ARTICLES

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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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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: Cockfight

The State Theatre of WA hosts a production by The Farm, in association with NORPA and Performing Lines to create a unique experience that they admit as hard to label. It’s a combination of physical comedy and interpretative dance, yet it feels like far more – brace yourself to this journey of theatrical movement.

Set in a typical, clinical office are two alpha personalities – one a fresh face upstart and the other an older know-it-all. A common environment for these personalities, they often feel they can solve their problems with bravado. This physical performance displays the absurdity of acting tough in a sterile place where built up tensions are often held inside. This posturing, reminiscent of birds courting – attempting to display their dominance with wing flapping. Dance, metaphors and reality collide to create a surreal landscape of madness. On paper this could sound messy but we have a brilliant production team who nail everything to a tee.

The Farm are a dance production team renowned for pushing boundaries and this physical theatre show is no exception, with a clever blend of humour and artful movement. This combines with well thought out uses of music and a very clear visual set.  It embraces a more left of centre look at slapstick humour, displaying boldness and gusto.  This often comes when unexpected moments arise out of nowhere and this duo are masters of that – so be prepared to have your mouth open in awe and with fits of laughter.

This is certainly is a showcase of well-crafted choreography that highlights the strong experience of directorial and performance team in Kate Harmon, Julian Louis, Joshua Thomson and Gavin Webber – with the acting duo of Thomson and Webber involved in both roles.

I highly recommend Cockfight to anybody who wants to get inside the heads of two white collar businessmen in a high energy theatrical show.

Review | Kieran Eaton

WHEN: 19 – 22 September 2018 | 8pm

WHERE: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre of WA

INFO: Tickets from $35 | Duration 60 mins | Suitable 15+ | PHYSICAL THEATRE

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

on now, Review

REVIEW: Dracula

“Do you believe in destiny? That even the powers of time can be altered for a single purpose? That the luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds… true love?” Bram Stoker

Bound, tethered, inescapably trapped within the realm of existence to which he so desperately lingers, time beyond time we find a lost soul scouring the very ends of the earth, searching boundlessly for not so much the love of his life but the love without which for him there is no life.

Meet the romantically tragic villain, our beautifully brooding anti-hero, Dracula.

Brought to you by the always brilliant West Australian BalletDracula is the ambitious world premiere gracing the boards of the beautiful stage of His Majesty’s Theatre – the perfect setting for this adaptation of the classic gothic Victorian tale by Bram Stoker which captured the sensibilities of the era. The set design by Phil R. Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith with its overtly baroque styling references the darkly satirical movie version – that wonder of the 90s by Francis Ford Copella, complete with giant archways and columns spanning the stage, ironwork silhouetted against the lights like spider webs.

Dracula is a visually stunning production, rendered exquisite by Krzysztof Pastor‘s unique choreography. Adapted specifically for the stage, the stylistic storytelling of the vampire classic amalgamates the traditional neoclassical movement and form of the traditional Ballet with the contemporary and nonconformist expression of the theatre. Flipping the script on the traditional focus on ensemble pieces, this production’s emphasis is on the characters. Each individual dancer expresses their character through moves that become their signature – like that of a musical theme. From the erratic and jerky movements of Renfeild (Jesse Homes) to the strong presence and calm stability of Dr Seward (Christian Luck) each dancer embodies their role fully.

Melissa Boniface is sublime as Lucy Westenra; she glides across the stage effortlessly en pointe as though entranced by the power of Count Dracula. It is interesting to note that the cast does change as each role is so demanding, no more so than that of the titular character. On the night Fourth Wall reviewed, Aurelien Scannella was compelling as Old Count Dracula – a role he was lured out of retirement to fulfill. His fluid movements are at once sexually provocative and powerful. He stalks across the stage with the roiling confidence of a predator. One of the triumphs of the show is the transition from Old Count Dracula to his younger counterpart. The movements are ritualistic as though steps in a particular dance – as Scannella waltzes around the stage, Matthew Lehmann resplendent in fresher costume and long dark hair seamlessly enters the scene – replenished by his victim’s blood.

The set design by Daniels and Smith perfectly portrays the dark aesthetic of the Gothic Victorian era but doesn’t leave out the decadent vibrancy of the hedonistic nature on display in the opening waltz. The costumes assist in developing a strong sense of character – they are non-traditional and nothing short of spectacular. Victorian gowns twirl in a kaleidoscope of colour as the dancers whirl faster and faster. Dracula’s cape frames the vampire in a blanket of quilted darkness and Lucy’s tantalisingly semi-transparent nightgown moves hauntingly around her as she flits in the transient space between life and death.

Melissa Boniface, Matthew Edwardson, Oliver Edwardson and Aurelien Scannella in Dracula. Photo by Jon Green

Musically, the tone of Dracula is unlike most ballet scores. Composer Wojciech Kilar has created a soundscape that elevates the performance and once again, provides a strong sense of character. WASO (West Australian Symphony Orchestra) are flawless in their performance. It’s a careful blending of classical and filmic convention, slightly reminiscent of the Coppola film with a sumptuous layering effect that creates spine-tingling chills. It’s achingly romantic and melancholic.

For those on the fence about whether or not this version of Dracula is for them, why not  leave it to the tragic soul himself to convince you:

Remember my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory and we should not trust the weaker.

Review | Fourth Wall Team: Amanda Lancaster, Laura Money & Link Harris

WHEN: 6 – 22 September 2018 | Various times

WHERE: His Majesty’s Theatre | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $22 – $120 | Duration 2hrs 25mins | Interval | Contains stylised violence

LINK: https://waballet.com.au/whats-on/dracula/

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: WA Dance Makers Project

Westfarmers Arts proudly presents Co:3‘s WA Dance Makers Project, as advertised it is double bill of new and exhilarating dance theatre works…. and this is about as simple as it cant be described.

Prepare to experience the joy of movement, the freedom of expression and the ephemeral beauty that is  contemporary dance.

A beautiful turn about to the normal honouring opening speeches usually associated with performances introductions sees An effortlessly enigmatic  Young Man takes to the floor, and in one of the clearest most melodic voices you will ever be lucky enough to hear, regaling audiences with a short  personal story from his childhood about the importance of sharing  a persons culture and the responsibility people at large hold if they are to continue keeping it alive.

the lights completely dim and the show begins.

The first act which opens the curtains for the night is by ECU’s Link Dance Company with a new work by Richard Cilli; comprising of Andrew Barnes, Aline Doyle, Ana Music, Briannah Davis, Bridget Flint, Elizabeth Ferguson, Georgia Smith, Hannah Phillips, Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, Jocelyn Eddie, Jacinta Jeffries, Kimberly Parkin, Rhiana Hocking-Katz and Ryan Stone and Scott Galbraith. The stage lights up with all fourteen of the dancers holding red pom-poms, they all start making sounds in unison then in chaotically different intervals, then they all start moving getting intertwined weaving in and out of each other going from looking organised to chaos at the drop of a hat almost like the dance troupe as a whole is one evolving organism. For Those unfamiliar with contemporary dance  this company and piece will offer a fun and simple way to ease into whats about to ensue.

The second piece In-Lore Act II which is definitely  the dramatic stand out of the three performances is choreographed by Australian dance legend Chrissie Parrott, stars David Mack, Ella-Rose Trew, Andrew Searle, Zoe Wozniak, Katherine Gurr and Tanya Brown. On the right we see a large family sitting around a table watching an old TV and another woman on the left dressed in white, as she starts to dance she interacts with the family on the right. There was definitely a feeling of escalation, dread or melancholy  happening even if it wasn’t explored or understood by audiences fully.  perhaps though that is the point to this piece,  the work seems to draw or paint a picture of something  in a constant state of flux or shift. An ephemeral demonstrable tangibility to the ever changing things people do themselves each other  their identities and the often desperate heart wrenching consequences of those acts and choices.. Either way this is definitely an brilliantly emotional piece which will probably be interpreted differently by everyone that watches it.

The third piece You Do Ewe produced by the trio of Unkempt DanceAmy Wiseman, Carly Armstrong, and Jessica Lewis – with Trew, Searle, Gurr, Wozniak, Brown and Mitch Harvey . This is a fun and bordering on slapstick comedic piece where each of the six dancers comes in one after the other and introduces themselves then they break into a very intentional albeit out of sync tango looking dance. Placing their hands where they shouldn’t be so instead of on hips they were on their elbows, backsides or even knees which definitely made this ridiculous act stand out on its own for being without a doubt fun and a delight to watch.

This is definitely a good show to watch even if you don’t quite understand what contemporary dance is all about and if you do you will most definitely adore these three pieces for their own varying and distinct merits.

For those who don’t intellectually associate with this  performance you will definitely find your self emotionally unable to forget it.

You may not.

Review | Amanda Lancaster & Link Harris

WHEN: 12th – 15th September 2018| 7:30pm

14th September 2018 | 12pm

16th September| 5pm

WHERE: Studio Underground | State Theatre Centre WA| Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $35 | Duration 90 mins | Suitable  18 | DANCE

LINK: https://co3.org.au/program/wa-dance-makers-project-2018/

on now

ON NOW: Dracula (WA Ballet)

Need something to sink your teeth into this Spring? Join WA Ballet as they bring you this neo-classical tale of love, loss, and of course vampires. Working with world renowned choreographer, Krzysztof Pastor this unique re-telling uses a libretto and expressionistic dance to bring this gruesome yet beautiful tale to the the stage.

Dracula is a World Premiere and will darken the stage at His Majesty’s Theatre from 6 – 22 September 2018. Get your tickets here

WHEN: 6 – 22 September 2018 | 7:30pm + matinees

WHERE: His Majesty’s Theatre | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $22 – $120 | Duration 2hrs 25mins | Interval | Contains stylised violence

LINK: https://waballet.com.au/whats-on/dracula/

 

Interview, on now

INTERVIEW: Frieda Lee

Frieda Lee is the lead creative on the new play currently showing at The Blue Room Theatre – The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish. We caught up with her ahead of the show to find out what it’s all about.

How did you develop The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish?  
I started writing the play a few few years ago when I was staying in Singapore for some intercultural theatre training. I also lived in Thailand a few years before that – the country which is the home port for many of the horrible people running the fishing industry slave trade. The play is a comment on the fishing industry and also on migrant domestic workers. But overall it is a comment on what happens when some people’s lives are worth more than others. As to how I developed it – I sat on my bed in Singapore and wrote it while I listened to my housemate play the piano. And I’ve continued to write it for the last few years. Sam, my husband and co-performer takes long walks on windy nights and comes back with lots of ideas for me to try and fit in.
Do you follow a particular creative process, or does your work just evolve organically? 
Many drafts. And much feedback from people I trust. And then lots of writing and time on the floor.
What does Inconsequential Lives have to say about capitalism and systems of oppression?  
It’s not so much about capitalism – although it is largely private enterprise driving the demand for the fish produced by forced labour. It is very much about systems of oppression. The people who end up on trawlers are people without agency, they are migrants without paperwork, often they don’t speak the language, often they are stateless. They cross borders with the help of brokers who promise them work then sell them to boat captains. They’re asked for bribes by police and when they can’t pay they’re sold to boat captains. Because they are so powerless their lives are worth very little. I read a horrifying quote from an activist that said to buy one of these men it costs 95% less than it did at the height of the 19th century slave trade because they’re not thought of as important investments but rather as disposable commodities. They work 20 hour days, are fed a bowl of rice a day, they’re executed, beaten, dumped in the sea if they’re sick, I read about one man tied to four boats and pulled apart.
It sounds like the characters face some hardships along the way, how strong is their relationship and what do you think is the key to writing realistic couples?  
They love each other very much. We try to set it up through a montage at the beginning where he teaches her about being human. They have laugh together, cry together, get angry at each other and boss each other around. And, well, this couple happens to be a real couple – it is me and my husband Sam and our real live baby. So it’s quite easy to portray.
Are any of the characters similar to you?  
Sam believes Little Fish is me and gets upset when anything bad happens to her. She has a few qualities that are similar to me but many differences as well – in particular – I have never faced hardship and I have never been a fish.
 
Why the fishing analogy? What is the work really saying?  
Oh – actually it really is about fishing. And except for a bit of magic at the beginning and in the thrilling conclusion  it’s very much based on accounts of real people. There’s no hidden meaning, it’s just saying – what happens to these people is horrible.
Describe the play in three words.
Wow that’s hard. I’ll steal our marketing copy – Love Cruelty Revenge
You can catch The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish at The Blue Room Theatre from 4 – 22 September. Tickets here: https://blueroom.org.au/events/the-inconsequential-lives-of-little-fish/
Interview, on now

IN CONVERSATION: Leanne Glover

This August, WASO (West Australian Symphony Orchestra) will be performing the epic Tristan und Isolde in a five hour special concert, complete with two intervals. We caught up with Cor Anglais player, Leanne Glover ahead of rehearsals for the gargantuan concert.

FOURTH WALL (FW): Tell me about the Cor Anglais.

LEANNE GLOVER (LG): Well, the English Horn is a member of the Oboe family, so it’s a woodwind instrument. It goes back throughout history – someone translated it as being ‘English/Anglais’ but it was actually ‘angled.’ So, over the years it’s become known as the English Horn but it has nothing to do with brass instruments! I have also just recently heard ‘Angel Horn’ which I think is nice, too.

FW: So, how did you get into playing the Oboe?

LG: I grew up in the country, Mount Barker, and there was a teacher down there who taught all of the instruments and his son had given up playing the Oboe and there was one under the bed…I don’t remember the exact moment! Apparently I heard an Oboe on the radio and said to my Mum ‘I want to play that one!’ So I learned from the teacher at school and then I gave it up for horses – but I picked it up again when I was sent away to boarding school. MLC had a really good music program so I got involved in that. People tend to do what comes easily to them, so I didn’t think how hard it would be to get a job! No-one sat me down and said, don’t! Luckily, it worked out.

FW: Tristan und Isolde is probably one of Wagner’s most intimate works but it is obviously still epic in scale, how is this being staged?

LG: Well, traditionally when we present these works in a concert-style, the singers stand behind the orchestra, but [the conductor] Ascher Fisch may put them up the front, I’m not sure yet.

FW: How does it feel to play something like this, that walks the fine line between epic and intimate?

LG: It’s a wonderful journey, a wonderful experience to do it – of course I’m going to say that! – but actually it is. It’s quite a marriage of a few things, because Wagner himself wrote the text, which is very unusual, and wrote the music to go with it – emotionally, the two are so blended because he did both. So, it’s just integrally so together, and intimate as you say. It’s such a love triangle, everyone loves each other – King Marke loves Tristan, Tristan loves Isolde and King Marke, Isolde loves Tristan – so it’s all there. It all leads towards intimacy.

FW: I just think it’s such a beautiful story and one that lends itself to the music. The fact that it hadn’t been done before Wagner is quite interesting.

LG: It is such a great story, and it is interesting that no-one had taken that legend and done it. But it’s so integral to the human experience – I mean, it’s King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere. It’s come up in the human psyche so many times, this love triangle – even though there’s a love potion which gives it a kick that it might not have originally had.

FW: But that’s the operatic side of it, isn’t it? That’s what makes it so perfect for opera as a medium.

LG: Well it is pretty interesting considering it was meant to be a death potion but thanks to the handmaiden it became a love potion. It just gives it all these twists, but I think everyone can relate to the love story in it and we’ve all felt parts of this, moments of that. And the music is just so inbuilt into the building, building, building moments of passion. You know, the performance takes five hours, but it’s not just five hours of playing, there are two relatively large intervals so it makes up three just-over-an-hour performances, which is absolutely doable.

FW: So, it’s quite similar to a regular concert?

LG: Yes, with one extra bit really. It’s like one extra ‘half.’ I think, because the music doesn’t stop and the story doesn’t stop, like in operas that came before it they always had this little recitative section where you talk about what is happening and then this big long aria, where you sing about what happened before, and that doesn’t happen in this. It’s just continuous singing and action and story, and because we’ll have the subtitles up it’s shows what a good story it is.

FW: What I really like about it is this idea that it doesn’t stop – do you think that’s what compels people to see a Wagner opera?

LG: I think it’s an experience to go and see a Wagner opera. It’s not something that you would do six times in a year – well some people do, they chase them around! – but it’s a real experience to go and commit yourself. I’m making it sound like it’s a massive thing to do and it’s not! But it is a real journey and I think you come out of the concert hall feeling different to how you went in. That’s what’s the best thing – it’s like when you go to a really good movie – Shindler’s List – you go in on a normal day and you come out changed in some way, you come out affected by what you’ve seen and heard, and I fully expect that that’s going to happen to every person in the concert hall – that they’ll come out different.

FW: I think also, because the work has been entrenched in the canon for our whole living memory, it’s been in existence for so long, it’s like going to see Shindler’s List a second time – you know what you’re in for.

LG: Yes! You notice different things, many more details and you’re prepared to be open and to let yourself be carried away and I think if you go in closed it won’t be successful But if you go in and you sit in your seat comfortably and you let yourself go exactly where Wagner takes you and you just be open and really feel the emotion that the singers are singing about and that we are supporting – it’s not even a support, they’re equal. The music and the text are totally even and they rely on each other. I think it’s exciting!

FW: What’s your experience with Wagnerian music?

LG: Just what we’ve done in the orchestra here, really. I’ve done Tristan und Isolde as a concert before, although I played a different part, I played first Oboe – so this is the first time I’ve played the Cor Anglais part, which is massive. It’s the Shepherd, it’s this mournful lamenting tune that comes back in the third act. It keeps saying ‘no, her ship’s not here! I’m really sorry.’ I mean, Isolde is the only one who can save him, so they’re all asking ‘is she here yet?’ and I’m going ‘no! There’s no ship on the horizon.’

FW: Does the music aid you in conveying that emotion? Is it in the writing, the playing, or how it’s conducted?

LG: Oh, absolutely. It’s all those things. Because Wagner wrote it so specifically, he knew exactly what he wanted having written the text – it’s all there but you have to interpret it and you have to put your heart into it, otherwise no music works. We haven’t played much Wagner – of course we did Stuart’s CD [Stuart Skelton sings Wagner with WASO] with Ascher and we did some Wagner on tour with him. It will be very interesting to see what Ascher does with it, because it is so well known.

FW: Have you seen the opera independent of WASO?

LG: Not live. I’ve seen it on my computer in its entirety but I’ve only ever played it. I’ve never really had the chance to see it live because I haven’t been anywhere it’s on while I’ve been there!

FW: What do you think audiences will get out of the live experience?

LG: I think it’s the journey experience that they’ll get. They’ll come out having gone somewhere in it. They’ll have some moments of fatigue, and then they’ll get back. But I think they’ll be elated. They’ll experience something that they wouldn’t have experienced on that day, otherwise. I think it would be good for people to read up about it first, know a little bit about Wagner. And go in with the right attitude. Let yourself be immersed in it.

FW: WASO’s program is quite diverse – one week you play with James Morrison, the next concert is Wagner, how do you prepare for a part and for so much change?

LG: Well, I switch between instruments for a start – I’m either playing the Oboe or the Cor Anglais, so it’s just part of my job to be able to switch between the genres. I’ve been practicing my part for Tristan for quite a while because it’s a big part for me, personally, and it’s actually quite fatiguing. The third act is big, so I’ve been trying to build up my stamina to be able to play it the way I want to. You’ve got to stay a few weeks ahead – you get to know what you’ve got to prepare for a lot and what’s going to be fine. It comes down to experience – the first years in the orchestra, you absolutely look at everything but I’ve been in the orchestra for 28 years now, so I know what I need to spend time on. Occasionally I get surprised! But I like to be super prepared.

FW: How much do you do at home? I would assume that the rehearsals are like the office job – you come in, you do your work and then you go home – how much do you ‘check your emails’ after work?

LG: Look it really depends what’s coming up. For Tristan I’ve done a lot of work, for us in the Oboe section I have to make reeds. I’ve made quite a lot because I need some ‘magic’ ones. I’ve done a lot of preparation at home because it’s quite demanding of me and the concert after Tristan is another big one and there’s only one day off in between!

FW: What’s on the radio when you’re preparing for a piece? Do you listen to it on repeat?

LG: No, not at all, I listen to whatever. Sometimes I listen to what I’m working on, but never on repeat. Mainly because I don’t want to play it like I hear it, like someone else. Sometimes it’s really good to get ideas from people but then I like to stop it so I don’t just sound like someone else.

FW: And how do you bring your own voice to a part that’s historically been played by multiple people?

LG: A lot of it’s similar – there are traditions, like you slow down here or get louder here, but if you don’t listen to someone right up to the moment you have to play it you end up doing stuff and you don’t even realise it’s happening. You just interpret it the way you see it. I think it also comes with experience – to have the confidence to say, it’ll be ok to do this because of that. It’s hard to do that when you first join the orchestra but then you start to get a feeling for what’s ok and what’s not.

FW: We’ve mentioned before that this performance is a long one, so what do you do in the intervals?

LG: Well, in the first break we’re going to have our dinner. And the second break, I don’t know, because we don’t usually get a second interval! My biggest part is in the third act so for half of it I’ll probably just sit down and relax, and the second half of it I’ll be getting ready for the third act which is my big solo. I’ll be getting ready for that, I think.

FW: What do you consider to be the most important musical themes within Tristan und Isolde?

LG: Well, the motives that go with people or emotions come back time and time again and people will recognise them. They’re the cues for what’s happening here really. He’s just built this chromatic movement into it which just tears at you because it’s dissonance and it resolves, then dissonance and it resolves and it just builds and I think they’ll start to recognise the themes when each person comes or an emotion comes It’s part of the thing, I think, to start recognising it. And it begins and ends during the same thing – it’s wrenching.

FW: How much of an emotional response do you get from the audience when you do these kind of concerts?

LG: Well I’m interested to see, I can’t remember as we did Tristan so many years ago. I remember the experience for myself – it was fantastic, it was big and epic. But I’m a bit more experienced now at handling the length of time of just concentrating. So, I’ll be interested to see how I go. I’m waiting to see what the audience will do.

You can see WASO perform Tristan und Isolde at the Perth Concert Hall in August 2018.

Interview | Laura Money

WHEN: 16th August 2018 6pm | & 19th August 2018  2pm

WHERE: Perth Concert Hall | Perth

INFO: Tickets $85 – $95.50 | Duration 5 hrs | 2 intervals (20 mins each) | Suitable 12+

LINK: http://www.waso.com.au/

 

 

 

 

 

Interview, on now

INTERVIEW: James Palm & Bridget Le May

James Palm and Bridget Le May are writer and director respectively, of Threshold a new political play that confronts the issue of detention and journalist’s roles in the discourse surrounding asylum seekers. We caught up with them ahead of the opening this week at the Blue Room Theatre.

How did Threshold come about?

James Palm: The idea started forming back in 2016, after Chris Kenny became the first journalist on Nauru in three years. I wondered how it came to be him of all people; a noted supporter of refugee detention. A right-wing journo exploiting this situation for their own benefits seemed like a really interesting story to explore, especially as the alt-right movement had only recently become a talking point in the media. So I started writing what was then a cat-and-mouse conversation between two characters debating the changing role of the media. After months of development, the story has fleshed out to include journalists, politicians and lawyers; each seeking their own agenda but still framed around the immigration debate.

Bridget Le May: My journey with the play began right at the first draft. At the time it was a two hander between two male characters and there was a total absence of female perspective. James and I developed the script together over a year, introducing a powerful female voice. We took it to a reading where some incredible theatre minds picked it apart and shared there thoughts with us. That’s really where ‘Threshold’ began. The story broke open after that. Suddenly we were exploring four powerful people and playing with time and location. That’s when the play came into its own. 

What does the play say about how Australia treats asylum seekers?

JP: Without giving too much away, the play presents several perspectives on asylum seekers themselves. As for the detention policies of the current and previous Australian governments, Threshold is unflinching in its condemnation.

BLM: Perhaps that would be telling. The play navigates left and right ideologies from personal perspectives. The work is not shy about international human rights abuses, but the characters themselves have their own personal ideologies, which I think James has handled with great respect. 

It’s been years since the ban on journalists at Nauru and this play is set in 2016, how does the show relate to issues in 2018?

JP: Regrettably, all too well. Refugees detained on Nauru and formally on Manus Island have continued to suffer. 12 have died in the last five years. The Opposition has not made a commitment to reversing the current immigration policies, and so these issues will continue to be relevant potentially for years to come. This crisis is something that all Australians should be aware of, and yet most are ignorant to it. Or worse; satisfied by it.

BLM: This play is so topical. Only a few weeks ago an ABC journalist was banned from covering a conference on Nauru because the Nauru government perceived a negative reporting bias from the ABC. This kind of censorship is directly and publicly manipulating the freedom of information around detention. Last week Australia saw Channel 9 take over Fairfax media, a merger which significantly reduces diversity in the reporting that Australians will have access to. We would be foolish to think the culture of reporting won’t shift over time. The most recent refugee suicide was only a few months ago. Everything we are dealing with is vitally important, right now. 

Do you sympathise with any of the characters in particular?

JP: Yes, except for Peter. I mostly sympathise with Alex, the newly crowned editor of a large Sydney newspaper. She wants to see change occur in society, but is not willing to sacrifice her ideals for short gains. She is the most level-headed character in the play, so I respect her the most.

BLM: I sympathise with them all as a director. I think it is important to understand what drives them. Saying that, as a person I align most with Alex’s journey, who is the ambitious new editor of the newspaper. We have a lot in common. 

Describe the play in 3 words: 

JP: Well our marketing tagline is “Corruption. Power. Control.” But I’ll mix it up and say “What is Truth?”

BLM: Seriously sharp! (is two ok?)

You can catch Threshold here:

WHEN: 7 – 25 August 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 60 mins | Recommended 15+ | Q&A 15th August

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

Interview, on now

IN CONVERSATION: Sara Zwangobani

Sara Zwangobani plays Marc Antony in Bell Shakespeare’s newest production of Julius Caesar currently on tour in Australia. This turbulent production challenges gender roles and politics, taking it from Ancient Rome to the political climate of 2018. We caught up with Sara when she first got into town ahead of the Perth run.

FOURTH WALL: So, Sara, when did you get in to Perth?

SARA ZWANGABONI: Sunday night but the truck has to travel from over East so we get there and we have a couple of days of downtime while we wait for the truck to travel.

We’re certainly going to be doing some touristy things – two of us are actually from Perth so they’ve already given us a lot of tips.

FW: How long have you been performing Julius Caesar for?

SZ: We were in Melbourne for two weeks but we started in Orange before that so I think 3 weeks. It was the 12th/13th July. We’re still early in the process considering we have 100 shows to do!

FW: What’s touring like? What are the challenges to moving around so much?

SZ: We’re just discovering that now, it’s when we really hit the road – the challenge is that each venue is different and each feel of it is different, so every time we’ve been doing it we’re discovering a new place with the audience. It’s good because it keeps it really fresh which is great. And obviously as the run progresses I think the play will just evolve dramatically by different audiences and spaces and just by the sheer act of doing it for so ling.

FW: So, it transgresses location and becomes its own thing?

SZ: Also what’s fantastic is just the different feel in each community. Even when you just arrive – not that you’re going to understand an entire community in one day but you do get a different feel in each place. It’s a bit like being a travelling circus or something you pack up your stuff and move on but also a lot of these places don’t get a lot of theatre so the appreciation level is quite high from these audiences. Sometimes big city audiences can get a little jaded because there’s so much to see so it’s great to go somewhere where there’s a real appreciation for seeing something that they don’t normally get to.

FW: How complex is the set design?

SZ: It’s designed to fit into any location and it’s like a military operation – they’re very good at it! So there is a wonderful crew who work a lot harder than us who have it down to a fine art moving it around it is a simple set in one way in that there’s not a whole lot of elaborate furniture but it’s an industrial steel truck that actually weighs a metric tonne that we push around the stage. It’s got a real sense of industrialisation, and dystopia that James Evans is going for and we can use it to move about, climb on and transform it into the different locations of the play so it’s really amazing what they’ve done.

FW: That sounds very clever and innovative!

SZ: It is very innovative, the designer travelled to India and looked at all sorts of places where military operations are in full swing – well more so than Australia and got knowledge from that and used it in the set structure so it’s going to be amazing.

FW: Given the distinct setting, how has the work been adapted?

SZ: It’s very modern it’s just slightly a little ahead, maybe a few years from now. The clothes are recognisable you can buy them anywhere, it’s meant to be a view of what the world could possibly look like if things went a certain way. So, in that there’s a lot of stuff happening now in politics in America and around the world recently – it’s very relevant. It’s futuristic but only in about 10 years from now it’s not space ship stuff. Yes, hugely relevant to what’s happening now. Julius Caesar, well Shakespeare generally is great in that way it can be projected onto any time but it’s mostly about how violence begets more violence. And we can see that currently a lot now. It’s not even on a bigger scale – think of anger in an individual social media and everyone getting hyped up over things in a not very constructive way.

FW: Yes, there’s something about Shakespeare that’s so enduring, perhaps it’s his approac to social truth?

SZ: Part of that is, he often doesn’t make anyone the complete villain or the complete hero. It’s quite amazing when you think about it because it’s not something that a lot of writers do. And even though, yes there’s a few recognisably [villainous characters] Iago is the villain, at the end of the day everyone has motivation – they’re just trying to achieve that. And a lot of the time no-one is out-rightly evil or good, they’re just human beings making sometimes some really bad choices. That allows us to see ourselves in them. We can understand the difficulties of what they’re struggling with we can relate even if we don’t agree with what they ultimately do.

FW: How long have you been with Bell Shakespeare and how long have you been performing Shakespeare?

SZ: Well, this is my first Bell Shakespeare, in actual fact out of ten cast members there are only two that have done Bell Shakespeare before. It’s very new to us as well. I’ve done two other Shakespeare’s with other companies but this is my first with Bell. It’s as much a discovery for us as it is for the audience. With Shakespeare you’re always finding things in his works. I am sure that 6 months from now when it’s all over I’ll be like ‘oh I should have said the line like that!’ Oh that’s what he’s saying!

FW: Stylistically, how closely are you sticking to the language?

SZ: There’s no modern language in it it’s all original Shakespeare, however we’re not speaking in rounded English vowels, we’re speaking in our own accents which do vary as some of us are more classically trained than others so Brutus, for example, who has done a few Bells he has a wonderful rich rounded voice naturally and then there are some of us who are not classically trained and have nice broad Aussie accents.

FW: What does that bring to the stage, do you think?

SZ: I think it’s good for Australian audiences to hear their own voice, it’s super important – I think it’s important in film and tv as well, we need to be reflected back on ourselves. Also the fact that the cast is so diverse, there’s an equal amount of men and women, it also shows that Australian voices are beautiful and rich in their way too. I remember in school always being told that my vowels were flat and I think it’s wonderful that we don’t push that anymore I think it’s great that they all reflect where we all come from.

FW: So, was the decision to change the gender of some of the characters, especially Marc Antony, based on the characters or on who they wanted for the role?

SZ: I know that with me they had originally had an idea to have a younger Marc Antony but because of my audition they went with me. It’s interesting because Marc Antony is obviously historically a man but it’s a double layer because you’re not only changing it to a woman for a fictional character that has traditionally been a man – it’s actually a historical figure who has traditionally been a man. So some people might find that difficult to accept if they’re thinking of the historical roots of where the character came from. But at the same time we’re talking about Shakespeare’s character and I think it’s great that in modern politics and the modern world gender is becoming an issue – well, it’s coming to the fore shall we say and I think it’s great that they’re challenging these traditional characterisations. It’s not at all lip service to gender equity, I think that they actually are trying to say something about the modern world and the fact that Marc Antony does what she does, I think it’s important for everyone to see the way that we’ve changed.

FW: It’s so great to see wider representation especially since a lot of recent political figures have been women.

SZ: I looked a lot into, because of the way that we’re doing it and I’m really interested in modern politicians. At first I looked at Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela but then I started looking at Hilary Clinton and Julia Gillard and then I started looking at Condoleezza Rice! I thought she was far more accurate because Marc Antony isn’t the leader, she’s the right hand to the leader so I was listening to Condoleezza Rice and yeah, very much modern women in politics and I think it’s great to reflect it back in the show. We did a school show and some of the female students were commenting on how Marc Antony is a woman and Octavian is a woman and I was like, yeah it’s two women in the end that actually triumph and the girls spontaneously started applauding and it was really beautiful. Women can be in power – it’s so important for them to see.

FW: On paper it’s a small change but it translates to an incredibly strong message in the show.

SZ: Yeah, you’re right, it seems like a small change but it says a lot to all the people who are coming to see it. And makes them think. Obviously there have been people who don’t agree with the change, but even those people when I’ve spoken to them afterwards said it has made them think about why it’s so important that Marc Antony is a man and as long as we get people talking and thinking that’s what it’s about at the end of the day.

There have been a couple of people who have great concerns about Marc Antony’s great love for Caesar. Which is interesting because I think sexuality doesn’t have to enter into it just between a man and a woman. For some of us that automatically becomes a thing which I think is an interesting aspect.

FW: Yes, people don’t sexualise two men in an almost homosocial relationship but as soon as you gender it, it becomes about sexuality.

SZ: It’s very interesting, I was very interested that people put that there – I didn’t but it speaks to the world and something we have to look at.

FW: How do you prepare for a Shakespeare play vs a modern play?

SZ: That’s a good question and in an ideal world you would prepare quite extensively I think. Well before you get into the rehearsal room mainly because it requires such depth of vocal work in terms of breath. The breath that’s required in Shakespeare work is far more demanding than is required in a modern play just because of the nature of the language and his thoughts, particularly Marc Antony, his characters have very long thoughts. And if you break them up by having to breath incorrectly it actually breaks up the thought. It’s actually a bit mathematical in a way. So, ideally a lot of vocal work and a lot of physical work. He is very heightened, his emotions are very heightened in his plays that’s not to say modern plays don’t have that, it’s just a particular thing. A modern play I would read it and think about the character but with Shakespeare I also do a lot of vocal and physical preparation, and I come off far more exhausted! They talk a lot too!

FW: Shakespeare has become an entire genre of itself. People expect the correct rhythm and a work draws criticism when a production strays too much.

SZ: Absolutely, it’s really difficult because you want to play with Shakespeare but at the same time there are some things that are inherently required in the way that you use the language. And you’re quite right if you can’t get that across everything else is irrelevant. If you can’t make those words reach the people then, it doesn’t matter how good you are it won’t work so it does require that real dexterity with the language. When you’re really tired you can’t do much!

FW: There is a lot of violence and physical movement required for Julius Caesar, how is it done? Is it more wordplay than physical?

SZ: It’s wordplay, definitely that’s a great way to explain it. There are actual physical requirements like the death of Caesar and so on but they’re actually quite stylised partly because of the demands of moving a show around all over the country, it was a choice to make it more styalised. Often stage violence doesn’t work as well because audiences are so used to the violence of film and television so that they’re very sophisticated with violence so they made a conscious decision to styalise the violence.

You can catch Sara in Julius Caesar in Perth in August 2018.

WHEN: 8 – 11 August 2018 | 7:30pm

14 August 2018 | 7:30pm (Mandurah)

WHERE: State Theatre Centre WA | Northbridge

Mandurah Performing Arts Centre | Mandurah

INFO: Tickets $30 – $75 | Duration 2hrs 15 mins including interval | Recommended 15+ | Strobe effects, haze, violence and adult themes

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/julius-caesar/

 

 

 

 

Interview, on now

IN CONVERSATION: Emma Beattie

The National Theatre of Great Britain‘s critically acclaimed play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time has finally landed down under with a year-long tour of Australia. The cast comprises many English and Irish players who are bringing the unique story of Christopher and his epic journey to audiences across Australia. I caught up with Emma Beattie who plays Judy in this production to see how the Australian tour is going.

I’m loving it, I love Australia! I arrived a little bit earlier and did some sight seeing, it’s just so beautiful here. You have such wonderful topography. In between Adelaide and Perth I’m going to Exmouth. I have tried to see as much as possible but of course there’s the little problem of the play getting in the way.

The tour started in Melbourne at the beginning of the year with a 7 week run and has since moved to Queensland and Sydney. Beattie has really enjoyed just getting out and about as much as she can.

I got a camper van and did the Ocean Road, and after a few of us went up to Queensland just above Port Douglas to experience the Great Barrier Reef. I really loved the 4 weeks in Sydney though. Just to sit on a ferry and go across that harbour, it’s so beautiful. I’m a real coastal girl, I love the great outdoors so I can’t wait to get to Perth. I made a point of getting up in Sydney one morning and watching the sun rise so I’m looking forward to the other side watching the sun set.

Seeing as it’s a travelling show the set had to be able to be retrofitted onto whatever stage they are on. There could have been a temptation to simplify the set too much but Beattie says they were more than up for the challenge.

If you look at it you could consider it a very simple idea but it’s complex in its simplicity. It’s really clever – they’ve done it as a cube, as a black box and the fourth wall is your view into it, so it can be put into any space. We’re currently in Adelaide and it’s a bit of a challenge because it fits into a proper proscenium arch. It works though and can be dropped in anywhere but it works well with creating that intimacy.

In a show that is performed in a variety of spaces, you almost have to create intimacy in a space that doesn’t traditionally offer it.

Yeah, it can be hard work because of that. I think it’s quite a complicated set up to put up and take down. There are grid lines and maths things but that helps us organising ourselves onstage. It’s very precise you have to be very specific in your blocking because suddenly scenes pop out of nowhere and it’s very fast moving. You have to be very accurate.

It’s just sort of representative of Christopher. He’s very precise and has rules and triggers, it’s going to be a good day if you see four red cars in a row and there are processed that go in his mind and we are the players and we have to do things properly and if you don’t, you get told off.

In his adaptation, Simon Stephens has retained the essence of Mark Haddon‘s novel, using the dialogue in the book as a starting point.

In the book there’s a lot more description. I suppose it is about the family and how they fall apart but it’s about Christopher and we see it through his eyes and that’s how the production takes shape. So everything is from his perspective which is rather special.

There are certain things one can do in a play that cannot be achieved in the pages of a novel – the play has to show, not tell which means a shift from heavy descriptions of Christopher telling us what he is doing to acting that out.

It hasn’t turned out to be a heavy monologue piece. You have a narrator, which is Siobhan, so she kind of drives the story forward as his teacher and the narrator of the play. The drama and the action moves along at quite a pace and we used a physical theatre company and they came in and worked very closely on the original production and have created this world of storytelling that’s really exciting and it usually kicks in when it gets very heightened for Christopher. I mean we all have an image of physical theatre and it’s not that! We need to be physically fit so everybody tries to maintain a level of fitness we had bootcamp every day it’s lovely because it’s a very active show for everybody involved, very beautiful and engaging.

From the sneak peeks and photographs we’ve managed to see, it appears that there is a lot of projection, equations and maps springing into consciousness around Christopher. Emma assures us, it’s been very well executed, indeed.

I think for an audience it’s really really effective. That’s what’s so innovative about this production it gives you as an audience member a sense of what Christopher experiences. So when it becomes very difficult for him, when it becomes very challenging [the stage] lights up and it’s also challenging for the audience. It really does grab you, the opening of the play. It’s so effective in the storytelling and giving us a little bit of a sense of what is is like to be Christopher, what it’s like in his head.

Emma is constantly in awe of Simon Stephens – his writing being a constant source of inspiration. As an actor, it’s all there in the script.

You don’t really need to do anything you just go on and say the words and adhere to the punctuation, it’s got such a beautiful rhythm and it’s just a joy where if you go with the comma or the full stop it does the work for you in many senses. I remember I saw the original production and was absolutely blown away, I just thought wow, it was so moving and challenging and so human and so real, isn’t is funny how life turns out how 4 or 5 years later I’m in it!

So, how do you prepare yourself for a role like this?

How do you prepare? I’m trying to think back…somebody told me a really important thing – you have to come from the point of view of an over-arching life. David Michaels and I (who’s no longer with the production), we both independently did our research for the audition and then he got in touch and we went to Swindon which is where the play is set and just spent the day chatting or talking through what he and I were like, what Ed and Judy were like – you get all this information from the book and the script. We visited a school and were very lucky to be able to talk to parents and often what happens is parents are very good at coping on the surface but not underneath.

You can catch Emma in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in Perth throughout August.

WHEN: 8 – 19 August 2018 | 8pm

WHERE: His Majesty’s Theatre | Perth

INFO: Tickets $94.90 – $144.90 | Duration 160 mins including interval | Recommended age 11+ | Strong language, strobe lighting, fog/haze effects, high intensity video and light effects, loud sound effects

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/his-majestys-theatre/whats-on/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time/

 

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Howl

Art collective Aphids create contemporary performance art projects that combine media, bodies, music, site specificity and technology. They use their art forms to critique and question what is relevant in the contemporary art scene and wider culture. Their all-encompassing work, Howl seeks to re-imagine fifteen significant moments of controversy in art history and parade them for the audience. Performers Lz DunnLara Thoms and Wiloh S. Weiland rightly assert that “in Australia we hold parades for football stars, community dance troupes and war veterans. In Howl we are asking: what might it look like to give artists the same public recognition?”

The performance at Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) begins upstairs on the balcony, overlooking the main performance space where several women are dressed in white clothing, resembling Tennis ‘ball boys’, marking out lines of gold glitter to create a giant penis. This is the first art work to be referenced – A Dick Captured By the FSB in which art collective Voina painted a 65 metre high phallus on the bridge road surface in front of the Federal Security Service building in Russia. Two women hold a white sheet with the title in black writing and walk it ceremoniously as though holding a flag, up and down the shaft of the penis image. They highlight the piece’s significance and show genuine reverence for its artists, yet make the new work entirely their own.

Afterwards come a series of controversial moments in art history – a woman reclines nude from the waist down, spreading her legs to reveal her pubic hair a la L’Origine Du Monde by Gustave Corbet – this ‘live version’ references Deborah De Robertis who was famously escorted out of the Musee d’Orsay after performing a live version of the work. This time, our live model is able to bask in the glow of celebration and firmly entrenches her gaze onto the audience in the upper gallery. There are references to religious works (Piss Christ), political and biohazardous works (Sunflower Seeds) and feminist works (Artforum Ad) – each of the works are built upon the framework of women’s bodies being objectified, yet have a feeling of agency about them. They reimagine the power structures put in place and stare defiantly at you, all to the dramatic score of Mozart‘s Requium in D.

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The audience proceeds downstairs after hearing Hitler’s manifesto on art ahead of his ‘Degenerate Art’ Exhibition, conjuring up the philosophy of censorship, and is greeted by a true mainstay of controversial art – Marcel Duchamp‘s Fountain.The performers place themselves in the urinal, providing the physical aspect of both urination and drinking water. This highlights the fine line between bodily orifices in an intelligent and visceral display. Identity politics and human rights burst into the spotlight by a Segway riding Captain Cook in a balaclava (Australia was Stolen by Armed Robbery by Jason Wing) who takes Wing’s original bust and animates it – staring menacingly at the audience and appropriating ‘thug life’ body language. This is juxtaposed by a balloon arch representing Tecza a rainbow installation in Poland that was continually a victim of arson. Both of these works have sparked controversy (and both topics are continually brought up by conservative columnist Andrew Bolt) and as such, the performer ironically lights a sparkler and proceeds to burst the balloons. Each gentle tap removing a little bit of hope from the world.

Howl, Aphids. Photo by Bryony Jackson (3).jpg

Every single piece referenced provides a visually impacting tableau of powerful art and imagery. At the intersection between static art, or non-live art and physical performance art, Aphids creates an entirely new piece that builds on the source material, taking it to new heights. Building on live performance, the sequence referencing Amber Doll > Tilikum injects a frenzied pornographic energy that was only hinted at in the original work. It speaks to the invisible hoops that women have to jump through for equality. It takes notions of women’s sexual pleasure and likens them to the novelty of captivity in say, the institution of marriage. Ending on a high, Howl literally climbs to the top of the space to prove that Paul Yore got it right – Everything Is Fucked. Of course, Howl doesn’t purport to come to that conclusion – it is a visual and physical celebration of controversy – not a shying away from it. Howl welcomes criticism with open arms and then creates a unique, intelligent, and memorable artwork around it.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 27 & 28 July 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Perth Contemporary Institute of Contemporary Arts | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $26 – $32 | Duration 70 mins | Adult content | 18+ | SOLD OUT

LINKS: http://pica.org.au/show/howl/

http://aphids.net/

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Cloud Nine

Staging Caryl Churchill‘s intelligent commentary on sexual politics, gender, race and repression, Cloud Nine is not easy, even if the content is especially relevant in 2018 – yet the cast and crew of WA Youth Theatre Company prove themselves more than adept in their stand-out rendition of this incredible play. Under the guidance of director Jeffrey Jay Fowler, the young talent is encouraged to shine and provides a unique take on a show that (on paper) appears to be beyond their maturity.

Everything about this production is elegant. There is a simplicity to the set – a black box essentially with white hanging frames representing a homestead, and only a few items that signify location, such as a park bench. Rhiannon Walker‘s stripped back and clever set allows the actors to create the environment around them. Combined with the simple, yet targeted lighting design of Kristie Smith, Churchill’s script fills the stage and washes over the audience. With so little to work with, the actors must be at the top of their game, and it is clear that Fowler provides a masterclass in directing – he ekes out inspired performances from all.

Cloud Nine is a strong script with precise language that is delivered in an understated way – there are a few initial titters as Phil Lynch – resplendent in his nineteenth century dress – is revealed to be Clive’s (Isaac Diamond) wife, yet Lynch’s performance is so brilliant that he transcends gender entirely, truly becoming the silly and confused wife and mother living in the Colonies. Likewise, Cam Pollock as the ‘boy’ Joshua – a white man playing a black servant, provides a surreal giant smile and speaks the language given to him, yet doesn’t descend to cariacature. This is the true strength of the piece – it highlights inequality and ridicules people’s attitudes by not turning them into spectacle. As things are stripped back, they reveal their potency.

There is a note in the program on the doubling up of characters – as Act I is set in a British Colony in Africa in 1879 and Act II in London 1979 (but the characters of the play have only aged 25 years) all of the actors switch characters. This allows for some incredibly poignant moments as characters are able to reminisce and are often haunted by their past. Phoebe Sullivan as Betty in the second half is not only remarkable in creating a strong character, but her acting directly references that of Lynch who played the role in the first half. As each character recognises their flaws and face their fears, there are silent power structures that shift and pitch at such a fast pace, some of the characters just want support. It is achingly beautiful to see Lynch and Sullivan embrace as both incarnations of the same character – simply stunning.

Despite being 39 years old, Churchill’s play is chillingly pertinent – the glorification of colonialism is especially relevant in Australia, but also women’s rights and equality, and in a post-postal vote climate and Yes vote, equality in attitudes towards homosexuality are a hot topic. The whole script is whip-crack funny – you will literally laugh out loud, as this experienced cast deliver their lines with precision. Attitudes are ridiculed – from the double standards of men and women having affairs, to innuendo, and especially in David Mitchell‘s hilarious rendition of Martin – who puts one in mind of that old joke “why did the male feminist trip over? Because the bar was set so low.” Martin is eerily reflective of the #notallmen handle – considering these words were written nearly 40 years ago.

If you want to see a show that will challenge gender norms and attitudes, that is hilarious, and intelligent and brilliantly acted by an extremely capable company, then look no further than Cloud Nine.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 19 – 28 July 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: State Theatre Centre WA

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 2hrs 30mins with interval | Age restriction 16+ | Adult themes, smoke haze, sexual references and depictions

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/cloud-nine/

Review

REVIEW: A Mind Transcendent

Contemporary sci-fi dystopian fiction is not traditionally a genre you associate with the theatre, yet Hand in Hand Theatre Company are pushing the limits with A Mind Transcendent. Inspired by and clearly referencing the many young adult dystopian novels and series currently circulating our bookshelves, Jordan Baynes has written a script that steps right off the pages of these popular novels.

The set is great – two bunker-style doorways flank a raised platform where three Judgement League members sit, overseeing the action. They look straight out of The Hunger Games – coldness and quirky hair and everything. As Summer (Tiarn Hutton), Ethan (Domenic Scriva) and Soren (Kamara Churchill) wake up, they are forced to work together to complete a series of tests (a la Maze Runner) and many different ways of thinking are questioned.

Scriva’s Ethan is hotheaded, arrogant and selfish. He dismisses Soren’s ways of approaching the tasks and bombards her with his strong personality. Scriva is perhaps a little over the top and could do with shouting less to get his point across. His strength is in his relatable delivery when discussing his sister. Churchill provides an empathetic Soren – sincerity etched onto her face. Her eyes are full of expression although her character does get a little lost in the action.

Baynes’ script is gripping and fast-paced but could do with some trimming. There are almost too many ultimatum moments and twists, although the cast handles them well. Hand in Hand Theatre Company have got something special here with A Mind Transcendent. Not only is the set and costuming clever and resourceful, the acting is solid, and the direction by Justin Mosel-Crossley acknowledges the genre, translating it to the stage well.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 12 – 14 July 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: Studio 411 Murdoch University

INFO: Tickets $20 | Duration 120 mins including interval | Suitable 15+

LINK: https://handinhandtheatreco.com/

Review

REVIEW: Lysistrata

Stepping straight out of Ancient Greece as though 2000 or so years have never passed, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is the misogynist play turned firmly feminist by director Susie Conte and her team at Tempest Theatre Company. There has been a gross misconception about this work, says Conte – it was originally written by a man for men and is full of erect penises and lines that undermine women as thinkers and philosophers. ‘Silly women’ are not seen as a threat. In the last 50 years or so, Lysistrata has become synonymous with female power and women’s movements.

Hovering under white tulle at the back of the stage, Conte’s cast provide an ethereal backdrop against a ‘blank slate’ stage – ready to be written on. Contemporary sound bytes from The Women’s March, Hilary Clinton, Beyoncé and others fill the audience as the cast of five steel themselves.

Stephanie Somerville is remarkable as the fierce Lysistrata. She eats up the stage with her strong pacing – a caged lioness rattling the bars. A cast of women wrenches the power back from a male dominated theatre culture and highlights stereotypes in the script. Every cliche about the silliness of women is rendered ridiculous and returns agency to them. It’s crystal clear when Colonica (Amy Welch) declares her enthusiasm for sex – in particular penetrative heteronormative intercourse. However, her comical facial expressions and tone create a laughable hilarity that would be completely missed if in the hands of men.

Conte’s Lysistrata takes the ancient script and incorporates contemporary imagery and key phrases. Slogans from the Women’s March don the Acropolis, politicians call for Lysistrata to be ‘grabbed by the pussy’, Lysistrata declares herself a ‘nasty woman’ and references Julia Gillard’s monumental misogyny speech. It’s an intelligent and critical conversation between two eras that have a lot to say to each other. The Greek Chorus becomes hauntingly beautiful song, the male characters are parodied by the women this time, and there is more emphasis on the solidarity between the women rather than the leadership of Lysistrata.

Lysistrata has been confused in its feminist message in the past, but in this production there is no doubt. This is a fierce, fiery, and feminist manifesto that should be seen by everyone.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 10 – 14 July 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco

INFO: Duration 60 mins | Suitable 15+ | Adult content, sexual themes

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/lysistrata/

Interview

IN CONVERSATION: Susie Conte

Susie Conte is a founding member of Tempest Theatre Company – a feminist theatre company committed to producing shows for and about strong women.

We want to create opportunities for women to tell their stories. We are part of the mission to create gender parity in Australian theatre.

New to town then, Conte started running Tempest in 2011, originally producing works that she wanted to do and then honing in on the kind of work she came to love.

It was very much a response to the gender gap in Australian theatre. I’m really interested in women’s work and I’ve been doing my directing masters at WAAPA for the last two years, and off the back of that I wrote a one-woman show. I really want to put something out there that has a real vision and a real meaning to it.

There is something in the water, this year in particular that really champions women’s voices in theatre. Conte believes that we need to look much further afield on a global level to understand the zeitgeist of women’s movements.

It hasn’t helped that Trump has come into power and we have a Liberal government that doesn’t seem to champion women at all. Any female politicians that are in the news tend to be treated badly, their femininity is used against them, and I think the last couple of years have really made women feel that if we work together something can change.

There’s something about – and Lysistrata is about this – that collectiveness; the idea that if people work together for the common good with peaceful strategies that there is a way of changing things.

Tempest Theatre is working in response to ‘a changing world and a changing paradigm. There’s a new generation coming up in the arts and saying “hey, let’s not do it the same way cos it’s not working.”‘

It’s an interesting time to be in the arts – an area that is traditionally liberal and fairly left-wing in its agenda, yet still maintains an unhealthy imbalance when it comes to gender parity and sexism. Conte believes that theatre often acts in response to what is happening in the world, but can also sometimes be ahead of the curve by saying ‘let’s try it this way’ and then people seeing it and realising that it wasn’t the end of the world when we tried something new.

She feels that the main problem, however, is that most theatre companies are run as businesses by people who are not liberal and left-of-centre, so they always have budgets to ratify and people to please. It’s really quite hard to work out a changing audience at the best of times, yet their dollar counts in the decision making.

I think it’s all about having that conversation with people about what they want to get out of the theatre.

Tempest Theatre are distinguishing themselves with Aristophanes‘ Ancient Greek ‘feminist’ play Lysistrata. I called it the ‘original feminist play’ and was quickly corrected by Conte –

Originally it was written by a man, for women to be played by men, to a male audience – women weren’t allowed to go to the theatre. So, it was this caricature of what women were like and if they had a sex strike – ha ha ha, let’s all laugh at them!

It has been taken – in the last 50 years – as a feminist piece because he did write a really strong female character who is clever and uses a peaceful solution to try and end a war. I feel that while it’s largely used for its comic value – it’s a lot of erect penises and so on, it has more to say in the #METOO movement.

Do women have agency over their own bodies? What does it mean when there’s sexual harassment and what does it mean when they take back their power. I think it’s more relevant now than ever.

Lysistrata is about ‘women speaking their own truth to power’ and of course, this ties back in with the idea of the collective. Trump’s rise to power, and the #METOO movement, if anything, has spurred on millions of women to take action and speak out in solidarity. This new wave of feminism is a force to be reckoned with because we have each other and it’s an entirely innovative way of getting our voices heard.

The old ways don’t work – they’re different. I think there’s something really interesting about women speaking up for themselves. You know, sex strikes have actually happened – the most famous one was in Liberia, a woman there Leymah Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Prize along with two other women for peaceful protest (one of which was the sex strike) and it ended the civil war.

Her big thing was, if you bring women together of all races, colours and creeds and you bring the Muslim women and the Christian women together – who are just women – then you can effect great change.

In this production of Lysistrata, much of the original Greek work has been retained. It’s in a kind of liminal Greek space – with a lot of tulle that serves as Greek-style costumes but they are accompanied by Women’s March slogans – ‘had they had a pulpit in those days, that’s how they might have done it!’

Conte believes it’s worth keeping the original Greek – they had considered modernising the script but she feels that it would have taken away from what they were trying to speak to in those days.

Stereotypes still hold true and satire still holds true. It’s how we take that and then a modern audience goes ‘ wow that sounds weird’ or ‘that’s still the same.’

These playwrites were great philosophers. They were talking about humanity and what it means to be a human, so I think that doesn’t change. We still all have the same hopes and dreams and worries. We’re not all that different.

Lysistrata still speaks to the ultimate truths and motivations that all of us have. Get down to Subiaco Arts Centre to check it out, you’ll be in for a treat!

https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/lysistrata/

 

Review

REVIEW: Treasure Island: A Musical Pantomime

The Murdoch Theatre Company presents Treasure Island: A Musical Pantomime, written by Kathryn Petersen and Michael Ogborn. Starring Ainsley Marr as Jamie Hawkins, Julia Parks and Dr. Livsee, Maximiliano Laffont as Squire Treelawnee, Rosalie Schneider as Miss Evelyn Treelawnee, Zenna Newman-Santos as Captain Smilenot, Evie Mcpherson as Ezekial Machete Scabs, Sean Wcislo as Tinnitus Tom the Terrible, Maggie Cope-Thomas as Israel Chopped Hand, Pheobe Dingli as Boyscout Devil Dan, Vasco Jansen as Long John Silver, Injeong Hwang as Polly the Parrot, Max Conroy as Mother Hawkins and Melissa Munoz Escobar as Mama Kura.

As you could guess it is loosely based on the 1882 adventure novel Treasure Island written by Robert Louis Stevenson, it shares most of the same characters and the typical start to this classic but doesn’t get too far before this all changes.

Going into the Nexus Theatre we are presented with a set depicting a ship’s deck as we are introduced by – and musically accompanied throughout – by James Jury to the pantomime.  Without knowing exactly what elements of pantomime were going to occur, the light bulb was immediately switched on as cross-dressing and audience participation was evident straight away! Not to mention the use of dance, songs, slapstick/physical comedy, Perth related humour as well as some sexual innuendo. All classic hallmarks of that illustrious genre – the panto.

Very little can be said for their take on Treasure Island as to not spoil its plot, however what I can comment on is the acting, singing, set and costuming. The acting was exceptional – albeit a bit over the top, and camp as a row of tents – but being that this is a pantomime it can definitely be forgiven. Going all-out makes it fun for some, funny for others, and cringe worthy for those who don’t know what to expect! The singing was a bit hit and miss, as quite often leads were either being overshadowed by the music, the supporting characters, and occasionally the audience. The set was excellent aside from a loose ship’s wheel – which was made fun of so often it left me wondering whether it was on purpose or was done on the fly to get a laugh – and the lighting was also exceptional. The costuming was definitely good to look at even if it was also over the top but again considering this is pantomime you can forgive its use of using a sharpie to draw a beard onto a lady.

Having seen many a take on Treasure Island in the past I can honestly say that whilst entertaining  as a pantomime, it unfortunately didn’t add anything to the story with the changes that were made to make it more comical. If you like pantomimes then give this show a look and even if you don’t your kids will – so please support the Murdoch Theatre Company by watching their take on the classic Treasure Island.

Review | Link Harris

WHEN: 5 – 7 July 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: Nexus Theatre | Murdoch University | Murdoch

INFO: Tickets $10 – $15 | Duration 120 mins | Suitable 12+ | COMEDY/MUSICAL

LINK: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=393525&

 

Article, Interview

IN CONVERSATION: Jeffrey Jay Fowler

Are you destined for greatness? Improvement Club is an exclusive association with the singular goal of improving. But as members join they begin to question him. What does improvement actually mean? Fitter bodies? Better brains? More dollars in the bank? A place for everyone at the table? Writer and director Jeffrey Jay Fowler of The Last Great Hunt explores society and what its foibles may be and questions how, if at all, we can improve.

I spoke with Fowler in the lead up to Improvement Club to see what it’s all about and to get his insight on the Perth theatre scene – a scene Fowler is excited to talk about.

It’s great! You can go out and see theatre 3 or 4 times a week. Firstly there was FRINGEWORLD and then we’ve just had the Subiaco Arts Festival and now Black Swan State Theatre Company have timed their shows so they’re in the same week and of course there’s the Blue Room season, too.

The Improvement Club crew only had a limited time for rehearsals in the space – something Fowler described as a ‘slow-moving nightmare’ but you can tell he loves every minute of it! The idea for Improvement Club started in 2011 and then in 2013, Fowler wrote three short scenes for the Edward Albee Prize (which he informs me drily, he didn’t win) and then ‘put in the drawer for a while’ – a move entirely uncharacteristic of Fowler’s usual process.

I’ve written very few plays that haven’t been [immediately] produced. I tend to not be fully inspired until I’ve got the actors, got the rehearsal room and the pressure of the deadline.

But there was just something about Improvement Club that just wasn’t ready to happen. After creating the collaborative theatre company, The Last Great Hunt, Improvement Club was finally ready to be developed. It underwent so many changes…

It doesn’t even look like it did at the end of the development because it’s also a response to a world that’s changing. If you’re writing a play about clubs, you’re writing a play about how people group together. You would write two very different plays pre-Trump and in the Trump era!

There are some large global shifts in how people are clumping together, or creating sides. I’ve written a very different play now than I would have in 2011.

It’s not only the world that has moved on in the 7 years since initial development. Fowler himself was fresh out of drama school, 25 years old and studying directing at NIDA. He admits is would probably been a much lighter work if it had been written back then.

Every show that you make you hope to make better than the last and since I have been practicing for so long now it’s a better play. The original play was about a club that got created and then divided into two halves – one which represented left wing thinking and one which represented right wing thinking. Although that still exists somewhere in the play, it’s not the core of what the play is about now.

It’s much more about personal narratives in a world where people are constantly divided into groups by who they are: skin colour, race, privilege.

Fowler admits he doesn’t really have a standard writing practice. Rather, it differs depending on what he is writing at the time. In works like FAG/STAG or BALI which were co-written with Chris Isaacs, they would talk for at least a year before really putting pen to paper. They would just hit record on their sound recorder and just improvise a chosen storyline.With Improvement Club he had those 3 scenes written in 2013 and he re-worked the scenes and characters and tone.

I took the work to the actors and we developed it together. I re-wrote the ending – it didn’t even have an ending sequence! As well as having only two weeks to rehearse, I’ve been editing it every night based on feedback from the actors and also just what I think will work. It’s pretty demanding for the actors, I mean Chris Isaacs is on the stage from the word go and until it ends – not only is that hard enough, I’m changing up the script every night!

A big part of Fowler’s writing process is flexibility. If something doesn’t sound right or is clunky in the script, he’ll change it. One of the things I love about his work is how realistic the dialogue is and how he modifies it slightly to create a sense of the hyper-real. His use of colloquial language creates believable characters and takes away that rigidity that can sometimes be found in theatre.

With something like BALI or FAG/STAG it’s not about being word perfect – the plays are largely paraphrased to give it a natural feel. But a play like Price Tag is not colloquial language at all, in fact it’s very heightened, strict, bizzarre language which is not really how people speak. It comes down to the individual project.

I’m really proud that there isn’t a throughline in all my work. I write in different styles, I create comedies/dramas/pieces that are musically driven because I’d get bored if I was just doing the same process over and over again.

Improvement Club is lucky enough to be staged at the State Theatre Centre WA in Rehearsal Room 1. Fowler admits that one of the big problems, even for funded theatre companies, is accessibility of venues. Once a venue has been found, most of the money in the budget is used up.

There’s something exciting about having a small budget, you really have to be creative. Everyone has to, not just scrimp and save but has to creatively problem solve – you know, how are we going to put this on?

The intimacy of Last Great Hunt shows work very well in a ‘black box’ theatre. Lighting director Joe Lui has had quite a challenge in lighting such a small space, combined with Sally Phipps‘ innovative set, which Fowler informs me is all made of cardboard!

She is very resourceful! The best way to create the office space we wanted was to use concertinaed cardboard walls which Sally has had to hand paint herself. It’s a lot of hard work that has made it all possible.

Fowler believes it’s all about expectations. “Audiences get your side a bit,” meaning that they know what to expect from a show by The Last Great Hunt. Production values differ for each company and venue and audiences are pretty savvy when it comes to recognising that. There are a few different tiers working in the Perth theatre scene and audiences and theatre makers alike know where they fit in.

The Perth scene is a really exciting one at the moment, with a lot of theatre makers sticking around. I asked Fowler why he returned to Perth after studying at NIDA.

In 2013 I got offered a job as Associate Director of Black Swan State Theatre Company. I wanted to work with a bigger theatre company, I had just finished studying and had done a couple of years travelling. While I was there I established the emerging writers program which saw works get to a public reading and hopefully get them to a place where they could be put onstage.

Kat Osbourne was establishing The Last Great Hunt and I was excited to be a part of that. To be able to work as an artist in the same city all year round is not something that comes up often. I mean, we tour a lot too. All six of us are touring a work or two.

There’s something incredibly unique about the Perth scene and where The Last Great Hunt fits within it.

I love that Perth’s scene is small. I look at the next generation of theatre makers in Perth and love it. The Last Great Hunt was established because we wanted to be the first generation that stayed in Perth so to see that the new graduates are also staying is really exciting for me. It’s a real community and we all help each other.

Theatre goers are really spoilt for choice at the moment, and Fowler believes that key players like FRINGEWORLD and Black Swan State Theatre Company have a responsibility to continue Perth’s success.

Someone might go to a Blue Room show during FRINGEWORLD and that has a flow on effect – they might go see another one in winter. Having a new Artistic Director at Black Swan (Clare Watson) has really established a more inclusive and innovative scene at the top tier and that is going to trickle down. I think there will be shifts in all different ways.

So, how does the Last Great Hunt fit into the Perth scene? It’s not quite a second tier company – they are a collective that work with guest artists. I think the Last Great Hunt provides a space for excellent theatre making and a collaborative conversation that is vital in the Perth scene. Improvement Club has emerged from this nurturing environment and Fowler believes that different people will get different things from the show.

The play is ultimately about someone who cannot rest with who he is. He lives with a constant sense that he should be achieving more and the play looks at what that does to people.

It’s a really fun play, we’re having a lot of fun with it, it’s threatening in points. I always like work that makes the audience culpable and to make them think. I think a good piece of art will inspire a very lively conversation. I hope to do that.

You can catch Improvement Club at State Theatre Centre WA in June/July 2018.

Interview | Laura Money

WHEN: 27 June – 7 July 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Rehearsal Room 1 | State Theatre Centre WA | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $22 – $28 | Duration 70 mins | Suitable 15+ | Coarse language | Adult themes | Wheelchair accessible

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/improvement-club/

 

 

 

Review

REVIEW: The Farmer’s Daughter

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is an integral part of the Perth theatre scene, with their 37-year existence still maintaining a brilliant team of performers and production values. The Farmer’s Daughter is a wonderful example of this high-calibre combination creating a show that hits the mark at entertaining while educating young children on the history of early settlement farming. Yet this is no romantic cliché storytelling of Australiana, rather a grittier thought piece told in manner that the contemporary youth can relate to.

Ruth Battle opens the feeling of the show with unique interpretative dance of the natural surrounds before settlement. The lighting is effectively minimal in creating that unknown, ethereal feeling that would have been experienced by the first farmers – trying to tame this harsh land. This sets the tone for the huge contrast that quickly emerges in the next scene.

SPPT_farm-8088.jpg APP

Renowned for their simple and yet beautiful set and prop designs, again Spare Parts Puppet Theatre continue to impress. All four actors interact and manipulate the set/props in symbolically choreographed style that aptly suits the message given with only small amounts of dialogue. This clever execution truly brings home the inner turmoil of this farming family, told mostly through the perspective of a young girl (Daisy Coyle) who could relate to the men more than the women in her life.

This story is from told experiences of the farming community of Merredin moulded into one story of a farmer (St John Cowcher), his wife (Rebecca Bradley) and their plucky daughter who loves getting her hands dirty and having radio conversations with her grandfather. This grandparent that you can only hear, provides poetic words of wisdom that assist her adjust to dealing with these bitter hardships that put a mental strain on their psyche and relationships. However, all is portrayed with a sense of innocence and humour that works perfectly in connecting to the young audience.

The Farmer’s Daughter is an emotional, yet sweet play brought to life with physical movements of pure class. Certainly not a traditional puppet show, and thus more interesting show for young and old!

Review | Kieran Eaton

WHEN: 30 June – 20 July 2018 | 10am, 1pm & 6:30pm | See dates for times

WHERE: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | 1 Short Street FREMANTLE

INFO: Tickets from $23 | Duration 50 mins | 10 min Q & A after | Suitable 5+ | Perfect 8+

LINK: https://www.sppt.asn.au/events/the-farmers-daughter/

 

Review

REVIEW: HIRO

HIRO is a delightful tale that will sweep you away into a world of introspection, love, hardship, and survival. Based on the true story and subsequent novel The Man Who Sailed His House it tells how one man survived the Japanese tsunami of 2011 by sailing his roof with nothing but three energy drinks and some sweets in his pocket. The whole thing feels magical – like a fable, from dozens of beautiful origami birds suspended high in the air, to the old-fashioned looking solid table and tea things emerging mythically from the dark.

Creator and Director Samantha Chester has created an entire world within the intimate space of The Blue Room Theatre. As Hiro (Humphrey Bower) recites how his day began, it has the lilting rhythm of a fairytale or storybook – familiar, yet exciting in the anticipation building for the adventure. Bower is phenomenal. He narrates Hiro’s life while moving in a comforting, rocking motion – this is mirrored by Kylie Maree who represents Hiro’s wife but also his inner self as the show progresses.

Battered by a tremendous soundscape composed by Ekrem Eli Phoenix, the mounting storm that becomes a devastating tsunami acts as another character – it’s all encompassing and engulfs Bower, so that every sense is activated. Bower crouches on the upturned table that represents his roof and listens to the sounds of the ocean – at once terrifying and comforting. There is something in the rocking motion that provides a sense of safety, despite being so terrifyingly exposed.

Photo by; Stephen Heath Photography
www.stephenheathphotography.com

Maree is a remarkable physical performer. She moves in such a dancerly fashion, her arms become extensions of the waves as she transforms a simple piece of paper tablecloth into a figure with real humanity and emotions etched onto its plain ‘face.’ It is truly beautiful to watch. Chester’s writing is impeccable – every single movement is thought out, every word and the intonation that Bower uses builds into creating something that is so epic in scale and humanity but is presented as intimate and shared.

HIRO is a simply beautiful play that really invites you to feel. Its fable like quality connects you to the characters in a way that a news report never could. Bower and Maree are absolutely perfect and Chester should be incredibly proud of what she has achieved – a wonderful tale of hubris, love, and emotion that connects with an audience and is told in a stunningly elegant manner.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 19 – 30 June | 7pm | 3 – 7 July 2018 | 8:30pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 60 mins | Recommended 16+

LINK: http://blueroom.org.au/events/hiro/

Review

REVIEW: Improvement Club

Have you always wanted to be the best you can be? Meet with like minded people and form firm friendships? Do you need to change? Then you should join Improvement Club – the only club like it in the world! Written and Directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler of The Last Great Hunt, Improvement Club takes you on a wild journey that’s part Sliding Doors, part Being John Malkovich – and all brilliant.

Everyman Ash (Chris Isaacs) is lonely. He works all day in an office and waits to pounce eagerly upon his co-worker (Mararo Wangai) and press gang him into joining his new club. Improvement Club is a way for him to get out and about in the world and stop being so lonely. Fowler’s writing is what we’ve come to expect from him – witty and snappy with a hyper-real sensibility. Each actor speaks in sync with one another and collaborate to finish each other’s sentences. It cleverly dissects language and how even the way we speak can be improved upon.

Improvement_Club_ Chris Isaacs, Arielle Gray. Photo credit Daniel James Grant-05

Arielle Gray is brilliant as Ash’s therapist/girlfriend/mother – she blurs the line between all three characters by only changing in dialogue. By keeping her mannerisms (bar the sexual stuff) the same, she creates a complex character that really keeps you guessing. Are we all just programmed to be a certain way? Improvement Club takes on multiple forms – from ultra-sexy, streamlined spies, to hippy vegans who refuse to hold onto possessions. Each manifestation of the club accentuates a part of the world that probably needs improving or is at least an on-trend topic.

Using a simple set of cardboard petitions painted in subdued blues, reds and whites, the stage remains a blank canvas. The petitions serve as office walls, corridors, hivelike divisions in a commune – anything they need to be. Just as the script itself is hyper-real so too is the experience – as the ensemble cast all walk back and forth between the petitions, Isaacs is thrown into a dreamlike, Brechtian world where the absurd is given free reign. There is a wonderful sense of humanity in Isaac’s portrayal of Ash – you empathise with him as an outsider and just want him to catch a break.

Improvement Club is a memorable and intelligent show that breaks down our relationship with each other and how we can try to change the world – even if it seems like we’re just better dressed primitive beings on a high tech planet.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 27 June – 7 July 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Rehearsal Room 1 | State Theatre Centre WA | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $22 – $28 | Duration 70 mins | Suitable 15+ | Coarse language | Adult themes | Wheelchair accessible

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/improvement-club/

 

 

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: A Butler Did It!

Community theatre group, Modicum Theatre Perth are clearly having a ball putting on A Butler Did It! – a funny farce with all the twists and turns of an Edwardian bawdy who-dunnit. The play is fun – there’s a rich family, an old and draughty house, money, dead Aunts, murder, intrigue, and everything in between! Following the death of their Aunt Francesca (Alanna van Mierlo) her three estranged nephews and remaining family are reunited at her old mansion to ‘drink to her health.’ Throw in a few unexpected dead bodies, a slow-moving butler (Aaron O’Neil) and a ditzy maid (Tarryn McGrath) and you’ve got a rather entertaining night out.

And entertain they do! The set is impressive on a shoe-string budget – from full walls and cupboards built in, to (what I’m guessing are) a few nifty little pick-ups from Gumtree – a beautiful old rug, elaborate couch, bookshelf etc. I think a splash of paint or some wallpaper on the panels would be nice, but looking at the crafted drinks cart, it is clear that great attention to detail has been paid. Director Steph Ferguson has staged this well, including a great way of depicting the interrogation scenes – a blue backlit phone and trestle table not only indicate being in the spotlight, but also provide the audience with a bit of a timeline for context.

Characterisation is crucial to A Butler Did It! and each of the cast members does a very good job of sticking to their characters. As this is community theatre, you do witness the odd smirk, or uncontrolled laughter, but that is to be expected. Overall, the three brothers are all solid – Sean Wcislo has clearly perfected his sneer, Jordan Holloway is empathetic as the brother who finds the whole thing a bit too funny, and Steven Correia as Colin is a delight to watch. He has a great stage presence and is able to say so much with his hilarious and empathetic facial expressions.

Throughout this entire farce runs the theme of an interrogation. Here, we see the inspectors – Ryan Partridge and Sarah Lewis take great pleasure in hamming up their cockney accents in their representation of ‘The Bill.’ Yet it is Aaron O’Neil as Jasper King Junior – the Butler’s Butler – who is the real stand out. Not only is the character itself hilarious, O’Neil’s glacial movement is compelling – even the audience holds its collective breath as he crosses the room. O’Neil’s intonation is brilliant – there is a tendency for young people to really affect an elderly man’s voice, but he gets the balance right.

A Butler Did It! is a great fun night out. The hilarious moments when conspiracies are exposed, bodies are being moved stealthily, and a few twists you probably won’t see coming are brought to life by a very enthusiastic group of young people. It is clear they enjoy acting, so go and enjoy seeing live theatre and lend your support.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 23 – 30 June 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: The Kitchen Building | Heathcote Cultural Precinct | APPLECROSS

INFO: Tickets $16 – $20 | Coarse Language | Suitable 15+ | Licensed premises – people under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian

LINK: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=371914&

 

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: The Events

By Laura Money

The Events is one of the most exquisite pieces of theatre Black Swan State Theatre Company has ever staged. Its simple, pared back staging and acting is elegant; its music is sublime, and its sensibility and writing is near perfect. This is intelligent theatre at its best. Director (and Artistic Director of Black Swan) Clare Watson is no stranger to the piece having previously directed it in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide and her knowledge and skills are clearly on show in her rendition of The Events here.

The staging is simple – a choir gathers on a raised stage, piano in the corner, table with tea urn and cups with biscuits and tea paraphernalia, stacked community hall chairs. It feels so real, when Claire (Catherine McClements) runs in haphazardly from behind the seats calling out her apology for being late and inviting an unknown man lurking in the back of the hall to join in, one can be forgiven for thinking she is talking to you. McClements is a truly mesmerising performer – her character Claire is a progressive vicar who runs a church choir and is trying to move on from a mass shooting that occurred in her previous vicarage. Her hands tremble slightly as she holds a cup of tea, her pacing becomes erratic as she tries to outrun her memories, and her face slips into ecstatic lunacy as she gets closer to understanding why the shooter did what he did.

Accompanying McClements is Johnny Carr who plays The Boy (who committed the mass shooting) and also all of the incidental characters in the play. He vacillates between comforting Claire as her partner, her therapist, giving a voice to the shooter as his father, and people who knew him, and even a stranger who helps Claire out of a tough situation. By playing all of the roles, we see how Claire’s obsession colours everything she sees – she cannot get The Boy out of her head. Carr portrays each character well, switching seamlessly from accent to accent, male to female, to everything he needs to be. His characterisation of The Boy himself is inspired – part Youtube/home video manifesto and part lecture, Carr delivers frenzied rants on male aggression, rites of passage and the idea of literally going berserk.

Threading throughout the entire performance is the wonderfully healing music of the live choir. Each night it is a different choir (this night was Rhythmos) which brings a different interpretation of the work each time. The music is wonderful – it sounds like the soundtrack to a Scandinavian Indy film and provides incredibly emotional waves of understanding that tie the action together with the dialogue. And it’s not just a case of sit in the back and sing – the choir is part of the show – an integral third character that helps connect with The Boy and gives sanity to Claire. McClements’ enthusiasm when ‘conducting’ the choir is infectious and the whole stage buzzes!

The_Events_Printsize-01.Catherine McClements. image credit Daniel J Grant

The Events is a truly wonderful work. It really covers everything – from understanding the mind of a mass shooter/lone wolf figure, to examining the minutiae of obsession that manifests in survivor’s guilt, to how a community heals and what a community means. Clare Watson’s direction is sublime and both actors are a joy to watch. If you want a show that challenges and questions, go see it. If you want a show that heals and saves, go see it. And if you want a show that sounds amazing and looks phenomenal go see it.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 21 June – 8 July 2018 | 8:00pm

WHERE: Studio Underground | State Theatre Centre WA | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $35 – $50 | Duration 75 mins | No interval | Warning: adult themes, gun violence | Suitable 16+

LINK: https://www.bsstc.com.au/plays/the-events

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Tissue

Relatively new to the Perth theatre scene, Static Drive Co are breaking barriers and creating some inspirational and clever content. In Tissue, they explore the effects of watching and creating pornography on a relationship. Can a healthy relationship survive if its sex life appears stale compared to what is viewed on a computer screen?

Opening with the characters in a state of undress, writhing in an orgy like fashion, this show appears to be rather intense, however as the lights turn on as abruptly as slamming your laptop screen down in shame, what emerges is a hilarious and intelligent critique of how people are not as open with each other as they should be.

Static Drive Co are well known for their overlapping dialogue and switching between characters. In the tradition of the Greek chorus, they all narrate the story – breaking off to play all of the characters in turn. This innovative approach allows for the couple’s interactions to become far more intimate and breaks the fourth wall in a hilarious music-hall style juxtaposition from the main play.

Writers Timothy Green and Samantha Maclean uncover the hidden desires each of feel in today’s society. There is a layering here – Alex and Zoe’s relationship develops like a beautiful love story – but eventually their sexual desires and lack of gratification with each other, begins to wear down the other elements of their relationship. It’s interesting to note that porn is neither viewed as good or bad – this is certainly not a critique of porn, rather how it has all but replaced sexual education and completely warped people’s expectations of their sex lives.

Tissue explores power plays, sexual desire, the need to feel sexy and embraced in a sexual way, and also how intimacy is lost or gained when heavily influenced by what we see on our screens. It’s a bit sexy, a bit funny, but wholly intriguing.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 20 – 23 June 2018 | 9:00pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $25 – $28 | Duration 65 mins | No interval | Part of Subiaco Theatre Festival | Suitable 15+ | Warning: simulated sexual activity, partial nudity

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/tissue/

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Bus Boy

Bus Boy believes he’s a bus whenever he climbs on his bike. Isolated on Rottnest Island, he knows all the routes on the mainland. He can get you to where you need to be, he just can’t look you in the eye.

When Jerry (writer Izzy McDonald) arrives on Rotto for her boyfriend’s cricket wind up she is forced, unexpectedly, to relive past moments where she wasn’t quite in control. Bonding over meat pies and Bus Boy’s infectious personality, the unlikely pair develop an instant friendship.

Director Geordie Crawley has created a set that is both symbolic and practical – a stationary bike becomes Bus Boy’s wings as he flies all over the island. There are some beautiful moments on this bike; Jerry lifts her arms as if in flight, closes her eyes and lets the wind cleanse her. McDonald’s strength is how the plot is unfurled in layers – each action or word reveals more and more. She is able to create poetic moments out of confronting material.

Jerry is an interesting character – she wrestles with herself over her actions – she wonders if she is responsible for the things that happen to her, or if it is other people’s actions. Jerry sometimes does dumb things. Sometimes she pulls other people into her wake. McDonald creates a very sympathetic Jerry – her bravado becomes unstuck when probed, and a defensive mask almost appears to form in her eyes. However, it is Sean Guastavino‘s Bus Boy that is utterly compelling – he navigates the challenge of portraying a person on the autism spectrum with care and respect. Guastavino is charming; his intonation and repetition is just subtle enough to hint at a communication barrier, yet endearing – you want to champion for him.

Bus Boy is a wonderful gem of a show. It pulls at your heart strings, and creates an interesting philosophical debate. It’s genuinely funny and brilliantly written – Rorschach Beast really get it right when Macdonald writes and Crawley directs. Go and see this unmissable show!

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 20 – 23 June 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $25 – $28 | Duration 70 mins | No interval | Part of Subiaco Theatre Festival | Suitable 15+ | Warning: references to sexual assault

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/bus-boy/

 

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Assassins

In an era where the American population is becoming increasingly disenfranchised by their presidential representation, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman‘s early nineties cult musical Assassins is the perfect salve for the current world turmoil. Black Swan State Theatre Company interprets this unique musical as a stripped back ensemble piece that sends a strong message, and really hits the mark! It’s a non-linear work that spans eras and collides them all together in the whirly-gig of a funfair.

Assassins sees all nine people who attempted or succeeded to assassinate a president and explores all of their motives (surprise surprise: it’s mostly to be heard!) There is a temptation to stage a Sondheim musicalwith an overblown, and elaborate set, yet Director Roger Hodgman strips back the set and dance numbers and creates a streamlined work that focuses on the compelling characters. Lawrie Cullen-Tait‘s set is at once epic in scale and simple – consisting of large, timeless stone archways that double up as projection screens, and a clever wooden American flag design that becomes the literal platform for the disenfranchised to be able to speak.

Luke Hewitt cuts an impressive figure as the Propieter who provides the would-be assassins (bar Oswald) with their guns in a funfair where they can ‘shoot a president.’ The charming Balladeer (Finn Alexander) provides a narrator’s voice while explaining who each assassin is. Exploding onto the stage in his debut, Alexander’s voice is powerful and inspirational. He begins by providing the narrator’s voice in The Ballad of Booth – a Western-style ballad as the assassins’ pioneer John Wilkes-Booth (Brendan Hansen) attempts to justify his rationale behind being the first to assassinate a President. Hansen’s deep voice and uncanny southern accent is compelling and blends well with Alexander’s more youthful and less jaded sound.

0J1A9755.Mackenzie Dunn and Caitlin Beresford -Ord. Assassins. Image credit Philip Gostelow

The re-imagined conversations between the group of assassins is compelling – each maintains their distinct personality and are unified in their motivation. Caitlin Beresford-Ord and Mackenzie Dunn have wonderful chemistry as their characters Sara Jane Moore and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme respectively share a funny and empathetic exchange and bond over KFC and Charlie Manson. Will O’Mahony is fantastic as Charles Guiteau – the man who killed President Garfield in 1881. He is lovable and irreverent – even when climbing the gallows, O’Mahony maintains his unflappable positivity.

Every actor is phenomenal, yet newcomer Nick Eynaud provides one of the most poignant moments, along with the wonderfully talented Dunn in Unworthy of Your Love – in which he sings to Jodie Foster and she to Charles Manson in a bid to be noticed. As compelling as all of the stories are, it is the book-ends of the work that are the most important events: Wilkes-Booth assassinating Lincoln and Lee Harvey Oswald – John F. Kennedy. In a spine-tingling moment, Alexander as the Balladeer gives up on trying to convince the assassins that there is a better way, and becomes Oswald. The set is filled with boxes and the chilling Texas School Book Depository takes shape. The use of lighting and projection is exceptional – Mark Howett – a true heavyweight in the lighting scene – creates entire worlds through projection and colour schemes – red in blood and claw, and lurid green creating a sickening effect – a funfair world gone wrong. And of course, the sickening, famous footage of that fateful cavalcade in 1963.

0N8A0634 Oliver Halusz, Natasha Vickery, Nathan Stark, Cameron Steens, Mackenzie Dunn, Will O'Mahony, Caitlin Beresford-Ord. Assassins. Image credit Philip Gostelow.

Each piece of music is reflective of its era, and references the big American musicals, yet maintains Sondheim’s distinct sound. Hodgman’s stunning direction references the old musicals with satirical ‘big’ dance numbers like The Ballad of Czolgosz – the receiving line for an audience with William McKinley becomes a literal line dance; the era of big radio is referenced in an ‘Annie‘ style swing song juxtaposed by a writhing Guiseppe Zangara (Nathan Stark) being executed in an electric chair (How I Saved Roosevelt.)

Assassins is bit of a forgotten gem. It’s a fine example of Sondheim’s dark take on the classic American songbook – there are pieces that sound like they’re straight out of the early musicals. Black Swan State Theatre Company have really outdone themselves this time – Assassins is a hit!

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 16 June – 1 July 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre WA | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $35 – $67 | Duration 95 mins | No interval | Adult themes, coarse language, sex & drug references, smoking on stage, strobe/flashes; simulated executions and gun violence | Suitability 16+

LINK: https://www.bsstc.com.au/plays/assassins

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Constellations

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 bit!

Review | Laura Money

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

 

 

In Brief, Past Production

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

IN CONVERSATION: Nick Choo & Levon Polinelli

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.

Interview | Laura Money

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.

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: The Man and The Moon

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.

Review | Laura Money

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/

 

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Tale of Tales

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.

Review | Laura Money

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/

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: The Edge

A friend or relative of yours is unwell but you can’t reach them. They are pushed right to The Edge and you don’t know if they will return to you or be lost forever. But this story isn’t about them…it’s about you and all of the little things that led to the moment of catastrophe. Nick Choo‘s unique and memorable production of The Edge is not as dark or depressing as one might think – people keep dancing around the subject matter as though it’s going to bite them on the nose, yet The Blue Room production is a great way to address depression, suicide, and a host of mental illness issues that are plaguing today’s society.*

The Edge is ambitious – originally produced in Malaysia as part of Choo’s burgeoning musical career, it’s been adapted and worked on for roughly ten years. Now, in the hands of Director Levon Polinelli the work seems perfectly tailored to Australian audiences. Polinelli and Designer Sara Chirichilli‘s set is pared back and simple – it allows for the cast to tell the story through their own characters and song style. This is a highly character-driven show, beginning with the entire ensemble of six standing in formation and addressing the audience with a powerful piece about how ‘Another Day’ can be so different to one person, but the irrevocable pull of time will render it just another day.

Each character, from the brother Jarod (Emerson Brophy) to the childhood best friend, Mike (Philip Lynch) is connected to the one character Josh who is literally standing at the edge of a precipice – about to jump. Each character relays to the audience how they may have contributed to putting him there. It’s a completely different take on the usual ‘suicide story’ as most of them focus on the actual person, not the impact on the people around them. Brophy’s unrestrained emotion as he sings Josh through the major points in his life is heart-wrenching. As is Claudia Van Zeller‘s stunning performance as the grieving mother. It is clear that Josh is the absolute favourite, and it is interesting to see a character both controlling and completely at the mercy of her young son. She sings of the absolute unbridled joy she finds with her new fiance, but is willing to sacrifice it all for her spoilt son.

Perhaps the one element I would do differently is the miming to Josh – the characters vacillate between narrating their memories to the audience and miming to a void that represents Josh onstage. I feel this is perhaps a little trite, and could have been addressed a little less clumsily – in fact the most powerful moments occur when ‘Josh’ is the audience – or at least supposed to be ready to leap at any minute at some point behind us. There is a cohesion to all of Choo’s composition – a unique soundscape that threads and weaves its way through all of the characters, representative of Josh himself – each of the characters sing similar music but with just enough accents and flourishes to represent their own unique voice within the work.

There is so much going on in this work – from the girlfriend who feels like Josh is rushing things (Madeline Shaw) to the room-mate and best friend who would have liked to take things to the next level (if you know what I mean!) (Tate Bennett.) There’s even a concerned co-worker and coffee shop girl (Grace Johnson) who’s impressive voice laments other people’s reluctance to see beyond their noses and help someone in need. As a whole, each of these characters slot together to form a puzzle – an image of Josh on the edge. Whilst epic in scale, The Edge is elegantly simple, with clever and relevant music – there are no huge showstoppers here, but this doesn’t diminish from the absolute talent on show in this ensemble that compliment each other beautifully. As for the warnings – I would urge you to go and see it, although there may be more than a few lumps in your throat.

Review | Laura Money

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.

 

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: 3.3 and Beyond

Ochre Contemporary Dance Company‘s latest suite of works challenge the status quo, uplift the spirit, and feed the soul. It begins with Beyond, a new work performed by the talented Floeur Alder and choreographed by Chrissie Parrott. Alder steps into a beam of light that leads to a bush grove projected onto the floor in the centre of the room. The atmosphere is charged – the pool of light enticing Alder to enter a spiritual world, perhaps one of her ancestors. The natural yet discordant soundscape oppresses the audience as Alder makes her agonisingly slow journey to the centre of the light.

Alder is primal and connected to the very land she seeks, clad in white ochre and earthy tones, her hair matted to her skull. Every step she takes is considered – it’s a deliberately slow start that highlights the power and intelligence behind every single move within a dance piece. As Alder reaches the light, her body twists and turns into sometimes grotesque configurations, and stretches to the sky – all the while her strength is rooted in the ground. Alder portrays the connection to land as reverent in her slow and elegant motions, her fear of becoming too wild as the land pulls and tugs at her in sharp, jerky, inhuman movements, and her sense of tradition in her animalistic movements – at times representing the Ochre logo itself.

It’s a truly beautiful performance, we are witnessing something incredibly pure and untainted by modern Eurocentric ideals. Alder is a remarkable talent.

Low-Res_FA_MareeLaffanPhoto_2018-05-31-13

Next is a brief interlude consisting of a ten minute film, Kwongkan (Sand) a beautiful piece that charts the residency Ochre attended in India. It’s a spiritual representation of ritual and love of the land – even if that land is in another country.

3.3 questions what it is to be a young Aboriginal male in contemporary white society. It is the brainchild of renowned classical dancer, Michael Leslie who questions the idea that young black males now have their right of passage in prison. It sees young dancer Ian Wilkes literally caged in a cell with perspex in front allowing us to look in, but keeping him inside. Wilkes is an incredibly visceral performer – he launches himself violently against the bars that cage him in. It’s a powerful statement about masculinity, youth, race and rage and is brought home as Wilkes lashes out against the perspex, spitting, sweating, and swearing in protest.

3.3 Dress Rehearsal-229-1 color

All the while, Leslie sits close by, calmly observing Wilkes work out his aggression. When Wilkes is ready, Leslie talks to him about the systems in place that keep Aboriginal people down. 3.3 refers to the percentage of people in Australia who identify as Aboriginal – yet there is an over-representation in the prison population – 28% to be exact. During their dialogue, and as Wilkes futilely fights against the system, it is important to note that not all prisons are literal – there’s the system of colonialism, deaths in custody, fences around farms, curfews, obstruction of voting, missions, and discrimination.

Leslie’s firm but fair teaching is played out for us, and we see Wilkes learn the lost language of Leslie’s ancestors through 100 dance moves. By breaking each word down, a barrier is also broken between performer and audience, and we begin to appreciate each move with more understanding – after all, knowledge is power. When Wilkes is left alone again to contemplate his situation, he begins the cycle again, this time with art in the forefront of his mind. Wilkes’ sheer athleticism is tremendous – he pours every part of him into the performance, providing lasting imagery that will endure long after the show ends.

3.3 -337-36

These pieces, 3.3 and Beyond are some of the most important and poignant performances to take place this year. They reflect the pressing need to address these issues – Aboriginality, connection (or disconnect) to the land, violence, discrimination, and anger. Yet, both of these works serve to bridge the gap between contemporary and traditional dance. What does it mean to be a young Aboriginal dancer in the twenty-first century? Must they forsake their ancestral traditional moves for contemporary, classical training? Both 3.3 and Beyond spark that conversation and are the perfect fusion of both forms of dance. After all, isn’t dance all about expression and meaning?

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 26 May – 3 June | 7:30pm (5:30pm Sundays)

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre

INFO: Tickets $25 – $40 | Duration 110 mins including interval | Contains coarse language, adult themes, haze and strobe effects | Wheelchair accessible

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/33-and-beyond/

 

Interview, Past Production

IN CONVERSATION: Mark Howett

3.3 – the percentage of people in Australia who identify as Aboriginal. It’s a shockingly low number, and yet just the statistic alone speaks volumes when one considers the over-representation of Aboriginal numbers in the AFL or prison. I sat down with the remarkable Mark Howett, Artistic Director of Ochre Contemporary Dance Company to discuss the project, their collaborations, and the ways in which Aboriginal stories are being told.

So, what is 3.3 all about? It’s the brainchild and development of Indigenous dancing royalty, Michael Leslie and has been adapted from a PhD thesis.

Michael actually studied the idea that young Aboriginal men have their rite of passage going to prison. He was at university and part of his thesis was responding to this idea of young men in prison, so he incorporated a short physical dance piece as part of his thesis, that he performed as well.

Michael and I go way back to like, No Sugar and Bran Nue Day days, so I always knew that I wanted to collaborate with him. Michael dances classical but also traditional and in this work, he’s pretty torn between these two ideas. How do you show your traditional dance but also stay relevant?

Leslie is all about that authentic portrayal of traditional dance, but the techniques and moves that he learned in his classical training have also shaped his movement.

Michael is from the Eastern States and he moved to Sydney pretty early in his career, so he lost his language. What this piece reflects is his way of re-learning but also re-writing that dance language. So, it’s not completely traditional, it’s like a whole new language.

This idea of re-learning and re-interpreting a dance language is compelling. During his studies, Leslie drew upon his limited knowledge of traditional dance, his extensive knowledge of classical dance, and the concept of growth and restriction in the confines of a prison. After presenting the work as part of his studies, Leslie and Howett decided to collaborate again and turn the work into a much longer piece. Unfortunately, Leslie injured himself and could no longer perform the work as he would like to. Howett and Leslie had to re-imagine the work entirely.

So, we got young Ian Wilkes (Good Little Soldier) to play the young man in prison. Being a Noongar man, his language is entirely different. So, Michael has been a mentor to Ian, teaching him his own moves but also – Ian only dances traditional, he doesn’t have classical training, so Michael is really teaching him how to move like him. He’s changed the piece a bit as well – now it’s Ian in prison, a young Aboriginal man going through his rite of passage. He’s joined by Michael who is teaching Ian to dance but also mentoring him through his prison stay. So it’s a fusion of Noongar and Gamilaraay words that have been put into dance language.

Wilkes’ character is essentially Leslie, torn between excelling on the white fella’s world stage or staying in his country and cultivating his community and culture. Ultimately, he just wants to dance.

The whole piece really explores that idea that prison is a rite of passage for young Aboriginal men, but we’re not just talking about only gaols – it goes back to systems that Colonialism put in place. Fences around farms, massacres of people, missions, curfews, etc. You know, 3.3% is the percentage of people who identify as Aboriginal but 28% of prisoners are Aboriginal. So, it’s about owning that but also getting out the frustrations that are felt.

3.3 isn’t the only work that is being presented at Subiaco Arts Centre – the performance includes a collaboration with Chrissie Parrott and Ochre Contemporary Dance member Floeur Alder. Beyond is a poetic and surreal work that asks the performer to uncover the ‘pure’ form that often lies dormant in classical or contemporary dance – to go beyond the conventional.

Alongside the dance pieces is a screening of Kwongkan (Sand).

So, last year I did a residency with the Daksha Sheth Dance Company, in India – in an area called Kerala. It was a spiritual experience, and they were just so enlightening to be working with.

I asked if, as First Nations dancers there was much in common:

A tremendous amount. Once we started talking, we realised that the list of similarities was much longer than the differences. They are very spiritual – it’s a different sort of spirituality but it’s still about connecting to one another, and using your body as language. They have the same challenges about staying true to your roots but also being relevant in a modern world. So, the video accompanies the dance performance and it’s a great link to the pieces.

Mark acknowledges that it is incredibly important for black stories to be told from their perspective. This collaboration with Daksha Sheth opened his eyes up to how to continue telling his story.

3.3 has also been invited to form part of the program for the Berlin Be-Bop Festival in 2019.

It’s really exciting, yeah, we’re pretty proud of Michael and Ian and look forward to bringing the show to Berlin.

Mark’s own journey is similar to that of Michael Leslie’s – plucked out of Perth and sent all over Europe to learn design and collaborate with some of the edgiest theatrical minds in the world. Yet, it is how he continues to champion Aboriginal stories and themes that are important to his own life (post traumatic stress disorder, reconciling between white and black worlds) that truly asserts him as a powerful voice in the Australian and world theatre landscape.

Interview | Laura Money

You can check out 3.3 yourself, see the details below:

WHEN: 27 May – 3 June 2018 | 7:30pm (5;30pm Sundays)

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre

INFO: Tickets $25 – $40 | Duration 110 mins including interval | Contains coarse language, adult themes, haze and strobe effects | Wheelchair accessible

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/33-and-beyond/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article, Past Production

PAST EVENT: KISS Club

It’s that time of year again at Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) KISS Club is back with a whole new line-up of artists. In conjunction with pvi collective, PICA provides a space for artists to present only 10 minutes of a work in progress to fellow creatives.

It’s a great way for theatre devisers and performers to critique and support each other,and try out new ideas in a supportive environment. KISS Club is fun, creative and anarchic and is a great night out for creatives.

The Fourth Wall asked some of the artists five short questions about their experience ahead of the show. Here are the answers to our FIVE KISSES series:

BRIDGET LE MAY

Describe your work in development in 3 words:

Electric, Open, Loving

What are the main themes and ideas behind your premise?

The Mighty is a counterculture exploration of feminism, race and humanity. For me the work is inspired by the frustrations and sometimes open rage of living and witnessing the systems of power and oppressions that limit all people. There is a burning fire in me to talk with people about feminism and racism, but in this work we frame these moments in movement and interaction. And always we move towards ways to see each other with less judgement. To allow space for things to be complicated, honest and ok. The show itself seems to finds ways to bring that rage I have into something expressive and inclusive. It’s good fuel.

How do you pick only 10 minutes of your script, what stays and what do we have to wait for when the show premieres?

This is a brand new work, so we are generating material with KISS club in mind. That means the sections where we want to interact with the audience have taken precedence because it’s a perfect opportunity to test those moments. It is still hard to narrow it down. We have more material than we can use. The time limit makes you really think carefully about what is relevant.

 

Describe the atmosphere of Kiss Club – what are you most looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to the feedback and conversation after the work. I love audiences – and to have an open and intricate conversation with them about the work and how they perceived it genuinely excites me. I am also looking forward to performing for the first time in something like nine years. That will be fun.
What will your contribution to Kiss Club bring?
 
In the larger work we will be bringing a sense of community to topics around sex and race that often hold people apart. During KISS Club we are offering little windows of perspective that challenge simplistic labels such as female or black, by exploring with movement, conversation and song what it is to be fiercely and gently who we are.
CHARLOTTE OTTON

Describe your work in development in 3 words:

Loose. Sick. Titties.

What are the main themes and ideas behind your premise?

I’m looking at ‘ideal femineity’ and the struggle and endeavour to transition into a ‘beast woman’; woman who isn’t barred by the confines of femineity or the patriarchy. The other central theme is the concept of being your own voyeur and dealing with that self-brought-on male gaze and internalised misogyny.

How do you pick only 10 minutes of your script, what stays and what do we have to wait for when the show premieres?

I’m still developing Feminah into a larger piece, so what makes KISS Club so exciting is that you can showcase and or discuss parts of the show that you have questions about and want immediate feedback from. The parts I’ll be showing on the night are sections of the show that I have the most questions about so far. I’m just keen to have the space to take a few risks and see how they land.

Describe the atmosphere of Kiss Club – what are you most looking forward to?

I went to my first KISS Club in 2017 and I loved the experimental and open nature of the night. Everyone in the room is there to explore, listen and engage and to have access to a room like that is really special when you’re developing work. Especially work like Feminah, which is a major passion project of mine and one that is equal parts exhilarating and intimidating to make.

What will your contribution to Kiss Club bring?

Feminah is an intimate cabaret, so you can expect storytelling, comedy, 60s girl bands and a whole lot of feminist rage.

So get yourself down to KISS Club for an evening of fun, creativity and development!

WHEN: Friday 25 May 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA)

INFO: Tickets $15 | Standing event (seating upon request)

LINK: http://pica.org.au/show/kiss-club-2/

 

 

 

 

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: MAMA MIA!

Hey Dancing Queens! Dust off your Super Trooper 70s wonder suits and get ready to rock your socks off at Crown Theatre this Autumn with MAMA MIA! It’s a fast paced, fun night out that is guaranteed to get you up on your feet and dancing the night away. Most people are familiar with the musical, whether you’ve seen Meryl on the big screen or have been to the live show already, then you know you’ll have the best time ever. Maybe it’s the 70s soundtrack by ABBA or the fun story, either way – the party atmosphere of  MAMA MIA! is palpable – everyone is abuzz with energy.

MAMA MIA! was really one of the first ever ‘Jukebox Musicals’ – in which a new score isn’t written, but provided by material that is already existent – in this case, the music of ABBA. It tells the story of bride-to-be Sophie (Sarah Morrison) on the hunt for her biological father to walk her down the aisle. The problem? Sophie’s free spirit mother Donna (the amazing Natalie O’Donnell) had several ‘liasons’ around the time of Sophie’s conception, so they don’t quite know who the mystery man is! After Sophie invites all three potential Dads to their Greek island, Donna is confronted with her wild past. Throw in a few best friends for Sophie and Donna, a host of island boys and a good-looking fiance and you’ve got one hell of a show!

I loved guessing which song would be used for each situation, and really enjoyed the innovative way they used the music to it’s full effect. Morrison is sweet as Sophie, giving a heartfelt performance as she tries to find her true identity. Donna’s ex-band mates Rosie (Alicia Gardiner) and Tanya (Jayde Westaby) provide all the fun moments – Gardiner’s performance of Take A Chance is so hilarious, the whole audience howls with laughter, and Westaby absolutely slays as she puts a young hothead in his place in Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out? However, it is the brilliant Natalie O’Donnell who absolutely shines as Donna. She goes through every emotion – trepidation, anger, heartbreak, jealousy, and regret – and is constantly trying to stay afloat in an ocean of nostalgia. You’ll definitely have a lump in your throat during O’Donnell’s rendition of Slipping Through My Fingers as she dresses her only daughter in her wedding dress, and feel her unbridled pain as she belts out The Winner Takes It All.

MAMA MIA! really is a great night out! It takes you on a journey through all the best (and worst) bits of your youth – however long ago that was! There are reunions, celebrations, weddings, and of course, parties! Ending on a high note that gets the whole audience dancing and singing along – MAMA MIA! will have you facing your own Waterloo…of fun!

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 15 May – 1 June 2018 | 7:00pm | SEASON EXTENDED TO 1 JULY 2018

WHERE: Crown Theatre Perth | Burswood

INFO: Tickets $69 – $140 | Duration 2hrs 30 mins | Suitable all ages | Strobe light effects

LINK: http://www.mammamiathemusical.com.au/tour-info/perth/?gclid=CjwKCAjwr-PYBRB8EiwALtjbz8CgG0cHzh0gVThXKcarJ-C9Snpefj3rsEWQF7QK6P3E0CuEpO1gqhoCxVMQAvD_BwE

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Dom Mckee For MP

The University Dramatic Society – which is now 100 years old – presents Dom Mckee for MP, an original production both written and directed by Matthew Nixon, music by Brock Stannard-Brown & Paris Ceg and choreographed by Noa Gubbay and Nina Willoughby.

This story is about a small but wealthy fictional town called Wolobolee in the middle of the Australian desert circa 1961, which is in the midst of an election for local government and all of the ensuing ridiculousness and chaos which arises from a single lie about communism or rather someone being accused of being one – a big no no at the time if you weren’t already aware.

Heading into the Dolphin Theatre at UWA the red curtain is down and some very jazzy or swing type music is playing whilst we wait, the curtains rise revealing a rather sparse set consisting of two large side panels painted to look like a bar, the town name projected onto a screen on the back wall and some typical pub chairs and tables – all of which will be utilised and changed as the show goes on.  Behind the panels we see a ten piece band playing the beautiful music prior to the curtains raising, and it continues to play their excellent score during the entire show. The singing  throughout is superb albeit the volume is a little low for a few of the actors not wearing mics, the dance numbers and choreography are excellent and again everything is backed by the fantastic ten piece band.

The show is a roller coaster of raucous ridiculousness set at the same time as the Cuban Missile Crisis and, as such, you can expect harsh words to be exchanged between Australia, Russia and USA which really lends to the fun of the whole show. It is choc full of hilarious one liners like “they take the bras off before burning them”and “his teeth look like the entrance to Luna park” not to mention physical/slapstick humour, poking fun at American, Australian and Russian stereotypes as well as plenty of other laughs from taking the mickey out of Vegemite, the great emu war, Russia sending a man into space – with a cannon? – the sheer stupidity with international politics, just how childish politicians can be, the threat of nuclear war, espionage,  the media highlighting just how much power they have over easily led automatons, how the mentality of a mob is a marvel of idiocy to behold and how self proclaimed thespians tend to overact beyond all imagination – one of the characters not the actor playing him.

Dom Mckee for MP is definitely worth a look, if you love comedy and musicals this is without a doubt something which you will enjoy and even if you don’t go along for the fantastic music provided by the brilliant ten piece band and the silliness of international politics.

Review | Link Harris

WHEN: 9 – 12 May 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Dolphin Theatre | University of Western Australia | Crawley

INFO: Tickets $15 – $25 | Duration 120 mins | Suitable 18 | COMEDY/MUSICAL

LINK: https://www.ticketswa.com/event/dom-mskee-mp

bold launch-10

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Hive Mind

Have you ever felt that you were part of something bigger than yourself? That there was more to the universe than just the atoms and light around you? Did you ever just want to disappear? Rorschach Beast – Perth’s rising star theatre company – addresses all of these mysteries of the universe and turns them into the purest light in their newest work, Hive Mind.

From the singular mind of Geordie Crawley, Hive Mind strives to address the way people interact with each other, the earth, their spirituality, and beyond. Set in the small town community of St Augustine, on the edge of Box Elder Canyon where young schoolgirl Haley Woodward (Elise Wilson) goes missing. As the gossiping small town tries to reconcile what has happened, Lead Detective Dale (St John Cowcher) and returned expat Kate (Charlotte Otton) investigate the disappearance – at times falling prey to superstition and fear-mongering.

Crawley is rather talented when it comes to creating well-rounded characters with instantly understandable back-stories. His experience performing improvisation comedy is put to use here as he is able to create these characters quickly and establish their motivations very early on. We recognise instantly that Dale’s partner Austin (Haydon Wilson) is a caring and nurturing soul who is disenfranchised with his sense of community after losing in his campaign to become a council member. We also have the measure of the victor in the council war – Jackie (Alicia Osyka) whose bullying and gross actions represent every power-hungry politician to have ever existed. On the surface, it may seem as though these characters are cliche – and there may be few tropes used here – but as time goes on, it is apparent that they all represent a different part of a puzzle – the fabric of a tapestry that when interwoven make up the community – or the hive.

Austin’s journey is perhaps the most interesting – he appears to be the only character that is allowed development. He achieves this through his enlightenment upon discovering the secrets of a bee hive. The hive becomes a microcosm of the greater universe, and Austin comes to believe he has unlocked all of its secrets. Wilson is an incredibly visceral performer. He sweats and spits his way through an impassioned performance and sermonises in a disturbingly convincing manner. Osyka shines as the bullying Jackie. Her politician’s mask only slips to reveal her disdain for the people she represents and the nature she wants to bulldoze when someone comes close to threatening her power. Like a child, she pushes her agenda through without listening to others and does so with a child’s mean spirit.

Otton’s Kate is a fairly static character, and when revealed that she used to be bullied by Jackie, it appears that there will be a resolution within their plot lines – I feel like this is a storyline that isn’t explored quite to its full potential, as many people don’t get the chance to confront their past demons in the way that was presented to Kate. She ‘evolves’ throughout the play, yet it seems that it is all for show and there is no real substance to her transformation. It is only when placed on the true path to enlightenment that we see a real change.

There are some wonderful metaphors within the work – the hive as a community that thrives by working as a collective, rather than as individuals; multiple bees representing the atoms of light that can control the universe when truly mastered; wanting to be a part of something bigger. Austin undergoes a Kafka-esque metamorphosis and is able to join the universe. Hive Mind is a strong character-based play. There are quite a few plot holes and several moments feel rushed and unrealistic (not the supernatural elements, as they are justified in the world it is set) and some of the characters are left hovering before their potential, yet overall it’s a clever and considered work. Plus the hexagons and hive motifs, combined with the rather dramatic soundscape and playful lighting create a memorable aesthetic with just enough nods to popular culture throughout to keep you highly entertained.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 1 – 19 May 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 70 mins | Recommended 15+ | THEATRE

LINK: http://blueroom.org.au/events/hive-mind/

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Hold Your Breath (Count To Ten) 4.5 Stars

Let’s be honest with one another – you see an advertisement for a play that deals with mental health issues, physical and emotional debilitation, and themes of suicide and psychology – you’re probably thinking it’s not for you. It might hit too close to home. It might not be remotely relatable. I might be scared of the main character. Daley King blows all of those thoughts clean out of the water. It’s an inclusive show that delves deep into King’s own psyche without alienating anyone. If anything, he embraces everyone’s differences to highlight how similar we actually are, deep down.

First off, this is not a conventional play. King – you know what, I think he’d prefer to be called Daley – is sitting in a bathtub (presumably naked) surrounded by mirrors that reflect the audience back onto itself. It’s a powerful analogy, and is used to its full effect later as people are confronted unflinchingly by Daley’s never-ending list of mental disorders. It seems that the play will be linear and contain a beginning, middle and end – yet despite actually following this structure, it feels like Daley has re-written the rule book. What is presented, is an idea – well, multiple ideas. It’s a conversation and a meditation on what a good show should have.

Sitting in the bathtub whilst talking to his phychologist (Amy Murray), Daley essentially lists all the problems he has, all of the dreams and ideas he has, the way the world sees him, and how he fits into the world. It’s a verbal exercise in free writing – a way for Daley to get his thoughts out there without adhering to a restricted format. Daley’s thoughts are usually presented in blocks of ten. He likes the number ten. Describing how breathing and water have been integral to Daley since his diagnosis of asthma (a quantifiable diagnosis) and how they became a psychological crutch in the midst of various mental health issues (a not-so quantifiable thing) he is able to provide a palpable metaphor for anyone who has felt like the water is rising.

6

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a conventional play, so writing a conventional review would just be naive. To fall back onto cliches surrounding mental health theatre pieces like how brave or candid the piece is would not do it justice. Yes, Daley is incredibly brave baring all (almost all) and sitting in his bathtub of thoughts, literally exposing himself, warts and all, but I feel that it goes deeper than that. It’s raw and honest but not in a trite way. Daley’s fears (both rational and irrational) are just talked out – Murray represents Daley’s inner psyche – someone he can really trust to hash out his thoughts and feelings.

The poignant and sad moments appear more uplifting than anything else. Daley reads from his suicide note, and explains how he tried to do it. In a scene that could come off as clumsy and cliche in the wrong hands – Daley delivers the audience into an almost euphoric state as we achieve a baptism into the world of self acceptance. Daley is a funny guy. His dry wit – ironic considering he literally sits in water the whole time – and intellectual musings are poetic and sardonic at once. He philosophises with the best and does so with a half smile and endearing irreverence. Hold Your Breath (Count To Ten) is the honest conversation with a man of the arts you never knew you needed. It might just make you shout Eureka! when you do.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 23 – 28 April 2018 | 7pm & 1 – 12 May 2018 | 8:30pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 60 mins | Suitable 15+ | Warning – themes of suicide | THEATRE

14

 

Article, Interview

IN CONVERSATION: Elise Wilson of Hive Mind

“First you see the light.
Then you step into the light.
And then, finally, you become light.”

On a quiet night in the sleepy town of St Augustine, Haley Woodward goes missing while hiking through Box Elder Canyon. As Dale searches for the missing girl, his boyfriend Austin is becoming dangerously obsessed with a beehive, believing it grants him insight into the true nature of the universe.

This is Hive Mind – the new work from Perth theatre-maker Geordie Crawley. We caught up with Elise Wilson who plays missing girl, Haley, in the lead up to opening night. She was deep in rehearsal mode – trying to learn her lines – but admits that her mind streamlines things to ensure that she only memorises the content she needs. The key is internalisation for Wilson – she truly is her character:

I find that giving myself as little help as possible once I’ve read them. I’ll read a line and then I don’t allow myself to look at it again. Because if I just read it over and over I find that my brain doesn’t really absorb the line. I have to force myself to do it all from memory.

Being line-perfect isn’t as important as character development. Wilson would rather stop and think about the character’s motivation and also how they would react to what’s going on around her. In doing so, she finds that the lines come flooding back! It’s all about text analysis – what is going on?

In Hive Mind, Wilson’s character Haley is predominantly movement-based, so she doesn’t really have too many lines. Interestingly, it’s been a very maleable process.

Originally, I would be speaking at the same time as Haydon who plays Austin. But when we were playing with it, it didn’t really work so we kept the movement and I now don’t have any dialogue but move in sync with Haydon.

Devising and adaptability are Wilson’s bread and butter, being in her final year at WAAPA, where she is encouraged to become a theatre-maker rather than just an actor, singer, writer, director etc. “I like to think I can adapt!” When you’re devising, you get to know the piece much better – the themes, the ideas, what is being said. Not that Wilson doesn’t enjoy reading an established script – she relishes the challenge of analysis.

Rehearsal_Hive-44

So, what are you going to get when you see Hive Mind? Haley goes missing in the woods, and Austin (partner to the lead detective of her disappearance investigation) discovers a bee-hive. Everything is connected to these parallel stories. The play has a five-year time jump but Wilson assures us there are no spoilers!

The only time that Haley and Austin have met is prior to the event – they both go through the same journey – however they choose a different path. Character-wise Haley and Austin are similar in the sense that they both become enlightened.

Beehives and the collective hive are very strong symbols – the entire play is set in a small town.

These events have a greater impact. Everyone knows who Haley is and what Austin is doing. The community is impacted which is seen further in the second half.

I asked Wilson if she is similar to any of the characters and she sympathises with Austin because

he reaches this enlightenment and he’s trying to persuade his partner and the community but no-one believes him, or won’t listen. I sometimes think of it in terms of veganism, because I’m a vegan. In my opinion – it’s like, these are the facts but no-one wants to hear it! You’re crazy, you’re extreme, no-one wants to know.

At the end of the day, people don’t like having their values challenged. Yet, Wilson firmly believes that veganism has increased at such a strong rate that it will eventually become normal. Crawley’s script has created a metaphor for many outlying, fringe movements that are finally coming to the fore.

Wilson was headhunted for the piece – deviser and director Geordie Crawley called her with her in mind for Haley. Jumping straight in, she was happy to be part of the process, especially considering she is still studying at WAAPA!

At the moment it’s really exciting. WAAPA does a show at The Blue Room called TILT every year where we self-direct and devise works to put onstage. So, this is great practice for me!

The Blue Room is a wonderful stomping ground to learn your skills, and Wilson knows how fortunate she is to be given this opportunity. So, come on down to the Blue Room and check out Elise and the crew performing this unique and clever theatre piece. When given three words to describe Hive Mind, Wilson says:

Enlightenment, community, questions.

We hope there is more enlightenment than anything else and look forward to seeing Wilson in action.

Interview | Laura Money

WHEN: 1 – 19 May 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 70 mins | Recommended 15+ | THEATRE

LINK: http://blueroom.org.au/events/hive-mind/

 

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Frank Enstein

In 2017, Co3 – Western Australia’s flagship contemporary dance company, teamed up with the legendary outfit The Farm – Queensland’s premier dance and theatre company to create Frank Enstein. It’s a fresh take on the old story that combines movement and physical theatre to question animation, nature, simplicity, communication and genius. It sold out.

This year, Frank Enstein returns to the Heath Ledger Theatre to change the game, yet again! Replacing the two lead roles with young adults adds a fresh and new way of perceiving these characters. Sixteen-year-old William Rees is sheer perfection in the title role of Frank. When he creates the ‘perfect man’ (Andrew Searle) and they compare body parts – Rees’ disabled arm standing in stark contrast to Searle’s muscular one, a rush of empathy envelops the audience – Frank, you are actually perfect, and we all fall in love with the affable genius.

There’s a lot more to loving the character of Frank than just his indomitable spirit – Rees’ movements are balletic, if slightly arrested, forming a spectacle like no other. Frenzied, jerky movements signify his unholy union with nature as he maniacally harnesses the power of lightning. Frank’s zeal is thrown into sharp relief by the wonderful sound and lighting design – it really feels like there is an electrical storm onstage.

Fifteen-year-old Luci Young plays the enthusiastic music and dance lover, Liz. Adrift in a sea of self-doubt and loneliness, Liz begins the show listening to an instructional dance tape – with hilarious results! Young’s indefatigable exuberance is infectious – despite being supposedly ‘bad’ at dancing, her incredible talent betrays her, as she is nothing but sublime. Upon meeting Frank, Liz’s trepidation quickly melts away as she discovers a kindred spirit and many ‘people’ to dance and play with.

Co3’s dancers, Talitha Maslin and Zachary Lopez along with Searle complete the enemble and all of them create a distinct and uplifting environment for their monsters to explore life and creation. It’s not all darkness and turmoil, though – Lopez provides some incredibly hilarious moments that children will giggle over. His character questions notions of gender, human conventions and our relationship with machines. His bizarre movements that include an almost mechanical tumbling and an interplay with some vacuum cleaners address human conventions in a fun and irreverent way.

Frank Enstein is a beautiful and uplifting story, expressed exquisitely through movement and dance. It is about acceptance and love and tells a potentially dark story in a whimsical and accessible way.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 11 – 15 April 2018 | 7:30pm (matinee Sun 15 5pm)

WHERE: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre WA

INFO: Tickets $35 – $50 | Duration 60 mins | Suitable ages 8+ (accompanied by adult) | DANCE

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/frank-enstein/

WHEN: 11 – 15 April 2018 | 7:30pm (matinee Sun 15 5pm)

WHERE: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre WA

INFO: Tickets $35 – $50 | Duration 60 mins | Suitable ages 8+ (accompanied by adult) | DANCE

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/frank-enstein/

 

 

 

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: The Cunning Little Vixen

The Cunning Little Vixen is the early twentieth century avant garde work Perth audiences have been crying out for. WA Opera will continue to play it safe in the remainder of the season (Don Giovanni and Carmen), yet for their first foray onto the stage at His Majesty’s Theatre audiences are treated to an incredibly moving and irreverent production complete with turbulent impressionistic score, heartfelt performances, and innovative costumes.

Originally devised by Victorian Opera, the beauty and cyclical nature of the forest is embraced and takes on a new relevance in the seasonal Perth climate. Richard Roberts’ minimalistic set is brilliantly simplistic and majestic at once. Consisting of wooden representations of trees that cast the most beautiful shadows under the lighting design by Trudy Dalgleish, the set is a literal backdrop allowing the vibrant and innovative costumes and sweeping scale and pent up energy of the titular vixen herself to take centre-stage. And what costumes! It is a real treat to see Roger Kirk‘s quirky and clever costuming – from a literal cricket (complete with pads, helmet and wickets) to a bouncy and slippery frog, every detail is precisely executed down to the last feather!

As Janacek‘s enchanting score comes to life, a forest idyll unfurls before us – a lazy summer’s day in the forest glade bursts forth with life – the frog, a cranky badger, grasshopper and cricket, a fussy owl resplendent in Dame Edna-esque feathers and spectacles all ducking the blood-sucking mosquito (a total crack up with its syringes and cylinders of blood!) Playfully flitting about the forest is the little vixen – as the score takes on an almost mythic tone, the Forester (James Clayton) enters and settles down for his ‘midsummer night’s dream.’ A beautifully clever timelapse occurs to depict the capture and eventual growing up of the Vixen (Emma Pearson) from energetic little girl to self-assured and scrappy fighter.

Pearson is absolutely endearing as the titular Vixen – her diminutive figure playfully and cockily flits in between the trees as her fun yet haunting two-note motif reflect her inner emotions, from excitement, to love, and eventually torment. The hen scene is probably one of the most fun and enduring moments to be staged by WA Opera – Director Stuart Maunder captures the flightly, broody, and ‘flock mentality’ of the silly hens perfectly. Dressed immaculately in white fluffy corsets, they prance and primp their way across the stage, tormenting the hungry and feminist Vixen. In a whirlwind of fluttering flutes and dramatic horns and drums, the Vixen cunningly tricks the Rooster and lays waste to the entire henhouse before making her daring and exciting escape.

Returning to the forest, the Vixen’s energy is renewed as she realises how powerful a figure she cuts. Pearson’s confidence soars in unison with her voice as she turfs out the badger and becomes the new Queen of the forest. There is genuine fun as Rachelle Durkin enters dressed as the dandy fox – this costume looks straight out of Wind in the Willows! Durkin is a wonderfully expressive performer, her face says it all and the comic nature of the Fox and Vixen’s courting is certainly not lost in the charm of Durkin’s mannerisms. When Janacek first stumbled upon these forest characters in a comic serial back in 1920, he immediately saw them manifested to life in front of his closed eyes. Durkin, Pearson and the company of forest dwellers really bring an energy to the characters – there is genuine emotional investment and celebration as the score provides a folk-inspired wedding in the final long days of Autumn.

Winter approaches and with it, the drama turns to the human protagonists. Clayton’s Forester is brooding and obsessed with trying to tame the Vixen – or exact his revenge on her. The Parson (Paull-Anthony Keightley) clearly has a problem with alcohol, and could be questioning his faith. Keightley’s unique baritone mires his troubles in the depths of despair, especially as he covets the (unseen) Terynka. Matt Rueben is a sympathetic character as the Schoolmaster, yet his pining over Terynka seems a little incongrouos to an audience that is more invested in the Vixen’s story – the lamentations of the humans feel a little shoehorned, but that is unfortunately the yoke WA Opera must wear when producing a work they can’t manipulate.

Durkin and Pearson continue to charm as this beautifully staged work comes to a close. Pearson’s voice bounces with laughter as she explains to her kittens how she will always outsmart the Forester. The bittersweet conclusion of the work will leave an indelible print on your memory. As the Forester returns to the forest glade, Clayton’s expression perfectly captures the ups and downs of life. He sits down to enjoy another sleep, and is reminded by the grandson of the very frog he saw all those seasons ago, of the eternally renewing power of nature. Full of worldly wisdom, the Forester allows himself to re-set into a calmer state of mind and does not repeat his earlier mistake of interfering with the way of the world.

It’s a stunning production of a turbulent and dramatic work. WA Opera’s The Cunning Little Vixen is the perfect mixture of experimental theatre, innovative design, and intuitive direction. This is the sort of work that sets the bar high, and it would be great if we could continue to raise it every time.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 21, 24, 26, 28 April 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: His Majesty’s Theatre

INFO: Tickets $30 – $115 | Duration 1 hour 30 mins (including interval) | Suitable 9+ (with adult accompaniment) | Audio described performance 26 April | OPERA

LINK: https://www.waopera.asn.au/shows/onstage/the-cunning-little-vixen/

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: Tom Vickers and the Extraordinary Adventure of his Missing Sock

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre have long been innovators in children’s theatre and they have absolutely outdone themselves in their latest interactive work – Tom Vickers and the Extraordinary Adventure of his Missing Sock. Teaming up with WA Museum, the interactive experience sees you navigating the secret rooms, nooks and crannies of three different museum sites to reveal the story of Tom Vickers, understand more about the earth we tread, and perform small acts of kindness.

Opening at the historical WA Shipwrecks Museum in Fremantle (before moving on to Geraldton and Albany), Spare Parts have taken over the whole building with nineteen unique installations. It’s a beautiful aesthetic – the building really lends itself to the charm of the work, and it’s great to see previously unused spaces – well, unknown to the public anyway – as the backdrop for the activity. Tom Vickers begins with a video presentation of Vickers himself reminiscing about the Christmas truce in World War I. It’s a familiar story, but one that is so beautiful I could hear it over and over again. The threads of WWI and the conditions that everyone endured are woven throughout the piece. After the video you are asked to choose your own adventure – picking either a trail of wool or shoelaces to follow.

The installations are tucked into cupboards under the stairs, disused offices, large open spaces, sheds and more. You learn about the initiative by the Australian Government to send knitted socks to the front, how the regulations were so strict that even the colour grey was the only one allowed to be used, how some women ‘went rogue’ and slipped in bright coloured wool with pompoms and fun decorations – you even get to contribute to the sock making effort by knitting a few rows yourself! The giant sock pile is the eighth wonder of the world – a truly spectacular effort produced by many talented people. It stands as a sobering reminder of how many soldiers we sent to the front lines, yet is also serves as a whimsical and amusing installation that encourages a sense of wonder and imagination. There’s something wonderful about being small in a world of giant objects and this mountain of socks skimming the ceiling will endure in your memory for many years to come.

Credit Matt Sav_Vickers

The story progresses through campsite cooking stations – I’ve never seen children so excited to peel vegetables before! – to propaganda lined offices; from stories of people who served to the dreaded trenches themselves. Let’s be honest here: anything that lets children squelch their way through mud is going to be a winner! It then takes a philosophical turn and encourages you to contemplate the concept of land. The dirt and soil we walk on; the unique composition of our own backyard; concepts of identity and what it means to be Australian; but mostly how land can regenerate and grow after devastation. The children are encouraged to perform a small act of kindness that will impact the future and read about what makes people happy.

Tom Vickers and the Extraordinary Adventure of his Missing Sock is about making connections with each other, it transcends generations and reveals that we all have more in common than we realise. Through the act of following the threads and knitting, we are literally weaving together people’s stories and experiences, their hopes and dreams, their sense of place and the indomitable spirit of humanity. It’s full of fun twists and turns, incredibly detailed installations, puzzles and clues, and of course…mud! Get yourself down to the museum for the experience of a lifetime – forget escape rooms, this is the adventure for kids you just can’t miss!

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 14 – 29 April 2018,

10 – 13 May 2018

1 – 4 June 2018

WHERE: WA Shipwrecks Museum| Fremantle | 1 Cliff Street, Fremantle (APRIL)

Museum of Geraldton (MAY)

Museum of Great Southern | Albany (JUNE)

INFO: Tickets $25 | Duration – 50 – 90 mins (at your own pace) | Recommended ages 5+ | Various times from 10am| IMMERSIVE THEATRE

LINK: http://www.sppt.asn.au/events/tom-vickers-extraordinary-adventure-missing-sock/

Wireless_Vickers

Coming Soon, Review

REVIEW: Find The Lady | 4.5 stars

Review | Laura Money

Can you Find The Lady? Matt Penny, magician extraordinaire tells the ultimate story of the conman conned. He is charming and delightful, and a bit of a mind-blower!

Filing in past Penny sat at a keyboard he is awkwardly and badly attempting to play, one isn’t quite sure what to expect. It’s a dark room with only the piano, a small packing box and a tiny glass case propped up in the corner.  After minutes of frustrated banging, Penny gives up and starts to explain to the audience how the famous Find The Lady card trick is played. It’s a sleight of hand – a con. Listening to Penny as he deftly manipulates a pack of cards in one hand, smile playing on his lips, it feels intimate – like sharing an extraordinary story with a bunch of friends at a pub.

Penny weaves the tale of his magical discovery in a colloquial manner – he also gives a masterclass in the cheeky con – with his London lilt. Penny’s secret weapon allows him to play the piano beautifully – hands flying effortlessly across the keyboard  – and also to do magic. Not Harry Potter kind of magic, Penny’s tricks are more impressive as he incorporates his mentalist skills to their full potential. He is such a charming and affable figure, that even when the audience is wary, they still fully embrace the interaction.

The story reads like a larger than life fable – it seems extraordinary because it is. The combination of strange but possibly true story and charming, impressive tricks is where the real magic lies. It’s not showy, it’s not brash, it’s even tinged in sadness at times. Find The Lady will not fail to elicit a few smiles, and even more gasps of amazement – it’s an understated masterpiece, much like Penny himself.

WHEN: 6 – 9 June 2018| 9:00pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | SUBIACO

INFO: Tickets $25 – $28 | Duration 50 mins | Recommended 15+ | WA artist | THEATRE

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/find-the-lady/

 

 

 

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/

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/