Past Production, Review

REVIEW | SITU-8: CITY | Nostalgia and revival combine

Review | Laura Money

Picture this: the sun is setting and you’re lining up outside your favourite theatre to see a movie. You can smell the popcorn, feel the excitement rise as you mount the stairs and hear the music drifting above your head. But something is wrong – the candy bar lies empty and cold, the stairs creak underfoot and the music is a creepy remnant of an abandoned theatre’s last ditch attempt to revive: Mr Demille, The Liberty Theatre is ready for its close-up. STRUT Dance and TURA are no strangers to site-specific works. They are both masters of utilising spaces in ways others wouldn’t dream of. In yet another year of SITU-8, this iteration CITY sees STRUT revamp the old Liberty Theatre – a gold rush era building that twists and turns with surprises and stories. After laying abandoned for 25 years, SITU-8: CITY inhabits every corner of this beautiful home of cinema. It’s a visceral plunge into a bygone era that explores body horror and the avatars we project our inner selves onto up there on the silver screen. Enter a haunting vestige of times gone by and be entertained again by this invigoratingly new yet nostalgic show.

Entering through a laneway, almost keeping the secrets of this stunning building to ourselves for just one more look, the empty cinema room stands – a mere shadow of its glory days. Inside the vast hall, exposed beams bear witness to Demake/Demaster a physical performance that combines found footage from cinema history and special effects to create a weird hybrid of body and screen. Questioning what it means to be a body and what occurs when we capture those bodies on screen, the piece provides a literal feedback loop as our screen mediated society is scrutinised in a chicken and egg scenario. Above and behind the scenes is the old projector box. This time, it’s Antonio Rinaldi in The Melody Haunts My Reverie which sees Rinaldi lip sync to old sound grabs from films. Adjacent to the first piece, Rinaldi provides a camp, drag-like performance with mannerisms reminiscent of the divas – Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn. The sound bytes are haunting, like being in the middle of a dream and hearing the phone ring – it’s unnerving in the most delicious of ways. In between stage and projector comes La Dolente, a powerful spoken word and madrigal that explores notions of the female figure in fiction. What does the femme fatale say about cinema? Talitha Maslin explores the subtext of cinematic portrayals of women in an unflinching physical performance that sees the women up close and personal – weaving their truth throughout the audience, this time without the screen as a barrier. It’s a film studies class in the form of a feminist physical rending of heart and soul.

The set-up is clear: one big performance and then multiple vignette pieces to stumble upon once given free reign of The Liberty Theatre. This means that some things may not be seen but that’s just a great excuse to come back! There’s a futuristic piece reminiscent of Alien and Predator that thrusts you into the sci-fi genre and delves into the world of man and machine hybrids. The candy bar comes back to life as the figures of jaunty 1920s bathers peel themselves off the wall and move to a 1980s synthesised soundtrack that is jarringly whimsical and nostalgic, and all of these pieces combine to witness Mercury Bones which addresses identity and themes of intimacy, feelings which are usually evoked by cinematic experiences. SITU-8: CITY provides that delightful frisson between nostalgia and haunting. Every piece transports you to the world of film but digs deeper, exploring notions of celebrity, editing one’s persona, influence, and identity. It’s a pastiche of hyperreality, the transience of film, portrayals, and even just different eras and in that, SITU8: CITY sidesteps reality in the cocoon of The Liberty Theatre – as the world bustles around us on a busy city night, we escape together.

SITU-8: CITY played at The Liberty Theatre, Perth 1-11 November 2022. See what TURA and STRUT are doing in 2023.

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022.

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.

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