ARTICLES

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REVIEW: Love Letters to the Revolution | Moments of change and movements in time

Review | Amanda Lancaster & Peter Spence

Tucked away in a house at the bottom of a hill, electronic beats pulse through a party as we watch a kaleidoscope of moments of change.

Pulse, throb, pulse, throb.

Beating as if in time and tempo with the audience’s collective heart beats and breaths.

Calm at first then steadily rising in rapid waves.

Pulse, pulse, throb, throb, pulse, pulse, throb, throb.

Is this how it feels? To be eaten alive, as if by crocodiles? Dragged under, fighting for breath, darkness looming, is this what lies in the shadows, in the depths, in the unseen spaces? Is any space safe anymore? Internally? Externally? 

Is there something wrong with us? Why are we like this? why is the world like this?

Pulse, pulse, pulse, throb, throb, throb, thud, thud, thud.

Good question.

And one beautifully put into metaphorical prose on the set of The Blue Room Theatre‘s stage in this not to be missed show, Love Letters to the Revolution.

Let audiences be warned from the get go, that while this is very much a trigger warning show touching on a variety of important and often overlooked and unpalatable issues those in it face at the present moment in time. However don’t let that put you off as this show is more importantly deeply laced with the utmost respect and sensitivity.

Viva la revolution!

Love letters to the Revolution is an important and entertaining performance, whilst being engaging and relatable in many ways. An upbeat and fun performance which brings some heavy topics to confronting light, accessibility, disability, drug culture, reclamation, racial injustice, abuse, identity loss, climate change, caber culture, mental health, sexual assault and more.

A stunning works by Sian Murphy, who has proven a worthy winner of the WA Emerging Artist Award, it’s performed in a series of bite sized able to swallow scenes, as if extracts from a reality show without the tactlessness. We see a small group of five amazing performers take on the ideologies behind what the world is beginning to normalize and probably shouldn’t.

Both scene and character play out carefully and with skill to subtlety bring notice to underlying struggles and outright atrocities humans deem part of day to day practices and behaviors. Each scene is its own, yet set within a party where so many of the situations faced are individually addressed and explored. An ensemble of talent, portraying characters who we can each place in our own world, Marlanie Haerewa, Jono Battista, Elisa Williams, Stephanie Somerville and James McMillan provide us with the sense of the world we already know and would love to change.  

From the powerful metaphor of the opening monologue, the tone is set and left to linger throughout, personified by the figure in the corner of the room throughout the whole piece. Stephanie Somerville’s portrayal of her greatest fear, giving an intense and powerful account of how the fear of why a crocodile attack is so and draining just to even think about, and making it an obvious metaphor for the things we each fear and what drags us all down. Whether it be the things that seem small scale in the grand scheme of things such as cutting your hair to the pressures of answering that damn message, we all feel the pressure of the social constructs which can lead to things like peer pressure and conformity. The party is fun and the electronic music continues throughout, with a peek into the situations which affect the characters lives.

A revolution has begun, albeit slowly, to bring us into a new world where we realize the effects of grief, ptsd, society, addiction, social conformity, social culture, parental roles, and disability. Change needs to come about and this is where it is, now is when it starts. Love Letters to the Revolution is an open love letter to the idea of revolting against the oppressive forces and social constructs placed upon us, normalization of occurrences creating trauma. It’s a call to stand up and fight for this and future eras to fight what you can’t seem to escape, and that we are born into and are a part of without our choice. We don’t have to put up with it, we CAN stand up and fight for what we believe to be right.

Its about accountability , responsibility, and the fight to instill ideas of prevention over falsified sympathetic acts of consolation.its about acting before its too late. For standing up and revolting against that which we know we don’t want to live with internally or externally anymore.

The audience can breathe again, unaware they have even been holding it,

Heart beats at a rapid tempo, but no longer being on edge of the uncertain and uncomfortable. Now it is the steadfast growing thrum of questioning and thought provoked minds.

Pulse, throb, pulse, throb, pulse throb

The party slows, the music fades, the glittering glowing thrumming facade of it all comes crashing down to reveal all is not as it seems, but all is ok….the revolution is here.

Love Letters to the Revolution is playing at The Blue Room Theatre until 23rd October 2021. Get your tickets HERE

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REVIEW: Bite The Hand | Examining our relationships with man’s best friend

Review | Laura Money

What would it be like to understand what your dog says? From such a simple premise arises an existential play that examines our relationships with animals, each other, and our own psyches. Bite The Hand by Chris Isaacs is perhaps the most loaded and intelligently titled work circulating Perth. Brilliantly directed by Matt Edgerton and featuring a stellar cast, Bite the Hand appears innocuously funny and wholesome until darker threads are woven into the piece. Through convincing performances that fully suspend disbelief to a stunning set and edgy sound and lighting, this play will stay…..stay…..good audience! Apologies, will stay with you for a very long time.

In a surreal turn of events, Sam (Alicia Osyka) surprises her partner Dale (Amy Mathews) with the granting of family dog Alice (Arielle Gray) with human consciousness. It is something the couple had discussed but Dale hadn’t committed to, so with the help of her brother Wes (Michael Abercromby) she bites the bullet and does it anyway. Dale has been experiencing severe mental health problems and it is implied that she had recently self harmed. Mathews wanders into the living room a little vaguely – she is our vehicle into the bizzare world of Bite The Hand. Isaacs’ script is crisp and honed without any exposition dialogue in sight. Rather than have Wes tell us all what’s going on, Rex bursts onto the scene to show us. Rex, played expertly by Jeffrey Jay Fowler is Wes’s dog. Fowler is energetic and a little hyper, shaking his long hair from his face like fur and adopting the pose and mannerisms of a dog perfectly. However, it is Fowler’s dialogue, tone and expression that cements this brilliant performance. Cheeky, clever, and hilarious Rex flits from happy topic to happy topic like being a ‘good boy’, getting pats, and defending his stick from crows. It’s exactly what one would assume a dog cares about. Abercromby and Fowler have amazing chemistry and are truly believable as master and dog.

Speaking of chemistry, the transformation in Mathews’ Dale is phenomenal when Alice enters her life reborn. Gray gives the performance of a lifetime and is so detailed and exuberant in her performance as the above average intelligent Alice. Her mannerisms are convincing and nuanced, from the little whimpers to the slight aggression, and of course that hilarious bum wiggle. It is her facial expressions and sincerity that are so endearing – rolling around with Dale, Alice manages to elicit a feeling of happiness and uplifting energy in her. Osyka’s Sam is wary but Mathews manages to convince her and Wes that everything is ok. Until it isn’t. Throughout the show, the television in the living room features different artwork on it. A Rorschach Test looking brain scan image assists the audience in navigating Dale’s mental health and headspace. Bryan Woltjen‘s amazing set and costume design intelligently hints at each character’s journey. From the screen that serves as a mental health check in and provides the context for outside settings, to the playful and sinister costuming of Fowler as he takes on dual roles everything is considered. Dale hides under big blankets, all of the actors bounce off the versatile seating, and the outside area hints at something almost surreal and kitsch with its white picket fence, fake lawn, and front door complete with doggy door. Combined with subtle shifts in lighting by Rhiannon Petersen and the fact that there are literal talking dogs, the play does surreal very well.

Every element of Bite The Hand is beautifully considered. It’s an intelligent piece of theatre that is accessible to all. Fowler and Gray are so good at performing as dogs – actually the entire cast is brilliant at it as we see in the moonlight gathering scenes – that they elicit an exceptionally sympathetic response. Gray is phenomenal as the brilliant Alice – an absolute prodigy of a dog who undergoes an existential crisis and calls into question the relationship dynamics between domestic dog and master. The enlightening of Alice is so profound that I’m sure more than one tear will be shed as the play comes to its inevitable conclusion. Osyka and Abercromby enjoy some gritty scenes together and their words crackle and spark around the stage – Abercromby is subtle in his revelation that Wes doesn’t have much respect for dogs or mental health. He shows his true colours in a sinister manner that comes about the closest this work does to being a bad guy. What I really love about this play, is that once all the bells and whistles of talking dogs and the novelty of the piece wears off, it is a heartbreaking exploration of the self and mental health. Mathews is great as Dale, a confused yet not infirm woman back from the brink of mental collapse, and spiraling that way again. She delicately balances feelings of paranoia and hurt with feelings of love and support, often confusing the two.

Isaacs has written an amazing play in Bite The Hand – there is so much going on it should garner a second watch. Subtle, clever, and thoroughly entertaining the final scenes will go down in history as some of the most shockingly memorable moments in theatre – as I’m sure Isaacs is aware of considering the allusion to Sunset Boulevard. So go and be a good boy or good girl and fetch your tickets to this unique show – you’ll have a ball! Ball! Ball!

Bite The Hand is on at Subiaco Arts Centre until 23rd October 2021. You can get your tickets HERE

on now, Review

REVIEW: Animal Farm | Revolutionary theatre that hits home

Review | Laura Money

Black Swan State Theatre Company catapults Animal Farm squealing into the twenty-first century with a faithful and fresh adaptation by Van Badham that proves how relatable the work has always been. Performed by a talented cast of three – Andrea Gibbs, Alison Van Reeken and Megan Wilding – the play covers everything in George Orwell’s original novella but intensifies its pertinence through contemporary technologies, personalities, and the pervasiveness of social media. It’s brilliantly crafted theatre that intelligently uses all aspects of stagecraft to create something memorable. Much like the book this play will enter social consciousness and take hold with its powerful imagery, and chilling message.

From the outset, Animal Farm grabs the bull by its horns and sets the tone of the whole show – on stage there is a giant screen dominating the frame with a set of stairs and a platform. Receding into the darkness are several metal fence sections reminiscent of a barn. As the audience settles in we are treated to a mock news report about the rise of Animalism, cleverly designed and created by Michael Carmody which serves as an innovative way to express exposition. After a little laughter, the report ends and a figure emerges from the darkness – it’s Gibbs on a walker as the elderly pig, Old Major. Gibbs brings gravitas to the character from the deep, gravelly voice, to the mannerisms she gets every bit right. Combining the remarkable costuming by Fiona Bruce, each of the performers take on all of their roles with convincing realism. From Old Major to the first pig in charge, Snowball, Gibbs adds an intimidating politician’s air to her performance. She is hilarious as Brenda the chicken, showcasing her quirky facial expressions in the medium of film but it is her turn as Clover the old horse who is careworn and dedicated to her partner Boxer that Gibbs displays a tenderness and humanity that ripples through the audience.

Megan Wilding proves to be just as versatile in her portrayal of Mr Whymper (a human), and slow burn characters Moses the crow and Benjamin the old donkey. Her tone and deliberately slow delivery makes you hang on every word, eliciting a sense that these characters are wise. Wilding also acts as Squealer, perhaps the character to go through the biggest transformation. Squealer is the exact target of propagandists irl (in real life) as is apparent when she bursts onto the stage with all the gossip from the ‘Battle of the Cowshed’ the biggest event of the year. Wilding is high-pitched and Valley girl in her delivery with quite a few OMGs peppering her story. She exuberantly holds her YouTube heroes up on a pedestal while regaling us with their achievements – it’s the perfect 21st century fit for the character. As Squealer moves up to right trotter pig, she starts wearing the farmer’s wife pearls, changing her speech and slowing down a bit to resemble a Sarah Palin, Julie Bishop type of toadie who is forever speaking on behalf of her beloved leaders – spreading lies and political spin with the sincerity of a dishrag.

The third player is celebrated performer Alison Van Reeken who brings her immense talents to perhaps the most diverse characters. From an excellent Leigh Sales impression to the stuck up horse Mollie, Van Reeken proves she is a versatile and intuitive performer. Mollie is one of the hardest characters to portray sympathetically as her defection from Animal Farm is so early on the sympathy is still being held with the pigs and other revolutionaries, yet Van Reeken navigates this masterfully – she leans in to the mannerisms of a fashion conscious, vain horse and is equal parts hilarious and sincere. After ousting Snowball, Van Reeken’s Napoleon the pig takes over as leader. As with any effective bogeyman less is more, and while Napoleon does give a few speeches, the majority of the work is done through body language. In full military regalia, Van Reeken struts, ramrod strait and arrogantly places her hand in her namesake’s pocket. She uses her hands in gestures and mannerisms that resemble Trump and exudes an intimidating presence whenever she is on stage.

Donald Trump and his inciting of violence is a huge influence on this work. Originally set to be on stage for the 2020 season, the play has been updated to reflect events that occurred after the original stage date, such as Trump’s defeat and the storming of Capitol Hill by people whipped into a frenzy. Director Emily McLean takes full advantage of this imagery and plays it to full effect with the clever staging. She uses levels and screen mediated content as means of signalling power struggles and control. Throughout the play we are privy to the fact that the Seven Commandments are changing. By not placing them up on the screen in the first place, the audience joins in the animal’s confusion as they feel their memories fail them – especially when the grim truth hits – they are being changed by the pigs in charge. The characters chosen to be portrayed are also a brilliant reflection of people’s place in the world and wider politics. Van Badham centralises women characters – in a book that doesn’t have many, she pushes the story through a woman’s lens. Obviously the main leaders are still male, but the use of Wilding as Squealer is key to the propping up of the leaders. It is in Clover (Gibbs) and Muriel (Van Reeken) the old goat that this subtle shift occurs – they discuss and relay the story of Boxer the big workhorse as women would do sitting around a kitchen table. This domestic realisation is significant as it highlights the people who are usually casualties of revolution. It is highly tempting to focus on the leaders or big players like history books do, but Badham takes the approach of social historians and champions the people – sorry animals – she is writing about.

Animal Farm is a sharp and clever piece of theatre. It bitingly attacks the screen mediated culture that prevails and serves as a lesson about power going unchecked. It is only when we stand up we can truly be free. The play is a unique blend of cmedy and intelligent political satire that retains its heart and integrity while depicting acts that contradict them. The final lines of the play, and the final edict painted on the wall that have echoed through the decades are rendered chilling in the stunning Black Swan show. All theatre is equal, but some shows are more equal than others – and believe me, this is a compliment to this memorable production.

Animal farm is playing at State Theatre Centre WA until 24th October 2021. Get your tickets HERE

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REVIEW: ARCO Snr | Sharing life on the spectrum

Review | Laura Money

When I first started performing, I felt like I actually belonged somewhere.

Adam Kelly

Self-proclaimed ‘autistic gentleman’ Adam Kelly stands on a chalk-filled stage, script in hand bursting with exuberance. The stage has markings – giant numbers 1 – 9, stage left, stage right, and other cues scrawled on it in a comforting safe zone for Kelly to inhabit. Conceived entirely by Kelly, with assistance from West Australian Youth Theatre Company Artistic Director James Berlyn, the stage itself is a testament to the kind and nurturing director Berlyn is. Kelly is able to tell his story and express himself in the best way known to him – theatre.

Taking each part of the acronym ARCO, Kelly frames his experience through stories and props and a not insignificant amount of audience participation. See this is a conversation not merely a presentation and Kelly is so enthusiastic it’s hard to say no to getting up an having a dance party! A is for autism and Kelly explains his personal experiences – through brilliant animations by artist Ben Hollingsworth he shows us what it’s like to be a fish out of water, or to walk in a loud, crowded city – but what Hollinsgworth’s incredibly good illustrations achieve is a sense that the autistic experience isn’t so far removed from the neurotypical one.

Kelly also uses either visual aides or physical experiences to great effect. There’s a whole audience dance party, a high five session, and calling out hello and goodbye to Finbar the fish. But Kelly also provides insightful teachable moments such as paper masks to demonstrate facial blindness, and flying our rejections in paper planes and then crushing them underfoot in a mass stomping party! R is for rejection. Kelly is open and honest, not shying away from tough topics. C is for celibacy. He is not crude, nor an object of pity, instead Kelly speaks plainly and with curiosity above all else.

O is for optimism. ARCO Snr (it’s the grown up version of his earlier show) is an unexpected gem of a show. Adam Kelly is perhaps one of the most optimistic people you’ll ever come across and his passion for theatre and zest for life shines through. He is having the time of his life up there on that stage and sharing it with others is a marvellous gift. Perhaps Kelly’s attitude to the world is so positive because he is able to deconstruct and figure out the parts that make him uncomfortable and has developed coping mechanisms for them. When was the last time you really looked at your life and figured out how to make it good? Why not go and see Adam Kelly and pick up a few techniques to grab life in one enormous bear hug!

ARCO Snr is playing at the DADAA Theatre in Fremantle from 5th – 9th October 2021. Get your tickets HERE

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REVIEW: Watch and Act | An open letter about chaos, fear, and control

Review | Amanda Lancaster

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this emergency broadcasts message.

“What is done, cannot be undone.”

This small statement is reiterated numerous times throughout the show like a mantra, a small talisman-like phrase repeated over and over not only aloud to the audience by our star Katie McAllister but left echoing long after within the viewer’s own mind,.

McAllister also repeats, “of this I can be sure, of this I can be certain , this I know to be true.”

Watch and Act is a beautifully dark, almost sardonic, 55minute open letter about chaos, fear, and that which we, no matter how hard we choose to ignore or pay attention to, can and cannot control.

The thematic thrust of the show’s undertone is that of world wide issue “climate change” and “global warming.” It’s cleverly framed as an emotional one-woman outpouring of love for a place, time and state of things shifting uncontrollably out of her gasp as quickly and elusively as the human populace has allowed climate control to escape their attention for far too long now.

Now on first inspection of  the media and marketing for the show Watch and Act featuring household name Katie McAllister you might be left wondering what the hell does Notting Hill , OCD and Nigella Lawson have to do with the global climate crisis?

The terms climate change and climate crisis are often used interchangeably and without distinction but both have distinct meanings. Similarly, the terms for  “weather” and “climate” are sometimes confused, even though they refer to events with broadly different states of spatial- and timescales. Climate change is not just a weather term is this day age but also a fitting one for the state of social economical ecological and emotional shift people experience in their own comfort zones and states of experience throughout life. There is nothing more chaotic and terrify than a shift in that state, a change in your own personal climate especially when so seemingly out of your own control. Katie McAllister knows this and Watch and Act represents this flawlessly.

Set in the studio at ever popular venue The Blue Room Theatre come take a ride with the incredibly likable and relatable Katie McAllister. A ride into that which we often ignore, that which we can all relate to, in a humorous one woman’s monologue, a love letter to Denmark, to the Karri Forrests, to a time gone by and to everything she loves steadfast, without bias and wishes to hold onto desperately.

The minimal stage dressing and design is the perfect backdrop for McAllister’s performance as her crystal clear voice rings out over the audience, unwavering throughout the entire shows powerfully tempered performance. It would be hard to find yourself distracted from such a heartfelt, honest and intimate performance regardless of the chaos ensuing all around McAllister on the backdrop of 3 walls upon which projections of chaotic overlaying of scenes from her favourite movie and other excerpts are taken and displayed,calmly at first then descending into chaos and sadness throughout. The  design of which comes from Kristie Smith. The gentle yet powerful reminders of the terrible and devastating losses that come year after year with the climate change and the ongoing bush fire epidemic that sweeps through her home town of Albany and Denmark are helped along by an imaginary last drive home down Albany Highway aided along by the dreamed up conversations McAllister has with numerous infamous and famous female figures of strength and power both in status and personal idolization. Oh and let us not forget of course, the comedic appearance of her own imaginary and drummed into her emergence into adulthood version of  …..Tim, fucking Winton

There is a wonderfully blended soundscape throughout the show put together by designer Georgina Cramond. A textured and layered seamlessly interwoven tapestry of 90s nostalgia movie quotes, news and interview soundbites and even a taste of McAllister’s own ABC emergency broadcasters announcements. The interspersing of soundtrack snippets from Notting hill, the Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant Rom-com that McAllister constantly references heavily throughout lays the framework for her own personal coping methods and safety measures that can be taken for the ever changing and chaotic mental climate that is her own OCD. A topic she declares to hate speaking about….but since it was in the marketing leaflets……

Emotions are messy contradictory and true this McAllister learned from her ideal climate change emergency wanna be buddy the famous, food is comfort, food is life, idol Nigella Lawson, of whom she has a life sized cardboard cutout by the way. This is true, we all know this, we’ve all experienced this, but we all know there is little we can do to control these waves and tides in times of crisis other than to hold on and ride it out.

Choosing to do nothing is as traumatic  and damaging consequentially as choosing to do something and being unable to do it. We may not be able to control the climate crisis or our own inner states of compulsion but we don’t have to give in nor surrender helplessly to them either. This Is McAllister’s underlying message and it is an important one. McAllister’s time reading the broadcasters announcements for emergencies taught her there is always something you can do even when there is nothing. The calm concise formatting of the emergency advice read aloud to the masses gave McAllister a way to not just watch helplessly but to act.

Remember…”What is done cannot be undone”.

So if you choose to do one thing in your efforts to be better, do better, feel better this month, make it the act of watching Watch and Act with Katie McAllister

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Watch and Act is playing at The Blue Room Theatre until 16th October 2021. you can get your tickets HERE

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REVIEW: My Shout | Examining youth culture and alcohol through physicality and music

Review | Laura Money

Walking into The Blue room Theatre for My Shout, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d just gone into another room in the bar. The crew at Undercurrent Theatre Company have recreated the atmosphere of a bar perfectly – from the long high table, to the bar stools, and display of bottles reaching heady heights along the back wall the whole set evokes hazy pub life. Muted lighting by Adelaide Harney and the constant hum of music from David Stewart combines to plonk the audience right in the middle of a group of friends enjoying a bevvie or two. My Shout is an exploration of how the human experience is shared through alcohol and how alcohol and ritual combine to create that connection. It takes four performers and sees them through an afternoon/evening pastiche of previous drinking sessions and depictions of Australian drinking culture. Combining physical movement, music, and lived experience, the work is part homage and part criticism of that stalwart of Aussie life – a good old-fashioned drink.

Four performers, Claire Appleby, Scarlet Davis, Christopher Moro and Shaun Johnston share their lived experience and that of other devisors in a series of intense physical movement, mentored by Movement Consultant Emma Fishwick and spoken word that sometimes shares the frenzy of beat poetry and at others colloquial experiences that resonate through the crowd. Appleby confidently exudes her baller attitude when ritualising the getting ready segment of a night out – her excitement and body positivity extending to body autonomy in how far she will let herself go. It turns terrifying in a desperate search to fit in and get that next drink. Director Samuel Bruce turns the stage from familiar setting to bizzare parkour experience as characters topple tables, leap from stool to stool and see the furniture rear up in nightmarishly surreal sequences that put the beer goggles squarely on the audience’s eyes. Moro remains jovial throughout – the kind of friend who’s the first to get lit but then doesn’t deteriorate. He has a few moments of introspection where he questions the lack of passing on drinking culture from generation to generation – yet it somehow gets passed on.

Davis and Johnston are the two who really question what it’s all about – Davis acts as a fly on the wall, egging her peers on while not touching a drop. It’s an interesting take on the old addage – it’s not about drinking it’s about hanging out with your friends. Sadly, Davis is often left a step or two behind her mates and not enjoying herself as much. Johnston’s observations merge ideas of masculinity with alcohol as both an inhibitor and an enabler for male bonding. He sharply observes that drinking while watching the footy is highly superficial, causing him to go on a bit of a philosophical arc, questioning the point while also happy to keep drinking. Group dance/movement is eerily executed as synchronised moves ritualise the art of the pour, the repetitious movements becoming frenzied and dangerous to end doused in alcohol. My Shout is exactly what it says it is – their interpretation of drinking culture in Australia. It’s not an overly nuanced piece and seems to be more of a recreation of events than a deep-dive into the culture it’s examining but overall it’s a great new work from promising up and comers to the Perth scene – we’ll drink to that!

My Shout is on at the Blue Room Theatre until Saturday 18th September. Get your tickets HERE

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Nocturna | A dark comedy of other halves, friends, lovers, soul mates…pets

Review | Laura Money

Imagine a cat’s nine lives span the ages – eons of primordial earth’s newness strengthening its kitten bones, Egyptian worship giving it the confidence of the pharaohs, sharpening its claws on stone age weapons. Nocturna gifts the cat a series of epic past lives as she searches for her one true love – her soulmate. Slinky and confident, Molly (Alison Van Reeken) has been through every possible rendition of the earth and come out on top. In a blistering opening monologue, and interspersed throughout the play she tells her story in a spoken word rhythm that pulses and resonates throughout the whole work. Writer Ian Sinclair imbues the character of the cat with a cosmic magnetism – the wisdom and power of the entire history of the world fits under her fur – filling her entire being from tip of her tail to point of her claws. The script explores duality and depth – it looks under the surface and draws its strength from the very land it’s written on – wisdom and experience absorbed by the characters but it is equally about the mundane and how sometimes even the seemingly small things can be big if given enough time.

This is a play in two halves – the large scale thrumming of time and space resonating across history with its emphasis on the primal, animal, and raw – and a sitcom worthy comedy where the only ‘grit’ is who ate whose yoghurt in the share house. On paper, these elements seem too disparate to work together, however Nocturna brilliantly intertwines these two genres and styles – the large scale and the minutiae of human life intersect and even begin to influence each other. Mellissa Cantwell directs the piece with the precarious nature of this balance at the forefront. Opening with Van Reeken silkily clawing her way through black draped material, dramatically providing a non-space that sits outside of time, Cantwell elicits an ethereal reverence from Van Reeken so sincere that the change of scene is a stark difference – almost jarring. It takes a moment to adjust as the human side of the cast settle into a domestic share house comedy complete with comedians in the cast and Van Reeken becomes a house cat – purring and meowing only.

Stripped of her grandiose monologues and thoroughly domesticated, Alison Van Reeken presents the best depiction of an animal this reviewer has ever seen. She slinks about the stage, settles her hips and shoulders in a swaying motion, prods and pads at the ground or couch before lying down – all of these gestures are so familiar to cat lovers it can be easy to forget she’s human! Sinclair cleverly places the monologues first which gives Molly gravitas as more than just a cat. Taking a moment to adjust after the schism, elegantly handled by Norabelle (Morgan Owen) waking from a dream, the share house comes alive. Sean (Isaac Diamond) scoffs at Norabelle’s paranoia about the window and her discomfort at their other housemate’s penchant for walking around in his underwear. Owen and Diamond have great chemistry and Owen’s comic timing is impeccable – her character is uptight and riddled with Millennial trends like her apparent ability to lucid dream.

Sinclair has written a very convincing sitcom style play complete with rough and ready room mate Noah (Dan Buckle) and newbie adjusting to their surroundings post break up Suha (Alicia Osyka). Suha and Noah develop a close friendship early on and take on the world in a heartwarming attempt to cheer each other up. The language is bang on, and the acting proves that these guys just get it – from Buckle’s amazing ability to keep his emotions slightly visible bubbling under the surface, to Osyka’s rubber facial expressions these two keep the comedy ticking over. Every single performer should be commended here especially for their sincerity when acting alongside Van Reeken’s perfectly rendered cat. Every exchange is beyond believable – the sheer skill of every single actor on stage is elite.

Nocturna is perhaps the strangest play to describe. Part sitcom, part dramatic poetry it begins with a clear separation however as it progresses the two opposite styles bleed into each other permeating depth and profundity into levity and seeming shallowness. The immense scale of the mysticism of cats fold into the share house in the form of dreams, discussions of philosophy, love and loss, and ultimately retribution. While the banality of human existence proves to be the downfall of the once powerful feline. Elegantly performed, beautifully written, and intuitively directed, Nocturna is a masterclass of its genre.

The Kabuki Drop presented Nocturna in August 2021 at Subiaco Arts Centre

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REVIEW: Every Brilliant Thing | Seeking out the joyous things in life one bullet point at a time

Review | Laura Money

Every Brilliant Thing about this show:

  • Luke Hewitt‘s amazing performance
  • Heartfelt and pure declarations of joy
  • A sense of community felt in the crowd
  • The list resonating with you
  • Laughing at previously taboo things
  • Calling out and becoming part of the show
  • Being with others
  • All of it

Hewitt’s list starts a little differently from mine – with ice cream, rollercoasters, and the colour yellow. These are the good things in the world as seen by a seven year old. As the audience calls out these simple delights they seem whimsical and pure – until Hewitt reveals the origins of the list. A list compiled at the time of his mother’s suicide attempt tinges the brilliant things with sadness. It is their joyous nature that jar with the bitterness of the situation. However, this is one of the most uplifting shows about depression ever written – it doesn’t claim to have any answers but uses one person’s ideas for seeing the good and the worth in the world and in humanity, which is a pretty good answer in my book.

Written and devised by playwright Duncan Macmillan and comedian/performer Jonny Donahoe the work is simple: a show in the round – which means there are four sides of seating with every section facing the middle where the performer stands. One performer – this can be anyone, male, female, non-binary as the narrator, in this case the brilliant Luke Hewitt. And all the house lights on – the audience is as much a part of the show as the performer. Every Brilliant Thing doesn’t really break the fourth wall – it never builds it up to be torn down in the first place. Through Hewitt’s affable nature and the sense of camaraderie from the intimate set up, the show is designed to focus all of its joy and heartache and hash it out in a kind environment. Black Swan State Theatre Company have certainly uncovered a gem in this buoyant and heartwarming experience.

As the show progresses and the audience becomes more and more involved, which serves as an elegant metaphor for community mindedness and how we all must come together and help one another. Hewitt is gentle in his approach to audience participation, coaching and encouraging the people in their performances. When his eagle eye searches for his next character, no-one is shrinking in their seats, as they know that they’re in the affable Hewitt’s capable hands. Through early loss with the death of beloved family dog, Sherlock Bones, to processing his mother’s illness and the repercussions her actions and his list have on his future, Hewitt relays these parts of the story with a clear voice and genuine emotion. Hewitt is the perfect fit for this role as he captures the essence of a confused seven year old, a university student on the verge of true love, and a slightly baffled 40-something divorcee with deft storytelling skills and enough heart to light the entire room.

Every Brilliant Thing is just that – every brilliant thing about theatre. It tells a truthful, heartfelt story that resonates, it brings people together around a topic usually hidden, it features cascading beautiful words that flow from Hewitt in an earnest monologue, and it contains a message of hope. Encouraging you to marvel at the world and the people in it, this play’s ethos is perhaps humanity’s most important function – to love and support one another – life is made easier with friends to talk to and shoulders to cry on and we can bond just as powerfully over positive shared experiences.

Trigger warnings for mental health and suicide

If you need to talk to someone you can find a list of resources in the program

Every Brilliant Thing is on at the State Theatre Centre from 25th August – 18th September 2021. You can get your tickets HERE

on now, Review

REVIEW: Sydney II: Lost and Found | Bringing stories of hope and bravery lovingly to the surface

Review | Laura Money

In the midst of war, two souls find each other and fall in love. In the midst of devastation and destruction young boys find hope with their heroes. In the midst of death there is life.

This is the full story of the HMAS Sydney – its proud crew, its valiant heroics, its sad fate, and its eventual rediscovery. Told in a unique format – a clever mix of theatrical and filmic devices, with a sweeping score and brilliantly heartfelt performances – Sydney II: Lost and Found brings clarity to the fate of the Sydney and weaves in a beautiful personal story guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings. Lost and Found is Theatre 180‘s second foray into a mixed media play. Following the success of A Fortunate Life the young company embarked on yet another central WA story in the search for the Sydney. Both works capture the imagination and the spirit of the WA population and remind us that there are important stories to be explored.

Lost and Found adopts the same format as its predecessor – a unique blend of live theatre and a cinematic experience, complete with soundtrack, credits a la film mode, and tangible performances. The backdrop is the cinema screen but a dynamic and lively one where backgrounds move, performers interact with each other on both stage and screen, and real footage of the discovery of the wreckage is shown. The result is a breathtaking experience that engages the senses and transports the audience to wherever they need to be – historical Perth, the deck of the Sydney, even a farm in Manjimup! It’s immersive theatre at its finest and we are happy to be ‘on board.’

There are two stories interwoven at play here – a traditional tale of love and loss with more questions than answers and the search for the actual wreckage. It’s part traditional love story, part TED talk as Allan and Jessie Rowe’s stories interact with a scientific adventure. Each cast member adopts several roles in bringing the Sydney’s story to light – Morgan Dukes shines as the effervescent Jessie – newlywed and uplifting supporter of her husband Alan (Tom O’Sullivan) who also has an optimistic outlook on life. Their story is shared with warmth and heart by writer Jenny Davis – she has the incomparable ability to create intimate personal stories and render them wholly ours. She shares the Alan’s love of the sea and navy through O’Sullivan’s enthusiastic dialogue and delivery. Jessie’s trepidation is ultimately quelled by her sense of hope and Davis weaves futures and pasts in an intricate play of language that is fiercely intelligent.

Directed by Stuart Halusz the work uses every single part of its stage both on screen and off! The actors Dukes, O’Sullivan and Myles Pollard flit between characters with deft costume changes moving seamlessly through eras, nations, and genders. Aided by a stellar performance by all three actors each character is brought to life with incredible talent – a change of facial features, a cheeky jacket, or even a bearing changes them from able seamen to school boys to German officers and each rendition is utterly believable. Alongside the Rowe’s story are other sailors and civilians that highlight the impact Sydney had on the popular imagination. It is this impact that spurred on the second part of this tale – the search for the wreckage and a final answer to what happened. The actors turn into presenters as they explain everything about the wreck from the history to the science and the sheer magnitude of the operations. They also talk crowdfunding in a highly entertaining segment. Accompanying the search the audience is stunned into silence, watching the sonar footage with bated breath as the wreckage is illuminated. It’s a thrilling moment that captures the feelings of the ship wreck hunters themselves.

Sydney II: Lost and Found is a sweeping romance between the people of Australia and the ship that captured everyone’s heart. Combining haunting imagery of the wreck and the exhilarating thrill of live performance this is an experience not to be missed.

Sydney II: Lost and Found is on at various cinemas in both regional and metro areas for the end of the year. Click HERE to find out more information and to purchase tickets.

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Minneapolis | Examining call-out culture in a #metoo world

Review | Laura Money

In Minneapolis, USA there is a room dubbed the quietest room in the world. It’s located at Orfield Laboratories and is so quiet that the longest anyone has been able to bear it is 45 minutes. Minneapolis’ protagonist sees his very own apartment take on the silence of its scientific counterpart in the wake of insensitive and obtuse comments used to invigilate a public shaming against him. As he hides out, waiting for the storm outside to subside he begins to feel the detrimental effects of silence and isolation. What if your thoughts are so heinous you don’t wish to be alone with them? In a blistering examination of cancel culture, the metoo movement, broken masculinity, and the normalisation of hate speech, writer/director/performer Will O’Mahoney exhibits emotional restraint and gives the issues under the microscope depth and gravity. Minneapolis doesn’t claim to have the answers but takes great strides towards a future in which calling out injustice and scruitinising gendered violence is absorbed into our culture – O’Mahoney is at the forefront of the movement and this work is an important rung on the ladder for change.

Minneapolis’ greatest strength is its biting sense of humour. One way to cement serious issues into a collective consciousness is through comedy. O’Mahoney’s humour sits in the awkward millennial camp – he adroitly calls out virtue signalling and the left-wing style of language in which correct terminology often inhibits the actual cause. The result is a hilariously on point, blistering attack on semantics and toxic entitlement that lifts the veil off the audience’s eyes and does so with its finger firmly on the pulse. Directors O’Mahoney and Frances Barbe eke out every bit of the Subiaco Arts Centre main stage – the action begins from behind the audience – a distressed O’Maohney runs after Andrea Gibbs down the aisle stairs until they reach the stage. There’s shouting, pleading, and even a bit of grovelling as O’Mahoney begs Gibbs to take down an incriminating video of him from the internet. O’Mahoney’s language and presentation style is brilliant – he stumbles and stammers over his words, backtracks and placates before a surge of self-righteous anger bursts through him and he lashes out in what we can assume is how he really feels.

The plot is simple – O’Mahoney’s character was filmed by Gibbs’ character saying something terribly offensive about a random woman. At the beginning of the play we are not privy to the content of the tape and have to glean information via clues glittered throughout the dialogue. Gibbs is unflinching in her delivery. Her signature larrikin-like, teasing tone renders the character equal parts infuriating and endearing. As she continues to work with O’Mahoney in a journalistic endeavour to uncover the truth behind hate speech and misogyny she becomes more and more frustrated by his absolute incapacity to take responsibility for his thoughts and actions. Straight, white, cis-gendered men your days are numbered and it is your response to this that will determine how you will help or hinder the process. He holes up in his apartment, moving furniture in frenzied frustration to the thrumming beat of musician and composer Liam Hickey. Hickey’s a master drummer and his clever, roiling soundtrack acts as the pulse of the show – beating faster and faster as things rush to a head. O’Mahoney’s world comes crashing about him as the drumbeats in his head are silent in the crushing quiet of his forced isolation. With all this time for introspection, you’d think he would accept responsibility for what he did – instead he becomes increasingly defensive and manic, seeking advice in the most unlikely of places.

It may seem odd to say, but O’Mahoney’s character is complete in his incompleteness. His speech patterns are as erratic as his thoughts, as he constantly self-edits to appear – for want of a better word – woke. Alongside the philosophical stylings of teenage bicycle food delivery guy Tobias Muhafidin he develops an insular and at times deranged approach to his personal but very public problem. Muhafidin is an absolute delight on stage. A hidden gem, he delivers everything with deadpan hilarity, only becoming vulnerable when pushed. Whilst the dialogue is laugh out loud funny, it twinges with dire recognition of gendered violence and microaggressions. And though these may seem like buzz words the philosophy behind these terms still resonates. As the play progresses we see O’Mahoney as less of a fish out of water, funny male protagonist (one that is comfortingly familiar in its ubiquitous nature) and more of an archaic and potentially toxic attitude that needs to be challenged. Gibbs sums it up in an impassioned speech as iconic as Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech but with more gusto. She expresses the weariness of women. How every single day misogyny wears them down. How it is still their responsibility when it’s clearly about time men stepped up. Gibbs is inspirational in this moment -she delivers her monologue firmly, and with conviction and emotional control, providing gravitas through her dignified tone to an issue that has been slowly gaining traction.

Minneapolis is a highly nuanced and intelligent work that provides humour, philosophy, and introspection. It puts fragile masculinity under scrutiny but even more important than that, it examines the complex relationship between cultural constructs and how to undo them. It is highly frustrating for people to be suddenly called out for something they’ve been doing their entire lives. Internalised prejudice is a sinister thing, and it’s only now that people are being held accountable for it that we can change. Highlighting differing attitudes through intergenerational masculinity, the play is not only of its time but for all time. Works like Minneapolis contribute greatly to the changing narrative and everyone involved should be very proud of this piece.

Minneapolis played at Subiaco Arts Centre from 27th – 31st July 2021

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Hell Hath No Fury | Musical Bitchin’ From the Basement of Hell

Review | Laura Money

When the age old saying Hell Hath No Fury like a woman scorned comes up, the image of an angry, possibly violent woman doing something vengeful and stupid is conjured. Blistering rock songs that will rip your heart out and rain spite down on every man. This is the stereotype, but Zalia Joi is all about the healing power of love and forgiveness – so titles can be deceiving! The show is hell-bent on working through pain and sorrow through song and trying to reconcile how to match up being a good person when people have treated you badly. It’s raw, full of expression and utterly human.

Joi is the embodiment of wiccan rock chick. She sings with an emotional core that brings power and depth to a suite of original music that taps into a Fleetwood Mac vibe but exudes Joi’s wonderful blend of strength and nurturing. Alicia (Joi) finds herself in Tartarus – the ‘basement of hell’ – a place where souls live out their worst nightmares – their own personal hell. Accompanying Joi in this circle of hell are the band ‘Men From Hell’ a mash up of good boys gone bad all wearing various shades of red and black an sporting hellish and grotesque accessories. Joi’s guide to Tartarus – Evie (Fiona Cooper) becomes philosophical as her and Alicia nut it out over how to react to betrayal. Cooper is mesmerising in her badassery! She slinks about the stage with a mischievous grin, delighting in revenge and torture – in our case extending that delight to removing a mobile phone from an unlucky audience member – and her songs and story reflect her reactionary violence that might mask a vulnerability. Cooper treads this line with blistering vocal talent and a compelling stage presence and is the perfect counter to Joi.

Throughout the show, Alicia is processing her feelings and what exactly happened to her. Through heartfelt original songs, Joi brings a depth to Alicia that unpacks the initial shock of betrayal and probes beyond a knee-jerk reaction. As much as it pains her to confront these feelings, Joi’s Alicia is the vulnerable princess whose forgiving heart urges you to choose compassion over anger and is able to find peace. Clearly written from experience, Joi is the ultimate salve for heartache as she embraces you in her hurt yet giving embrace. The music is brilliantly composed and arranged and the ladies sing the hell out of it! Hell Hath No Fury is a blistering night of rock and soul that will stay with you the next time you’re faced with the decision to be kind.

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: York | Layers of history intertwine in this unique approach to place

Review | Laura Money

We are all just visitors of this time, this place, we are all just passing through.

Co-Director Ian Wilkes

Set on Ballardong boodja, York uses the site of the old hospital as its silent witness to the past and the bloody and intriguing history that sweeps through one particular place. Written by upcoming new voices Ian Michael and Chris Isaacs, both of whom have had a huge impact on the Perth theatre scene in recent years, the tale is set over three main periods – a couple seeking a ‘tree change’, a school camp in 1985, and as the original hospital in the aftermath of World War I. It’s a sweeping, epic tale that goes way back through 200 years of suffering and pain, highlighting the human experience in a unique and surprisingly fun way. It’s a play of collaborations – the writers collaborate, the directors Ian Wilkes and Clare Watson work well together, as does the ensemble cast and the result is a well-conceived piece to be proud of – this is Black Swan State Theatre Company at the top of their game.

Beginning in 2020 and working backwards, the play starts off funny and quirky – Alison Van Reeken and Shareena Clanton play couple Emma and Rosy as they move into the old hospital building, ready to renovate. After a hilarious exchange with movers Ben Mortley and Maitland Schnaars we realise all is not quite as it seems. Mortley and Schnaars refuse to place any boxes upstairs and at first this appears to be country banter and casual laziness but soon transpires that this is not the case. The 2020 scenes seem straightforward and charming – lulling you into a false sense of security until neighbour Shauna (Jo Morris) shows up. Shauna is a clairvoyant and the more she talks the more little spooky occurrences are exposed. Technical elements are pulled off magnificently, from windows shutting on their own to jugs leaping off the kitchen counter, it’s impressive.

What makes the show so successful is the brilliant set design by Zoe Atkinson. It’s a multi-story marvel that is part cross section and part closed set – complete with mysterious closed door at the top of the stairs that is used to maximum effect. There is so much detail, and the versatility of the set means it can span multiple eras with minimum changes. Your eyes will constantly rove every centimetre of the set for clues and the payoff at the end when it all clicks into place cement the set design and story as an interconnected work. Moving on to the 1985 section, the characters are different once again, yet the ‘house’ remains the same. This time, you notice the beds upstairs as they become used for a camp. There are great performances here by Perth mainstay Isaac Diamond, rising star Elise Wilson, and WAYTCO alumni Benjamin and Jacob Narkle and Sophie Quin. Based on true events, York is now a poltergeist style haunted house story – it has all the elements of classic horror: a school camp in the middle of summer, kids telling ghost stories, a real haunting, and kids daring each other to do stupid things. The camp section is hilarious, daggy as it embraces every bit of eighties style, and scary. I have never been in an audience that audibly gasp whenever something spooky happens but this whole audience remained on the edge of their seats, some people covering their eyes. For a show to elicit that response is remarkable, not since Let The Right One In have Black Swan audiences been so viscerally responsive.

Each section of York has a distinct tone, and the 1919 section is a little tense and formal. It is also the part where the audience is finally given answers, elegantly wrapping up the stories of the future. It’s brilliantly performed by all of the cast, but special mention must be given to Van Reeken and Clanton who really shine. Van Reeken plays the Matron who we kind of meet in the previous section and her performance is so nuanced as she maintains her principles, yet proves to be a kind and caring woman. Clanton’s pleas to help her sick son in a time where Aboriginal people were not granted medical help in hospitals is agonising and her heartfelt pleas will stay with you. The story then shifts one final time, to the early colonial era when tensions were high between white settlers and Aboriginal people dispossessed from their own land. The devastating part of the story recounted is that it is true. The ensemble cast stand in a line and deliver the story to the audience unflinchingly raw and messy. This is a powerful technique as it shows the time for antics and staging is over – it’s now time to listen properly and not speculate. It’s brilliantly effective theatre.

York is a wonderfully layered work that seeks to uncover the layers of the past. It demonstrates that history and stories are all around us and if we just connected to the land we might regain a sense of place. It is respectful of all who have used this land and all who may in the future. Brilliantly written, directed, and staged York is a local piece that should see the world stage. It’s a WA masterpiece and should be celebrated as such.

York played at the State Theatre Centre WA from 10th July to 1st August 2021.

on now, Review

REVIEW: MONICA | Feminist theatre company gives Lewinsky the respect she deserved in a pre #metoo world

Review | Laura Money

21st January 1998 – the day that catapulted Monica Lewinsky’s name into the spotlight. The words used to describe her were not flattering and she felt the cracks and the pressure from horrendous slut shaming and misogyny in the most intense way possible. It was also the year that Savage Garden hit Truly Madly Deeply came out and Dawson’s Creek premiered. For the performers of Tempest Theatre – a fierce group of feminist theatre makers – 1998 meant different things. Some remember the music, some the fashion, others weren’t even born yet. MONICA is the collective apologia by people whose relationships to the name Monica Lewinsky are all different but all sincere in their examination of the 90s scandal through the lens of a post #metoo world.

Directed by Susie Conte and written by Tempest as a group, MONICA uses real transcripts from the Grand Jury Testimony of Lewinsky, crude sound clips of comedians and media figures weighing in on the case, and original poetry by Stejara Timis. As the crew thoughtfully construct their dramaturg around their own feelings, they are careful to not speak for others or put words in people’s mouths. MONICA is a gentle speculative work that sparks genuine conversations about womanhood, public shaming, nature vs nurture, feminism and much more. It’s a fluid piece that ripples with each performer’s contribution yet still maintains a respectful distance by showing admiration for Lewinsky and her stellar rise from the ashes, and breaking down the impact of her trial by media on regular women and girls from all over the world.

Conte cleverly has each person wear the same costume and wig of that famous do (Monica did it first, Rachel!) and stages the work so that it resembles a Greek chorus at times and a courtroom at others. There are clever moments where extracts from Lewinsky’s trial are juxtaposed against passages from The Crucible another famous story of women on trial. As the prosecutor mansplains to Lewinsky about perjury, so too does John Proctor declare that anything women do will be scruitinised forever. Intensity rises as all the different voices come together including that of child Monica (Lula Blythe-Williams) and then we are treated to the happily ever after that should replace every fairy tale ending – Monica Lewinsky is a force of nature, absolutely slaying and kicking butt as a feminist icon. Honestly, by sharing her success, Tempest celebrates not the girl that was buffeted by society, but the independent woman who spits defiantly at the wind with every hilarious tweet and TED Talk she gives. Talk about rising up!

MONICA an apology is on until 24th July 2021. Get your tickets HERE

on now, Review

REVIEW: Borderline | Deeply personal and lyrical exploration of growing up and living with mental illness

Review | Sarah Soulay

Borderline Personality disorder (BPD) is characterised by unstable moods, behaviour and relationships. Often times people see those with BPD as being moody, emotional and manipulative. Borderline, written and performed by Evelyn Snook and directed by Kylie Bywaters seeks to dispel that belief and instead focus on the real people behind the disorder.

Borderline tells the tale of Evelyn Snook’s life as they recount the ups and downs of being diagnosed with BPD and their journey to recovery. This is a raw, emotional masterpiece that will have you crying and feeling inspired all at the same time. As you watch you are comforted by Snook’s approachable and playful tone and mannerisms. They create a fun relatable rapport with the audience as they take you by the hand on the journey of their life. They make you feel included and understood, and acknowledge that although our family, friends and our doctors can be well meaning, misdiagnosis or ignoring the symptoms all together, can do more harm than good.

Be Gosper is an absolutely amazing singer. Their voice is soulful and transport the viewer to a world of melodic peace and magic. Their music is beyond effective in propelling the story and providing well needed breaks between the at times confrontational topics discussed in the performance. I for one could listen to Gosper sing and play their guitar for hours on end. I cannot wait for their inevitable album to drop.

Jasmine Lifford and Clare Testoni do an amazing job with lighting design and AV and set design, respectively. The use of shadows to portray memory is really effective, it is elegant, serene and emotional. Not surprising, given how skilled Testoni is at shadow work and puppeteering. From using a projector to more intimate shadow work with a torch and a toy dog, this is an exceptional story telling device.

I love the simple backdrop of white silhouette houses painted on a black wall to use as the main site of projections. Using both people’s silhouettes and archival footage of Snook’s life growing up, provides a punchy, effective and sweet story telling device and adds even more dimension to an already complex and artistic show.

As someone who doesn’t cry easily, I cried…… a lot. So, I do have to give a trigger warning for the show. Do be prepared that they do discuss some confronting things about BPD and growing up with undiagnosed disorders. However, they have done everything in their power to create a safe space for their audience, they provide plenty of useful links to help lines and information about BPD and even go as far as to having a licensed councillor on the premises for audience members to talk to if they need it.

Not to fret, however, this isn’t all a doom and gloom show about the woes of BPD. On the contrary, it is about overcoming adversity and learning to live and survive. Having a supportive family, amazing friends both in human and dog form, and meeting the love of their life. It’s an ode to the struggles and ongoing successes, providing hope, reassurance and a promise that although there are dark days, weeks, month and years, there is always happiness to be found and a survival story to tell.

Snook is a true story teller, exceptionally weaving a heart-warming and gut-wrenching tale about friendship, family, self-discovery and a life with BPD. A performance not to be missed.

Borderline is playing at The Blue Room Theatre until 31st July 2021. You can get tickets HERE

on now, Review

REVIEW | FIRE | Realistic, entirely relatable, and utterly heartfelt

Review | Laura Money

The remount of FIRE by Kalyakoorl Collective is truly the glow up of the year! Its original run during FRINGEWORLD 2021 was brilliant and led to The Fourth Wall calling it a triumph – a sharply written, intimate work that explores familial relationships and the heart that lays at the core of their new production company. The revised script sees the essence of the original work heightened and refined, creating an overall elegance to the piece. Writer and performer, Ebony McGuire takes casual and heated discussions alike from her sisters and family and distills them into a sharp and cracking dialogue. Each line hits home and there are moments you’d be forgiven for thinking that McGuire has access to your phone records! It’s absorbing, intelligent theatre that hits you first but hugs you better afterwards.

FIRE is a punchy and clever work played to perfection by McGuire as the younger sister Melyssa and Nadia Martich (older sister Holly) who has moved in with her in the wake of a breakup. Their banter is razor sharp and although always teasing there are still enough barbs hidden under the tongue for truths to hit home. McGuire is a tremendous storyteller – her strength lies in creating fully realised characters with equal flaws and admirable qualities. Martich listening to sleep meditation and trying to do yoga while scoffing at it is all of us. Her cavalier attitude masks how deeply hurt she really is and Martich expresses this brilliantly. She is the millennial reaction to heartache incarnate. Melissa is just trying to keep it all together – not ever wanting to be open and pick at her wounds. McGuire’s little huffy expression of exasperation is too real and her stubborn turn of lip when she is finally forced to open up is endearing. There’s nuance here as well in the more than welcome addition of the previously unseen boyfriend – Christopher Moro. Initially, Moro is comic relief but as the show progresses he emerges as a caring and insightful character that doesn’t swoop in and save the day but assists in each sister opening up and seeing each other’s point of view.

Even the unseen characters assert their influence on the others. Lyss and Holly haven’t seen each other since their Nan passed away and her presence hovers between them at times causing tension and others, fondness. Holly (Martich) is making roo stew but using the recipe Nan made up to impress her Iranian neighbours all those years ago. Through this story and funny reminiscences of getting yelled at for getting into the pantry and Nan’s quirky little turns of phrase a fun and hard woman emerges. Perspective is key as Lyss and Holly have different takes on Nan – to Holly she was a mentor and loving mother figure, but to Lyss a hard woman who took out her anger at the girls’ mother on Lyss just because she resembled her. The language is intelligent and realistic – from working out which takeaway to order to tackling skeletons in the closet, nothing feels forced.

Director Sian Murphy really brings out the best in the cast – McGuire and Martich are so natural with each other, their dynamic is 100% believable. They dance and skip from gentle teasing and laughter when reminiscing, to full blown arguing and rage over small things that are meaningful only to the individual. Martich’s shutdown when she feels betrayed at the arrival of a stranger is masterful and Moro’s peacekeeping techniques admirable – of course he gets one of the funniest lines in the whole show – but it’s the realistic way tension plays out, humour is interwoven, and true love that knits everyone together that takes FIRE to the next level.

Perhaps the best improvement is taking the beautiful poem Noonook Djiti djiti and performing it at the beginning without context and at the end after the healing has begun and the poem has been explained somewhat. McGuire and Martich perform the poem about a Willie wagtail in both Noongar and English. Accompanied by birdsong and a beautiful, calming soundscape by composer Sophia Hanseon-Knarhoi the performers weave and move in a cohesive and dreamlike dance, choreographed by Martich. Their synchronicity in both movement and voice is utterly transcendent as one feels a deep connection to land and story.

In Noongar language Kalyakoorl means forever or infinite and we are confident that this company will be as enduring as its heartfelt message in this inaugural work. FIRE was a strong piece in the first place but by stripping back the dialogue, removing the awkward monologues and cleverly writing them into the script as letters and dialogue, adding in the boyfriend and improving the set this company has achieved near perfection. The script spits and crackles like its eponymous metaphor gifting us the spirit and beauty of First Nations stories. It’s winner, winner Roo stew dinner!

FIRE is on at The Blue Room Theatre until 10th July 2021. You can get your tickets HERE.

Past Production, Review, Uncategorized

REVIEW: The Summer of Our Lives | Taking you straight back to family car trips, fish and chips for tea, and holidays to remember…oh and aliens!

Review | Laura Money

Aaah, summer holidays – there’s nothing like them. Packing up the car, getting a reading pile going, finding an alien lifeform and getting caught up in government espionage – you know, the usual! The Summer of Our Lives is the perfect crossover of ET and The Castle with a blistering soundtrack akin to Heathers the Musical. Writer Tyler Jacob Jones flexes his talent with this sharply written script and cohesive, catchy book. Each song blends classic musical theatre tropes with a lean in to the camp of both B movies and 90s sci fi nostalgia – it’s like Little Shop of Horrors downunder, and we’re absolutely here for it.

Jones stamps this show with a huge ‘Made in Perth’ marker and honestly, it’s just awesome. The references to travelling down south to ‘Dunsbridge’ and always getting fish and chips when you don’t catch enough takes this reviewer straight back to her childhood and all the warm fuzzies associated with it. Through Sally Phipps‘ set and costume design The Summer of Our Lives is essentially a giant chatterbox of a nostalgia hit. The costuming is particularly excellent – Erin Jay Hutchinson embodies the quintessential 90s Mum on holiday with her peach and pastel pallette, Mum shorts and 90s trendy Monica from Playschool short do, Elliot Peacock leans in more to the 1960s comic book geek but that tracks for his storyline, Emily Semple is ridiculously adorable in her pastel pink overalls (I think every girl growing up in the 90s had a pair of those!) and Nick Maclaine is just perfection – he looks like every awkward picture of your Dad from 1992 when he was still young enough to get away with shorts but probably shouldn’t have – and those glasses are bang on point. From the louvered cupboard doors to the retro table and chairs, the set is so familiar you’d be hardpressed not to dump your schoolbag on stage and call out to Mum to find out if dinner tonight is going to be lamb cutlets or apricot chicken!

Much like Little Shop of Horrors, this show celebrates alien movie tropes except this time it’s the 90s – it features a young family healing together after the death of the father, a hidden alien found by a small child and then kept secret, spies and conspiracy theorists, and a lot more gore than is necessary. Each element is writ large, conflating the original and placing it at the forefront of the stage. Director, Katt Osbourne has the actors utilising every bit of the stage and cleverly reimagines set pieces to create a picture in our minds. The dining table becomes the car, and combined with excellent lighting design by Peter Young and brilliant comic timing a mythical car chase scene steals the show – until the scene-stealing finale of course. Osbourne’s direction of the alien is particularly inspired – he is operated by puppeteer Tristan McInnes – allowing him to fly about the stage and manipulate objects. Everyone just suspends disbelief as McInnes moves objects through the air and it’s just so much fun, especially when the characters act as if it were an invisible force.

Each actor is phenomenal – no exceptions! Between Semple’s aggressive tirade against ants and teachers and Ned her heartwarming connection to her new alien friend and reconcilliation with her Mum is realistic and tender. She pulls off playing a kid by playing it straight and not faltering – it’s a great performance. Peacock as Arthur is the everyman you sympathise with – he sings with heart and maintains his quirky character throughout. His undeniable chemistry with the hilarious Tory Kendrick as the American Glance sparks as they compliment each other well. Kendrick slinks onto the stage with grace and humour – a Taylor Swift lookalike with a brilliant voice. Of course, no family would be complete without a loveable Mum – this is really the best role Erin Jay Hutchinson has played. She takes the grieving Mum, Bev and navigates her through the death of her husband, the misunderstanding of her kids, the spark of new love, and the understanding that she doesn’t need it all while rocking Mum jeans and super cool hair. Hutchinson is brilliant! Her Mum-isms are hilarious and her voice is great, she even gets a few sad moments and touching songs as well as some of the funniest lines in the show. Speaking of funny lines – all hail Nick Maclaine! Wow, is this the funniest role in the show or what? Ned is the dorkiest, church going, wannabe stepdad going and Maclaine’s portrayal of him is *chef’s kiss!* Not only does he lean in entirely to the dork side, Maclaine’s face turns rubber as he finds himself losing control of the ‘loveable’ persona to reveal the true Ned. Although (spoiler alert) he probably doesn’t deserve his fate in the end. (Although that’s what makes this show so great – it doesn’t shy away from letting everything go to hell in a handbasket.)

The Summer of Our Lives is pretty much the perfect musical. It has catchy songs, from the title piece to ‘kill all the ants’ and the fun, irreverant duo ‘let’s do something stupid’ and the sheer musicality of five way songs that express individual motivations while being a cohesive whole is brilliant. The show unravels into perfect chaos, further proving that nostalgia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – there is absolutely no going back. Let’s hope this show gets picked up nationally because it really is the perfect homage to all things 90s with killer tunes, hilarious dialogue, and poignant heartfelt moments – it’s the stage show of our lives.

Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Ugly Virgins | Five women skate circles around shit dates, self-worth and sticking it to the man.

Review | Sarah Soulay

Do you want to watch a heart-warming story with feminist grit on roller skates? Then you have come to the right place! Ugly Virgins follows an unlikely group of friends coming together to train, reluctantly share stories and be the best they can be. Brilliantly co-written and directed by Sally Davies and Anna Lindstedt, and produced by Maiden Voyage Theatre Company, this story of rejects to friends keeps you invested to the very end.

The play takes place during the latest roller derby season, as a group of rejects, for various reasons, are unable to join any teams. An older player ‘Cinnamon Roller’ who wants to bring the spark back to her life, played by the talented Danielle Antaki, assembles this unlikely group of individuals who have to work through their baggage if they want to make it on a team. They explore love, rejection, passion and deep-rooted emotional scares in this fun and one-of-a-kind story.

Even with just a bare stage, sound designer and composer Alex and Yell, and lighting designer Rhiannon Peterson are able to transport the audience to an intense roller derby match without the necessity for any real props. However, if the stage was a bit larger, I feel like the actors would have more freedom and confidence to move around on their skates. Either way they did a great job with the space they had.

The writing was exceptional and really tug the heartstrings especially during the gut-wrenching climax. A great show of the writing and directing is during the training scenes where they chop and change the exercises as they cut to different characters opening up to each other and to the audience. Through this unique spin the audience gets to learn about the characters in a fresh and up-beat way. This accompanied by smooth lighting transitions really elevates the play.

A favourite scene of mine is a Kate Bush montage, without going into any specific detail, it is hilarious. The only other comment on it would be that it goes just a bit too long, if it is slightly shortened it would be perfect. Although, you can really see each actor letting themselves have fun so it is a joy to watch.

One critique however, is in the beginning, the hardships of certain characters are teased at, implying that there will be a big reveal about what they are later on. Though, when the moment comes, it falls short of what is implied. The audience has to insinuate a lot about these events, which would been fine, if it wasn’t built up to be a big deal earlier on. This was a minor critique however, and the show as a whole is very well-written.

Each actor’s performance is phenomenal, they really make the characters their own. This is most evident through the conversationalist tone used by each actor during the performance. This really emphasises the varying extents of social awkwardness that each character has. Courtney Cavallaro who plays ‘Nutcracker’ does an exceptional job playing a closed off, emotionally stunted and determined softie who needs to open themselves up to the idea of friendship and love.

Mikayla Merks‘ character of ‘Huntswoman’ is the perfect comic relief, her ditsy warm hearted and equally determined character compliments Cavallaro perfectly. Also, extra praise for the amount of times her character had to fall over, well done for the perseverance.

Amber Kitneys character ‘Large Gundersen’ is such a delight, with a running gag of finding the perfect roller derby name, the grace of a competitive skater and a heart of gold she brings light and joy to the group. Katie McAllister as the ‘Mad Splatter’ provides the level-headed support the group needs, while still having her own burdens to bare.

Not only is the acting fantastic, but they did it all while on skates. I don’t know about you but the idea of acting, singing, and dancing all on skates completely exhausts me, yet every single one of them kept the energy at 100% the whole 65 minutes, never missing a beat. You know someone is a great actor when they can deliver a serious tragic scene while rolling around on skates.

With a group of rejects you want to be a part of, Ugly Virgins is an experience not to be missed. There is a lockout when you see the show, this is to ensure the safety of the cast and those coming to see them, so please make sure you go to the bathroom and have your drinks ready in hand when you go to this fantastic performance. So, what are you waiting for? Get your tickets and your derby name ready and skate on down to Ugly Virgins.

Ugly Virgins played at The Blue Room Theatre from 1st – 19th June 2021

on now, Review

REVIEW | Kangaroo Stew is a hearty family drama that kicks off Blue Room Theatre’s 2021 programming with a wallop!

Review | Laura Money

Talk about a show that packs a punch! Kangaroo Stew written and performed by Zac James, directed by Bruce Denny and played at The Blue Room Theatre is the ultimate family story. It takes good, hard working people who are dedicated to each other and their sacred land and posits the question – what would happen if this was all taken away? Featuring a five-person cast of phenomenal actors, Kangaroo Stew takes you back to your roots and educates while entertaining – and it will probably leave you with a lump in your throat.

The set is dynamic, providing clear zones where each dramatic section occurs – Denny’s direction is smooth when each character moves from area to area alongside masterful lighting design from Peter Young. There are earth toned screens that demarcate the separate areas, a kitchen table with cupboards and hob in the heart of the stage as with the heart of the home, and a bedroom to the right for privacy that plays an important role throughout. Young’s contribution is highlighted during a dreamtime story in which actors move and dance in a sinister fashion behind the screens with a powerful light casting creepy shadows of the characters in the story to accompany Maitland Schnaars‘ hypnotic storytelling.

Schnaars plays John, father and husband of the struggling family. He is also dead. Returning guiding spirits are an integral part of Aboriginal culture and John’s spirit is interwoven into the story just as seamlessly as Dreaming and the spirit of the land are into culture. Cutting a dignified and sometimes solemn figure, Schnaars gently but firmly teaches country and story to his children. He jokes with his son, Jack (Micah Kickett) who shares banter with the cheekiest of grins, but is serious when addressing David (James) providing a gravity that cultural significance merits. Kickett and James share a brilliant chemistry that is every sibling relationship. They love each other fiercely but also have the capacity to hurt each other because of it. Jack sees David’s moving away as a betrayal – which is nothing compared to what is about to come.

At the heart of Kangaroo Stew is a strong bond and intense relationships. There is a beautiful moment between CJ Hampson and Rayma Morrison as mother and daughter in law that will leave you unsure if you should laugh or cry. The family’s utmost dedication to its newest member is heartwarming. Hampson plays the peacekeeper well, shifting seamlessly from playful language with Jack and respectful yet friendly tones with Lilly. However, it is Lilly’s relationship to John that is the most harrowing. Morrison’s Lilly is strong on the outside but falling apart with emotion inside. She shifts from capable, funny, caring matriarch to vulnerable, insecure, quiet alcoholic. Lilly drinks to ‘banish’ John’s spirit as she feels she can’t move on until he’s gone. Schnaars and Morrison share a touching moment that is so perfectly performed there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

Kangaroo Stew is wonderfully uplifting, a stunning insight into the everyday understanding of spirituality and culture. It’s connections to land and family are strong, tangible threads that prove that much like the stew itself, every element is different but when it comes together it works better than ever. And it’s a bloody good show, too!

Kangaroo Stew is playing at The Blue Room Theatre from 27th April – 8th May 2021. You can get your tickets HERE

Interview, on now

IN CONVERSATION | What’s in Kangaroo Stew? Find out with Director Bruce Denny as we talk about his latest Blue Room Theatre Production

Interview | Laura Money

Kangaroo Stew is a family drama that centres around Native Title, loss and grief, and the ways in which we all come together as one. It premieres at The Blue Room Theatre on 27th April 2021. We caught up with Director Bruce Denny to find out what it’s all about.

Denny has directed plays previous to this but Kangaroo Stew marks his Blue Room debut, he was assistant director on FIFO (Yirra Yaakin), independent co-op type theatre and will be directing for Yirra Yaakin’s Dating Black. He was just recently in The Sum of Us – so does being an actor give him any more insight into directing?

‘Well as a director you know what the actors are going through. You know all the nerves and the worries and the doubts and all that. And as an actor you think, ok it’s not just about me and my character, the director has to put the show together so it all balances out. As an actor you’re very quick to think ‘my character wouldn’t do that’ but as a director you think ‘oh actually, that relates to that because that’s what so and so said in page 2. I think it’s a good thing to cross over. I love being on stage.’

Interestingly, Denny’s journey to the stage is not your classic story. ‘When I went to school I wasn’t allowed to do drama … I auditioned in grade four for Oliver, the musical and the next week Dad took me out and enrolled me in football!’

It wasn’t until a well meaning neighbour connected to community theatre encouraged him to tread the boards: ‘I was fortunate enough I had a neighbour once who was involved in community theatre and they were looking for a sleazy Mexican card player for A Streetcar Named Desire and she said ‘yeah, you’d do it, Bruce.’ And yeah, I loved it and kept up with it after that.’

Of course there are many ways to get to where Denny is today ‘Yep, did community theatre for a while then an agent came and saw one of the shows and at that time I was a male model and got myself an agent and just went from job to job. I never went to WAAPA as such but I have done courses like stage combat and character and development’

‘I had a lot of good directors when I first started, one of them she taught me about owning the space and others teach you stagecraft and things as you go along.’

So what was his first Blue Room show?

‘A few years ago in the 600 seconds I did a monologue, about three or four years ago. I’ve always gone to the Blue Room to see shows, I have a place in the country I live in unless I’m at work – if I haven’t got work I go bush but I really love contemporary Australian theatre so I’ve always been a fan of the Blue Room. It’s the first time directing there but I have been in shows.’

What’s it like being at the Blue Room?

‘What I like about it is it’s a small space – it’s got a good feel about it. Because you’ve got usually an educated audience in the theatre, so they’re prepared to allow for experimental theatre, they’re a good bunch of people and the confined space suits a smaller play.’

Kangaroo Stew started out as a much larger production ‘Zac and I sat down and had to bring it back to what we could actually perform in the space that we had with the budget that we had as well. What’s the basic story line of what we want to tell.’

It’s ultimately a story about family so how does it feel directing a bunch of people who have to love each other every night?

‘[There are] five people on stage – the father John played by Maitland Schnaars – now he’s actually already dead, so you see him throughout the play, then his wife, his widow Lilly who is played by Aunty Raima, then his son Jack who stayed home who is played by Micah and then there’s David the son who left and has now returned, he’s played by Zac James the writer, and then we have his fiancé/love interest in CJ Hanson.’

‘There’s a lot of respect, well Maitland has a lot of respect for people because of his experience and his body of work, the new person is Micah, he’s done stand up comedy and this is his first time on stage and it’s a very supportive experience – myself and Maitland we sat down and had a yarn with him – he’s coming leaps and bounds and I’m sure this is not the last time you’ll se him in a show. There’s a real bond, they all look out for each other when you’re on the stage you are dependent on other people so you do need to be supportive of each other.’

It’s a family story – how important is aboriginality to the story?

‘Well Zac is Wangai, it’s a family story similar to a lot of people out there – they’re doing it tough and then they get the offer of royalties from a mine compared to the importance of culture. We covered this in FIFO as well, it’s an issue that’s affecting lot’s of communities – do we stay here living in poverty without proper chances for education or can we retain the culture and still get ahead. So it’s a modern story linking to the ancient past of beliefs – where do you compromise? It’s a subject that’s affecting many places now.’

‘We’ve got to tell our own stories. They’re the same stories as everyone else’s. I was involved in a play called Cracked a couple of years ago and that covered drug addiction and that can be a story about white fella, black fella – it’s a story that’s still affecting families now and that could be in any suburb. These stories, they’re our stories – I’m not trying to tell somebody else’s story. The movement now is really, ok our stories are as relevant as anybody else’s stories and we don’t have to just do this old stuff. Yeah, stories about poverty and doing it tough is not confined to one race, colour or creed. They’re modern stories – anyone can watch the importance of coming together as a family to make decisions … so it’s a story that anyone can take something from.’

‘We have included bits of culture in this one – spirits, language, a bit of dance, just bits of it to tell the story, to keep it grounded.’

What do you think the audience is going to get out of Kangaroo Stew?

‘I’d like to think they’ll get a better understanding of what’s out there. Mining and the remote areas, these things can have a big impact. So it’s an understanding of what people can go through in these areas – I know from living and working in the city it’s like ‘oh just leave it all in the ground, you know what I mean?’ And there’s something there that says we need work, we need jobs for our kids and other people say no dig it all up! And of course you can’t dig it all up because it’s important to our culture. So, it’s not as simple as people think. I think Zac has done a great job in saying hey, if we do this we could have this, we could have that, we can get proper health services and all that. I think Zac as a writer has done a great job because he’s not just one sided.’

‘In theatre I don’t always say I want the message to take this message away. I want to give them a show that they enjoy being in that room and that they want to be in that room again. When I normally get the actors together for rehearsing a show my general spiel is always to remember that you’re doing this for an audience. If we have an empty theatre, what’s the point of putting it on? So I usually try to direct so that either the audience are going to get something out of it or at least enjoy their night at the theatre.

It could be a comedy or it could be a drama. After The Sum of Us for instance I had a lot of people coming up to me after and telling me their stories. And I felt very honoured by that… what they did is want to hang around afterwards and share their stories and open up a bit and that to me is good live theatre. When you get that audience engagement and they’re prepared to have a yarn about it after. I’m one of those people, I go out after the show and I’m quite happy to talk to anybody who wants to talk to me about the show. I’m quite happy to talk about it because for the audience that’s part of their evening out as well. Especially somewhere like the Blue Room which has a nice little bar and an area you can talk, they’ve paid their money to see 60 minutes of theatre, but if you can extend that out by another half an hour feeling safe and comfortable to come up and say, oh we liked that or it wasn’t my cup of tea – that’s fine too. For me theatre is everything. I can remember when every play was three hours long and you just want to go home and go to bed after. These days it’s shorter – curtains up at 7pm, we finish at 8 and then another half an hour of talking – I mean they don’t have to hang around, they can go home to bed or they can have a yarn. I like an audience that feels comfortable enough to hang around.’

So, how does the dynamic change as the show develops?

‘You find you have the reading and everyone’s all fired up, then you go through the blocking process and the energy starts to drop, then you go into rehearsals and it becomes routine, then the first time they start playing with props things change a bit. Then costumes and all of a sudden things lift a peg. And then the lights and sound come in and you think, alright. Then you get a few people in the room and they react, they start laughing or something and all of a sudden the dynamic changes. Then you get to the opening night where some people get nervous and then you have the run of the show, so it does change dynamics but in a good way.’

Of course, for Denny directing is all about connection – to each other, to the words, to the space.

‘Last night I did an exercise where I put all of the actors in different parts of the room, so they weren’t near each other and turned off every single light in the room so it was total black. And I got them just to do a lines run. And two of the actors actually felt really emotional in a part they hadn’t really before. It was just them in the dark without visual props or movement even taken out of it, they couldn’t move they just had to do it in the dark and sit still. And that took it to a different dynamic when they did that.’

Kangaroo Stew is on at The Blue Room Theatre. This interview was conducted pre lockdown and restrictions. Please keep up to date on their website: blueroom.org.au

Review

REVIEW | Feeling Way too Good: Songs of Michael Buble | Lisa Woodbrook is happy and she knows it!

Review | Kieran Eaton

With a show title like Feeling Way too Good: Songs of Michael Buble you may get the impression that Michael Buble is reigniting his early 2000s hit career, to perform at Perth’s Crown Casino! However, the past twelve months have been uniquely different with the global COVID pandemic and we now have an opportunity to look at things differently. Why not try a larger-than-life Australian personality in Lisa Woodbrook to take this humungous challenge up? Enter the bubbly Woodbrook herself – hailing from WA nail the classic tunes with gusto.

Woodbrook is comfortable in her own skin, adorning a bright pink suit and strutting the stage with comical flamboyance, she wins the audience over instantly with just a smile. Her voice is strongly projected throughout the dark surrounds of the casino’s former Eve Night Club and whether you agree or disagree with what she says – she certainly keeps your attention with personal observations, fluttered with daggy jokes that keep the night light and jovial. Woodbrook has the backing of a vast array of musicians playing big band style that back her so easily you barely notice their presence! They are cheekily introduced by the star of the show, but these instrumentalists are comfortable enough to give cheek back.

The set list is varied and still Woodbrook can link all the songs with creativity, including using a bunch of lemons as props for the old saying ‘if life gives you lemons’. When you hear this multi-talented singer, you forget that you are listening to Buble songs and that is power of Woodbrook’s gift for owning the stage and songs. If you think about it, Buble was the master of covering classic songs such as ‘Come Fly With Me’ and making them his own and this local gal made good does the same with her own imagination and interpretation. Woodbrook also embraces the crowd with little interaction that turn to weird heckles that she loves and handles with excellent humour. The only flashiness is some use of the smoke machine that creates an aura of mystique around the performer. The good vibes of the night are absorbed into your body that keeps you happy, even if the songs are not your cup of tea.

Feeling Way to Good Songs of Michael Buble is a wonderful cabaret hour of entertainment that will be leaving you wanting more and so go check this show out wherever you can.

Review

REVIEW | The Swing Sisters & the Boogie Woogie Bugle Band | Swing into a retro night of great music at Crown Live Sessions

Review | Kieran Eaton

Does your heart feel like it does not fit into this crazy modern world? Well, let’s embrace the old classics with a bit of swing! And who better to celebrate the era mostly around the 30s, 40s and 50s than a trio of groovy female vocalists of Zalia Joi, Samantha Hicks and Amy Ehlers. Dressed in vintage outfits, be mesmerised as you are transported to this simpler time.

Apart from this glamorous trio, The Swing Sisters & Boogie Woogie Bugle Band consists of musicians using the big band instruments of brass and percussion and their love of playing is exemplified as they play the tunes with ease opening with a great mood setter with, In The Mood.  Joi, Hicks and Ehlers then explain the importance of mood raising songs during war times and it gives you a good insight into the role of music and entertainment in keeping spirits high. These explanations work seamlessly with the transition to multiple songs – sixteen songs in total for this hour of non-stop uplifting! The costumes are very well designed with their bright blue dresses grabbing your attention from the back of the audience. They even dress a bit flashier for the finale leaving the Boogie Woogie Bugle Band to go solo for a bit!  Their stylish choreography is straight out of the Andrews Sisters playbook and they look great. When they describe the songs, you can feel their love of the era that makes you nostalgic – even if you did not exist in that time! The knowledge you gain from this trio is insightful and natural, so any little stumble is met with warmth. There is realism in the performance with no use of special effects, rather simply good sounds and plenty of charisma.

What creates the charm for this act is their energy. You feel their enthusiasm and embrace their instructions, like clicking your fingers to a song. There is good balance between genuine down to earth personalities with strong, efficient professionalism. Set in the big surrounds of the former Eve Nightclub at Perth’s Crown Casino, you can chill with a beer or wine in your hand and still tap your toes at the same time! Chill or boogie, it’s up to you because this easy-going night of entertainment will leave you smiling with contentment that you have experienced a night of relaxed swinging to your hearts content!

The Swing Sisters & the Boogie Woogie Bugle Band played at Crown live sessions in April 2021.

Review

REVIEW | Sweetwood – Legendary Hits of Fleetwood Mac | Awesome sounds hit Crown Live Sessions

Review | Laura Money

You can go your own way as long as it’s directly to Crown Live Sessions to see Sweetwood – Legendary Hits of Fleetwood Mac! Sweetwood are a five-piece band that play the fantastic music of Fleetwood Mac. You’ll have ‘dreams’ about this phenomenal cover band who are certainly bringing the absolute coolness of Fleetwood Mac in their heyday to well-deserved standing ovations.

Zalia Joi channels Stevie Nicks with her wiccan outfits and earth mother mannerisms. It’s clear that Zalia’s focus is on the music as she lets it thrum and dance around her – complete with ribboned tambourine, Zalia almost has an out of body experience soulfully singing the hell out of ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Rhiannon.’ They have the vibe down to the big hair and 70s effortless style – Sweetwood look like they should only ever appear in polaroid photos, and if you squint it’s just like seeing the original line-up for real! What really stands out is the sheer musicianship that everyone possesses – each member of Sweetwood is as talented as their famous counterpart.

The set list is a diverse mix of pop hits, heartbreaking tear-jerkers, and fierce bangers that shows off the range of the band and makes you realise just how varied Fleetwood Mac’s sound actually was. Killing it with ‘Tusk’ as the opening number, Sweetwood keep the grit and guts of their music with ‘The Chain’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ with Stewart Herbertson absolutely slaying as lead guitarist and rock God stand-in. His harmonies with Zalia are phenomenal and definitely the cause of many goosebumps. Of course, there have to be some iconic pieces and Zalia and the band nail every note of ‘Little Lies’ and even reference Stevie’s solo career with ‘White Winged Dove’ – Zalia resplendent in a white feathered cape. It’s this amazing energy that just elevates Sweetwood from tribute band to pop/rock phenomenon!

Sweetwood perform all over Perth throughout the year, so keep your eye out and don’t miss out on the full experience. It’s an entire thing – not just some music but an immersion into a particular time and place, you’ll be stamping your feet and singing along and begging for more at the end.

You can check out Sweetwood on their Facebook page HERE

Interview, on now

IN CONVERSATION | Lisa Woodbrook | This cabaret show is finally being performed as part of Crown Live Sessions this April

Interview | Laura Money

Lisa Woodbrook is a phenomenal cabaret artist who has successfully performed in Fringeworld and travelled her shows around Australia. Her show Feeling Way Too Good: The Music of Michael Buble was cancelled during the snap lockdown but now she’s back finally performing the show as part of Crown’s Live Sessions. We spoke to her back in Fringeworld before all this happened and she gave us an insight into the show.

So, what’s it all about?

Well, it’s kind of the old ‘when life gives you lemons’ thing and also you get to experience me singing with a five piece band! This show is more focused on the musical elements but just like the last show (Lilly Allen & Amy Winehouse) I do comedy in between the songs. There’s a nice flow to it and it’s going to sound great as we’ve got a great band. I love the music of Michael Buble and wanted to perform it and he always does it with a full orchestra so I have an orchestra of five people! I wanted people who came back for the second show to have something extra special to enjoy. I mean a piano and a singer is great but you get a fuller sound with a whole band.

Is this usual for you? How did you get started?

I did my Bachelor of Musical Theatre and then went on to work in Melbourne and then COVID brought me back to Perth six years later. I’ve been working with different bands and doing corporate gigs and events. I went back to Melbourne straight after Fringe last year and then in March I lost everything because all the gigs shut down. I couldn’t do weddings or Melbourne Cabaret Festival so I lost work for about six months and then I decided to head home. It’s been great, since I came back it’s been pretty full on – so Melbourne was shutting down and it felt like being in a war zone but leaving was the best thing I did. Since July I have been gigging consistently. I even did We Will Rock You last year and it was wonderful to be onstage in a massive theatre. I’m just really grateful for my experience. Who would have thought a pandemic would have created something like this?

So, being back in Perth gave you time to work on the Buble show?

It did! Well it definitely gave me the concept and the ideas – you know last year was really tough for a lot of people and I feel lucky and grateful for hat happened to me last year because I don’t think that I was that affected at all. I did change my life and where I was living but really I could still perform because Perth was so protected. The rest of the world haven’t been so lucky, like the UK and Europe it’s just so sad what’s happening and they’re like the hubs of theatre and entertainment in the world and they’re in lockdown. Plus things are closing down like amazing jazz bars in New York and the West End in London – it’s such a shame, so I guess that I developed a positive outlook on life and got to sing every weekend and just do what I wanted to do. You just never know when you might not be able to do that.

It seems like positivity is the theme of this show, let’s be honest what’s more positive than Michael Buble?

It sounds so cheesy and corny but all of his songs are so fun and uplifting and there are lovely crooner songs which I love to sing and I just thought this is a great concept to take into 2021 – everyone had such a tough year and they’re all still going through a bit of a tough time so I guess if you want to feel good and tackle some of the lemons that life throws you and listen to the songs I’ve picked then maybe you’ll have a good time. The content isn’t as naughty as the other show but it still has that Lisa flavour – it’s still cheeky but I maybe don’t swear as much like being at a family brunch! I just thought it was good for me to branch out as an artist and try a new demographic and do something a bit different.

What will people get out of this show?

They’re all feel good songs and I think a lot of people will love the band and the music. It’s been interesting writing this show because the songs are all so happy and uplifting there’s nothing really that you can take out of it to make fun of. As a writer it’s been interesting matching the stand-up and comedy elements with the music of Buble. But I think I’ve come up with some good ideas. It’s fun, it’s uplifting and it’s great music.

The Live Sessions at Crown start on Friday 9th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE

Review

REVIEW | Elvis: All Girl Tribute to the ’68 Comeback Special | An evening of great music and phenomenal vocals in Crown’s Live Sessions

Review | Laura Money

Don’t be lonesome tonight, get yourself down to see Elvis: All Girl Tribute to the ’68 Comeback Special it will be better than checking into the Heartbreak Hotel and you’ll be all shook up after an evening of classic Elvis hits performed by a diverse group of fabulous women. The show celebrates all things Elvis and is a fitting tribute to the King himself with different musical styles paying homage to his rockabilly, country, and rock styles. It’s a full power hour of a little less conversation and more dancing in your blue suede shoes!

Seasoned performer Darlene Gianoli is rather enamoured by Elvis and wanted to create a show based around his music. After reading about the ’68 Comeback Special she was surprised to find that the King had been out of the spotlight for years before he finally hit the stage in a tv special that featured his greatest hits. Gianoli watched in raptures as an all-star cast recreated the special in 2018, including Keith Urban and JLo and thought she would give the tribute a red hot go too. Kicking things off with Mr TCB himself, Elvis fanatic Peter Chase gets you in the mood along with the band including Razor Jack on the guitar the stage is rocking and the atmosphere is crackling with great music.

The girls are completely different in style from Gianoli who brings her signature showgirl style to a stunning rendition of You Were Always On My Mind that moves the audience to tears to the fiery Gemma Luxton who gets you moving and grooving with Hound Dog. It’s a great blend of country and rock all from the actual concert itself but brought to life by the brilliant stylings of each performer. Libby HammerNatalie Martinic, and Zoe Simpson take on the funkier side of Elvis with great versions of Don’t Be Cruel, Blue Suede Shoes and an underrated classic Love Me. The intimate setting and fierce camaraderie sees the heart of the show ripple through the crowd and serves to highlight the nuances in Elvis’ repertoire.

So, get ready to love them tender and don’t be cruel because when these girls get to the Jailhouse Rock the whole audience will be jiving!

The Live Sessions at Crown Elvis: all girl tribute to the ’68 Comeback Special is part of a programme that began on Friday 9th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE

on now, Review

REVIEW | Girls Gone ABBA! | Live Sessions at Crown Nightclub

Review | Laura Money

Get ready to dance the night away with Girls Gone ABBA! The only show that kicks out the BB and highlights the ladies! That’s right – these five incredible women take you on a musical journey through ABBA’s top hits and will have you screaming SOS and searching for a man after midnight.

Girls Gone ABBA features five powerhouse performers putting the flare(s) back on stage with their hour-long love letter to the music of ABBA and the inspiration and hope of the Mama Mia movies. From the title song itself to classics like Waterloo, Super Trooper and even Fernando each song is given the girl power treatment and performed with warmth and heart. The five women are firm friends and this shines through as they lift each other up through backing vocals and incredible harmonies. The arrangements are cleverly suited to each other’s individual style from the pop fun of Darlene Gianoli in Honey Honey her notes glide off one another clearly and smoothly – to Libby Hammer and Natalie Martinic killing it with their jazzy blues sound in Voulez Vous and Gimme Gimme Gimme. Zoe Simpson is a true talent with her hilarious and raunchy rendition of Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out – channelling Christine Baranski in all her glory. And then there’s the firecracker that is Gemma Luxton belting out SOS and I Do, I Do, I Do – both songs are transformed by her powerful vocals.

The magical element of this show is the chemistry between these amazing women who support each other with a genuine love shining through every note. They take inspirational and uplifting quotes from the movie – all from Donna’s diary – and sing the songs that make you happy. Everyone can’t help but flock to the dance floor when Gimme Gimme Gimme starts up and the love onstage ripples through the crowd with sheer happiness. The camaraderie and love colours the music in a beautiful way – you’ll get chills with the unbridled heartache of The Winner Takes It All and the playful nature of Super Trooper mirrors the tight bond of Donna and the Dynamos – in this case, they’re all DYNAMOS! So, girls I thank you for the music and an incredible night out!

The Live Sessions at Crown Girls Gone ABBA is on Saturday 10th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE

on now, Review

REVIEW | Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa | School holidays just got more entertaining!

Review | Laura Money

Going to Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is always a magical experience but things have become decidedly more fabulous this school holidays as they present Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa. Based on the wonderful picture book by Margaret Wild with illustrations by Kerry Argent the play brings the characters to life – slinking, running, and tentatively leaping off the page onto the stage in this delightful adaptation. The show takes all of the charming elements of the beloved book, much to the delight of all in a truly memorable and entertaining show that appeals to those seeking wonder, humour, and technical prowess. It’s simply wonderful.

The Spare Parts stage is transformed in to a tropical paradise with a stunning moveable set by Iona McAuley (designer) complete with beaded doorway and frangipani garlands and populated by the signature charming puppetry Spare Parts is renowned for. Performers Cezera Critti-Schnaars, Ming Yang Lim and Tristan McInnes bring out the vibrancy of Sanjiva Margio and Lyndell Darch‘s stunning puppets with grace and fun – they don headpieces as the hilarious Koala and Wombat families allowing for funny physical humour. McInnes tackles the huge puppet of Miss Lily and deftly maneuvers her large frame with the grace and aplomb of the stunningly fabulous character, and Critti-Schnaars brings heart and tenderness to The Last Potoroo, gently moving her tiny and adorable puppet across the stage in her big adventure.

This production does a wonderful job of showing not telling as it cleverly depicts the cricket mad Koalas in direct contrast to the footy loving Wombats, the outrageous tango-dancing Miss Lily and of course the palpable sorrow of The Last Potoroo. McInnes’ Miss Lily is fabulously flamboyant, cavorting about the stage with humour and pizzazz. It crackles with subtext and wit as The Last Potoroo warily eyes Miss Lily’s big sharp teeth at dinner time, quaking after being told she only eats ‘little things’ which elicits a palpable gulp then chuckle of relief at the offering of fish and chips! I cannot overstate how clever and funny this piece is – the story arc of the Wombat Dad discovering his talent and passion for badminton is played subtly but is important for children to see they can be who they are even with the pressures to conform. The Last Potoroo’s morals are shaken in a perfectly thrilling nightmare sequence that Critti-Schnaars brings vulnerability and charm alongside the spectacular antics of the feather boa and deliciously creepy lighting by Karen Cook.

Everything about Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa speaks to the heart. It takes big concepts such as self-identity, the morals of stealing, self-expression, loneliness, and community, and exhibits them through visual cues, comedy, and a stunning musical curation by Lee Buddle. Michael Barlow‘s direction wholly encompasses the spirit of the story with its laid back holiday vibe and seamless transition into multiple characters. There is a poignancy felt in the loneliness of The Last Potoroo and pure joy ripples through the audience in the show’s heartwarming conclusion. Make sure you get to Miss Lily’s Tropical Holiday House and treat yourself to a rip-roaring, Aussie flavoured hour of fun!

You can get your tickets to Miss Lily’s HERE and can even purchase the original book in a package!

Interview, on now

IN CONVERSATION: New Live Sessions at Crown kick off in April with all girl tributes to Elvis and ABBA

Interview | Laura Money

When Crown Entertainment heard about Darlene Gianoli‘s cancelled FRINGEWORLD 2021 shows they decided to get in touch and do something about it. Now, Gianoli’s crack team of girls are set to entertain you at Crown in the old EVE Nightclub space in a series of Live Sessions across April. Gianoli has been entertaining Perth audiences for over 25 years and is one of the best in the business. She got a group of five girls together to provide unique and diverse music that speaks to multiple generations. We caught up with her to find out what her shows are all about.

An Elvis show I can understand, but why the ’68 Comeback Special?

Right, so Elvis had been in the army and in movies for so long he hadn’t been singing – he was pretty much forgotten. I’ve got a book on the ’68 Comeback Special and there was one point and this was really interesting – Elvis was really out of the public eye because of movies he was out of the public eye as a singer. People had forgotten him, so in that 9 or 10 years things had changed. Now I know just from working even in the corporate industry in Perth things change every 10 years, my acts only last for about 10 years because then the next generation comes through and you either have to change up what you’re doing or do something completely different.

So in this book, Elvis lived in LA in this high rise – he was there with his family and his whole crew and they were getting ready to go talk to agents about the ’68 Comeback Special and he said to his crew “I’m going to go downstairs on Hollywood Boulevard and I’m going to see if people recognize me.” He wanted to see if he was remembered – if he had done that ten or twenty years before he would have been mobbed. So he actually went down and he was standing on the footpath and no-one took any notice. And I thought that was really interesting.

Now, in 2018 it was the 50th anniversary of the ’68 Comeback Special and in America they did what they called an all-star tribute to it. And it was great! They had Post Malone, they had J-Lo, and all the modern singers and what they did is, they did it on stage in the round, just like he had done. It was very much an intimate audience – they only allowed two hundred people in the audience. And he did an acoustic set on this round stage, so what they did in 2018 they replicated that so they had it in the round with a small audience and they recorded it live for tv.

When I saw that, I thought ‘I’m going to do that with girls’ – that’s what I want to do, is grab five girls and put this together with a live band. So wee got a small band and just did it acoustic and I was really pleased with it because that’s what it was in the original ’68 Comeback Special. It was hugely successful – now whether people had seen the all-star tribute I don’t know but that was the angle and that was where I got the concept from to do it. Interestingly enough about 6 months or so before this project, I set up a group in Perth with another singer Narelle Bell for Perth girl singers/entertainers/musicians. We have over 400 members and we’re so supportive of each other and in this group I met this bunch of girls – there’s about three generations of girls in this show so we all bring something different.

Clearly, feminism and female empowerment is something you’re passionate about. How does it feel in the industry right now?

As a singer it’s been like the last 6 months, when I put the show together last year the vibe of the show wasn’t as powerful and female solidarity centred as it was the most recent show. One of the questions was ‘is your show an all female show?’ Everyone’s aware of it now. With female singers in Perth it used to be all about being gorgeous and skinny up there in a sparkly costume and it doesn’t have to be that – I wanted to break that whole cycle. It’s been so empowering for us. Yeah, I’ve been working in the corporate scene for over 25 years and the last 6 – 12 months has been amazing.

When I set up this group I asked for four girls to work with and they’re all so different. We all come from different musical backgrounds – it works so well because we actually blend together rather than all having the same kind of voice – we’ve got me corporate showgirl. We’ve got Gemma Luxton who is back in Perth after being over east – she’s huge in the country music scene. Libby Hammer who is the jazz diva of Perth, Zoe Simpson is more a rock singer. And then Natalie Martinic – she’s the soul singer of the group – big bluesy soul. The five of us are so different but it works.

So, how did the ABBA show come about?

My background is corporate but I always do cabaret but you either like cabaret or you don’t. I always look at what the audience will like – I still want to love the music I’m singing – but I try to keep things a little more mainstream. It’s about getting up there, having fun and making the audience feel good about themselves and do songs they know. My strength is making people smile and making them happy. So I always look at what is current so I did that with the Elvis show – I mean of course I want to sing Elvis but at the time the All-Star concert had just been done so let’s take that inspiration. And as far as the ABBA show, the Mama Mia movies are still popular and have brought ABBA’s music to a whole new generation so I though let’s do an ABBA tribute with the same girls ( we don’t need the boys) and we’re using a backing track. I wanted to specifically work with the Mama Mia movies so I pulled out the story from that. Donna in the movies when she passed away the daughter got her diary, so what I did was I found some replica diaries and I pulled out all the best positive lines that were in the movie and we use the songs that were in the actual movies and with our little diary we call out the quotes from the diary. They’re all inspiration and at the end of the show we want you to walk away with inspiration and a smile on your face and a happier outlook on life.

The moment we started performing people are singing straight away! By the second song, everyone’s up dancing. That just blew my mind!

What’s next for you?

I really want to work with the same girls. The guys from Ace’s Cabaret (Fringe) want us back next year so I’m thinking it might be girls gone Queen. Something like that and I just love the idea of five girls doing Bohemian Rhapsody!  

The Live Sessions at Crown start on Friday 9th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE

Featuring all female line-ups of a variety of music from Elvis and ABBA to Buble and The Andrews Sisters!

Image credit: Naomi Reed Photography

on now, PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL | Whistleblower | 5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

The Last Great Hunt are well known for their signature blend of live-action filmed in front of their audience and live streamed to screens all while performing their work. This unique style, last seen in 2019 Festival hit Lé Nør [the rain] and 2020 lockdown classic Bad Baby Jean combines cinematic tropes and live action with hilarious improvisation and parody. Whistleblower draws on this winning formula and ups the ante – in a reality tv/escape room mash-up the likes of which have never been seen before. Part classic theatre, part role-playing puzzle, Whistleblower takes a willing audience member and places them firmly in the starring role in a live film where they dictate the action. Complete with soundproof set and real-time alternate storylines, the player discovers they have woken up in hospital with amnesia and must find clues and uncover the events that occurred prior to the awakening. Whistleblower is fast-paced, hilarious, and ingenious theatre that pushes the boundaries of every genre it inhabits. And it’s damned entertaining!

So, how does Whistleblower work? Well, ticket holders have the option to purchase a participatory ticket or an audience ticket – meaning that if you opt in to participate you could either become ‘the player’ or an extra helping all the action along. ‘The player’ is in safe hands – helped along by the incredibly talented crew from The Last Great Hunt who facilitate the action as characters who advance the plot in an interactive narrative. If this sounds like someone guest starring in a Whose Line is it Anyway sketch, then you’d be wrong. This is immersive theatre writ large – with ‘the player’ whisked off into sound-proofed modular rooms that are moved and changed up depending on the choices made by each player. Confused? Don’t be – ‘the player’ is placed in a hospital bed and told to close their eyes – upon opening they find that they’ve been moved into a hospital room complete with hidden cameras and a bunch of clues that will help them ‘escape.’ They are now ‘Charlie Baxter’ a movie star with amnesia who is under arrest after suspicious actions the night before. The Last Great Hunt specialise in controlled chaos – they have different sets ready, different characters ready to have more or less to do with the plot depending on which pathway is chosen. At the end of solving each room this Choose Your Own Adventure presents like a video game whereby ‘Charlie’ must pick what comes next.

The strength of this work is its capacity to adapt – in a plot full of twists and turns the algorithm of possibilities must be almost limitless. Set and Costume Designer Tyler Hill, along with Amalia Lambert and Danielle Chiltonn have crafted a perfect set within a set. Referencing classic film noir, B-movies, and featuring a distinctly cheesy 80s vibe that corresponds brilliantly with the green-text on black background of early video games, the aesthetic of Whistleblower is the middle of a Venn diagram of Twin Peaks, The Dungeons & Dragons Arcade Game, and an Escape Room. Hill’s design of modular shipping containers that can be moved and utilised at short notice is innovative and put to good use as the pacing of the show ebbs and flows – each performer springing into action at a moment’s notice. I cannot overstate how clever this set is – it’s literally being created in front of us and moved around like a giant Rubix Cube – when the uncanny valley visuals and parody performances are added everything comes together like poetry in motion. Whistleblower is a wholly brilliant work – every single element contributes to a fully realised theatrical piece. At the front of the stage we see the ‘behind the scenes’ action – usually relegated to the wings, this crew is celebrated front and centre. They are controlling the cameras and the screens. Cleverly zooming in on clues and evidence so that the audience can play along, and urging Charlie on to discover every clue and advance the story. They are also creating a living, breathing soundtrack to accompany the action. Original music composed by Rachel Claudio is sampled and looped live as Charlie chooses their destination or a moment of tension is required. It’s like DJing a live video game, and we’re more than here for it!

The immersion is fully realised as a stellar cast deftly move the story along and gently guide Charlie if they appear to be going off track or are simply stumped. It’s a brilliantly devised work from little things subtly showing Charlie who they can trust – for example in the hospital room is a poster of Jo Morris as Employee of the Month and when she arrives as the nurse helping Charlie, she dispenses information under the guise of a chatty fan. Charlie instantly knows they can trust Morris’ character and is even told to ask anything they want in order to get the full picture. There are live broadcasts on the tv into Charlie’s room and certain names and locations are placed in prominent positions around each location. As each Charlie picks different people to align with, we see some actors given the lead over others but everything is driven by a strong plot with no gaps. The talent of the performers allows for the smooth running of the show, so that even if their Charlie is reticent or not much of a talker, the show remains entertaining and accessible to the audience. The front-stage behind the scenes crew are also on hand to intervene with a smartly placed phone call or emergency broadcast if need be.

Everything about Whistleblower is impressive. The flawless set, plot, and acting mixed with brilliant tech and innovative style creates an experience that you could happily enjoy over and over. It’s the kind of show that just needs to be experienced live as – much like your favourite video games – there is something different to be discovered every time. So, immerse yourself in the theatrical virtual reality of real time and enter the algorithm – the one guaranteed variable? You’ll have a great time.

Whistleblower played as part of PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 but will probably be back in the future. To keep up with what’s next for The Last Great Hunt click HERE

FRINGEWORLD, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 ENCORE | What Makes a Musical a Musical – The (Musical) Cabaret | 5 Stars

Review | Brandon Shier

Procrastination. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there – and if you haven’t, you’re lying. Picture this: you have a uni assignment in your creative writing course due in 24 hours, and you’re attempting to write an epic musical… but you haven’t started yet. This is the very predicament our protagonist faces in Grey Lantern’s production of What Makes a Musical a Musical: A (Musical) Cabaret; a hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt show that does exactly what it says on the tin, and then some.

The setting of this musical may be painfully familiar to many struggling writers: on stage is a small desk with an open laptop, a pile of books, and three empty cans of Red Bull. Our protagonist breaks the fourth wall and explains to us that he has the idea to write a musical, but he’s stumped on ideas. Playing out like a Red Bull induced fever dream, he is guided by a figment of his imagination- whose accent hilariously changes throughout the show- as he directs an imaginary cast to play out all his ideas. Together, our protagonist and his guide weigh up good and bad ideas, discover why a plot is important and battle his increasing self-doubt through brilliantly arranged original showtunes, complete with catchy refrains and endless references to popular musical theatre, not to mention sock puppets, too!

The show cleverly pays homage to various musicals and styles from Rodgers & Hammerstein classics to Cats and Hamilton, but it’s not just the ardent love of musicals that keeps this show flying. There are eight talented performers here alongside two excellent musicians, with voices so loud and harmonies so beautiful that you’d think there were sixteen performers if you closed your eyes. The humour here is also witty and astute, with a sharp-witted jab at white people writing persons of colour. It gets painfully honest about creativity and procrastination, as well as self-doubt. “Do I hate having money?” wonders our protagonist at one point as he sits drinking away his sorrows lamenting his decision to take up a creative writing course. The show may take an emotional turn, but it never loses its balance and stays constantly engaging and hilarious all the way to the end of the show, where you find yourself wishing that it would never end. What Makes a Musical a Musical serves up loads of charisma, heart, ambition, and brilliant musical numbers through such a short runtime that it positively makes you wonder “how did they do all of that in just one hour?!”

What Makes a Musical a Musical were affected by the 2021 Fringeworld shutdown but recently played at Subiaco Arts Centre as part of the Encore. To find out what Grey Lantern are up to next, click HERE

Review

You’d be in deNILE if you didn’t enjoy Murders on the Nile Downstairs at the Maj!

Review | Laura Money

Cruise down the Nile in style with the murderous bunch from Cluedunnit and put yourself directly into an Agatha Christie story where you not only bear witness to but solve the murders! This is Murders on the Nile, the latest installment of Murders at the Maj – a series of dinner theatre shows that take the classic murder mystery genre and create an immersive experience complete with three course meal and brilliant entertainment. Put your safari hat over your thinking cap and gear up for a jolly good show that follows the twists and turns of the famous river and leaves you crying for your Mummy!

Master of theatre, Robbie Burns is back as his alter ego Jonathan Maplethorpe – crime writer extraordinaire. He skillfully drives the show through its Egyptian themed plot and gets you all in the mood to solve a crime. The room is decked out with replica items from Tutankhamen’s tomb, so realistic one expects to look out the window and see the Sphinx! As Maplethorpe conspiratorially drops hints of articles to read and tidbits about the host of characters they artfully duck and weave through the tables, allowing us to get to know them a little better. Of course, the keen detectives are there to give the actors a grilling – something they are all more than capable of weathering – each actor skillfully answering in the way their character would, never once dropping their guard. The actors are improvising – from the suffragette curator of Egyptian antiquities to the toff who funded the expedition, and the married archaeologists straight out of the pages of Agatha Christie’s diary itself!

The plot is masterfully thought out, rendered both realistic and thrillingly entertaining by the terrific cast. You have a three course meal to provide food for thought and detailed reproductions of evidence. Burns is the perfect host – he delights in holding all the cards and teases the genre he so clearly loves. Murders on the Nile is the perfect mystery – it contains clues as slippery as asps in a basket, the mystery peaks at the right part of the pyramid, and the action is as hot as the desert! So, book your tickets now to this deftly performed, loving homage to the genre and you too could be thinking on your feet, surrounded by the jewels of the Nile.

Murders on the Nile has sailed down the river, however Cludunnit have several other shows on as part of their series Murders at the Maj. You can get your tickets HERE

on now, PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | The Sum of Us | 5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company are no strangers to Perth Festival, having presented Hecate last year, a Noongar retelling of MacBeth. This time, Director Eva Grace Mullaley takes things closer to her own queer experiences with The Sum of Us – a brilliantly sharp and funny character study that cuts to the core of familial relations. Following widower Harry (Bruce Denny) and his gay son Jeff (Matthew Cooper) the play is mostly a two-hander that examines family love and support – with the occasional tensions that naturally arise. This is the first time Yirra Yaakin have presented a queer work – hopefully not the last as they do it so well – and their use of a fully First Nations cast creates solidarity within the LGBTQI+ society – intersectionality is important as it really is everyone’s story. Acted with heart, directed with passion, and delivered with style – The Sum of Us is the show to see this Perth Festival!

Bryan Woltjen‘s gorgeous set is like a warm embrace from the 90s. It’s nostalgic and homely, capturing the essence of its inhabitants perfectly. From battered looking vertical blinds, to a pine table setting and feature wall to tug at your memories Woltjen conveys the simplicity of this no frills family. The centre of the stage comprises of a dance floor – a proper parquetry one – enabling the elegance of dance as a language to permeate the performances. Both love interests – Janine Oxenham and Joshua Pether have dance backgrounds, not acting and they bring a beautiful physicality to the show that has perhaps been missing in past productions. This is where Mullaley plays to her strengths – her vision is so acute, she uses people in innovative ways to create a unique and intuitive vision. With so much back and forth in love, especially new love, Mullaley uses the waltz and the tango to represent the ups and downs and trust one must place in their (dance) partner. There is heart pouring out of every bit of this production, from the tension on the dance floor, to the feature wall and even the simple character nuances played to perfection by each actor.

At the core of the play is Harry and Jeff’s relationship – they are soulmates in a way, tethered to each other through love and understanding, even if sometimes it’s misplaced. Cooper is equal parts brash young twenty-something and responsible, respectful young man. He plays Jeff with a deep affection for his father and the pent up frustration of being unlucky in love bubbles away slightly under the surface. Colloquial language and gentle teasing create the perfect sadness for the final scenes as both Cooper and Denny have undeniable chemistry, you could really believe they are father and son. Bruce Denny is the affectionate and supportive father figure we all want in our lives. His Harry is so endearing you just want to be wrapped up in a conversational hug with the guy. He speaks to Jeff with unabashed affection, ribbing and supporting him at the same time. Denny’s delivery is perfect – from gentle chastising about wearing pink shirts and not liking lasagna to his passionate and hilarious monologues, Denny brings Harry to life with earnestness and affability.

Threading itself though the play is a sense of hope – a feeling that things are on the up for these two. And why not? Cooper injects a guarded optimism into Jeff – wearing the new shirt, happily bringing Greg (Pether) home, and gleefully teasing his Dad about his grandmother. When Jeff brings Greg home and they start making out on the couch, the air fizzing with sexual tension in a hot exchange choreographed by Claudia Alessi the audience feels the longing themselves. You almost can’t be mad at Denny when he joins the couple on the couch, completely oblivious to his son’s situation but brimming with genuine positivity and affection for not only Jeff but anyone who might share Jeff’s life in the future. He’s like a puppy dog – loyal, fun, positive, and a bit annoying. There are moments of absolute pain and heartache which the actors treat with such depth it shows their immense skills – without the hilarity of the opening act, one cannot feel the effects of the darkness to come. Denny shines as he and Joyce (Oxenham) open up and share with one another. Oxenham is brilliant here – vulnerable and sensitive, her fears of being hurt again and confusion about homosexuality are expressed with a poignant tear glistening in the eye – it’s a special performance.

The Sum of Us takes palpably relatable characters and shows us that we are all the same. Cooper is inspired as he gives his version of the ‘if you prick me do I not bleed’ speech and Denny steals the show with his phenomenal solliloquy claiming that he could never be ashamed of his son. His impassioned plea to no-one as he expresses that he is disappointed that Jeff will never have the same things he values so dearly, such as children or the love of a woman, but it is as he declares his absolute love and devotion to his son that will break even the most stalwart of hearts. Yirra Yaakin have knocked it out of the park, so far it’s probably landed firmly on the East coast proving that Perth theatre makers deserve to be on the world stage.

You can catch all the action of The Sum of Us HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this Perth Festival 2021

on now, PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | Whale Fall | 5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

When a whale dies, it doesn’t float, it falls down down down into the bottom of the ocean

So begins Whale Fall in a stunning opening monologue by young actor Ashton Brady to a darkened stage, it appears as if he is floating down into the stage’s abyss himself. It’s an interesting opening to The Kabuki Drop‘s show commissioned by PICA and co-presented with Perth Festival, and serves as a clever metaphor throughout the the piece for identity and how one can achieve transcendence through atoms shifting and changing before finally ending their journey. Formed by Melissa Cantwell, The Kabuki Drop are no strangers to thoughtful and innovative theatre and they really deliver with Ian Sinclair‘s brilliant Whale Fall. With a simple yet effective set, fantastic acting, and heartfelt character development complete with complex and emotional relationships, this is theatre in the raw.

Nadine (Caitlin Bersford-Ord) stands on the cusp of her old life and new – hesitantly yet assuredly braving the dunes to place her feet firmly in the ocean, the tug of the tide taking her back to her childhood home. Consisting of a large angled jetty-like stage embedded in pure white sand, the design by Bruce McKinven creates depth in a small space and alludes to the pull of the ocean which represents the past and also the dead whale analogy. McKinven’s innovative use of secret pockets continue to delight as the set opens up to us alongside its cast. Beresford-Ord is such an expressive performer – her guarded attempts to appear flippant when talking to her ex-husband Irving (Luke Hewitt) carve a deep wound in her heart and her lack of understanding, yet burning desire to do so concerning her son Caleb (Ashton Brady) is expressed with every downcast eye – the defenses clouding her face with a curt nod and pursed lip. Hewitt’s Irving is a wounded and compassionate individual, he plays him with understated passion that bursts forth in red-hot anger and recedes into heartbroken tears. The opening scene is intense, an unravelling mystery that speaks to the injustice and pain of the past.

Sinclair’s writing is brilliant as he uncovers the mysterious elements of the past with sharp dialogue and alllusions to a shared past. Who is this mysterious Caleb and why are Nadine and Irving so caught up in his well being? What’s wrong with him? Nothing, as it turns out. Brady’s Caleb is a curious and quirky boy who loves the natural world, in particular the ocean, who appears wise beyond his years. He’s also transgender – and Brady provides a nuance to the character borne only of experience. Caleb must navigate his own identity at a tender age while combating the many well-meaning adults in his life – and some of the not so well meaning ones. Tension is rife between Beresford-Ord and Hewitt as Nadine grapples with the loss of her daughter, not quite prepared to embrace her son. There is an unspoken language that crackles around these two phenomenal actors – they square off in every scene, unable to remain civil for very long as every betrayal, argument, and devastation inflicted upon each other appear to resurface. Hewitt speaks with a permanent lump in his throat and his new partner Tarlina (Alexandra Steffensen) is unable to understand either one of them. Steffensen provides a calming poise to counter the two hot-heads, yet it is her very calmness that makes her an infuriating character. Whale Fall specialises in other people assuming they know what is right for each other but failing miserably to do so.

Ashton Brady gives the performance of a lifetime, though no doubt there will be plenty of other moments of triumph in his future. He is one to watch, as he appears wise beyond his years – a young yet wizened philosopher, contemplating the big issues – identity, sexuality, rejection and relationships, fitting in – that should not be thrust upon children. Cantwell’s direction uses Brady to his full potential, allowing for hiariously frivolous moments like waking up his Mum in the middle of the night, perching him imp-like on the table, legs dangling to indicate playfulness but also poignancy in his discussion about not going in for a swim. Make no mistake – Whale Fall is gritty, intense theatre. While there are absolutley beautiful moments of surprising levity, the majority of the show is a tense gut-punch waiting to happen. Brady’s navigation of self is an absolute rollercoaster – from pure confidence in his artwork and marine biology facts (delivered in a cute and quirky way) to ritualising memory and grappling with how Hayley will always be a part of him, his interpretation of this complex character should be applauded.

Whale Fall is the dark thriller you never expected, full of twists and turns, secrets, lies and betrayals. It worms its way deep into the psyche and continues to burrow long after you’ve left the theatre. Caleb’s haunting soliloquys punctuate the piece with poignancy and grace – as each character could at one point be considered the whale. Everything is addressed maturely yet it isn’t afraid to get messy and tangled, as in real life sometimes there just aren’t answers. Kabuki Drop have delivered a timely and important work. With transgender representation at the fore, Whale Fall is a sensitive and honest exploration of identity and acceptance that is sometimes hard to watch, but never shies away from the truth. It’s stunning theatre.

Whale Fall played at PICA as part of Perth Festival. Even though the show is over, you an check out what The Kabuki Drop are up to HERE

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on now, PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | The Cherry Orchard | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy because of you

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

When people think of nineteenth century Russian literature, they don’t often associate it with 80s Australia. Thankfully, Adriane Daff and Katherine Tonkin think along those lines because their adaptation of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard is the perfect fit for 1980s Perth – it’s full of the boom and bust economy, cheap suits, fashions, and the hedonism of the decade. Black Swan State Theatre Company have really nailed it with this production – a whole experience that takes classic theatre and rips it from the proscenium arch to land at Perth’s foreshore in a stunning immersive evening that weaves the audience into the show. Cleverly adapted by Daff and Tonkin, and instinctively directed by the brilliant Clare Watson, The Cherry Orchard takes you in as family, and you feel its highs and lows palpably. Quite simply, it’s intelligent and fun theatre with a focus on entertainment.

This production, presented as part of Perth Festival takes place at the beautiful, if slightly crumbling Sunset Heritage Precinct. There are four parts to the play and the audience walks from location to location as the sun sets throughout the duration of the play. Food and bars are available, all themed with a delightful Russian twist – Peorgies anyone? – and the whole thing is on point for its theming. There is an absolute buzz sitting in the first location – a hall with parts of a house set up – Zoe Atkinson is at the top of her game with phenomenal set and costume design. There are instantly recognisable elements from the wooden family table to the pipe bed and older, slightly kitsch couches that were probably a few generations in. It’s her absolute attention to detail that shines here – from references to popular culture (Kieran Clancy-Lowe) has a distinct Michael Hutchence look, to a hilarious apron, tongs and distinct picnic setting, to the perfectly chosen costumes later at the fancy dress party. It’s truly a delight for the eyes with a focus on reality, so while there are a few bright over-the-top items like neon mesh, the majority of the costuming reflects what we really wore rather than a dress up version – think distressed denim ruffle skirts as opposed to going full Madonna.

A Homecoming

This first section sees Ranyevskaya (Hayley McElhinney) return to the family homestead complete with entourage Yasha (Kieran Clancy-Lowe) and Charlotta (Michelle Fornasier), her daughter home from boarding school, Anya (Bridie McKim) and brother Gayev (Brendan Hanson). There is anticipation and a little foreshadowing set up before they even arrive by family maid Dunyasha (Emily Rose Brennan), her love interest and family accountant Yepikhodov (Sam Longley) and very old servant Firs (George Shevtsov) running around with nervous energy trying to get everything ready. There are also neighbours in Lopakhin (Ben Mortley), Piss-Cheek (Humphrey Bower) and Trofimov (Mark Nannup) plus the angry daughter who was left behind, Varya (Grace Chow). Confused yet? Yeah, me too – this is my only criticism of this adaptation – as these characters and their relationships are based off of their nineteenth century Russian counterparts, they retain their names and relationships to one another. I think there’s an inconsistency if they’re happy to name Pischik Piss-cheek why not just go full Australian? The changing of governess and manservant to general hedonistic entourage of Charlotta and Yasha respectively is clever, yet too many vestiges of class structures of nineteenth century Russia are present. There are a few jarring moments as the language moves from Aussie slang to a heavy Russian name.

The homecoming is everything a woman with an entourage should expect – hedonistic, jubilant, late night and celebratory and it’s easy to get swept up in it all. McElhinney is perfectly cast, equal parts overly dramatic and gaily frivolous, she cavorts about the stage ensuring that every eye is upon her. Of course, Hanson’s Gayev is not to be outshone as he joyfully gets drunk and toasts to the 100 year old bookcase in what should be ridiculous but he makes it hilarious. Hanson as Gayev is everyone’s silly uncle from their childhood and instantly loveable, despite his often catty remarks. Clare Watson’s direction is deft and clever, as people in the audience turn their head to look for the orchard or the front door, knowing full well it’s not actually there. Every character is distinct and played well, fitting into a different stereotype which helps to figure out who is who.

A Family BBQ

The audience is then invited to promenade down to the river bank to a family bbq where Clancy-Lowe and Longley are barbequeing and playing a Casio keyboard. They improvise unmicrophoned until the crowd settles in. Here, Lucy Birkinshaw’s lighting design comes to life as this act is performed at the setting of the sun. Birkinshaw subtly illuminates a beautiful gum that serves as background to the bbq using soft oranges and reds that change as the sun goes down. It’s stunning. Having established who everyone is now, the cast can have fun and also begin to address their desires, fears and failures. Brennan and Clancy-Lowe get up close and personal sexual tension crackling between them, Shevtsov and Fornasier share an intimate moment discussing belonging, and McElhinney gives a haunting soliloquy about how she feels unloved and taken advantage of. Mortley almost seems to drop his sleazy businessman persona and offers her a moment of human compassion. He is so expressive in his eyes, the betrayal cuts deeper later on.

Being set firmly in the 80s, all of the tensions and philosophy surrounding the Bicentennial are addressed intelligently and sensitively by Daff and Tonkin. Nannup stares unflinchingly at the audience and reminds them that the land they are on belongs to his ancestors. It elegantly breaks the fourth wall and conveys the responsibility we all have in ensuring that history is never repeated or perpetuated. As the sun sets on the second act, we are prompted to reflect on our connection to the land we occupy and the river we walk alongside.

A Party

Hedonism abounds in the party of the decade! Atkinson’s costuming is on point and Dr Clint Bracknell‘s blistering sound design shows off his knack for using music to infuse pop culture of the era into the work. Every single song is cleverly curated to reflect the situation – from Our House forming the idyllic homestead to Burning Down The House when all seems to go to shit (pardon my French.) There are even classic party hits like I Want to Dance With Somebody and clever nods to the original Russian play in Rasputin. The party takes you straight back to the silliness of parties in a dare I say, more innocent era – it represents the end of an era, not only for the family in terms of ownership but for Perth’s moneyed elite in the Bond era, the last hurrah before economic crashes. The set is perfect, I’m sure everybody had an outdoor dining set like that at some point and each character’s fancy dress costume is so fitting! McHelhinney shines as either Madonna or Monroe depending on how you view it, Bower is so funny in his sherrif on the horse – he cavorts about with an occa brashness that garners more than a few smiles, and Longley steals the show as a pickle. Yep, a pickle. His downtrodden comedic style is endearing, and he manages to elicit both sympathy and laughter – a rare talent. Even Chow brilliantly depicts her high strung Varya by dressing as Princess Leia but not really wearing the buns properly – as though she will go along with a party but still wants to be taken seriously.

The whole thing goes downhill upon Mortley’s return and McElhinney gives the performance of a lifetime. Mortley blindly celebrates in drunken exuberance as McElhinney leans upon a chair supporting her lest she collapse, ashen faced and bewildered. She is amazing as her whole world crashes down and the remnants of her former dramatic self are shocked into actual despair. Mortley plays drunk well, a bounce in his step as he surveys the devastation around him.

A Farewell

It is with heavy tread that the audience make their way back to the main hall to find it stripped of furniture and full of packing boxes. People are visibly upset to see the set removed, as it almost served as another character in the work. Each actor mills about, some with purpose and some in denial and there is one last moment for McElhinney and Hanson to stand in the empty room and reflect – it is a pale imitation of their opening moments together, coming full circle. Ending on a poignant note with Shevtsov’s Firs breathing his last breath at the very place he took his first, this segment cleverly pays homage to its source material. It does seem a little at odds with the stylistic aesthetic of the rest of the show, however by placing the action in a separate stage, Watson gives a respectful nod to how the traditions of theatre have changed allowing them to put on such an immersive experience while acknowledging all that came before her. It’s details like this that make The Cherry Orchard an absolute triumph.

You can get your tickets for this unique experience HERE

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on now, PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | MoveMoveMove | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

MoveMoveMove is a gripping and arresting hour of movement that spans three unique venues in site specific physical theatre. A Blue Room Theatre initiative by curator and mentor Tyrone Earl Lraé Robinson the work utilises the individuality of the venues and imbues them with meaning, informed in a magnificent loop by the spaces themselves. What follows are three contained pieces of dance that explore the human condition, self identity and expression, and our capacity to support or devastate each other. Robinson’s curation is inspired and elegant – each piece sits alone yet also at the intersection of human expression and desire – perfectly following on from one another, building layer upon stunning layer. This is punch in the guts theatre that grasps you by the throat and does not let go until you transcend the self reflected back at you.

Beginning in the basement of The Rechabite, ‘Unearthly’ is a pulsing, spitting frenzy of energy – a violent expression that reclaims space and sovereignty over oneself. Choreographed and performed by Bernadette Lewis and Natalie Allen the figures vacillate between madness and self-possession in a spitting and fizzing back and forth across the basement space, weaving in between pillars, plastic linings, and the audience. Tess Stephenson‘s haunting and rapid sound design creates a jolting vibration that serves as heartbeat to the piece. With erratic flashing lights sometimes harsh and at others creating shadows, lighting designer Joe Lui reflects the performers’ confused minds. Harpy-like in disjointed, unnatural movements they perform lucidity simultaneously with insanity in a sharply balanced work.

Promenading between spaces through Northbridge the audience is connected by headphones that force one to hear and feel every step they take. Among the sculptures and garden of the State Theatre Centre WA is Lauren Catellani’s ‘To Place’ – a calm and organic intertwining of form that sees bodies, sculpture, and material bond with the natural world. Sound designer Alexander Turner places microphones and sensors in strategic places over the central sculpture in the garden. Digitally manipulating the natural sounds that resonate through its curves and the trees nearby, a unique and haunting soundscape speaks to the most primal parts of us. Performers Mitchell Spadaro, Michelle Aitken and Mani Mae Gomes are born anew to these sounds as they interact in a spiritual offering to nature itself – hearing and reacting to its unseen but now heard essence.

Finally, we end up in The Blue Room itself upstairs in intimate playful spaces that invite smiles and comfort. There is ‘grass’ on the floor and ‘clouds’ in the ‘sky’ in site and costume designer Kaitlin Brindley’s bold and effective aesthetic. ‘The Walk’ is a playful examination of self-identity and artifice – it rejects the previous piece’s natural vibes and renders them fake. Choreographer and performer Tahlia Russell is shiny and exuberant in a fun-filled joyous dance complete with glittery body suit, blonde wig, and sparkly tasselled jacket. Her siren song attracts everyone who has ever danced with abandon in front of their mirror. Peter McAvan continues the party vibe with his fun sound design. Of course, it doesn’t take too long for things to get weird as Russell moves us into the next room where the performance delves further into performing self and how we reflect the world back onto itself. Russell is a wonderful performer and the look is whimsical yet introspective causing the audience to think about their own self expression.

MoveMoveMove is a bizarrely brilliant work that inhabits the spaces of the city as though they were convolutions in the brain. It’s visceral expression elicits contemplation and excitement and encourages a mental reimagining of space and time. Yes, it’s deliciously weird but it is also amazing.

MoveMoveMove has SOLD OUT. You can try your luck on the waiting list HERE or check out what The Blue Room are doing next HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this Perth Festival 2021

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Absolute Weirdo | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Let’s face it, Robbie T is an Absolute Weirdo. A self-confessed magic tragic, Robbie is here to open up and perform tricks that will make you laugh and blow your mind – not a bad way to spend your evening, hey? Robbie’s charm is in his awkwardness – he deftly performs magic while still waiting for the scars of previous social anxiety to heal. His philosophy is that nothing is as it seems, and this is the perfect analogy for mental health. Robbie opens up and weaves a poignant story of growth and change under uncertainty – all the while displaying his magic right in front of you. It’s just that you’re not able to see things Robbie’s way yet. Seeing Absolute Weirdo can help with that!

It’s difficult to review a magic show as, much like a magician I don’t want to reveal all, but suffice it to say that Robbie’s tricks are absolutely jaw-dropping. Of course, anyone can do tricks, but not everyone can craft a beautiful show with a theme that reveals every part of oneself and Robbie boldly and unflinchingly bares all using the magic to emphasise his point. All of the music is curated with Robbie’s signature twisted sense of humour – from Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ to Aretha Franklin belting out ‘Think’ while Robbie does a comedy bit, it all knits together to reveal who Robbie really is. He candidly shows pictures from his childhood, including highly embarrassing fashions and unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions and also projects up excerpts from his school diaries. This is all while building up our trust. Robbie’s comedy bit about how he revealed to his father he wanted to be a magician is hilarious as are certain innocuous seeming comedy bits involving drawing and mind reading. It is only at the end that these funny bits contribute to the whole and you realise Robbie T is a certified genius.

Trust is an important factor in magic and mind reading. It’s also important in relationships and mental health. Robbie seamlessly weaves this feeling of absolute trust and safety throughout the entire show – from the beginning when he asks for an audience member’s mobile phone to a heart thumping trick with nails and paper bags he endears himself to us with his vulnerability and charm. The finale of the show is where Robbie cuts himself open and bares his beating heart to the audience – not literally, I mean he’s good but that’s just morbid – and it’s a stunning squence of mesmerising sleight of hand accompanied by a heartfelt and raw monologue. Robbie gets you thinking deeply, and even though there are a few blockbuster moments of sheer WOW, it is his capacity for sharing and sheer openness where the true magic lies.

Absolute Weirdo is still going on in FRINGEWORLD 2021 Encore! You can get tickets HERE

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PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | The Little Mermaid | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

There are many ways to tell a story, and The Little Mermaid is a tale about a tail that has been interpreted and retold countless times. The classic fairytale is shared with us by Freeze Frame Opera, an innovative company that seek to introduce new audiences to opera and make it accessible, so this time they turn their sharp and intimate hand to a well known story. Beautifully presented at The Ballroom at Government House the production transforms an already charming venue into a wonderland of magic. Dvorjak’s opera Rusalka is delightfully reworked to tell a relevant coming of age story where multiple types of love are celebrated and growing up embraced. It’s a truly charming rendition of classic opera for contemporary times.

Director Rachel McDonald brings together the quintessential elements of the opera and the beloved fairytale and combines them into an exquisite experience. The Little Mermaid story is easily identified through its story, energetically narrated by Jessie Ward who acts as conduit between the characters and the children. McDonald’s directing is sharp as Ward flits in between the characters at times offering advice and others explaining the plot to the audience. Ward is a natural with children. Her affability gives them confidence to interact with the story and its characters, often to deafening results! Robbie Harald brings the story to life with stunning set and costumes. Each character has a distinguishable look that still remains thematically cohesive – from Rusalka and her father’s coral crowns to the sea witch’s harsh makeup coastal life is referenced in an instantly recognisable concept. Fun and charming elements continue to delight such as a ship suspended above the stage in all its majesty and little touches like pirate bunting or makeshift costumes but it is the rippling effect of material flowing bountifully, cascading from an upper balcony to journey down through the audience during Rusalka’s aria ‘Song to the Moon’ that cements this piece as an absolute winner. Culminating in a moonrise to remember, Jerry Reinhardt’s lighting design brings a softness and the blue is both serene and melancholic, allowing both feelings to sit with one another.

The Little Mermaid is a phenomenal adaptation. It renders opera accessible in a playful way that serves to showcase the form beautifully. As mentioned, Jessie Ward weaves the story together, unafraid to ask the children what they think is going to happen next, or encourage them to boo and jeer at the witch. Combining stunning music and vocals with classic pantomime and children’s theatre techniques each performer becomes a firm favourite. Prudence Sanders is stunning in the classic princess role – she is elegant and her vocals heart-wrenching as the moon song is performed with so much feeling the children cheer at its restoration. Her father, Robert Hofmann strikes the balance between noble and loving, providing a tenderness not usually present in a children’s show which is thoroughly refreshing. Of course, in this show the damsel saves herself – with a generous guiding from the enthusiastic audience – but there is a handsome prince, and Jun Zhang keeps his cool even while hamming it up with the dog Fluffy and interacting with the kids. Despite Rusalka being the heroine here, it is hands down the tremendously talented Caitlin Cassidy as Ježibaba the witch that steals the show. Strong and confident vocals call out across the whole room and even the boos from the children spur her on. It’s always fun to play a villain, and Cassidy relishes this role, clearly enjoying every second of it.

This is an important show to take children to as it celebrates opera in a way that demonstrates theatre can be at once silly and elegant. It’s irreverent energy embraces the audience with the thrill of folk lore and storytelling, and its phenomenal music – playfully arranged by the wonderful Caroline Badnall will see this version firmly cemented in young people’s guides to classical music. Not only do the children get to enjoy a wonderfully sophisticated opera but there is also tea, face painting, and games on the lawn afterwards all included in the ticket. The Little Mermaid is an immersive experience, so come and swim in Rusalka’s river and celebrate artistry at its finest.

The Little Mermaid was part of PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 and has finished, however you can check out what Freeze Frame Opera is up to next HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this Perth Festival 2021

FRINGEWORLD, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Nadia Collins: Chrysalis (a work in progress) | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Nadia Collins is an absolute favourite of The Fourth Wall – we love her in everything she does, so when given the opportunity to review a work in progress we leaped at it headlong into the fray. And it does not disappoint! Chrysalis (a work in progress) sees Collins tackling mother nature as she reenacts a nature documentary live on stage, with hilarious results! As it is only a work in progress, I’m sure some of the details will change by the time you see the show again but it’s worth pointing out that in my opinion, there’s not a lot to do. Through classic clowning techniques and improvisation, Collins creates a hilarious and silly show that savagely calls out the natural world and our hopeless misunderstanding of it. And it’s genius.

Donning a robe and attempting to maintain an angry demeanor, Collins is hilarious as the formidable Mother Nature – lecturing us through suppressed giggles. The premise is refreshingly shambolic – a state Collins is perfectly suited in – things are chaotic from the audience reaction to the clearly uncertain dialogue. This is Collins’ strength – she excels at awkward comedy and doesn’t take herself too seriously. Homemade costumes continue this genius-level haphazardness from plastic bag jellyfish to velcro flower petals, Collins’ face says it all as she embraces the slipshod appearance of the show. Chrysalis has a chaotic energy that keeps you on your toes throughout – there is anticipation as each miracle of nature manifests out of what appear to be mounds of detritus on the stage but transform into actually quite clever designs.

Collins nails every minute of this show. Her audience interaction game is strong as she communicates well and makes everyone feel comfortable, like being involved in a shared joke. From the time lapse of flower growth to the crepe paper spider web, Collins gives her all and the result is a clever and funny show that capitalises on shared knowledge and makes kick arse pop culture references. I appreciate the subtle use of the American Beauty when the plastic bag jellyfish is floating in the ocean, and the Armageddon sountrack gets a pretty good go, too. Overall while this may be a work in progress, it’s a damn good one. All the puns are on point, the savagery of nature is hilarious – although there are some things you probably shouldn’t laugh at but Collins makes them so funny – and of course, the silliness of the show caps everything off. You know the old saying truth is stranger than fiction? In this case, truth is funnier than fiction – this pisstake is on point!

Chrysalis ran during the FRINGEWORLD 2021 Encore season but we’re confident it will be back.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

on now, PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | Archives of Humanity | 5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Tracing the human experience through its journey from primordial slime to the teeming collective gracing this planet today, Archives of Humanity meditates on the essentialism of human life, distilling it to its core in a tumultuous and dynamic expression that weaves its pattern in a jawdropping choreographed piece that speaks to the primal self and what it means to be a community. This show is perhaps Co3‘s most ambitious project – a culmination of Artistic Director Raewyn Hill‘s stunning vision and the company’s unwavering capacity to impress. It stares humanity directly in the eye and charts its messy yet hopeful journey with over twenty diverse dancers performing their guts out, stripping back life itself to its core in a viscerally present work. It’s perfectly impressive.

As the piece is a representation of migratory movements throughout human existence, one begins with an immersive walk through the stunningly unique set. Created by the community, the Bird Makers Project saw people create black birds from personal garments that hold memories or meaning as a way to connect during isolation. The resulting exhibition is a beautiful collection of stories and expressions of emotion by the WA community – their thoughts and stories suspended above in a soaring and hopeful act of transcendence. Journeying through this collective accumulation of life moments, one has the opportunity to dip their toe in the water by merely being present amongst the works or diving in, fully immersing themselves into these shared experiences with an app that allows for more insights into the project. After filling oneself up emotionally, the audience takes its seat and awaits the natural extension of the migration story. The stage is set – a deceptively simple square of compact builder’s sand resembling a giant rodeo – and a ripple of excitement washes over the crowd. We are about to see something special.

The strength of this work is its simplicity – designed, devised, and directed by Raewyn Hill, her intuitive design skills knit perfectly with the choreography and imagery that convey a playful yet intense piece of physical theatre unafraid to stretch the soul to capacity. Drawing lines in the sand symbolically traces humanity’s compelling journey across this very earth, the dancers churning the sand into new patterns that dramatically scatter in a bid for transcendence. Eden Mulholland‘s theatrically visceral score thrums through the entire work, anchoring it with a richness of sound that speaks to the vitality of the piece. Combining original composition and dramatic well known works such as Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mulholland draws from a deep well of artistic expression and intelligently embeds historically important work into the musical journey of Archives of Humanity. Hill is constantly evolving her practice and motivations, and with this piece she explores the fundamentals of humanity in a series of moving vignettes that flow effortlessly into one another – a moving tableau of life itself that builds up both a sense of community and individualism in exquisite and tumultuous movement.

Visually, the whole thing is stunning. The ensemble of dancers all reference a collective of humanity throughout different eras in a heady mix of Tudor ruffs, Victorian nightgowns, 80s catwalk pieces that are rendered timeless when shaken together like a snow globe to create a cohesion present in both movement and aesthetic. Hill dives headfirst into an exploration of community and the support one has for humanity, at times it’s business as usual and figures move in synch but individually – weaving in and out of each other’s pathways in harmony. At other times, perhaps representative of tumultuous times such as war and pestilence the floor churns with bodies throwing themselves at life in a visceral display of desperation. In all of these moments the one thing that remains solid is the physical support given to one another – the performers move in blocks of people, literally and figuratively supporting one another be it on each other’s shoulders or to simply catch another dancer as they fall. Each performer represents a vast array of experiences from physical age and gender, to echoes of previous generations and perhaps that is what makes this work an entire experience.

Archives of Humanity is the physical embodiment of its statement – a visual representation of humanity’s journey that speaks to all. It’s a multidisciplinary, multigenerational, and dynamic piece – the essence of human experience incarnate. Boiling and bubbling over with raw humanism, this bold piece will keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch these performers push themselves to the brink of existence itself. Let Co3 drag you into their frenzied world – picking up the invisible lines of historical humanity and wrenching them seething and pulsing back into the world, their hearts beating loudly once more.

You can get your tickets to the greatest show on earth HERE and download the app prior to your visit HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this Perth Festival 2021

FRINGEWORLD, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | The Great Debate: Girlz rule, boys drool – a 90s musical comedy! | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Who here remembers the 90s? Tighten your butterfly hairclips, adjust your bandana and get ready to Spice Up Your Life because Backstreet’s Back, Alright in The Great Debate: Girlz rule, boys drool – a 90s musical comedy! Tone Deft Choir are here to settle the question of the ages once and for all – were girl bands or boy bands better in the 90s? I’m going to be honest, as someone whose formative years were shaped by this music, I would rather forget it than celebrate it, but the kids from Tone Deft are big believers in leaning into the cringe! I heard songs that lay dormant in my little soul for 20+ years that happily leapt out in a series of clicks, claps, and affirmative head shakes – oh and a lot of white girl dancing. The show is a light-hearted look at the music most of us want to forget but still have a soft spot for – it’s a fun night out with passionate people and ok music – with a few bangers chucked in for good measure.

The majority of Tone Deft Choir look like they were born in the 90s so you can be forgiven for not taking much stock in their opinions of the music. After all, they weren’t spending their lunchtimes and sleepovers painstakingly recreating the entire Spice Girls Concert live in Istanbul that their Dad taped for them off the telly with their besties and sister in the 90s *cough* and neither was I. Ok, so that example was a little too specific to be anything but real – my point is, like many of us Tone Deft Choir are nostalgic for an era they didn’t necessarily experience, though why they chose 90s girl and boy bands is beyond me! As much as I sound like I’m blasting these kids, I actually had a great time – the debate is sophisticated and the right amount of silly. Both sides talk to the culture of growing up in the 90s rather than just the music – I mean they’d be on a pretty thin argument if it came down to musicality alone – and both teams hit the nostalgia hard. As in, they understand the struggle it was to have to pick one boy band member to stan whilst actively shunning the rest but not really because N*Sync is lyfe. The debate is a bit weak, in that it’s too scripted and should be more improvised but I suspect this will happen with time and I can’t wait to watch the show evolve.

Of course, being a choir Tone Deft not only debate the music, they also perform it. With energetic arrangements by accompanist Gavin Nicklette each song strikes the balance between homage and pisstake as the choir lean in to the kitsch and blast out the tunes. There are some absolute bangers from Wannabe to Chasing Waterfalls this act skips from musical genius to tacky af and perform them with the same gusto. The energy off these guys is crackling – donning their finest 90s attire, what looks like a rag tag bunch of kids were involved in an explosion at the Op Shop, the choir even bust out the dance moves of the era – sadly no breakdancing but I’m willing to let that slide. Of course, there are some points that are a little unfair – can Savage Garden really be considered a boy band? Tenuous. And a little bit of poor feminism that could have been explained better – seriously, the reason more male artists appear in the top charts and sales is because no matter if the work is absolute tripe, male artists are deemed more legitimate than their female counterparts. Just look at any Top 20 lists and there are a disproportionate amount of men on it.

Overall, The Great Debate is a wicked night out. The concept rocks, the songs are cringy yet hit you right in your choker clad throat. Will it ever be resolved? Perhaps not but going to the show you are guaranteed clever mashups and medleys, fun digs at a culture you experienced and probably miss like tazos and basketball cards, and incredible voices raised in jubilant, if tacky, music. Awesome.

Unfortunately the Great Debate is over but you can check out Tone Deft Choir HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

Article, Interview, on now

WA Opera set to reach biggest audience with their GALA performance in the park this weekend

Article | Laura Money

Friday 26th and Saturday 27th February will mark the 30th anniversary of WA Opera‘s Opera in the Park – a huge summer concert that will this year be livestreamed so that everyone can see it even if they can’t make it to The Supreme Court Gardens. To mark this special achievement, West Australian Opera is rolling out West Australian stars for City of Perth Opera in the Park 30th Gala Concert which will feature audience favourites from the world of opera and musical theatre. The Fourth Wall caught up with Young Artist Brianna Louwen and Principal Artist Caitlin Cassidy ahead of the gala to get an insight into the show.

The real winner here is the audience – making the show accessible to all is a beautiful thing. Cassidy was highly impressed with Chris van Tuinen‘s artistic projects used to connect people during COVID, from podcasts to virtual operas and how he managed to keep WA Opera in front of Perth audiences. ‘It’s solutions like that that are going to keep opera alive and relevant in tough times.’ She doesn’t consider opera to be at war with technology, however they aren’t always associated with each other. Adapting and using technology to keep reaching out to people is key to revitalisation. Louwen says ‘there is a perception that opera is quite insular and it’s everyone just patting each other on the back, but I think we’re starting to get out into the community more and that’s the thing that will make longevity happen. I think having friends who aren’t opera singers and being a normal person helps too!’ Something else Louwen is interested in is all of the smaller opera companies around Perth: ‘they’re doing lesser known pieces in really interesting spaces and in really interesting ways, taking opera and putting it into a modern setting. Going down that niche route is always going to be successful.’

Opera in the Park will be live streamed across the Telethon Community theatres in Bassendean, Murdoch and Burswood which will generate a new audience entirely. You can also watch from home. ‘Having these televised artistic events is not a terribly new idea – like Leonard Bernstein’s young person’s guide to the orchestra series – but I think in Perth it’s taking off.’ Cassidy.

Cassidy believes in the importance of contributing to the opera scene in Perth – ‘I did travel overseas, I studied in New York and recently performed with Opera Australia in Sydney, but I do love to come home! I always like to come back and share and see the incredible work that Perth artists are doing.’ Louwen made the leap from choirs to opera in her chorus debut in Don Giovanni and feels pretty grateful to be able to do it. She made her principle debut last year in The Nightingale and can’t wait to turn her hand at Mozart in the coming year.

Cassidy doesn’t want people to be alienated by opera: ‘it’s an artistic language, nothing to be scared of and it’s for everyone.’

[Opera is] the human spirit brought to life

Caitlyn Cassidy

Being able to perform in the gala concert is such a special occasion for these ladies. Cassidy remembers the first time she got up on stage with WA Opera – she used to go to the opera on special occasions as a child, and remembers the first year becoming a Young Artist and performing on the His Majesty’s stage. She’s excited to be performing with her operatic heroes on stage in the gala and with her friends from WAAPA. Louwen is super happy to be in the Young Artist program as she always loved singing. She remembers watching Carmen when she was 14 years old and being totally amazed by it and realising that she wanted to do it – it’s exciting to stand on stage now and get to sing music from Carmen, bit of a dream come true. As Louwen is not a principal artist, she doesn’t get to do any solo reportoire but is having a ball singing in the ensemble pieces. All of the big, celebratory pieces are sung by ensembles – ‘There’s something really amazing about singing inside the crowd that’s wonderful. It’s nice to be able to perform as part of that in the gala concert.’

So, what will people get out of the gala concert this year? ‘The great thing about a gala is you don’t have to shape the singers around the opera, you can choose to show off all of these amazing singers in their best light using their best repotoire. I think it’s a nice light reprieve for everyone – it will be a big party!’ says Cassidy. While they haven’t been given a choice in pieces, Cassidy is over the moon to be duetting with Emma Matthews and Sara Maciver and can’t wait to bust out the Habenera from Carmen. The gala will feature all your favourites – it’s going to be a huge celebration and we can’t wait!

You get to hear some of the most iconic and beautiful pieces sung by the best singers in the world all on the doorstep of Perth. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Briannah Louwen

You can check out Opera in the Park from the comfort of your home HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this Perth Festival 2021

FRINGEWORLD, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Theatre of Bondage | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

What could be more quintessentially FRINGEWORLD than a show called Theatre of Bondage? It has everything you’d expect – ropes, kink culture, hot wax, a black box art studio located off Pier Street up a few hundred stairs. But here’s what you probably won’t expect – a beautifully crafted history lesson in sensuality and pleasure, tied up in emotional and fun artistic vignettes. This show is like the practice of bondage itself – a bit intimidating to get into but sexy and intriguing to watch. It takes elements of kink and exploits their natural theatricality, resulting in a dramatic and exciting show that you’ll keep coming back to in your mind.

Theatre of Bondage traces the history of Shibari, the Japanese ritual of erotic rope binding – because of course the Japanese came up with something like that. Your host with the most is Mr James Sta-Maria (aka Starma Llama!) and he mixes up the vignettes with personal stories, fun anecdotes, and facts about Shibari. Throughout the evening we are treated – and I mean treated as the show is a pleasure to watch – to a series of Shibari pieces that each serve to stimulate in a different way. There is a gateway bind to get you into the scene – Mandie Sta-Maria shows us the basic techniques with Daniel Campagnoli who then launches into a full routine with her, complete with ceiling truss and hot wax drips. I’m making it sound more violent than it is – the pair engage in an elegant dance placing trust in each other and the music and choreography combine to create a beautiful journey. Luna Agneya displays the self-love aspect of Shibari in a stunning and exciting expression of power over oneself.

Each dance is perfectly suited to the style and people performing it – Dany Cox and Jenna Elliott walk the tightrope of faith and trust while wholly deriving pleasure both for the binder and the bound. They demonstrate the heat and magnetism Shibati can bring while journeying through the process where the untying is as important as the tying. Wrapping things up with a group dance between Sta-Maria, Agneva and Tristen Tan the team show their fun side and keep things light and sexy with a cute routine that is hard to top. Theatre of Bondage is a sensual and exciting show that takes the fear out of bondage and ties up your evening in a neat little bow – and it even invites you to get involved but only with the safety of classes. Do not try this at home, but definitely think about it in the bedroom!

Theatre of Bondage has finished in Perth but is still available in Adelaide Fringe and you can get your tickets for the interstate shows HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | HOUSE | 5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

There are some tales that are so enduring they embed themselves in our hearts the moment they begin. Barking Gecko Theatre is in absolute top form with this Perth Festival production of HOUSE – an instant classic. Drawing on a rich vein of whimsy, playwright Dan Giovannoni and Director Luke Kerridge have once again struck gold in their emotionally rich tale of grief, courage, and acceptance that feels like a long-established fairy tale. HOUSE is utterly captivating, from its hopeful message of acceptance to its magnificent set and perfectly loveable cast every element of this show is beautifully rendered. It’s a magical tale with a capital M – adventure writ large – large enough to envelop each boy and girl in the audience and fill them with courage and hope. This is a rather special show, indeed.

Giovannoni and Kerridge are in familiar territory with HOUSE – a lonely young girl (the loneliest child in the world in fact) is whisked away and rescued by House and its crew – flying above the clouds so she can heal and learn to accept herself. It’s pure wonder – which is right in this duo’s wheelhouse. The pair have a wonderful knack for taking the essence of childhood literature, containing it in a pressurised script and blasting it in huge colours and whimsy all over the stage. It’s a wondrous formulae that I, for one, can only see taking off much like said House of this work. There’s something irresistibly madcap about this pairing that we all get to benefit from – their writing is exquisite – each character describes grief as a tightening feeling in the chest that they thought would go away but doesn’t, articulating a very feeling is like capturing lightning in a bottle. Their concept is amazing – a magical house that rescues lonely children from around the world is instantly recognisable as possessing all the hallmarks of a wondrous children’s tale. Their world-building is absolutely stunning – from the imaginative ways a house in the sky would operate to the ins and outs of daily life, the environment suits the story perfectly.

And what a story! Beginning in the tradition of Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton, the parents are horrible people and ship poor Cathelijn (pronounced Cat-a-line) off to live with her Aunt in the forest. Chanella Macri as Cathelijn is the most loveable protaganist to grace the stage. Children will empathise with her being ‘too big, too loud and too much’ and laugh at her absolute passion for life despite being constantly beaten down. There’s something delightfully tragic about this happy-go-lucky yet depressed everyman and Macri plays her with a delicate balance of self-doubt and zest for life. When everything goes wrong – I’d like to applaud the team from not shying away from tragedy – and she is rescued we are fully immersed in Cathelijn’s journey. Barking Gecko are an immensely talented bunch as it is, and they have brought together an exceptional team to provide an extraordinary show. Designer Charlotte Lane and Contraptions Designer Philip Millar provide a stunningly whimsical set complete with impressive whirligigs, inventions, hidden compartments, and a whole lot of quirky features! Running the gamut from an oven that cooks whatever you want (it should always be hot chips) to a chair that changes its size to fit you, the entire set is like a comforting embrace – exactly what HOUSE represents. Magical moments abound when the set design shows off and House takes to the sky, eliciting more than a few gasps and jaws on the floor in wonder. A cloudscape completes the scene and the audience is in for a visual treat the entire show.

Not only is the set a veritable Willy Wonka of a design with nooks and crannies that reveal themselves in magical detail, but it reflects its inhabitants to a T. Piotr the incomparable Isaac Diamond runs around with a colander on his head, always talking a mile a minute and feeds this energy back into House. Things have a tendency to break around him and he is sometimes not careful enough to prevent damage. Diamond fizzes with the pure zest that children naturally possess but doesn’t over do it. Both Diamond and Macri portray children in a realistic way which is countered by the wonderful grey-haired Elka (Nicola Bartlett) – a mad scientist type who has boundless energy and zany ideas. Bartlett is a wonderful companion for Macri and Diamond and their chemistry is palpable. Whilst she is an enigma for the majority of the show, Bartlett’s quirks are hilarious and she places Elka firmly in the realm of most adorable characters ever. Each actor is distinct in their characters and the show uses them to explore multiple ways of being.

Stunning lighting and soundscape devised by Richard Vabre and Rachel Dease respectedly complete the simply magical atmosphere. Both serve to bring the picture book design to life and creates a contained world of wonder and delight where the sky is the limit. HOUSE is a lesson in grief and acceptance wrapped up in a charming, whimsical adventure. Cathelijn is loveable and the story is ‘too big’ for anywhere but the stage, ‘too loud’ to be read at bedtime, and ‘too much’ fun for all the family. It is already a firm favourite of mine and I will treasure its beautiful message of love and acceptance and how one can sit with dark feelings even if they identify as whole. HOUSE is where hope truly lies.

HOUSE ran as part of Perth Festival 2021 but check out Barking Gecko’s website HERE to see when it will be landing in Perth again

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this Perth Festival 2021

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Disney in Drag UP LATE: A Perverted Parody | 3.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

It’s absolutely no secret that I adored Disney in Drag: Once Upon a Parody – a tight, intelligent show that takes Disney classics and scrutinises them in a hilarious way. Disney in Drag UP LATE: A Perverted Parody takes the essence of the earlier show and twists it into a cabaret style evening of filthy songs, bawdy entertainment, and more jokes about genitalia you can shake your booty at. It’s more of a traditional cabaret than a fully immersive story with a through line, however this works well – maybe just advertise it like that to avoid disappointment. Each act takes beloved Disney material, be they songs or characters, and sends a scathing message about gender norms, healthy sexual activity, hell even the environment gets representation! It’s a raunchy and hilarious night out, up late with all of your favourite characters that ends on a massive buzz!

Keeping us all swashbuckling along is our amazing host, Captain Cooked (Mita Hill) who has enough ‘plank’ jokes to keep the boat afloat all night long, if you know what I mean! Hill’s crowd work is exceptional and she stays in character the whole time – throwing out innuendo after innuendo and laughing raucously at her own puns. And rightly so – the puns will give you the jolly rogering you need to laugh all night! Hill is great – check out the running gag of different things in place of her hook – she has an excellent rapport with the audience and each of the acts throughout. Except Ursulabia (Emma MacMillan) which is a gut wrenching shame because MacMillan is indisputably talented – her parody of Poor Unfortunate Souls is 100% a highlight – she is just misplaced here as a joint MC. Hill loses momentum and the pair lean towards in-jokes and appear to put each other off. The other poor unfortunate thing is the character of Ursula is a long-term mainstay in the drag community – the original design was based off of a drag queen and I find it baffling that a man did not take on this role (or at least a woman of size). I’m not saying that drags have sovereignty over the character – to do so would be to miss the point of this show entirely – anyone can dress up and express themselves in their own way, but it does fall a little flat here. Casting choices aside, the costume is phenomenal and MacMillan’s turn at ‘Gender Normative Roles’ is hands down the best song in the whole damn show. The lyrics are scathing and clever and the message is on point for 2021.

Sex positivity is the theme here, and the Disney in Drag crew are clearly in their element. Mixing bawdy outrageousness with dazzling voices and clever lyrics, they turn every song and act into a lesson in debauchery. Jae West kills it as the Queen of Hearts (no pun for her, let’s try to think of one, hey?) in a brilliant number about female pleasure sung to the tune of ‘Be Prepared’ complete with some secrets under her skirt. Joseph Andrin gets us hot and steamy as Tartzan, playfully leading the audience in a gentle bit of interaction. His ability to communicate meaning without speaking is inspired and he gives a sexy twist to a classic bit – every bit the vaudeville star. New to me is Ben Kay as Cruella – who doesn’t need a drag name as, let’s face it she already had one! Kay’s number is pure cabaret and so funny – his facial expressions could cause the spots to jump right off of your puppy as he saunters around the stage in a classic drag number. If it seems like I’m just listing the acts at this point, you’d be right but that’s only because there is a lack of cohesion in this show. With separate acts all linked by the MC and no major plot line UP LATE would do well to format itself in a more classic cabaret fashion.

At first, I was inclined to encourage this show to focus on the villains as the other one is mostly heroes and while I do still think this idea has merit – especially as villains are more fun and highly sexualised, I am inclined to believe that Stefan Testi revealing Belle’s sexual encounters with the Beast are so tittilating they won me over! Testi brings the heat and, while a little soft in his volume, makes himself heard as we all lean in to be given the salacious details. It’s not subtle. It’s not overly clever. It’s steamy af. And I’m ok with that! Speaking of steamy, at one point this show descends into a strip show beginning with the 5 dwarves (all the women mentioned plus Alex and Ashley Nissen) all donning their flanno and shorts to give us the Magic Mike treatment. Then we have the sexy Andrin as Jazzman and Testi as Miss White joined onstage by the original Hairy Godmother himself – Owen Merriman as Maleficent perform an NSFW strip tease that will pop the genie out of the bottle! Ok, we’ve had sex, songs – what’s next? Ah yes, snow. I mean blow, oh hell DRUGS! The final number sees Alex and Ashley Nissen taking on Disney’s newest Queens to finally ‘Let it Go’ – I mean ‘Let it Snow’ – it’s the moment we adult Disnerds have all been waiting for, a Frozen parody so we can all justify belting out the song at karaoke. And it doesn’t disappoint. Not only are the Nissen’s great singers, they throw everything they have at the roles to create a clever and just downright hilarious finale. Look, if you’re not going to get a happy ending through love, you might as well turn to drugs!

Disney in Drag UP LATE: A Perverted Parody is a good solid cabaret. It may not have the subtlety or sophistication of its sister show, but it’s still a great night out. There is an entire generation of kids who grew up with Disney that are now fully sexual adults. They desire sex positivity, kink behaviour, and even environmental reform (the show covers a lot of issues) but they also like to have a good time and every now and then blast out their favourite Disney songs. So, get filthy with the UP LATE crew – be prepared for a lifetime of memories, strap in (on) for your magic carpet ride because if this show doesn’t scar you, no filthy thing will.

This show has run its course in Perth playing as part of FRINGEWORLD 2021 but check out The Hairy Godmothers on Facebook to see what the crew are up to.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | (Not) The Bachelor Live Hosted by Luke Bolland | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Ah, love – the one thing that connects us all. We see you all on the dating apps, trying desperately to find someone. You know who can help with that? Luke Bolland – unlike the cold, unfeeling television producers who only want to see a scandal, Bolland really does want to see a love match. (Not) The Bachelor Live – I can’t believe you’re getting away with this, to be honest – takes the format of the popular television show, combines it with Let’s Make a Match and the twisted yet hilarious mind of Bolland and provides all the drama, scandal, and yes LOVE that goes with it. All in front of a live audience, which is way better than watching it on tv.

Even though this show is a full pisstake the contestants are real, and Bolland pays them the utmost respect. People sign up for the show and are chosen in advance after answering surveys on compatibility. What follows is our lucky bachelor speaks to three women and Bolland gets them to play a series of games before picking a winner. Bolland is the perfect host – keeping us all laughing with his quick quips and witty asides. He is a natural comedian who keeps things ticking along and endeavours to place his contestants firmly in their comfort zones. Of course, double entendres abound in a hilarious parody of love (read: sex) as things get hot and steamy. Honestly, you’ll laugh your head off at the games – there’s compatibility in question as we find out whether they’re dog or cat lovers, trust and honesty is on the line as they ask the bachelor anything, and of course there are some physical games too.

(Not) The Bachelor Live is everything you expect it to be and so much more. It’s a real life, real time courting with pheremones flying and sexual tension at an all time high. If you were skeptical about this show, don’t be – Bolland joyfully leans into the tackiness of the situation while still providing an entertaining and romantic evening and if that isn’t talent, then tell me what is. Come and fall in love – whatever love is with (Not) The Bachelor Live and enjoy a raucus night out.

You can grab your tickets to find love HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Good Dick Energy | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Ok, ok I know what you’re thinking – this show is going to be super dirty and full of dick references. Well, it is full of dick jokes but the good kind – the funny kind. Grant Mushet has Good Dick Energy according to an audience member from a previous show. What does that mean? Well your guess is as good as mine, but Mushet thinks of it as having the balls to get up and do stand-up comedy even when he might bomb out. Believe me, bombing out is the least of Mushet’s worries in this FRINGEWORLD 2021 show! He’s a natural comedian spinning tales and telling jokes with an affable and carefree nature, and it’s absolutely worth the $20.

Grant Mushet is a loveable Scotsman who has lived in Perth long enough to have a good few sets and a string of ‘tight fives’ about the place. Retiring his material after this very show, Good Dick Energy is Mushet’s greatest hits – regaling us of stories when he first moved to Perth (well, Rockingham!) and the colourful cast of characters he has met along the way. Mushet’s style is casual and laid back – he turns standard anecdotes about Scotland and his upbringing and funny stories into the twisted musings of a whacko. I say this with the highest regards – Mushet is hilarious. This dark Polyanna sees things differently but with a surprisingly happy go lucky attitude – who else can see the up side of knife crime, unicorns, and lawn bowls?

Good Dick Energy is, on the surface a good, solid stand-up comedy show. Mushet happily peels back the surface layers and provides intelligent, nuanced, and surreally hilarious observations – it’s highly entertaining. There are ebbs and flows but even the ebbs are funny in the hands of this deftly affable guy who plays with the audience with great skill. Go and get some Good Dick Energy from Grant Mushet – you won’t regret it!

You can catch the ENCORE season of Good Dick Energy HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Black Santa | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Affable and funny, Emo delivers the goods with Black Santa – a laid back and hilarious hour of storytelling, banter, and jokes. Stripping away the clutter of everyday life, Emo shares his stories through a casually observant lens, each one a puzzle piece for us to slot in so that by the end of it, we’ve completed the picture. The comedy is subtle, the delivery friendly, and the barbs are gentle – Emo is an absolute hit!

Playing to a white-washed audience, Emo delights in ‘messing with you’ – don’t worry, he assures us that he is used to standing in front of crowds of white people – just usually he’s in court! This is the tone of the night – a gentle ribbing at race differences and stereotypes that sits more as funny observations than politically charged commentary. Emo tells stories of casual racism that are more about his sunny-side-up take on life than about race. There are hilarious fish out of water tales – like being pulled over by the police in Montreal and panicking because he didn’t speak French, and being asked for ID on his 30th birthday at a liquor store. Both of these stories rely on Emo’s Bugs Bunny-like cheekiness rather than cultural differences but certainly have the white people in the audience (myself included) squirming in their privilege.

A show with Emo is an education that feels like a fun night out with a bunch of mates. Emo is that one guy at the table nursing his Hennessy and regaling the group with funny stories. His delivery is laid back and confident, his smile infectious, and his attitude overwhelmingly positive. Black Santa is an hour of brilliant storytelling interlaced with an education on black culture in Australia and delivered by a grinning, natural comedian. It’s 100% worth the wait for the talent to arrive on Black Time!

You can check out the comedy stylings of Emo HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Farm Backpacker (Subclass 417): Takashi Wakasugi | 4 Stars

Review | Peter Spence

Welcome to a second year in Australia, all you gotta do to stay here for a second year, is pick some fruit, and stay in a hostel, sharing a room with 8 other backpackers, where the standard of hygiene is an experience in itself.  

It’ll be fun they said.  

Being from the Japan, one of the cleanest and most hygienic countries in the world with some of the most advanced technological conveniences in the world, to squishing into a backpacker hostel on a farm may be a shock, a very big shock … a very gross shock!  

Takashi Wakasugi returns to Perth with another sell out show, bring laughs and a tale of caution to the world of being a backpacker on our farms. Farm Backpacker (Subclass 417) is a hilarious journey through the eyes of someone who has lived it first hand, and came out of it with a stronger sentiment and a much stronger stomach.  

Selling out shows all throughout this year’s FRINGEWORLD Festival, and with similar fashion to his whole time in Australia, a break in the middle of the season – no fruit picking this time. You can’t help but fall in love with Takashi’s demeanour, as his adorable naivety draws you in before a hard to understand “f@*k you” comes at you with a sweet smile. A show that has us all laughing and wondering how we would handle 3 months living in the squalor of a farm life, jammed into a tiny room with a bunch of internationals.  

Last year he made us giggle with the sell out show “Welcome to Japan”. This year he makes us laugh out loud in the Laugh resort@ The Shoe: Bar & Café.  

You can hear Takashi’s story HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Justin Sider is D!ckless | 4.5 Stars

Review | Sarah Soulay

Justin Sider is D!ckless presents a very powerful message on a very important issue in a light hearted and palpable way, including everyone in the discussion while also making a point that there is nothing left to discuss. From the get go, Justin Sider expresses to the audience that he has created a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community, including a trigger warning. This displays his conscientious attitude towards others and you immediately get a sense of how warm and welcoming he is.

The concept of a playboy on a mission to find his missing ‘eggplant’ before a big competition is absurd and yet Sider makes it absolutely hilarious. This is not sick and twisted humour, this is down to earth slap stick comedy at its finest. Not only does Sider have a stunning voice, but he can also throw down a mean rap verse while being utterly hilarious at the same time. He is witty, funny and an absolute joy to watch. There is some light audience participation, but not once does Sider make anyone feel alienated or put on the spot, he is respectful and guides his chosen audience members through everything.

There are areas that could use some finessing, however, given that it is a one man show, and Sider jumps from character to character in some awesomely bedazzled outfits, I would say overall it is a job well done. In the end, the moral of the story here is genitals do not define gender, end of discussion, and we love it. Justin Sider is D!ckless is definitely a show for those who want a safe space to listen to a different voice make important commentary on an important issue in a fun, open and accepting atmosphere.

You can check out Justin Sider for yourselves HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021