perspective and objective from quirky character. The quirky character begins with an obsession with completing crossword puzzles, weather forecasts, obituaries, horoscopes and advertisements, to name a few. These simple daily tasks became loaded with significance when each of the newspaper’s materials were revealed as evident layers to both the character’s existence outside of the paper shelter and the story behind why he may be living within it.

 

As reminders of the reality of the outside world came bursting through the shelter’s door in the form of newspapers, the character is forced to face the reality of his outside world and to make a choice about his future existence. With each new paper comes news loaded with reminders of the outside world’s progression, the inside world’s standstill existence, and most importantly, the character’s use of his time as days continue to go by.

 

Once the routines fizzle out and the shift in outlook begins, him becomes a captivating story of choice, connection and how we choose to protect ourselves when faced with the realities of the world.

 

 

17
Dec
15

I Want To Know What Love Is

 

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I Want To Know What Love Is

A QTC & The Good Room Production

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

December 16 – 19 2015

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

THIS IS FOR YOU

812 anonymous love stories. 500,000 rose petals. 60 minutes of pashing and dashing on a rose-strewn rollercoaster ride through love’s loopy terrain. A joyous and heartbreaking trip inside the throbbing theatrical party of the year!

 

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I love this show. I love its heart. I love its guts.

 

 

I love the way it begins so innocently, so beautifully simply and comically, and then worms its way into your soul only to shred each one of us into little itty bitty pieces using our own memories, drawing on the experiences that didn’t kill us but made us stronger. Finding that one true love, missing the one chance with that random stranger and having your heart (and maybe other parts of your body) broken multiple times by a massive cunt, before covering our world in rose petals and reminding us that we are in fact LOVED.

The formula is simple, but the complexity is thrilling and the overall effect makes I Want To Know What Love Is the purest, most joyous and heartfelt theatrical production of the year. Again.

The opening sequence shares the bright white light of an iPhone torch piercing the darkness and the sound of self conscious breathing. Quick, uncertain steps patter across the space and someone sets up a standing mic. A spotlight reveals Tom Cossettini, delightful once again. He treats us to an increasingly confident rendition of Young and Beautiful. A deliberately strained and stilted voice becomes rich in tone and cheeky with brazen confidence as he serenades an audience member lit by an unexpected special beneath a cascade of rose petals. This is the first of many joyous moments, a red herring prelude to a darker, more disturbing segment.

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It’s a startling mood change – and I knew it was coming – with Cossettini joined by Caroline Dunphy and Amy Ingram, demonstrating all the playfulness, competitiveness and polite turn-taking of every configuration of a relationship before it ends bad. And then it ends bad.

Margi Brown Ash brings new energy and a completely different quality to the production. Where Carol Burns approached much of the original material with her quiet, elegant reserve, Margi Brown Ash attacks it with unique vigour and wide eyed, full throttle, devilish delight. Each actor in this small company has discovered the delicacy of the more sensitive submissions and they treat the tales with the utmost respect, while giving some of the other anonymous stories the spectacularly sordid treatment they deserve, all for our entertainment and amusement, and for theirs, I’m sure. There’s certainly a voyeuristic aspect, and a number of times when some of us would like to leap over the seats to join the performers, in the riot of rose petals and splendour and grit and goodness and LOVE. What? Just me?

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Icona Pop’s cute and angry I Don’t Care underscores the sweeping and leaf-blowing of petals out of the way as if they’re shattered pieces of each heart, pieces of each person, which we offer to another and demand to have returned to us once the thing is over. Then there are the pieces a lover – or abuser – takes forcefully away from us. These pieces are carried away the moment the wind changes, or stuffed cruelly into a pocket so no one else can ever have them.

How do we put ourselves together again when some of the pieces are gone forever?

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Against a brilliant pulsing heartbeat of a soundtrack (the lifeblood of the show) by Lawrence English, Jason Glenwright’s lighting perfectly complements Kieran Swann’s design, creating many moods within a splendid setting. It’s a Catherine Martin styled American Beauty fantasy sans the tub, the nakedness and the convenient petal placement, although none of those elements would be out of place here. There are many more petals used this time. Masses and masses of them, thousands in fact, fluttering down from above, then teeming like rain, and then released from yellow plastic bags and scattered joyfully across the space. With great passion and fury they’re later pushed and swept and kicked and tossed into the air, poured over the actors, almost smothering them, just as any great…and terrible…love will do.

This is theatre as therapy, almost cathartic, leading everyone into themselves and along their own (don’t say it!) … JOURNEY. THERE. I SAID IT.

The stories are ours…well, the stories are yours. If you submitted your story online we got a glimpse of your life, your love… Johnny BalbuzienteIt’s an intimate show, perhaps in some ways better suited to the smaller, more intimate space of the original studio. But it’s become a bigger, slicker operation in the powerhouse theatre (“The Lovebox”), allowing a greater number of people to see it (and see it again!). How lucky are we? This is a company with a LOT of love to give!

Cancel everything and go see I Want To Know What Love Is.

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This show is an editorial and directorial gem, collating so many moments of so many lives that I imagine it would be possible to create a dozen or more episodes using the stash of unused material. Perhaps we’ll see a YouTube series yet, or a never-ending series of books in the style of WOL. But don’t wait for those! Director, Daniel Evans is a busy, busy guy!

THIS IS A PASH AND DASH AFFAIR

– DANIEL EVANS

Your best chance to experience the real-life equivalent of Love Actually this festive season is to see I Want To Know What Love Is before it finishes this weekend.