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REVIEW: Roald Dahl’s The Twits

By Laura Money

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre are back in their refurbished home in Fremantle and are bringing you the razztwizzling wonderful show Roald Dahl’s The Twits. Based on the clever and hilarious book by acclaimed children’s author, Roald Dahl, The Twits tells the story of the ugly and horrible old couple – Mr and Mrs Twit – who terrorise the local bird population and each other in a series of horrendous pranks and capers that ultimately lead to a rather sticky end.

Director, Michael Barlow: “Mr and Mrs Twit are terrible people but very funny characters and it’s so satisfying seeing Muggle-Wump the Monkey and the Roly-Poly Bird outwit them. Roald Dahl has a special gift for making fun of adults who treat children unfairly and our heroes can only win by breaking the rules and playing a few tricks of their own. As laugh-out-loud entertaining as The Twits is, it is a great show for encouraging us all to think about how we treat each other.”

Performers Jessica Harlond-Kenny and Geordie Crawley are truly wonderful performers of children’s theatre. Their witty banter and over-the-top physical movements are the perfect for gaining giggles and gasps from all the children in the crowd. They put so much into the silly and frankly, ugly Twits – from farcical trumpeting to menacing laughter. Crawley’s hilarious accent is at its peak when gleefully singing the bird pie song and Harlond-Kenny has such nuanced and emotional facial expression as Muggle-Wump the monkey, that one could be forgiven for not noticing the puppet.

The puppetry is outstanding – Mr and Mrs Twit’s masks are intricate and dynamic. The design is quite urban and reminiscent of a Picasso portrait, without any of its beauty. Crawley and Harlond-Kenny manipulate the masks in a way that is playful and exaggerated – using their bodies for the close up scenes and the funny little puppet-bodies that dangle beneath the masks for when they are far away. Muggle-Wump the monkey is a classic puppet with articulated wooden tail and squeaky body, and the Roly-Poly bird is just charming in its simple design. Consisting only of two parts, Crawley really out does himself flouncing around as the haughty bird.

credit Jessica Wyld

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre have a well-deserved reputation for bringing intelligent and emotionally responsible works to children who are encouraged to engage in large political and social ideas. Roald Dahl’s The Twits is the perfect vehicle to elicit empathy and a feeling of social justice. The characters are horrible – they really represent the worst of humanity – they exploit animals, cruelly trap birds for food, are genuinely nasty to each other, and even hate children! The brave actions of Muggle-Wump and the Roly-Poly bird highlight to children that anyone can stand up for what they believe in, and might even inspire them to do so.

The Twits is a ringbeller adventure of scrottiness and goodness, rebellion and justice. The show’s gloriumptious blend of comedy and puppetry is the perfect way to have a whoopsy wiffling time this summer with the whole family.

WHEN: 8 – 27 January 2018 | Various times

WHERE: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | Fremantle

INFO: Tickets $23 – $25 | Duration 50 mins | Perfect for ages 5+ | Q&A after each show

LINK: http://www.sppt.asn.au/events/the-twits/

 

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on now

ON NOW: Santa’s Magical Kingdom

By Laura Money

What could be more fun this Christmas than heading into a winter wonderland in the middle of Australia’s scorching summer? Grab the kids and the family and head down to Santa’s Magical Kingdom for the ultimate Christmas experience. You’ll be greeted by Mrs Clause at the base of giant Christmas tree decorations, glittering and blinking their lights in the huge tent. From there, you can play carnival games like fishing for ducks or clowns, or whiz around on the many rides – from traditional carousel to rollercoaster, to bumper cars.

Enter the many enchanted kingdoms – make your own Christmas decorations, pipe sugar and spice onto your very own ginger bread man, and delight in the snow falling in the Ice Queen’s frozen realm. You can write a letter to Santa with the help of Mrs Clause, and even have your photo taken with the great man himself. There are plenty of fun things to do, but don’t miss the circus performance full of elves, toys, and motorbikes!

Santa’s Magical Kingdom is great for children of all ages (perfect for 4-9) and just pure fun. It captures the magic of Christmas and gives kids a glimpse at the elusive figure of Santa as he prepares for the biggest holiday of the year.

WHEN: 1 – 23 December 2017 | 10am, 2pm, 6pm on selected days

WHERE: Crown Pyramid | Crown Casino | Burswood

INFO: Tickets: Adult $43.29 | Junior (2-12 yrs) $40.23 | Family passes and VIP pacages available | Suitable 2+ | Food available for purchase | Santa photo packages available for purchase | General admission

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

 

Interview, on now

INTERVIEW: Lisa McCune

By Laura Money

Lisa McCune is one of Australia’s most popular and successful screen and theatre actors, earning an impressive collection of awards celebrating her performances, including four Gold Logies for Most Popular Personality on Australian television.

Among her many musical acting credits, McCune has starred in The King And I, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Urinetown, The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, Guys And Dolls and, of course, South Pacific.

McCune will be back in her hometown of Perth to perform in From Broadway To La Scala – an evening of music from operas and musicals alongside David Hobson, Greta Bradman and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.

We caught up with her in the lead up to the show at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 9 December 2017.

This is the second time you and the crew have staged From Broadway To La Scala – how did it come about in the first place?

Well, I was doing South Pacific at the time, so I knew Teddy, I’d met David once before and I’d never met Greta – so I’m not exactly sure how it all came together but I think it was a hit!

Were you expecting it to be as well received as it was?

Oh, it was pretty overwhelming actually! I think, surprisingly not a lot of this kind of work is done – most orchestras have a program and stick to their annual program, but really I don’t know that it’s done a lot, even in commercial shows. I think they do it a lot overseas.

It’s been really enjoyable and I think the audiences have really liked it. It’s a great mix – I don’t do the opera but the other guys also do musical theatre, so it’s really nice that they have the ability to go back and forth which is great. Especially David Hobson, he crosses genres incredibly well, I think.

So, what’s it like performing in a concert format rather than a full musical? Is there an explanation about each song, how is the flow?

Yes, we talk about the songs, I think most people would have heard all of the tunes before, I mean there might be one or two that we’re doing this time that are a bit unique in the theatre songbook, but most of them, people know. And the opera ones – people love the opera ones, they’re like the greatest hits really, very well known.

I think the material is very musical in that regard, it’s so hard to choose the music you’re going to perform, so fortunately Vanessa Scammell our music director and Tyran Parke our director, got together and did it for us, to balance the show. It’s a mixed repertoire.

Yes, you’re right about the ‘greatest hits’ idea because it’s what people have come to see. It’s something that, as you mention is different in Australia, it’s like playing a CD of songs from musicals and opera.

And I tell you what, that is the hardest part, when you sit down with a pen and piece of paper and ask – what should we include in the concert? It’s so hard because there’s so much good material, there are so many different great combinations. For me, I love what I do as each of the characters, I keep coming back to the question before and I think you kind of justify it in the song and explain it a little bit first but you don’t need to overly explain it – just put it into context for the character.

You have a wonderful resume of musicals under your belt, from classics like The Sound of Music to contemporary works like Urinetown, what is it about musicals that is so compelling to you?

I once heard someone say, when talking about theatre – a character will break into song because they can’t utter the words anymore – and that always made sense. I loved the fact that these characters explode into song – and that’s to me what won me over – they just can’t utter it anymore in words.

I think Shakespeare’s language becomes very beautiful when the characters get going, when they get a rhythm going, and that’s similar to musical theatre, I think, there’s a great joy in getting lost in a character and going on a journey onstage with a couple of songs and dance routines thrown in!

Absolutley! Did you always want to sing and act? Did you study musical theatre at WAAPA or was that not one of the components?

I did do musical theatre, I think for me it was my love of – I used to play netball on a Saturday, and then race home because in the afternoon (I think it was channel 9 or 7, I can’t remember which one) they had movies on. I’d come home from doing sport and just go and watch movies – a lot of movie musicals, and then of course Grease came out and all of the Lloyd-Webber musicals, and Les Miserables.

I remember seeing Les Mis in Sydney when I was visiting my grandmother, and I remember sitting in the theatre and just feeling so overwhelmed and in awe of it. I just knew I wanted to do that – it was incredible, and I remember thinking – that’s what I want to do in life. I’m constantly searching for that for my children – that lightbulb moment for them because it really was a lightbulb moment for me.

Then I just – I mean, I’d already been doing dancing classes but I really started taking it seriously and I found a glorious singing teacher in WA, Gloria Wilson who was just so inspirational and integral in the beginning of my career. She was such a fine teacher and a fine woman, and I think that she is largely responsible for me going along with my passion – she turned it into a reality, really.

I love how you want your children to find that spark! Would it concern you if they were to follow in your theatrical footsteps?

No, but it’s interesting because I don’t encourage it at all! I think that they need to find it themselves because if they want to grow that they really have to want it for themselves. They have to find what they love about it and if they’re passionate enough, then I’ll support them in whatever they want to be.

Ok, you’ve been involved in television and movies and straight theatre as opposed to musicals, but did you ever have anything to do with opera? Did you ever watch opera and enjoy it?

Well, my singing teacher, Gloria has a daughter, Lisa who is fortunately in WA and teaches now, they taught a lot of lighter works – that I used to sing, probably very badly! I kind of got an appreciation of opera and over the years I’ve heard more and when I did South Pacific, Bartlett Sher who was the director, had worked with the Metropolitan Opera, and he’d talk about all the incredible singers – so I’d go home and Google them and listen to them sing.

Having that exposure for today’s performers, to be able to see what’s going on in the world is awesome because I sat there and listened to it and was like – wow! I mean, I knew I’d love it but funnily enough the storylines in operas aren’t too dissimilar to musical theatre. There are the same kind of themes of love and betrayal, you know they’re all still the same story but musically they’re different.

Yes, I consider opera to be the extreme end of musical theatre.

Yeah, I mean I think that the skill-set level in opera is extraordinary. I see the preparation and just what goes on with the singers I’m working with now and it’s huge. It’s kind of like being a doctor but going on to be a specialist – they really devote their lives to it and it’s huge learning opera. I said to Greta the other day – how long do you give yourself to learn a new opera? And she said: I like a year. Obviously that’s not working full time but just to work for a couple of months, let it settle to come back to it every few months. It’s a total immersion and it’s like being an elite athlete, I have the utmost respect for them.

I guess the skill-set for a musical theatre performer is a lot of hard work as well. Not just vocally but all the other things that go with it – you need to learn to dance and really understand the story because there’s a lot of dialogue. You need to have your acting chops up too! They do require very different things but that’s why it’s lovely working with these guys and the symphony orchestra – it gives me a great insight and great respect for what they do.

So how do you approach this concert, differently? Obviously you’re coming at it from a musical theatre background, but you’re learning from the operatic perspective – are they learning from you as well?

Well, I might be able to teach them a ‘step ball-change’ or a bit of a ‘jazz walk!’ But, no, they’re great and I remember David saying to me last time – try to do that bow slightly differently because it changes the quality of your voice. Things like that are invaluable and I’m the kind of person who is very collaborative so I love that constant learning. But that goes on in any room, I did a production of Follies In Concert last year and Nancye Hayes was in the room and that’s a masterclass just standing in the rehearsal room with her. And Phillip Quast, Debra Byrne – you learn from every performer, it doesn’t matter the level of experience, they all bring something unique to the room. You never stop learning.

You guys seem to have a pretty good relationship and camaraderie going into the show, what’s it like in the rehearsal room? Do you mess around and then get down to business?

Look, it starts to get very hilarious around five o’clock when everyone’s getting a bit tired. It kind of gets overly creative, if you know what I mean! We do things that could never possibly get up onto the stage! We do really have a good time, you know, it’s that thing in a room full of performers when the ego is not there and you’re all focused on producing a good show for the audience. And that’s what I think Andrew McKinnon and Phil Barthols manage to do with the show, bring really lovely people in the room and we’re putting on a bit of a show!

And how much of an impact do the producers have in the room?

Well, we haven’t got the producers in the room as such – we’ve got the director and musical director so we’re really doing the nuts and bolts work. The presentation of the piece is where their expertise comes in and trying to make sure the program is going to suit an audience that they understand it as well. I’ve been lucky, I’ve had wonderful producers to work for. Phil was actually one of the producers who went through WAAPA at the same time as me. It’s great to have a local producer on board, which is really exciting.

Obviously the show has had quite a few changes since 2015, what new material are you most looking forward to performing?

In the last year, we’ve seen the musical Beautiful come, so last time David and I did a piece called “Falling” from the musical Once and so we wanted to take people to musical theatre that is new. And Beautiful has now put Carole King into the theatre landscape, so we’re doing one of the songs from Beautiful which is really lovely, and David plays guitar for it.

So it’s a really eclectic mix, and I’m really enjoying that because I’m one of the few people in the world who didn’t really know James Taylor and Carole King that well. So, I had this kind of epiphany and I was doing all my work learning the song and I started looking into James Taylor and researching his life and his work, it’s awesome when you’ve got resources like that – you find a whole new genre of music that you’d never really heard of.

So, would you ever branch out into a music concert that doesn’t involve musicals? You know, just popular music like Carole King or others?

I think if someone went and did a concert with people doing all of Carole King’s songs and it was the right bunch of people and I felt it was the right thing to do, yeah I’d absolutely love to! It would be good fun, yeah.

When you sing each piece, obviously they’re stand alone – do you find that you act the piece as well?

Look, some people obviously don’t but for me, I need to find something in it that links to the words. I mean, the Carole King that we’re doing is kind of a love song, so yeah you do – you use elements of yourself, obviously your own though processes. I’m doing “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys And Dolls and I use Lisa McCune’s thinking to put the character of Adelaide on stage to tell her story, so yes I do find it really handy. I mean, it’s much easier to do that with some of the songs, but I think that to me it’s really important.

Do you have a song that you could just perform over and over if you had to, like your ‘desert island song’?

Oh, I love that, a desert island song! Um, I’ve done so many. I love Stephen Sondheim musicals, and I don’t know. I love music too much to even answer that question, it’s too hard! If I was allowed to take one CD, I’d probably take Into The Woods. It’s wonderful!

Do you sing anything from Into The Woods in this concert?

No, I don’t in this one. I’ve done “Steps of the Palace” before, I actually played Cinderella many years ago – gorgeous show, gorgeous role and just so much fun.

From Broadway to La Scala is a national tour, so what’s it like playing back in Perth at the Perth Concert Hall and being home?

Oh, it’s awesome! I used to work as an usher at Perth Concert Hall and so that’s really cool in itself, just to stand on the concert hall stage – it’s a really beautiful theatre. When the seats are full, I love it, I think it’s a great theatre. I’m looking forward to coming home, unfortunately I’m not going to be there for very long, I’ll probably fit breakfast in with my Dad or something.

But my daughter is finishing primary school on the Friday before the Saturday show, so the producers have been very kind and are letting me pick her up from school before I jump on a plane. It’s a life moment that you kind of can’t miss and then I’ll fly back early Sunday morning, so I literally finish the show and have to jump on a plane to get back to Melbourne for a dance concert for my daughter. Mummy duty calls and I need to come home and spend more time with them – but I love coming back to Perth and hopefully there’ll be a few more jobs that bring me back to Perth soon.

FROM BROADWAY TO LA SCALA plays at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 9th December, 7:30pm at PERTH CONCERT HALL.

Tickets: http://frombroadwaytolascala.com.au/

 

In Brief, on now, Review

IN BREIF: Masterclass | Valentine | Twelfth Night

By Laura Money

MASTERCLASS | SUBIACO ARTS CENTRE | ENDS 2nd DECEMBER | 7:30pm

https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/terrence-mcnally-s-masterclass/

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I cannot overstate how sublime a show Masterclass is. Amanda Muggleton is flawless  in her portrayal of the tough yet vulnerable Maria Callas. Her performance is a true tour de force and is in itself a masterclass in acting. Muggleton flawlessly embodies the fiery, forthright and fabulous diva known as ‘la divina’ at her most tempestuous when barking orders at stage hands and her pupils, and at her most intimate – stripping back the years to a time when Callas was not on top of the world.

Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher creates a wonderfully inclusive work with the actors performing later integrated into the audience, placing the audience at the mercy of Muggleton’s Callas – and she gives a no holds barred criticism of everyone. Kala Gare, Jessica Boyd, and Rocco Speranza are wonderful new talents as the students of Callas, and are all ones to watch. Spreadbury-Maher uses real recordings of Callas, old photographs, and the spotlight to great effect – really placing one in the most poignant of intimate memories juxtaposed with moments of extreme publicity. To put it simply – Masterclass is exquisite.

VALENTINE | THE BLUE ROOM THEATRE | ENDS 2nd DECEMBER | 7:00pm

http://blueroom.org.au/events/valentine/

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In Valentine, Kynan Hughes attempts to break the cycle of cliches that the commedia dell’arte characters have been playing out for centuries – the bully, the innocent, the manipulator, and the object of desire. Each actor takes a mask and a persona and seeks to challenge those very stories that have influenced drama since time immemorial. Hughes has each actor (save one) continually change masks in order to blur the division between character and actor.

The dancing is phenomenal, it’s physical and earthy, yet at times elegant and mysterious. The masks are true works of art, and the playful elements of the puppetry highlights the attitude of the piece. Unfortunately, the message falls a little short and could do with more subtlety in its rendering. The feminist message comes across as tokenistic and abrupt, its highlighting of inequality should have been a part of the dance, not the dialogue, as the dancing really is the strength of the company.

Full of whishing capes and fabric, whimsical masks, and dark expressions of love and desire, Valentine is a wonderfully unique piece that shouldn’t be missed.

TWELFTH NIGHT |  MURDOCH UNIVERSITY AMPHITHEATRE  | ENDS 2 DEC | 7:30pm

https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=319614

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What could be more summery than sitting outside with the smell of aeroguard in the air for a twilight performance of a Shakespeare play? Well, perhaps not everyone thinks Shakespeare is synonymous with summer, but it should be. Modicum Theatre Perth understand how atmosphere is everything, and to give them their credit, they create the perfect space for Twelfth Night. With a stripped back stage and simple costume elements not entirely covering their black Modicum t-shirts and leggings, a la Bell Shakespeare, the young company focus on the words and the farce rather than all the trappings of medieval theatre. (It’s also cunningly budget friendly!)

Modicum have good intentions here – director Leigh Fitzpatrick asks the audience to forgive the changes to the original, changes that are largely positive. Being outdoors, projection is a problem, and some of the clever ideas that make a show stand out, such as entering through the audience for some scenes get a little lost in the vastness. For me, Shakespeare (well, all theatre really) is about knowing what you’re saying – knowing your character and their motivations, and if I’m being honest, I don’t feel that every performer achieves that level of intimacy with their character. Special commendation must go to Abbey McCaughan and Mike Cass who portray their characters with intimacy and don’t fall into the comfort of Shakespeare’s cadence. Their performances stand out as they sometimes break up the rhythm of their speech with the emotion of the characters.

Of course, Twelfth Night is the perfect choice for an outdoor show – it’s farcical and fun, the perfect accompaniment for a night on the green!

 

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: The Hostage

By Laura Money

Mentor and theatre-maker, Tim Brain has created a rollercoaster of a play complete with all of the thriller tropes – women held against their will, medical experimentation, abusive captors, and every twist and turn imaginable. He works with four incredibly talented students – some of them only first years – who created and devised The Hostage as a project together. This collaborative process shines through in the final product – a comprehensive piece of theatre that tells its story in a concise and economic manner.

Borrowing heavily from the thriller genre on screen, the audience is taken on a journey they should be familiar with. The set is simple – three bare-bulbed industrial looking lights, only one spotlight lit, a young girl tied to a basic metal chair, and a rocking track blasting from a transistor radio in the corner. Straight out of a Tarrantino movie, the girl (Melissa Escobar) screams a blood curdling scream, and bucks wildly against the chair – eventually breaking free and managing to turn off the music. This whole scene sets the tone for the entire work. It’s such a raw reaction – Escobar’s performance would not be out of place in a Hitchcock or Tarrantino movie. She gives everything to her reaction, and it’s not forced or over the top.

After discovering that she is not alone, Escobar is confronted by another girl in identical shift-like clothing (Ella Ewart.) Their clash is violent and explosive – neither performer holds back – they scream and shout and argue in an indistinguishable high-pitched wail – their voices intertwining in animalistic shrieks. After the two victims calm down, they enter a cycle of confusion and guarded dialogue – they try to remember who they are and how they got there. Repetition of dialogue is key. The same refrain and questions are repeated in an endless loop of frustration. At times the delivery is reflective, others angry – but each time we garner a little more information.

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The audience is kept in the dark as much as the girls. Each time the door opens, we glimpse two large male figures – Jason Tolje and Jacob Murphy – who eventually menace the girls in different fashions. Particular praise goes to Murphy who walks the delicate line of torturer and carer in his tender facial expressions. Tolje is an imposing figure, yet resists leaning on his physicality to drive his character development. There are two power dynamics occurring here – one between the women and one between the men, and oftentimes ne’er the twain shall meet. With so many twists and turns, and repetition as a motif, it is difficult to see too much character development, however, the sharp and gritty script allows for more details of the characters to be revealed.

Brain said that he wanted to create a theatrical piece that spoke to the thriller genre. The Hostage is a fond homage to it, complete with all the elements that could only be found in the movies. Where The Hostage is successful is in building suspense through good pacing, long stares that don’t collapse into the absurd, and a set and lighting design that has taken its cue direct from the aesthetics of the greatest thrillers. It’s a visceral experience that captures the spirit of the genre and renders it more immediate – you can see the sweat dripping, the veins pulsing – you can feel the vibrations of the blood-curdling screams, and your heart hammering wildly against your chest. Not since The Sixth Sense has there been such a subtle and intelligent re-imagining of the thriller genre – twist notwithstanding.

WHEN: 23 – 25 November 2017 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Studio 411, Murdoch University (Carpark 4, 90 South Street, Murdoch)

INFO: Tickets $15 | Duration 40 minutes | Horror themes | Adult language | Suitable 15+

LINK: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=326472

 

 

Interview, on now

INTERVIEW: Tim Brain

By Laura Money

Tim Brain is the innovative co-founder of From The Hip Productions and teacher at Murdoch University. Born out of a desire to work with young theatre-makers, Brain and his students devised The Hostage – a Tarrantino-style thriller with all the twists and turns usually found in its filmic counterpart.We caught up with Tim ahead of opening night on Thursday 23rd November, 2017.

Tim, you had a pretty good success with The Mummy Rises last year, and The Hostage is another thriller – how did it all come about? What’s the journey from Mummy to The Hostage?

Well, The Mummy Rises is a thriller but it’s more of a comedy thriller – so it had horror elements but it had a comedy feel to it. We were trying to be as funny as we could and I suppose the experiment with that was, could we make people laugh and then scare them soon afterwards? Could we keep the tension but still have a few laughs? So, The Hostage is quite different. There aren’t a lot of laughs in this one!

In fact, it’s kind of born out of The Mummy Rises in that, I wanted to work with this group of actors – here at Murdoch there are some quite extraordinary actors coming through, and there’s a group of four that I really wanted to work with. So, the idea was first born out of wanting to work with them and this year, in particular at Murdoch they’ve been doing a lot of quite comedic work, so quite funny – for instance, they’ve been doing a lot of children’s theatre, a lot of pantomime work, that kind of stuff, and I kept wanting to do something with them that would allow them to stretch themselves. I wanted something that would allow them to go to areas they hadn’t been able to go this year, and from that point of view I wanted to do something fairly dramatic.

I wanted to give them more experience at pushing them in areas they hadn’t worked in before, things they hadn’t done in a while, characters they hadn’t been able to play. We started to devise the piece – I had a rough idea of the storyline that I wanted, I’ve always been intrigued by the hostage drama genre, you know the Taken franchise, the ransom thing where someone has been kidnapped and how they get away and that sort of stuff. That kind of genre has always intrigued me, so we started from there.

We had a basic idea of where we wanted to start and where we wanted to finish, and between the five of us, we basically workshopped some ideas and pooled our ideas, and thought about where we’d like to see these characters go. Then I took all of that workshop material and went away and wrote the script and came back and we workshopped it a little more, and changed this and changed that – then I’d go away and write a bit more.

So it’s my script but it’s still a devised play. They all had very much an input into the work itself, which is great because we all have ownership over it as well.

So it’s far more collaborative rather than a ‘top-down’ system?

That’s right. So, it’s great if we feel like there’s something not quite right, the actors feel very open to saying – what if we did it this way? The kind of process I wanted to get into was I wanted to work with good actors but to give them more of a creative input into what the final piece actually looked like. I didn’t want them to be treated like just staff members who showed up and do the piece.

One of the things we’ve been so successful in here at Murdoch in the last five or six years is, creating what we like to call “theatre makers.” A lot of our more successful students, and we’ve had a lot of students who have gone on to be actors, but we’ve also had people like Scott McArdle and Joe Lui and people like that who are Murdoch graduates and are all good theatre makers. They actually devise their own theatre, they write their own theatre, and create their own theatre.

I wanted to introduce this group to that – and have them become creators of their own work, and in control of their own work.

And that probably opens them up to far more different experiences as well, what else do they cover?

Yes, certainly one of the things we do here, which separates us from say WAAPA or somewhere like that is we try to give them a much rounder experience. Some of our students who come through are sure that they’re going to be actors. Once they start doing backstage work, lighting, sound, stage management, they suddenly realise – I actually prefer this, this is my calling.

Again, we have a lot of people who are working in the [Perth] community who do backstage who started out with us. We don’t lock them in to anything – like you are an actor so you can only do acting – I actually think that if you’re going to be a good actor you need to know what the technicians around you are doing and if you’re going to be a good technician, you need to be able to know how difficult it actually is to get up on the stage. Most of our technicians have acted and most of our actors have been technicians.

It just gives them that little bit of extra knowledge about what’s going on around them, and then when they do create their own work it gives them a guide as to how to do it. They ask – how am I going to do that, how am I going to light that? So, they’re not coming at it from just an actor’s point of view, they’re coming at it from a theatre maker’s point of view.

And is that the kind of program that is typical for all drama students at Murdoch?

Yes, we try to give them as much of a rounded experience as possible. So, bringing it back to The Hostage, this is a good example of how we do that, so we devise the piece, as I said – I wanted to work with these guys, I think they’re an amazing group of young actors – but they’re still only first and second year students. When you see them, you’ll be quite amazed, they do some beautiful work. I just wanted to stretch them again so that they can experience different styles of theatre. They’re already talking about their own shows that they want to do and I think that’s only good. They generate work that can influence other students and help them. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, really.

How did you get into writing, directing and teaching? What’s your theatre story?

Many, many years ago I actually studied theatre! Back in the eighties and I got a degree in Theatre and Media, then in the early nineties I started my own company called From The Hip Productions with my wife. We do all kinds of stuff – theatre work, film work, we’ve put a feature film together which was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, we’ve done a variety of plays, we’ve worked with companies like 20th Century Fox, Disney and those kind of guys.

Eventually, though I just wanted to come back to theatre, so when the opportunity came up I came back to teaching and I’ve never really looked back. I’ve really enjoyed working with students and helping them get better, that’s what it’s all about.

When they come to you at the beginning, is it a case of having them unlearn what they were exposed to at high school?

Not necessarily, the high school programs are now becoming good, and that’s a weird thing as well because – obviously not everyone who studies theatre gets into the arts – we actually have a large number of our graduates go on to do a Dip Ed (Diploma of Education) and become drama teachers.

Even now, I get some students who are being taught by some of my students! So, it’s kind of a weird trickle-down effect, they’re coming in already knowing a lot of the things that we want them to know. Even if they’re not our students, the high school drama curriculum has gotten a lot better in the last, even ten years. It’s a much broader range of things they have to learn, so when they get here it’s really just about refining what they already know and then exposing them to new things.

Certainly on a technological level, a lot of them aren’t very aware of the technology of theatre, but they are very aware of the theories behind acting, and the history of theatre, so it’s quite a good base and we just build on that.

The Hostage is very clearly a thriller, what is it about the thriller genre that you like so much, that is so compelling to you?

There’s something visceral for an audience, I think that we see it a lot in the movies but it is a genre of theatre but it’s never really used very much. I think there’s something about being in the room, live where things that are extraordinary are happening. Is someone getting killed? Are these things happening? And they’re happening right in front of you, it increases the blood flow and gets the juices flowing, and hopefully we can get the audience really excited by what they’re seeing.

It’s a lot more difficult than a movie, because you can’t have jump cuts, and big sound tracks, and things screaming out at you, so you have to really craft it a lot better to get the audience in the right headspace to feel the thrill. Hopefully they will, this one is a kind of psychological thriller as well. There are a lot of twists and turns in this story – what happens at the beginning is not necessarily what happens at the end.

I suppose what we’re trying to do is play on assumptions that the audience makes. When I first started making The Hostage I was thinking about the movie The Sixth Sense – the Bruce Willis movie – and if you watch that movie, they never actually lie to the audience but the audience make all these assumptions about the Bruce Willis character, and then when the twist is revealed, it’s actually the audience that have fooled themselves. They’ve built up this expectation and suddenly it’s like – oh my God, I was so wrong!

So, we’re playing with things like that – we’re playing with the audience, you know giving a red herring, giving the audience an idea of what’s going on without actually saying what’s going on.

So how does it translate? You mention that it is a very filmic genre, how do you do all of those things like red herrings etc, that are subtle in film but may be missed onstage?

It is tricky, but it’s definitely about the dialogue, you’ve got to make sure that you explain what’s going on without hitting people over the head with it. So those people who pick it up the first time don’t feel like they’re being told seven times – this is what is going on. But on the other hand, if you don’t explain it well enough, the audience doesn’t get it and then you’re in trouble. So, it’s a delicate balancing act.

In a way, it’s down to the actors’ ability to get that message across and then it comes back to why we chose this genre. I suppose it’s something that really challenges them – it’s something that pushes them. It’s a genre that people don’t do a lot, that psychological drama/thriller, so it’s good to have them experiment with that, and understand what’s required in the genre.

Can you think, off the top of your head, of any thriller pieces of theatre that you’ve seen?

Well, there’s not a lot. There’s a play called Deathtrap written by Ira Levin, and I remember seeing that when I was a young kid and one of the characters – it’s near the end – and one of the characters you think is dead and he does the classic ‘jump up’ from behind and the lightning goes and the audience screams!

We don’t have any of those cheap moments, there were plenty of those in The Mummy Rises but we don’t have any of those moments in this one – but hopefully in The Hostage it’s the audience going – oh right, that’s what’s going on. Not so much somebody jumping out at them. It would have fit perfectly within the horror-comedy but not really in this one.

When it works well the audience is on the edge of their seats, but I suppose even Let The Right One In kind of seeps a little bit into that genre. It’s something that Black Swan State Theatre Company haven’t really done before, so it’s good to see them playing with that. I think there are a lot of people happy to see the direction they’re going in.

I feel like theatre in Perth is getting far more gritty again. The Blue Room had a show on earlier in the year, An Almost Perfect Thing about a young girl who was abducted in her youth and held captive, so we’re getting these kind of shows back in Perth. What are your thoughts on this trend?

Well, a lot of the theatre makers now, and Scott McArdle is a perfect example – they’ve grown up with these stories on television and movies and they want to reflect those stories in their art and their storytelling. McArdle’s first play, for example at The Blue Room was Between Solar Systems which was very science-fiction based, set on a spaceship and that kind of stuff. And then, Laika which was more of a historical drama, so choosing different genres, different elements and things that they’ve grown up with is what’s happening.

I think that the new generation of storytellers are looking to those kind of stories, I think it’s great. They’re not necessarily looking to the classics or the things of the seventies or eighties, they’re looking to tell their own stories now. And that can only be good.

I feel that this is a very local thing, do you find that your students are feeding back into the Perth scene? I’m not noticing the mass exodus over East occurring much anymore.

I think the thing about Perth which is good and bad, is that it’s a very small city, and community. The good things about that are that things can change very quickly, you don’t have to get a huge groundswell happening in terms of styles or moods, so suddenly things start to get gritty and everyone’s like – oh ok, I’ve wanted to do something gritty for a while. That can change very quickly and the entire scene can move in a direction which is very fast because we’re quite small – it doesn’t take a lot of momentum to move which is great.

The other side of it is we’re a very small city so it makes it hard to be successful and to have a career and that becomes quite problematic. A lot of my students head off to Europe, I’ve got at least three students in London at the moment. Then they come back and they figure out what they want to do. I think it’s about taking your opportunities where you can. Hopefully we can provide young theatre makers with opportunities to allow them to grow and experiment and really that’s what this piece is about – providing these students the opportunity to show everybody what they can do.

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: Black Milk

By Laura Money

Hand In Hand Theatre end their 2017 season with a clever and intense play about the harsh effects of capitalism in post-communist Russia – how it can benefit society but how it mostly just tears them apart. Director Luke Gratton introduces Black Milk wearing a black coat and jeans, and brown boots. He describes the set in a cliche but consistent Russian accent – a run-down train station complete with uncaring tickets saleswoman and drunk man asleep on a bench. And so begins the play – it has an urban legend, fairy-tale quality in its telling, by introducing us, we expect to learn something in this cautionary tale.

For an amateur theatre group, the set is brilliantly designed. Justin Mosel-Crossley creates a realistic Russian train platform with old park benches, peeling painted panels complete with graffiti and posters, and a realistic looking ticket desk. The costuming by Ash Spring is perhaps a little less comprehensive, as it is difficult to tell which era this work is set. The main characters look great as chavs and the peasants are poor, with headscarves and whatever they can get but it does seem a little confused.

The dark comedy opens with the arrival of Lyovchik (Philip Hutton) and his heavily pregnant wife, Poppet (Sjaan Lucas). Lyovchik’s tracksuit and Poppet’s penchant for leopard skin really complement their characters well. Hutton and Lucas both adopt English ‘geezer’ accents, which only slip occasionally, well suited to their sleazy salesman characters. They argue hammer and tong and even manage to wake up the old drunk in the bench. These two are wonderful together – they really have chemistry. Their banter reveals a toxic relationship that will come back to haunt them at the end of the show. 

Despite fighting with each other, they show a united front against the ticket seller (Kylie Sturgess) who probably has the largest character development. Sturgess is quite good, she presents a gruff and knowing exterior but later reveals herself to be a deep thinker. She has perhaps, picked the wrong accent – it is incongruous to the character and some of her points would have more impact if she slowed down but otherwise Sturgess has created quite an endearing character. 

On accents – Black Milk is clearly set in Russia. It is full of Russian names. I can suspend disbelief if all of the characters adopted an English accent (like in Les Miserables) but inconsistencies with some English, some Aussie and the two actors capable of a Russian accent just seems to tarnish the show’s professionalism. 

Black Milk explores the depths of humanity and just how cruel or kind we can be to each other. It highlights that no person is black and white but also proves the old adage that a leopard can’t change his spots. It’s a great end to a strong season from Hand In Hand Theatre

WHEN: 16-18 November 2017

WHERE: Studio 411, Murdoch University 

on now, Review

REVIEW: Let The Right One In

By Laura Money

Let The Right One In marks the highly anticipated Black Swan State Theatre Company directorial debut for new Artistic Director, Clare Watson – and let me tell you, it’s one that is under a lot of scrutiny. The tone of the production not only reflects the past season, but anticipates the standard going forward into 2018. Let The Right One In is a dark and brooding masterpiece that is not afraid to confront you with hard-hitting issues, and viscera! It’s unapologetic about making you uncomfortable but at its heart, speaks to the very real emotions of love and fear. Plus, it has fake blood.

Watson’s vision is boldly ambitious – Bruce McKinven‘s three-storey set looms in the foreground of The Heath Ledger Theatre’s stage – giving the audience no choice in where to look. McKinven is no stranger to large, impressive sets having created the stages for BSSTC’s Switzerland and Next To Normal among others. This reads like a movie screen – it features nine windows with closable black screens that allow for the play to be presented in bitesized vignettes as each screen opens. It also becomes the screen for projected images of blood and gore that take the scale of the piece from intimate to in-your-face.

Each mini set, from living room to school locker room, sweet shop to train carriage references the play’s cinematic roots. The Swedish movie, based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist features dark and grubby interiors and clothing that stand out in stark contrast to the bright snow of the Swedish woods. The Nordic, creepy tone is set by projecting falling snow and trees over the vast black ‘screen’ provided. McKinven’s costuming is subtle and effective – Oskar (Ian Michael) screams victim in his tiny gym shorts and clingy white t-shirt as his bullies Rory O’Keefe and Clarence Ryan seem to pull the look off in the way that ‘king of the hill’ jocks can. There is a clear 80s vibe in the costumes – but not the brash and over the top cliches, it’s more subtle – almost timeless, like the tale itself.

Sophia Forrest and Ian Michael. Let_The_Right_One_In-43. Photo credit Daniel J Grant

Touted as ‘Romeo and Juliet with fangs,’ Let The Right One In brings together an unlikely pairing – Oskar feels isolated from anyone who loves him. Constantly on the run from merciless bullies and confused by a cloying mother (Alison Van Reeken) and a distant father (Maitland Schnaars), he attempts to navigate life via puzzles and sweets. When Eli (Sophia Forrest) first meets him, Oskar is fantasizing about stabbing his bullies and calls them the very names they taunt him with. Eli looks on curiously and studiously. She lurks in the shadows in a grubby hoodie and denim shorts despite the snow (Oskar is lovably wearing a bobble-topped beanie.)

Michael makes his debut with BSSTC, but has been acting for a while, despite being so young. He brings a warmth and optimism to Oskar, he is so endearing your heart wrenches to see him being so savagely bullied. He his guarded at first when speaking to Eli (as he hasn’t got the measure of her just yet) but gives so much of his heart to her, it’s so beautiful to watch. Michael’s naivety shines as he giggles about ‘sleeping together’ and gets caught up by Eli, who he quite clearly wishes to impress when laughing at her racist taunts. Forrest’s portrayal of Eli is perfectly haunting. Another debut for BSSTC, she embodies the character so fully, it is hard to separate the girl from the beast. Eli hovers above Oskar, head cocked as though trying to work him out like the Rubix cube and puzzles he so enjoys. Forrest’s glare is intense – she intimidates everyone she encounters with her presence. It’s more than just intense glances and otherworldly stares – Forrest manipulates her body masterfully scaling the entire set and leaping on her victims with the grace and elegance of a large cat.

Sophia Forrest. Let_The_Right_One_In-20. Photo credit Daniel J Grant

Despite having pretty dark and sinister overtones – Eli’s symbiotic relationship with the pedophile Hakan, remarkably and subtly played by Steve Turner is disturbing to say the least, the physical violence – they do not hold back in the brutality meted out to their murder victims, Rachel Dease‘s visceral cracks and groans as necks break causing audible gasps from the crowd, the ugly and unnecessary racism, and especially the horrendous bullying that culminates in the ultimate cruelty – there is a nostalgic vibe of fondness. Not to mention a soundtrack that will get you moving. Let The Right One In takes the quiet optimism of the 80s – especially economically – and lets it bubble under the surface. In parts, the energy can barely be contained – bubbling away under the surface.

Stylistically, this is a wonderful leap forward. It has everything that a sophisticated, cutting edge theatre company should have – a love story, blurred lines concerning consent, grey areas as to who is a hero and a villain, bullying and power struggles, and an ambitious but intelligent design. Watson says her focus was always on the love story and growing friendship between the characters, and that does mean that the ultimate climax of the show – the pool scene – is somewhat glossed over. In terms of impact, though, it has been a long time since I sat in a theatre and felt my pulse quicken and my breathing get shallower. Let The Right One In gets it right. It takes the cinematic and styles it for the stage – which is where horror started, after all.

WHEN: 11 November – 3 December 2017

WHERE: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre WA

INFO: Tickets $34 – $87.50 | Suitable 15+ | Adult and horror themes

LINK: https://www.bsstc.com.au/plays/let-the-right-one-in

 

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: Unveiling: Gay Sex For Endtimes

By Laura Money

There are certain things in life I never thought I’d see: a naked woman wearing a strap-on beating a naked man while being covered in semen and blood like substances poured by a naked woman in a locust mask is definitely a scenario I couldn’t have dreamed up. But the wonderful minds of Renegade Productions are used to thinking outside the box – in fact, they explode out of the box in a swarm of brilliance that deserves to be admired. The Blue Room Theatre is one of those transformative spaces that adopts the mood and style of whatever production is thrown at it, and Unveiling: Gay Sex For Endtimes slams itself into the Blue Room in a bloody and soaking mess.

It’s a stunning example of creative collaboration and what can happen when performers and devisers have a strong theme and message. Clear plastic sheeting protects the walls but not the floor as the audience files past a raised platform and the aforementioned locus-headed nude woman (Michelle Aitken) – projected in large oppressive writing onto the wall above and surrounding the stage is a quote from the Book of Revelation. It speaks of the grapes of wrath and end of days. What follows are several repetitive frames that loosely follow the story of a young man concerned about AIDS, a young woman mirroring Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz, and homosexuals coming to terms with their sexual desires and fantasies.

A conversation about blood test results and how ‘it might not mean anything’ – clearly a reference to having either an STD or the worst case scenario and biggest fear for homosexual men in particular – AIDS, is a refrain performed at regular intervals throughout the performance. It starts out conversationally – Andrew Sutherland and Jacinta Larcombe discuss the issue as if talking over coffee, however their bodies are telling a different story – Larcombe straddles a Monty Python-esque rocking horse and casually sips from a hen’s night wine glass while Sutherland kneels at a bucket of water. Larcombe proceeds to demonstrate her power over Sutherland by spilling her wine over his head and body. It’s all about power. The conversation returns throughout – spoken by different characters in different positions, finally being hysterically shouted as if in a stream of conciousness by the locust figure – almost mocking the serious nature of these very real concerns. Safety concerns among the homosexual community is also a theme revisited throughout. The same dialogue of being lured into an unsafe place for sex by, quite possibly a murdering maniac, is repeated by different characters as the play progresses.

Sexual awakening, and coming to terms with one’s homosexuality is another theme that runs alongside the end of days idea. Sutherland begins the piece covered in marker penned ‘all seeing eyes’ and as he begins to wash them off becomes aroused. He is met by Larcombe bursting into his alone time and the above scenario plays out – all the time being screamed at via an old-school WWE smackdown-style microphone: YOU ARE AN ABOMINATION! Later, Larcombe wears an innocent white tshirt and kneels before her bed. As she starts to ‘get into her groove’ so to speak, she is crudely and loudly interrupted – once again called an abomination. It all plays out like an extreme version of a sexual education and morals class – with the moraliser being the end of days locust.

Director and deviser, Joe Hooligan Lui is ridiculed in a perfect moment of self aware mockery. Aitkin dons Lui’s trademark cowboy hat and boots and parades around in them, dancing provocatively. A whimsical moment involving Sutherland dressed as a lamb marrying Larcombe is interrupted by Larcombe and Aitken laying on the bed together and making out. This provokes a hilarious and intelligent rant by Sutherland who highlights that Lui is not as groundbreaking as he may seem by presenting homosexuality as a hot steamy kiss between two hot women. This is where the genius shines through – it’s a clever critique of how mainstream theatre makers make it easy for audiences to swallow homosexuality without offending too many people. Something Unveiling apologetically refuses to do – unless it’s making an ironic point.

Unveiling is hilarious. It’s full of puns and references to camp theatre. In a brilliant sequence about the US Navy searching for a way to defeat the many ‘friends of Dorothy’ that have infiltrated their institution, Aitken, Larcombe and especially Sutherland don navy uniforms and ham it up in a hilarious parody of American stupidity. The puns are almost too much – the actors are visibly laughing, especially when shouting ‘I’m coming in behind!’

In my mind however, it is the Judy Garland thread that exhibits the most intelligent analogy of being ‘deviant’ and defiant in life. Garland was a fragile person, who was not always in control of her life. She was pulled from pillar to post but one thing she always had was her voice and her passion for singing and her wonderfully loyal fans. Aitken wears a huge pair of sparkly red shoes and is summarily ‘squished’ under the stage by Larcombe wearing a Dorothy outfit. The Wizard of Oz theme crops up several times, and as a story about soaring away from the doldrums and expectations of a world which id drab and grey, it is perfectly apt for the message being communicated.

Props for singing the little known beginning of the Arlen tune Over The Rainbow, made famous by the wonderful Judy Garland. She was an icon for equality and the gay community and Unveiling culminates in a deeply emotional rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Sutherland wearing the Dorothy costume. The indefatigable Garland performed this song on her television show after her close friend and defender of human rights John F Kennedy was assassinated. She was told not to perform the song but did anyway, in protest and if you watch it, you can see the sheer emotion unleashed in her iconic and powerful voice. Considering the emotional toll of a show like this – it is a rather fitting end.

WHEN: 7 – 25 November 2017 | 8:30pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $18 – $28 | Duration 60 minutes | Recommended 18+ | Contains nudity, eggs and strobe lighting

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

 

 

 

 

Article

ARTICLE: Let The Right Audience In

By Laura Money

If you haven’t heard yet, Black Swan State Theatre Company are about to stage the Australian premiere of Let The Right One In. This well-loved cult classic started out as a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It has been adapted into two films – the original Swedish version – Let The Right One In and an American movie – Let Me In, both of which appear faithful to the source material. Let The Right One In was adapted to the stage by Jack Thorne (yes, the writer of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child) and marks BSSTC’s Artistic Director Clare Watson‘s directorial debut with the company. Watson facilitated a panel discussion recently to talk about the movies and novel and the vampire genre, from liminal spaces, to transgressions of gender, from 80s culture, to racism, from being bullied, to being a badass!

It looks like Let The Right One In is going to be epic in scale and theme. There appears to be so much to unpack. From the set design mirroring the rise of eighties culture (Rubix cube, computer games) to the ambiguous nature of Eli’s gender, the power play and dominance struggles of bullying versus protecting, to the simple challenge of blood and gore translating from cinema to stage – this work encompasses almost everything. Watson is clearly very fond of this stage adaptation – she spent several minutes describing in great detail how the work came to be and how proud she is of the production.

Firstly, we have to talk about the bullying. Oskar is described as ‘a bullied lonely teenager living with his mother on a housing estate on the outskirts of town.’ He doesn’t quite know how to deal with bullies but fantasises in an incredibly violent fashion and is obsessed with murder and violence. Simon Miraudo, (editor Student Edge, award-winning writer and critic, contributor to The Guardian, ABC Radio and RTRFM) identifies this as terrifying behaviour, considering that Lindqvist named his own tormentors in the original novel. Miraudo describes the Vampire myth as fundamentally cool…they wear cool clothes like The Lost Boys, they hang out at night like the kids who don’t care about curfews, and resemble a motorbike gang with their leather and spiky hair. We might laugh at the fashions now, but who in their right mind would call Kiefer Sutherland uncool?

lost_boys_hed

It’s no coincidence that the events of the novel/movie/play take place in the early eighties. Not only is it reflective of the author’s own lived in experience, the eighties saw the rise of the vampire as an icon (read: new wave pirate.) They were badass, sexy, and – I know it’s hard to believe – fashionable. From The Hunger(1983) and Fright Night (1985) to Once Bitten (1985) and Near Dark (1987), The Lost Boys reached the top of the genre with its bevy of ultra-cool, forever young, high school babes.

David O’Connell (Arts and Film Editor at Xpress) is impressed by BSSTC’s commitment to the vibe of the eighties. He says that it seems like there are subtle references to most elements of pop culture – from the set’s nod to the panels in comic books, to the subtle soundtrack lending itself to an homage to the classic eighties horror film. He also acknowledges the tradition of a kid being bullied and needing/finding a protector – supernatural or otherwise.

The vampire genre itself is one of liminal spaces – Let The Right One In, among others navigates the space between youth and adolescence, friendship and love, and gender binaries. Eli, played by Sophia Forrest identifies as female, yet transgresses gender binaries in her mannerisms and attitude. The fact that she is a vampire (spoiler alert) is not incidental, believes Dr Janice Loreck (Researcher in Screen Arts at Curtin University and Coordinator at the Melbourne Women in Film Festival (MWFF)). She represents someone who doesn’t need to conform to any norm – be that age (she is in the body of a 12 year old, but has lived much, much longer), gender (she uses a boy’s name, wears gender neutral clothing, and questions her femininity), or power dynamics in relationships (her servant, Haken, would normally be in control due to his prediction for pedophilia, yet Eli is firmly in charge.)

If gender is fluid in the vampire genre, it stands to reason that sexuality is also. Dr Loreck has seen the vampire novel provide a fertile breeding ground for lesbian characters – mostly ones who will corrupt or ‘turn’ innocent youths. Widely acknowledged as the first vampire tale – Carmilla was a novella by Joseph Le Fanu that pre-dates Dracula by 26 years. It’s narrated by a young woman preyed upon by a female vampire/lesbian. If that isn’t a metaphor fit for Margaret Court, then I don’t know what is!

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So, how does a violent, subtle horror story of the Indie screen translate to the stage? Miraudo thinks that as long as the blood, guts and gore are visible it will be ok. Watson assures us that it will be seen – using either projection or sheer volume of fake blood! This is not for audiences with a tendency to faint – after the recent accounts of audience members keeling over during the stage production of 1984 (someone fainted the night I was there!) Miraudo believes the audience should know what they are in for. With film, you choose to see a horror movie or an Indie film – with theatre, you don’t always know what you’re going to get.

O’Connell is less cynical about the translation. He subscribes to the less is more school of thought. Horror has such a rich tradition of tropes and dare I say, cliches, that make the film good. A well done piece of horror fiction leaves a lot to the imagination and then hits you with the right amount of gore to bring it all home. Dr Loreck was skeptical at first – film really lends itself to the horror genre. Upon reflection though, she realises the great tradition of horrific tragedies – spanning all the way back to ancient Greece and Medea wearing her crown of acid, or Lady Macbeth’s cry of desperation “Out damn spot!” as she tries to erase the blood only she can see. Watson assures us that it’s going to be as gory as the film version but with the weight of theatre conventions behind it.

let-the-right-one-in-heath-ledger-theatre-wa1

So, join us for a frightfully delightful way to end the year and let the right show in!

WHEN: 11 November – 3 December 2017

WHERE: State Theatre Centre WA | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $34 – $87.50 | Suitable 15+ | Adult and horror themes

LINK: https://www.bsstc.com.au/plays/let-the-right-one-in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on now

ON NOW: Unveiling: Gay Sex For Endtimes

Behold! The Second Coming.

Presented by the deviant minds at Renegade Productions, Unveiling:Gay Sex for Endtimes examines the search for ecstasy, utopia and rebellion through self-destruction. It is a contemporary and perverse reading of The Book of Revelation – the thread from which we weave annihilation and redemption.

From boot-scooting, to the U.S Navy, a swarm of locusts, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz; Unveiling focuses on reaching for higher meaning through an escalating series of sex acts and hallucinogenic experiences.

Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes is a collaboration from Joe Hooligan Lui, Andrew Sutherland, Jacinta Larcombe, and Michelle Aitken based on what they know best: a fatalistic yet earnest search for meaning in these troubled times.

Reach out and touch faith.

WHEN: 7 – 25 November 2017 | 8:30pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $18 – $28 | Duration 60mins | Recommended 18+ | Contains nudity and strobe lighting

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

Review

REVIEW: Lucia Di Lammermoor

By Laura Money

WA Opera‘s latest foray into the world of tragedy, Lucia Di Lammermoor is classic Italian opera at its best. Transporting you back to the Naples stage of 1835, Donizetti‘s Romantic score is performed against the lavish backdrop of 19th century-imagined ‘old Scotland’ complete with giant crumbling ruins, wonderfully full and detailed costumes – all resplendent in their tartan marking out the proud clans, and haunting smoke-filled tombs. Lucia Di Lammermoor is a tale of Scottish woman Lucy – whose brother plans to marry her to a Lord, unbeknownst to him, however she already has a lover – her brother’s sworn enemy Edgardo. Thereafter follows a grim story of love, loss, death, insanity and suicide. It must have been so exotic to the Italians – the smoky creeping shadows of the moors, clans and duels, even tartan.

Lord Enrico Ashton (Samuel Dundas) searches the ancient grounds for his enemy, his vitriol pouring out of him in waves of anger. Dundas is commanding – all eyes are on his menacing performance. The anger and passion subsides as Lucia (Emma Pearson) and her maidservant Alisa (Fiona Campbell) enter a secret glade at the foot of an ancient tomb – in readiness for a midnight tryst with Edgardo. Pearson’s haunting account of her spectral visitor to Alisa is perfectly balanced – she elicits fear and sadness, but the tremor in her voice is artfully controlled. It is foreshadowing at its best. Edgardo (Aldo Di Torro) finally arrives and the pair’s voices entwine thematically in a beautiful duet – declaring their love will prevail even while parted.

By Act Two, Enrico has shown Lucia a forged letter which makes her believe Edgardo has been unfaithful. An ashen Lucia takes the news badly – Pearson almost moves in a dreamlike state at the blow dealt by her brother. Dundas’ eyes glitter in delight as his words impact his sister – his voice oozes with selfishness and wickedness as he gets his own way at the expense of his sister’s happiness. It is during the wedding of ‘the unhappy girl’ and Arturo (David Woodward) that Lucia’s unfortunate fate is played out cruelly before her. Pearson is inspired in her portrayal of a heartbroken Lucia – she goes through the stages of grief: denial – her eyes wide and disbelieving, anger – her rage causing her to beat futilely against Enrico’s chest, bargaining – her voice tapers off in a heartfelt plea, and depression – culminating in the catatonic state during her lavish wedding.

The wedding scene is where Pearson truly shines – during the festivities her depressed complicity in body doesn’t quite match the reluctance in her eyes. Musically, Lucia’s calm words “cover with bitter tears” are contrasted with sudden harmonic changes and instrumentation. After Edgardo returns and Lucia is completely confused and broken, she errupts into madness – Pearson’s rendition of the famous mad scene is flawless. She wanders in an ethereal state – reminiscent of her spectre from act one, and appears entirely unhinged in her blood soaked nightgown. Pearson appears to float from person to person, mirroring the floating melody she sings. She has ultimate control over her voice – singing dangerously low and moving to a rapturous, scream-like high. Pearson’s Lucia will haunt you for many days to come.

Of course, Di Torro caps everything off with Edgardo’s impassioned suicide at the news of Lucia’s own death. After his angry confrontation at the wedding, Edgardo retreats to the tomb of his father. Di Torro’s tormented voice is that of a broken and tired man. He reaches the ultimate conclusion and ends the opera with poise and dignity amidst terrible tragedy. If there’s one thing WA Opera at the helm of Brad Cohen does well, it is showcasing the tremendous talent we have here in the west. Lucia Di Lammermoor is ambitious in both scale and score, and WA Opera meet that challenge with aplomb.

WHEN:

  • Thursday 26 October | 7.30pm
  • Saturday 28 October | 7.30pm
  • Thursday 2 November | 7.30pm
  • Saturday 4 November | 7.30pm

WHERE: His Majesty’s Theatre | Perth

INFO: Tickets $44 – $179 | Duration: 2hrs 40mins with two intervals | Sung in Italian with English surtitles | Suitable 15+

LINK: https://www.waopera.asn.au/shows/onstage/lucia-di-lammermoor/

 

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: AEON

By Link Harris and Amanda Lancaster

Heading into the experience that was AEON, I had very little idea what was in store as all of the descriptions were vague at best but after experiencing it they all started to make sense.

AEON isn’t something that one can easily describe using only words, aside from the brief first meeting with the “guide” and group it is a completely nonverbal experience but also because it is something that must be felt in all forms of the experience – sight, sound, smell and touch all come into play.

Put simply AEON feels like a social experiment relating to flocks of birds and how they work in the animal kingdom – as it turns out people are no different as there is always someone willing to lead the group and there will always be someone willing to follow. This was proven straight away as we were essentially left to our own devices, yet someone chose to move forward and the rest followed.

Creator Lz Dunn, who identifies as a queer artist, said that AEON developed out of an earlier project, Flyway, a cinematic, walking meditation on urban ecology and migratory birds.

“In AEON I was interested in floating together two ideas: queer ecology and bird flocking. Queer Ecology refers to a way of thinking that aims to disrupt dominant ideas around sexuality and nature. It invites us to reimagine evolutionary processes, ecological interactions, and environmental politics from a queer perspective,”

As we were walking sound started pouring out of the portable speakers everyone had been given and almost immediately you could see how what was once some sort of organisation or structure was changed by one simple little thing. People changed pace, grouped together, changed direction or let someone else lead. The chaos that this had led to changed as we progressed, people started listening to each other’s speakers, a sense of togetherness and belonging seemed to connect us all as we found our rhythm each and every time the sounds changed. Looking up ahead another group was heading our way, as we clashed and came together the rhythm we once had as a group was again thrown into complete and utter chaos as we became one large gathering and once again no one seemed to know what to do.

“Bird flocks have a quite mystical quality because they have these fascinating strategies for navigating together using their various bodily intelligences. I think as humans we may have become less attuned to our own.”

 

4. Aeon - Production Image - Photo by Bryony Jackson

Everyone started mixing again, working out a new rhythm or pace in time with the various sounds coming through the speakers and we all started moving again only this time some new elements were at play, people started running, commando rolling, collecting things and giving them to others, playing chicken with stationary participants and doing all manner of odd and strange things, so as you’d expect others joined in. The willing participants dived down the rabbit hole directly into the madness, the unwilling ones were on the sidelines watching all of the craziness unfold with a quizzical look in their eyes and the people like me were stuck in the middle enjoying and taking it all in.

Is AEON for everyone? Maybe not, but if you have a fairly open mind, are willing to inject some craziness into your life and like having some fun then this is definitely worth a look.

WHEN: 26 – 29 October 2017 | Dusk

WHERE: Undisclosed location (near Perry Lakes)

INFO: Tickets $15 – $32 | Location is secret – you will be texted the details closer to the performance | Suitable 15+ | Not suitable for children and babies | Walking involved

LINK: http://pica.org.au/show/aeon/

 

Review

REVIEW: Once We Lived Here

By Laura Money

The Blue Room Theatre has a well-deserved reputation for staging original, hard-hitting works by Western Australian theatre-makers. Written by WAAPA graduates Matthew Frank and Dean Bryant (the team who staged the first Australian musical performed in New York City), Once We Lived Here is a true Australian musical. It gives voice to the Aussie identity and sound through a unique soundtrack and penetrating Australian accent.The writers acknowledge that their story doesn’t try to deal expressly with the legacy of Australia’s colonial history. The attitudes of the farmers (as expressed particularly in the ‘history of the farm’ segment) are typical of those whose families have been farmers for generations, so it is not necessarily a flattening of indigenous stories, just an intimate look at one particular family.

The family in the spotlight is the McPhersons – the last of a long line of farmers clinging on to their land. Mother Claire (Sharon Kiely) calls her children home as she is in the final stages of an illness that sees her full of morphine and regret. She sits and reminisces on her porch, looking out into the parched garden and watches her adult kids revert into their childhood dynamic – bickering and teasing each other mercilessly. Eldest child Amy (Taryn Ryan) is the only one to have stayed on the farm. Ryan is a rising star as she depicts the hard worker with her no-nonsense style and gruff exterior with a thread of vulnerability that only the audience sees. Next to arrive is Lecy (Megan Kozak), the middle child whose bold ambition has seen her reject the farming life for the glitz and glamour of the ‘big smoke.’ Kozak’s Lecy is conceited and confident, but her determination to leave her dirty and unsophisticated past is painfully transparent and posed. Youngest son, Shaun (Joshua Firman) is the final child to return – he sits casually on the front porch playing his guitar in a happy-go-lucky fashion. As time goes by, we see that Shaun has many fears and doubts that haunt him. Firman’s smile remains fixed as his face clouds over with shadows in a wonderful portrayal of a young man suffering from anxiety/depression.

Once We Lived Here is perhaps not the most ‘showtuney’ musical. It plays more like a concept album or comprehensive soundtrack. There is a distinct Aussie country twang that runs through. Each character has a distinct song – from Amy’s hard working litany of farming tasks, to Shaun’s mellow folksy wandering style, to Lecy’s almost hyper twittering that blend together under the rich and fading tone of Claire. It’s as though each character is a thread that is woven together to provide the sound of the family.

Wooden pallets, rusted corrugated iron, mismatched yet loved furniture and old barrels comprise the set, complete with wooden swing and a gnarled, dried up painted tree. The set is ambitious as is the musical itself. Taking the epic saga of the McPherson family from its ability to cope with drought, the pull of the big city, community spirit and the death of their father – the children are forced to get along for the sake of their mother, even though being all together again they must re-live that day.

Amy is the lynchpin of the piece – it is her stubborn running of the farm that contributed to her siblings distancing themselves from the family. When old flame and farmhand Burke (Ryan Dawson) shows up, Amy begins a downward spiral of rejection, hurt and betrayal. Dawson is funny as the loveable Burke. Through flashbacks we see just how integral a part of the family he is as well.

Once We Lived Here provides a clear insight into the lives of our ‘Aussie battlers’ – from money concerns to depression, boredom and teen sex, it covers all of the trials and tribulations of the farming life. Firman’s subtle portrayal of Shaun’s depressed and anxious mind is inspired. He wears a happy mask, yet is haunted by the death of his father. His mask slips whenever the shearing shed is mentioned and fully exposed as he reaches the bottom of his despair.

If you want a show that moves you, look no further than Once We Lived Here. It is both epic and intimate in scale, presents the quintessential Aussie sound in a rich tapestry of tradition, family and modern life, and is a love story to boot. Ryan shines as the struggling Amy, brilliantly uncomfortable on stage as a child – that is classy acting, as it is clear that the stage is where Ryan belongs. It’s a charming show – a love story to the Aussie battler that should not be missed.

WHEN: 17 October – 4 November 2017 | 8:30pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $18 – $28 | Duration 2hrs with 10min interval | Suitable 15+ | References themes of suicide

LINK: http://blueroom.org.au/events/once-we-lived-here/