on now, Review

REVIEW: Constellations

By Laura Money

The Irish Theatre Players are a not-for-profit independent theatre group shaking things up in Subiaco, Perth. They produce a variety of works thorughout the year and clearly love what they do! This winter’s offering is Constellations, a work written by UK playwright Nick Payne – a compelling and elegant play about the infinite possibilities that multiverse theory offers. It’s also a beautiful love story.

Director Brendan Ellis has stripped back the script into its purest form in a way that places the focus on the intricate and clever dialogue. In a world of possibilities, every word and their sequence is important. As a two-person play, there are only so many interesting positions to put the characters in, yet Ellis creates a pattern of memory for each section. It’s hard to explain, as the piece itself is non-linear, however there are parts of dialogue that are re-spoken and given a different outcome or emotion. Ellis brilliantly treats each portion as though it were a dance, the starting position and dance moves remain constant as a way to ground the story.

The set design is also brilliant – Laura Heffernan has created a memorable space that utilizes the black box of the stage but has the ability to mesmerise. The splashes of star-like paint are paired perfectly with John Spurling‘s sensory lighting design. The whole effect is as if one is floating in the void – adrift in the universe.

Roland (Paul Davey) and Marianne (Madeline Jones) are destined to be together, in at least one universe…or is that multiverse? This fresh take on the ‘star-crossed lovers’ trope is a wonderful concept and is rendered remarkable by the Irish Theatre Players. Davey’s Roland is sweet, funny, and awkward. It’s such a demanding script as the actors must play different versions of themselves, and Davey has developed the sincerity and kindness in Roland perfectly. Likewise, Jones is phenomenal. Marianne is a fierce and feisty character full of intelligence and hopeless jokes. Jone is absolutely endearing as Marianne and her portrayal of the emotional journey of the character is without peer.

If you want a great night out, get yourself out to Subiaco and see this great work. Davey will charm you when reading his bee speech, Jones will crack you up with her awkward pick up lines, and the sound, lights and set will whisk you away into another part of time and space – if only for an hour and a bi!

WHEN: 7 – 16 June 2018 | 8pm

WHERE: Irish Club WA | 61 Townshend Road, Subiaco | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $20 – $25 | Duration 75 mins | No interval | Suitable 15+

LINK: www.trybooking.com/VLKA

 

 

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In Brief, on now

IN BRIEF: Burrbgaja Yalirra

BURRBGAJA YALIRRA

Marrugeku

Three stories for country

From the creators of Gudirr Gudirr, Cut the Sky and Burning Daylight, Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards) is an evocative triple bill of new solo works.

Curated by Marrugeku’s Artistic Directors Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain, each work is an invitation from our leading change makers to experience intercultural exchange.

Each performer is exceptional. Edwin Lee Mulligan tells the story of his ancestors through music and dance. His lilting narration is lyrical in his native Walmajarri tongue and his moves are expressive and weave the story in with traditional and contemporary feeling.

Miranda Wheen takes her namesake and re-imagines herself as the girl picnicking at Hanging Rock. Her precise and almost robotic moves are evocative of being pulled through time and also having no control over her body. Her work is phenomenal.

Finally, Eric Avery brings two cultures crashing together, fiercely and defiantly playing the violin and dancing to the frenzy and fray created by the rapid notes. It is apologetically confronting, and one hundred and ten percent brilliant.

Led by visionaries Marrugeku, an unparalleled presence in Australia today dedicated to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together, join this vibrant retelling and re-awakening of histories, locations and languages.

WHEN: 7 – 16 June 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $20 – $32 | Duration 80 mins (no interval)

LINK: http://pica.org.au/show/burrbgaja-yalirra/

JG18028_Edwin Lee Mulligan in Ngarlimbah picture by Jon Green.jpg

Image credits: Jon Green

Article, Interview, on now

IN CONVERSATION: Nick Choo & Levon Polinelli

By Laura Money

Nick Choo is the Malaysian songwriter who is taking Perth by storm with his musical, The Edge. I sat down on a slightly chilly afternoon with Choo and director Levon Polinelli and we discussed the challenges of presenting the show over coffee. The Edge is pretty unique, in that while it addresses issues of Depression (and suicide)* it isn’t from the point of view of the person with the illness. Rather, it’s all of the other characters and how their lives are impacted.

As much as this sounds like a heavy subject matter, Choo hopes that at the very least, people are entertained – “It is a musical, after all!” Hopefully it will make you think about how you interact with others, but it’s not a preachy show by any means. In actual fact, the words ‘depression’ and ‘suicide’ aren’t even mentioned in the entire work.

Living in Malaysia, Choo always experiments with his work there first, however he does have close ties to Murdoch University – studying a PhD in ‘mental health in the arts community’ an incredibly timely topic that ties in perfectly with The Edge.

The show was developed around ideas that had been swimming around in Choo’s head for a while. In 2006, two years before The Edge was written, Choo was chatting to a friend online who casually mentioned possibly taking his own life.

And I thought to myself, where are your friends? Where are your family. I didn’t really know him that well, so those were the first questions that were going through my head. When someone you know does something like that, you ask yourself what could I have done? That’s one of the big themes in The Edge.

This particular show has undergone several transformations since Choo began developing it in 2008. “It’s been ten years of re-working and development. There weren’t many other full scale musicals addressing mental health, especially in Malaysia.”

It seems that themes of suicide are more prevalent in theatre than ever before, so what is it about suicide that makes it such compelling material to playwrights?

For me, [Choo] there’s always a more personal reason because I deal with depression as well. There’s a lot of negativity, a lot of bad self-talk so for me it was almost cathartic. It was a way to channel all of these thoughts into something creative.

A lot of theatre covering this topic tends to reiterate the problem but not come up with a solution. Director Levon Polinelli was drawn to The Edge because it’s not like that.

When someone does attempt suicide, everyone thinks – could I have done this, or that, but theatre is always more centred around the act itself. I remember also, filming a video about suicide and we weren’t allowed to use the word. Even now, the media don’t want to have that conversation – you see an article about someone who died and at the bottom it says to call Lifeline if you’re having depressed thoughts. People refuse to talk about it and offer solutions.

In a way, The Edge isn’t about the main character because you never see him. It’s about how the people around him analyse their actions and interactions to see how they contributed to the problem.

When The Edge was first put on in Malaysia, it was a full-scale, large stage production. Polinelli happened to be scanning through Facebook one day when a post by Choo about the show caught his eye.

I was looking for a show to take on, and it was just in the last couple of weeks of FRINGEWORLD last year [2017] when I became involved in actually preventing a suicide…I was co-coordinating between friends to find our friend and thankfully we did, but I found it interesting that saving someone kind of messes with you, mentally.

When Nick posted on Facebook a little after that, it just resonated. I noticed that The Edge had been staged quite traditionally in Malaysia, and I remember when we took [our previous production] Werewolf Priest away from The Blue Room and onto a larger stage, it lost some of its intimacy. So, I thought – that’s what it needs – this should be an intimate show.

And that intimacy is definitely part of the charm; The Edge is all about looking closely at someone’s life – sometimes from the outside in. Its power lies in seeing every emotion cross the performers’ faces. There is a more urgent immediacy in being close to the action. Polinelli loves the challenge of a small space:

A black box does throw up a few challenges, just in terms of entrances and exits, you can’t just drop the curtain and have stage Ninjas change everything for you! It’s great, though, one of the things I love about directing is that problem solving element. You know, we’ve pushed a lot of the scenes together and there’s no real barrier between the stage and the audience, which definitely changes the show.

There is a total freedom in not being weighted down by an elaborate set.

[Choo] You don’t even need a full set – everything is explained in the lyrics. For example, there’s a line ‘you can see the city lights for miles’ but you don’t really need to see the lights. It’s subtle.

The truly lamentable part about putting on a show about mental health in 2018 is the fact that many people are quite sensitive to the topic, and won’t take a chance on the subject matter. Polinelli admits that he has struggled to positively promote the show:

Look, if it was a really heavy, depressing show I wouldn’t be directing it. I’m not interested in the kind of show that makes you want to jump off a bridge!

Choo didn’t write the play to trigger people – although he does hope that they will engage with it emotionally. People see the disclaimer and shy away from it. Polinelli feels that this is to their own detriment:

If you’re not willing to push through what it is that effects you, you’re never going to understand those feelings. Obviously I don’t mean that people who are genuinely traumatised have to set themselves off, I just mean people who are usually not open to that conversation because it’s confronting.

One of the best things about working with The Blue Room is their inclusivity. The Edge has some incredibly uplifting songs, totally hilarious moments, and encourages you to engage emotionally with the people around you, yet it doesn’t weigh you down. Even if you are concerned about the content, I urge you to go and see it. Choo and Polinelli are incredibly intelligent people, and every element of the show has been fine tuned. They really are the nicest people, and the last thing they would want to do is cause anyone distress.

WHEN: 29 May – 9 June 2018 | 8:30pm

12 – 16 June 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 2 hours | 10 minute interval | Content warning: themes of suicide and mental health | Recommended 15+

LINK: http://blueroom.org.au/events/the-edge/

*Crisis support and suicide prevention is available. Call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

on now, Review

REVIEW: The Man and The Moon

By Laura Money

The Man and The Moon is a delightful cabaret/play that channels the atmosphere of a boozy, jazzy New York Basement joint whilst regaling you with a wondrous tale of fantasy and romance. Backed by a three-piece band, St John Cowcher tells his tale of living and functioning in ‘grey suburbia’ and how he fell in love with the beautiful silver orb in the sky through original songs and snappy monologues.

Cowcher is stuck living a life he never wanted – he works in the marketing department for a super-company, lives in outer-middle suburbia, attends office barbeques for socialisation, and has to endure the office wanker on an almost daily basis. His life hits home for many creative millennials (myself included!) and will resonate on a level you didn’t expect. From hilariously written witty office observations, to the impeccable characterisation of Phil – believe me, we all know a Phil – Cowcher shines during his accurate satirical songs.

It is clear that Cowcher has a way with words, under the biting satire there lies a charming and fantastical story, told in a poetic language. As Cowcher becomes truly lovestruck, his music changes into lament. The Man and The Moon is a brilliant piece of theatre – it’s funny, clever, and utterly charming. Cowcher is one to watch, with a powerful voice and an affable nature, he gives his full creativity to this work, and it pays off.

WHEN: 6 – 9 June 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco | Perth

INFO: Tickets $25 – $28 | Duration 60 mins | No interval | Part of Subiaco Theatre Festival | Suitable 15+

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/the-man-and-the-moon/

 

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: Tale of Tales

By Laura Money

If you haven’t heard of Bow & Dagger, a unique theatre company that bring the focus back to storytelling, then you must get down to The Blue Room Theatre and see what all the fuss is about. Tale of Tales is the most beautifully rendered World War II story since Life is Beautiful and whilst it won’t compel you to jump over the theatre chairs with joy, it will leave an indelible print on your heart.

Clare Testoni (one half of Bow & Dagger) alongside Paul Grabovac re-tell the real life story of Testoni’s family and their sometimes harrowing journey to an Australian Internment Camp. Weaving real life events and the strange and wonderful fairy tales of Italian folklore, Testoni creates a fantastical landscape of shadows and words that envelop the audience in an unforgettable tale.

Through intricate, hand-cut artworks whose brilliant shadows are projected onto a white background using only the tricks and tools of a true puppeteer – torches, light, and filters – an almost Gothic tale reminiscent of woodcuts found in fairy tale books springs to life. In the vein of Big Fish, Testoni’s Sante is a storyteller who spins his words into a warm and strong story. His words have the power to whisk his beautiful Antionetta away from the realities of poverty and political uncertainty and render her a princess in a crystal castle with her dear, sweet Prince’s love giving her hope.

Testoni and Grabovac set the tone right – speaking in a lilting and comforting pattern, as though telling a bedtime story to a young child. As Antionetta and her boys are separated from Sante and must make a new life for themselves whist interred in a camp in the supposedly welcoming shores of Australia, the stories become frought with danger; Mussolini and Hitler become ogres, soldiers become dragons, and the camp becomes a high tower in which the principessa remains locked.

Tale of Tales is perhaps one of the most charming works you will ever see. It speaks to our almost primal need to make sense of the world through stories. It will transport you back to your childhood bed which kept you safe and warm whilst hearing all of the scary and dangerous tales of a beloved adult. Most importantly, Tale of Tales is full of heart. It is emotional and fragile, beautiful and intricate, and deserves all the praise it gets. So go, and let them tell you a story.

 

WHEN: 22 May – 9 June 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 70 mins | Recommended 12+

LINK: http://blueroom.org.au/events/tales-of-tales/