on now, Review

REVIEW: Frankie’s

By Laura Money

Have you ever been to a bar or restaurant where the staff and other punters provide the floor show? Me either, until Frankie’s. We’ve all been there – out and about and a couple starts arguing, or a political debate breaks out, or even a proposal – unfortunately these conversations are usually in hushed tones and are rather difficult to eavesdrop on. Frankie’s invites you to eavesdrop – it’s the perfect live show that follows the staff and regulars of this delightful dive bar.

As Director/Creator Libby Klysz says:

This show is an unscripted love letter to the places we wind up in at the end of the night, and the families we make there.

Klysz and many of the performers involved are well-trained in improvised comedy as participants in The Big Hoo Haa, a weekly show that features improv comedy games and quick-thinking. It’s one thing to improvise a scene that goes for 20 minutes at its maximum, but another entirely to create long form scenes that provide a three week story arc. Walking into Frankie’s is an improvver’s dream come true – a full bar set, tables for an audience that makes it feel like a real bar. (It’s also a fully functional bar which audience members can actually buy drinks from – the performers don’t improvise their RSA certificates!)

Over the three weeks we will meet the staff of the bar – all there for different reasons – from wanting to be a chef and stumbling in, to being the granddaughter of the eponymous Frankie, and witness their power-plays and attitudes towards each other and their place of employment. We meet the barflies who shuffle or swagger in depending on their outlandish characters – on the night I attended I saw St John Cowcher as the loveable resident drunk who was as much a part of the furniture as the barstool he barely moved from, Dan Buckle as the nerdy maker of swords and who turned out to be surprisingly handy when it came to structural engineering, and Chris Issaacs who played a washed up actor drowning his sorrows after a terrible audition experience.

I am loathe to comment on the individual plot lines of an evening as I only saw one part of the puzzle which will continue to be filled in over the next few nights, but my observations are that the strength lies in the characterisation. Each of the performers couched their performances in strong characters that were therefore able to dictate what they say. As each night is loosely based around a key phrase or piece of advice provided by the audience, the actors must stay true to their characters and ask – how would my character respond to that?

It’s not all comedy, these performers, Shane Adamczak and Klysz especially provide meaningful pathos to their characters and their interactions. The music provided is completely improvised, too. Each band member, including the singer bursts forth with the energy of jazz musicians jamming together for the first time, and it adds a charming element to the show. When you enter Frankie’s you’re in for a treat – good drinks, great music, and a floor show to end all floor shows. These are people’s lives, ambitions and inner thoughts. They will make you laugh, maybe even tear up a little, but the one thing Frankie’s will guarantee – you’ll want to go back again.

WHEN: 13 November – 1 December 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 60 mins | Suitable 15+ | Cabaret seating | Bar available

LINK: https://blueroom.org.au/events/frankies/

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on now, Review

REVIEW: Medusa

By Laura Money

Oh Medusa, first a Goddess, then a Queen, then a monster…

These words, chanted in a low murmur that peaks to a crescendo of frenzy fill the Blue Room Theatre Main Space as an excited (if slightly trepidatious) audience file in around a centralised stage. It’s dark. The chanting throbs through every fibre of your being. It’s raw. It’s primal. It’s Medusa.

Finn O’Branagàin is the darling of re-interpreting mythology and this time she has set her sights on the titular Medusa. You may already be familiar with her – snakes for hair, Gorgon, her stare turns people to stone. This is the Medusa of Greek Myth – slayed by Perseus – cut down in her prime. But O’Branagain’s Medusa is a much more human figure. She is youthful, beautiful, terrible, wise, aged, and spiritual. She is summoned with talk of monsters and demons, violence, murder, death, ritual, and faith. It’s a sophisticated script that intertwines the power of rumour and stories to mythologise. Women are so often talked about and not to – their agency stripped from them as they become more immortalised. Helen of Troy. Princess Diana. Jill Meagher. Equally, O’Branagain’s script provides a voice for those women who are forgotten – the victims of Jack the Ripper whose identity overshadowed theirs, and the countless victims of sexual abuse and assault.

The chanting is poetic and rhythmic. Five women and one man stand bare-breasted and fierce – conjuring up the spirit of Medusa in a ritualistic chant. Joe Hooligan Lui (director) has taken the bones of the script and fleshed it out in a visual and aural display that cements itself into your body. The performers are angry, they are loud. What was originally a Greek chorus style chant is heightened into a ritualistic convulsion – a ceremony. Throughout the show, the performers move about the crowd – they stomp and shout, they spit red berries down their chins, they crush food between their fingers and under their boots, and they pound angrily on drums and punching bags. It’s a concentrated anger – these women are unfettered and they are given permission to be angry and loud and inhabit a space they are usually socialised to avoid.

Medusa speaks to all generations of women. It’s funny and clever with more than a little bite. From re-enacting moments of assault, to ridiculing the figure of Perseus – rendering him a total f**kboy – it has it all. The performers adorn themselves with paint and expletives in a markation of their bodies and the labels we give women. They playfully lie atop each other and tell each other scary stories of murder and rape that unfortunately are not just mythologised tales, but the horrendous truth. This campfire/sleepover setting creates a surreal edge surrounding the stories, and once again seeks to bring light to darkness. If you need an evening of feminism, frenzy and fantasy then come and shout along with the folks of Medusa – this is one show whose success is set in stone.

WHEN: 16 October – 3 November | 8:30pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 60 mins | Non seated show – refreshment area available | Adult content | Themes of violence & sexual assault | Recommended 18+

LINK: https://blueroom.org.au/events/medusa/

on now, Review

REVIEW: In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

Review | Laura Money

In Black Swan State Theatre Company‘s penultimate play for 2018, The Heath Ledger Theatre is transformed into a Victorian living room – resplendent in timelessly elegant pieces – an embroidered couch, wooden chairs, and multiple new ‘electric’ lights, all subtly painted in a warm, velvety, maternal pink. Set designer Alicia Clements really hits the mark with the middle of the room cut-away to reveal the ‘spot’ so to speak where all the action takes place. In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play is all about what happens behind closed doors, but thanks to Clements ingenious design, we are privy to the happenings of the masculine, clinical doctors office.

Sarah Ruhl‘s illuminating play reveals the surprising origins of the vibrator whilst philosophising on the oppression of women, the formalities of 19th century relationships, women’s pleasure, and of course, class relations. It peels back the layers – both literally and figuratively – to reveal at its core, a deep unspoken longing hidden under the strict repression of its characters. Yes, the play is about orgasms and women’s pleasure but through the brilliant characterisation and dialogue it is more often than not about the unspoken. Throbbing underneath the work is a vibrant electro-victorian soundtrack that shifts in an undercurrent of sound. This remarkably unique sound, composed by Ash Gibson Grieg provides a surreal edge that fits perfectly into fin-de-siecle America in an age of uncertainty surrounding voice and sound capture.

The indomitable Catherine Givings (Rebecca Davis) could take her place proudly besides such ineffable literary heroines such as Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre, Jo March, and even Pippi Longstocking! She is plucky and fun-loving, blunt and has no way of stopping her thoughts from tumbling clumsily out of her mouth and it is hard to not fall in love with her immediately. Davis is brilliant as she keeps her body still and poised, however light spills and sparks from her eyes and her effervescent smile. Catherine strikes the balance between excited new mother and terrified neglected wife.

Her husband, Dr Givings (Stuart Halusz) is obsessed with the new technology – electricity. He praises Edison’s new invention and immediately sets about utilising it to administer treatments. In a pairing straight out of Mary Poppins, the two skirt about the issues of their marriage until Catherine eventually breaks and speaks plainly. In a world of increasing brightness, all Catherine wants is to return to the romantic energy of a candle. All Dr Givings wants is to illuminate all of life’s mysteries. The two are at odds, in more ways than one. When a new patient arrives for Dr Givings, Catherine’s curiosity overcomes her like Bluebeard’s bride and she becomes determined to find out exactly what goes on in the next room.

0N8A9185.LR. Jo Morris. Stuart Halusz. Rebecca Davis.In the Next Room. Photo credit Philip Gostelow.JPG

This is a sharply written play. The dialogue is clever, but it is the performer’s unspoken language that crackles with energy. Jo Morris is such a masterful actor – she strikes the balance perfectly between satire and tenderness. Her character, Mrs Daldry, is the one most delighted by Dr Givings’ device and she bucks and arches her back in ecstasy. Halusz’s obtuse timekeeping and rigid posture only adding to the hilarity! Mrs Daldry must come to grips with her newfound feelings of pleasure and she gleefully books in extra appointments with confusion knitting her brow. It is only after a manual session with Annie (Alison Van Reeken) the Dr’s assistant that Mrs Daldry begins to feel ‘awoken.’

Rigid conventions and class divides are best dismantled with the tongue firmly placed in cheek – comedy highlights the ridiculous nature of these divisions in a way no other vehicle can. Neither couple communicate well with each other – the Givings are in opposition, the Daldrys are gripped by Mrs Daldry’s hysteria and Mr Daldry (Kingsley Judd) – blameless of course! – only wants the spark to return to his wife. He laments her spiral into depression and is drawn to the fiery Catherine. Judd is one to watch – his portrayal of the confused Mr Daldry is poised, yet kindly. The final ‘couple’ in the farce are Elizabeth (Tariro Mavondo) the wet nurse who arrives just in time to improve the health of newborn Letitia, and Leo Irving (Tom Stokes) a male artist suffering from ‘hysteria.’ Yes, it’s meant to be funny!

There are some poignant moments, too. In a heartbreaking sequence, the trio of women all undergo a private moment of introspection and grief. Catherine watches on as another woman nurses her baby – she feels inadequate as a mother with dried up milk, concerned that she will lose her bond with her child. Elizabeth feeds the babe with a stoic expression on her face, trying not to think of her own deceased child that should be in her arms, and Mrs Daldry stands alone in a cold doctor’s office, disrobing, unable to conceive and having to be treated for not even being capable of traditional womanhood.

0N8A9779.LR. Rebecca Davis. Tariro Mavondo. Jo Morris. In the Next Room. Photo credit Philip Gostelow.JPG

After one of her sessions, she has a discussion with Catherine that highlights everything wrong with the way women are allowed to interact in 19th century bourgeois America. Later, the three women transgress society in their very conversation – they talk about sexual relations and how only one of them understands what an orgasm is – a rather telling point, considering she is the only one in a loving marriage. In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play is absolutely worth the hype. If the title alone doesn’t stimulate your interest, the storyline and beautiful interweaving of the characters and their desires will. This is definitely one to put in the bank!

WHEN: 20th October – 4th November 2018 | Times vary

WHERE: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre WA

INFO: Tickets $35 – $67 | Duration 2h 35m (including interval) | Warning:

Adult themes, haze / smoke, nudity | Suitable 16+

LINK: https://www.bsstc.com.au/plays/in-the-next-room-or-the-vibrator-play

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: Court My Crotch

Player One: Sport. He represents a distinctly strong masculinity. He stands decisively wearing preppy and mainstream tennis clothes – although his shorts are quite short and bordering on camp. Player Two: Queen. He presents himself to the world in drag queen style. Ostentatious, over the top, glamorous and decidedly feminine. As these two representations of homosexual masculinity spar with each other in the dazzlingly bright tennis court of The Blue Room Theatre, they are awarded points – tennis style, by the referee.

Ash Traylia and David Mitchell are simply wonderful in their high-energy performances of masculinity. Adjudicated by the movement master herself, Morgan Owen, they hit and spit at each other until realising that all aspects of performing masculinity can be toxic but can also be celebrated. Court My Crotch is created by the company that brought you Arteries by Ancestry and many of their signatures are present – switching characters back and forth and re-telling moments from the past, a sense of fluid sexuality, and of course power plays.

Although aware that the stories recounted here are based on actual testimony from Australian interviews, it borders on the cliche. Secret snatches of drag shows in Sydney, checking other kids out in sporting change rooms, hovering around a bar just to get another glimpse of a gay man you’re strangely attracted to. All seem a little trite, but are delivered with such passion that cliche can be overlooked. Ash Traylia puts the extra in extraordinary as he sashays about the stage, full of vim and vigor. He is dressed to the nines in full drag regalia but isn’t afraid to be stripped bare when vulnerable. Mitchell is equally as fabulous but reigns in his flamboyancy to a dull roar. It’s there in his mannerisms and speech, but perfectly controlled.

All of this speaks to how controlled and contrived being oneself really is. Not only is drag a performance but so is masculinity. The charade can wear you down and we witness the emotional toll it takes on both characters. Owen is sinuous and firm in her movements as the umpire. She represents life and rules and the cultural norm. She is both controlling and firm, and malleable and fluid. Her eyes bulge out of her head as she blows the whistle on any transgressions performed by the leads. There are some confronting moments – at one point Ash Traylia turns on the audience to deliver some harsh truths, Mitchell cowers in the corner after opening up to another man in a sexual encounter. Songs and movement are interwoven with brash and ballsy acting and bravado.

Court My Crotch is an intelligent and heartfelt work that has clearly come from a place of intimacy. Not only will it tug on the heartstrings, it will make you laugh. Full of quips, put downs and comebacks, it unapologetically challenges mainstream masculinity but always punches up. There are also some delightfully camp references to life in the early 2000s and the Sydney Olympics, so obvs I’m all over that like a rash! Re-live your youth but see it from a different perspective, because odds are that while you were perfecting your ‘Genie in a Bottle’ dance, a budding drag queen was too.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 18 September – 6 October | 7pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 75 minutes | Suitable 15+ | Some strobe lighting

LINK: https://blueroom.org.au/events/court-my-crotch/

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Love/Less and NEXT

A double bill of dance is showing at the State Theatre Centre of WA, opening the curtain and switching from night to night are the female solo acts #thatwomanjulia featuring Natalie Allen and Blushed featuring Yilin Kong, then for the main performance Love/Less which is a four year labour of love for Kynan Hughes – pun unintended – featuring Marlo Benjamin, Rachel Arianne Ogle and Alexander Perrozzi.

#thatwomanjulia is a piece about Julia Gillard – Australia’s First Female Prime Minister – melding together live recording excepts from the parliamentary record and music. A desk sits in the centre of the floor with a swivel chair which Allen performs with, under, around and on giving us an overwhelming sense of the sexism which exists in Parliament and the ridiculous nature in which Gillard was treated during her tenure.   This was an extremely clever piece. One where the artists involved clearly understood that  The problem people  demonstrably ended up having g with our  first  female  governing powerhouse wasn’t with how well she could run the country it was with her gender within a predominately male dominated parliament as only 30% of the entire parliament was women during her tenure. choreography had  the exact right amalgamation and blending of  subtle nuances and  tongue in cheek squirm in your seat sudden blasts of shock tactics.  The  thematic undertones were beautifully demonstrated by short repetitive elegantly pointed gestures  interspersed with sudden erratic  shuddering shifts in poise movement sound music and exhibition of the dances presentation.

Love/Less explores intimacy, loss and the aftermath of what happens when you lose something that you love. There is a definite closeness and trust between the dancers within this exceptional performance as they are never far apart physically and seem more like family, albeit looking like they are embracing each other one second then rejecting each other the next so whilst physically close emotionally they couldn’t be further apart; and we never really get a feel or sense for what tragedy or ill circumstances occurred to cause both this closeness and separation. This is definitely a performance that will and can be taken differently from each and every viewers point of view depending on what they have been through in their lives and as such definitely deserves respect and credit for being as thought provoking and emotionally igniting. I feel incredibly convinced that this review and its reviewers will completely and utterly be unable to do justice to this triumphantly long awaited piece.

Conceived and in the making for 4 years it would be not only be a complete understatement but also be an utter disservice to the labour of love this show must surely have been for all artists involved. This is one show you cannot  help but find impossible to describe without giving away the desperately melancholic beauty of its unfolding and layering throughout its duration all I can say is this show is jot one to merely watch but to feel.

Review | Amanda Lancaster & Link Harris

WHEN: 19th – 22th September 2018 | 6:00pm

WHERE: State Theatre Centre of WA | Studio Underground| Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $30 – $35 | Duration 90 mins | Suitable 12+ | DANCE

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/loveless-and-next/