on now, Review

REVIEW: A Fortunate Life | Optimism triumphs in this beautiful experience

What makes one’s life fortunate? Is it finding joy in the everyday, or reflecting back over decades well-spent? Or both – they are not mutually exclusive concepts, after all. Albert Facey (1894 – 1982) was perhaps one of the most optimistic men to have ever lived. He took that dash between his birth and death dates and elongated it into the most robust and fulfilling experience a man could ever ask for during his time on earth. In his 1981 autobiography, Facey relays his life from whipping boy of exploitative farmers, to war hero, husband, father, and galvanising figure for worker’s rights and justice. Facey marvelled at the response his book received – mostly because he never saw anything remarkable about himself.

Fast-forward to 2020, where an intrepid group of theatre-makers reinvent the story of an ordinary man’s extraordinary life. A Fortunate Life is an experience like no other – housed in regional and semi-regional cinemas across Western Australia, the show is a unique intertwining of the best elements of theatre, film, music, and immersion. WA theatre company, THEATRE 180 and CinemaStage present the piece on a stage in front of a cinema screen – so you can get the popcorn and drinks to accompany this sweeping epic narrative, a theme so cinematic it marries perfectly with its setting. At first, I was worried the show would just be a play set in front of projected scenes but I am happy to announce how wrong that impression was!

6 AFL Rebecca Davis Michael Abercromy Benj D'Addario

Yes, the action takes place on the stage but also on the screen. The show is framed around a film that plays throughout – with stunning visuals that at times serve as a backdrop, and sometimes advance the plot. There are letters written in voices back and forth, the inimitable birdsong and sounds of the bush, and real photographs and images from Facey’s life. Sound designer, Ben Collins and composer Ron Siemiginowski weave the everyday sounds and background noise of a lifetime and create emotions evocative of memory and loss – of a life lived. The audiovisuals by Green Man Media enhance the experience tenfold – this is no mere backdrop, it is an immersion. With such flawless sound, lighting, and visuals the piece serves as a film fully realised in flesh and blood – as though the actors have stepped out of the screen and are viscerally immediate to the audience.

Adapted for stage by Director Stuart Halusz and writer Jenny Davis, the full experience is brought to life by a dream cast of heavy-hitting actors. Michael Abercromby, Ben D’Addario and Rebecca Davis all take turns bringing the diverse cast of characters from across Facey’s lifetime to light. Halusz’ brilliant direction sees the play flow from childhood to adulthood, Australian bush land to war-torn Gallipoli, loveable larrikins to horrible bitter characters. A Fortunate Life could so easily have been a linear chronological narrative, but Halusz and Davis ingeniously switch between the reminiscing Albert and the story he his telling about that portion of his life. This device maintains the integrity of the piece and cements Facey’s blind optimism despite the many hardships he faced.

2 AFL Benj D'Addario, Rebecca Davis, Michael Abercromby

The acting here is wonderful – several times different actors portray the same person and inhabit the previous actor’s mannerisms and inflection. Abercromby and D’Addario’s portrayal of Facey’s mother is bang on – both actors perfecting her cruel turn of lip, contemptuous tone, and haughtiness – they both evoke unsympathetic woman, and at no point does it feel like a caricature or drag-act. Davis shines as the young Albert – her youthful approach and boundless energy spills over into the audience, and one cannot help but love the playful young scamp. The Aussie voice is one that has changed somewhat with each generation, and each actor navigates that evolution effortlessly. Dinky-di ocker language and Gallipoli slang come naturally without sounding trite. There’s no swearing, no vulgar language – just plain, honest dialogue. This combines with Facey’s sunshiny character to keep the smile on your face and the tears flowing at the end.

A Fortunate Life is the natural evolution of cutting-edge technology and humble theatre-making. It’s familiar to Australians without being false. It lauds the Aussie spirit but doesn’t sugar coat the hardships. This show has everything – endearing characters, love, loss, devastating heartache, humour, Australian truisms, and at its core – heart. It takes the changing face of the twentieth-century and calls upon all of the traditions and technology seen from each decade to create something that is truly the next step in theatre. Hearkening back to the man playing the piano as the film reel ticked along in the background, A Fortunate Life takes a twentieth-century story and gives it the twenty-first-century treatment.

REVIEW | Laura Money

WHEN: 28th August – 13th September 2020 | Times vary

WHERE: Ace Cinemas | Rockingham

INFO: Duration 1hr 45m | Tickets $36.50 – $41.50 | Live theatre | Screens & projection | Suitable 10+

LINK: https://afortunatelife.com.au/

on now, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2020 | Cloudstreet | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Themes of spirituality and the river pulse thorough this latest production of Cloudstreet Directed by Matthew Lutton in a collaboration with Black Swan State Theatre Company, The Malthouse Theatre and Perth Festival 2020. The last time this particular epic was tackled it was in a huge warehouse in Fremantle and the performance was split over two days – this time, it’s a far more palatable 5 ish hours. The Pickles and the Lambs have moved into the newly refurbished His Majesty’s Theatre for a night of laughter and tears, love and loss, spirit and community that takes place over twenty years of these two families living side by side. Lutton brings Tim Winton’s novel to life and adds some unique features that prove there is always room for improvement – even on a classic.

Black Swan’s choice of sweeping epic family drama is obviously no accident. Winton himself said at Black Swan’s 2020 Season Launch that he could not have written this novel in today’s climate as it is essentially a work of great optimism and he sees no hope in today’s world, and the 1998 production reflects this sense of timeliness. Lutton and co take a slightly less doom and gloom approach to the play, framing the work around the Noongar story – their words serving as a cautionary tale – do not make the mistake of ignoring the land, water, and those who came before us. Zoe Aitkinson has created a pared back and elegant set which serves as the silent extra character (the house), the simplicity of water and sandstone, the curve of the coast, and of course the stunning real water that trips and pools in the middle of the stage, reflecting back onto the actors. With such a simple set, Lutton must draw upon Paul Jackson’s stark and punchy lighting and Elizabeth Drake’s sweeping score for tension and a local flavour.

Lutton’s bold show pulls no punches – it begins with a sharp hit to the guts in Fish’s ‘lucky’ escape from drowning, the aftermath being why the Lamb family decide to move into Cloudstreet. Representation and diversity is an intergral part of theatre-making in the twenty first century, and this is reflected in the decision to cast Benjamin Oakes in the role of Fish Lamb – Oakes is an actor with an intellectual disability, and in playing Fish, provides poignant dignity to the role. He not only provides light to the show, the charcter does not shy away from some of the uglier parts of society – ostracism, parental love being pushed to its limits, even people being uncomfortable when confronted with disabilty. Noongar actors, Ian Michael and Ebony McGuire provide a voice for the voiceless in framing the story with an Aboriginal voice – a spititualty missing from the novel (well it was probably there but framed as the land) – they act as gatekeepers for the souls of the ghosts and narrate the story throughout. It’s a great technique and ties together an otherwise melodramatic plot with a hint of a higher purpose.

Inter-generational tensions run high as each family works out its dynamic – Mr Pickles (Bert LaBonte) and Mr Lamb (Greg Stone) each represent differing views on masculinity. Whereas Pickles is happy to gamble and take a risk – sometimes to the point of self-destruction, Lamb must work extra hard to keep his family afloat. Both of their wives are no longer able to provide the mothering role, for one reason or another, so we see the men grapple with feeling useless and being relied on simultaneously. There is a touching moment as Stone washes Oakes for his bath and he does so with such tenderness, it is hard to witness his frustration manifest itself in a physical outburst that drives his other son away. Of course the next generation of men, represented by Quick (Keegan Joyce) are not interested in the warmongering violence of their father’s generations. We see Sam Pickles and Lester Lamb physically and psychologically castrated and unable to fight in the war, then see Quick Lamb self-desctructing and creating his own impotence as he attempts to find and kill the Nedlands Monster.

Cloudstreet_His_Majesty's Theatre LR Brenna Harding and Natasha Herbert._photo credit Philip Gostelow10

Perhaps the strongest relationship is between mother and daughter – Dolly (Natasha Herbert) and Rose Pickles (Brenna Harding). They have an interesting dynamic, Dolly is loose, gregarious, alcoholic, and dissatisfied with her lot, yet not willing to pack it in, and Rose is introspective, shy, bookish, and unsure how to leave. Tensions run high as Dolly realises that Sam cares for Rose more than her, and that Rose will never respect her. Herbert is phenomenal – she is the stand out actor in a strong ensemble piece. Casually holding her cigarette on her bottom lip, she pouts, pure anger shining in her malevolent eyes as she rips into Harding, who has nothing but contempt in return. Despite the darkness, there are moments of levity which uplift the audience – much like a reflection of Australian history – as the kids all choose their rooms in a new space, go to the beach, celebrate Christmases, weddings, and even deliver pure joy in the form of ice cream to the audience.

Cloudstreet hits you with a wave of nostalgia. From the costuming to the language used, to the refrain of ice-cream shouted in the streets, to Perth landmarks, and sibling rivalry, the work is so painfully nostalgic it has a slight sad tinge to it. In an already nostalgic book (written in the 90s set in the 40s – 60s), Cloudstreet is layered with multi-generation views on family relationships, masculnity, femininity, economics, childhood, innocence, and violence. It marks the end of innocence with its references to real life serial killer, Eric Edgar Cook, and the changing attitudes of Perth – from a big country town to a bustling city. Did we need yet another rendition of Cloudstreet? Probably not, however Lutton’s take on the work is great – it’s an exceptionally entertaining night out, albeit a long one! There are some things that could have been cut, as it does drag towards the end, but ultimately what remains is a sensitive, heartfelt play that speaks to all generations and celebrates life in its purest sense.

WHEN: 21st February – 15th March 2020 | Multiple times

WHERE: His Majesty’s Theatre | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $39 – $149 | Duration 5hrs 25mins | Recommended 12+ | Contains adult material, coarse language, herbal cigarettes, gunshot sounds

LINK: https://bsstc.com.au/plays/cloudstreet

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2020 | Aliya Kanani: Where you From, From? | 4 Stars

Review | Kieran Eaton

Aliya Kanani is a successful comedian, but still people ask her where she is from – and I don’t mean nationality, I mean ethnicity.  If you must know, she is a Canadian, whose parents are from Zanzibar and is of Indian ethnicity. Kanani tells the story of how she became a stand-up comic based on being stereotyped due to the colour of her skin. The good thing is she does not like to resort to racial based humour.

Kanani presents with a sense of warmth and casualness – like she wants to get to know us. The early gags are quite conversational and appear to be feeling us out. Personally, it frustrates me because from the interesting title, I want her to get to the nitty gritty – however, by the end of the show you see a purpose to her method. Kanani does a bit about going into airports and the casual racism that occurs but she is tough about it – gaining insight that this funny lady just likes to turn things on their heads with her imagination. This clever woman is very personable and makes up for any moments that maximum laughter is not achieved. She even comments that people mention how she is not a typical comedian – however, if you have seen a vast array of styles during FRINGWORLD 2020, you will see this as normal. Kanani takes a reasonable outlook on social issues, showing her maturity to display nuance.

Aliya Kanani: Where you From, From? opens with a Perth comic called Emo – his comedy is just explaining on why he is here, and this brief intro gets us to build up the atmosphere. This comedian displays a cool but friendly presence that is a perfect match for Kanani. You see the show title on a big screen and however this is the only reason the screen is used. Kanani loves challenging our perceptions but does it in a way that feels like you are on a date – being gentle and gradual – unlike some male approaches for intimacy she gets! Speaking of sex – this performance builds to a beautiful climax that makes you want more. By the end you feel like you could easily watch another hour of her – display her comical wisdom. So, go watch this festival show to feel connected to humanity through humour.

WHERE YOU FROM, FROM? is playing during FRINGEWORLD 2020 in Perth. You can get your tickets here.

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2020 | Flight of Fancy| 4.5 STARS

Review | Link Harris

Much the same as the last two years, Flight of Fancy still is and will in all likelihood continue to be a show I couldn’t recommend more for you to get off your arse and go see. This year, the variety of talents being on display at both the intimate SONAR Room in Fremantle and the fabulous Main room of Connections Nightclub in Northbridge.

Presented by the cheeky, stunning, and incredibly leggy Sam Madame, we are treated to a plethora of incredible and varied talents including burlesque, dance, cabaret, and singing by – in my opinion –  some of the best performers both local, interstate and international. Telling you too much would spoil what the show has to offer but being very general if you like burlesque and you enjoy watching tassels spinning you will love and laugh at what performer Dee Dee Luscious has to offer by taking it in a whole different direction and can see why she is the 2019 Perth Burlesque Idol winner! You will be witness to some prehistoric shenanigans, tinfoil hat wearing hilarity, traditional burlesque/cabaret, exceptional singing and dance all laced or cut with cartoonish and comedic vibes.

Flight of Fancy is definitely a must see – so get off your arse and onto the Fringe website, your nearest Fringe Box Office or the door of the venue and see this stunning, wonderful and hilarious show and the insane talents behind Whisky A’More and all of the other spectacular talented performers in this show.

WHEN: 10th – 15th February 2020 | 8:30pm and 9:15pm

WHERE: SONAR Room | Fremantle | Main Room | Connections Nightclub | NORTHBRIDGE

INFO: Pricing $28 | Duration 60 mins | Suitable 18+ | CABARET

TICKETS: https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/flight-of-fancy-fw2020

 

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2020 | STAR POWER | 5 Stars

Review | Sarah Soulay

Pure comedy is what springs to mind when I think about STAR POWER. Directed by Mitch Whelan this play is about two best friends April (Sian Murphy) and Simon (Lindsay McDonald) who are hosting a party to celebrate Mercury in retrograde. Although this is 100% a comedy show, it still creates a really heartwarming story line about the trials and tribulations of friendships, and the lesson that being open and honest with each other can create happier environments and long-lasting friendships.

We see this through April and Simon who present a very obvious one-sided friendship with both characters believing that they are in the right. This goes on until they seemingly have a falling out only to reunite in the end. Both actors give a great performance, really becoming their characters, to the point where it is easy to identify these characters in your own friendship groups in real life.

Hannah Davidson’s character Olive, is an absolute riot. She is entertaining, approachable and your belly will ache from laughter every time she speaks. Though I absolutely enjoyed every character, she has to be my personal favorite. She is such a relatable character and a must see. Louis Spencer uses a lot of physical comedy during his portrayal of Falcon, who is a friend of Simon’s from work, and unintentionally causes a lot of tension between April and Simon. He executes his character so well that it adds more fun and whimsy to an already excellent show. Mercury was in retrograde and no one could play such a whirlwind of a character just like Tristan McInnes. My only comment on his performance other than brilliant, is that I need to see more of him.

The musical stylings of Clancy Davidson are absolutely beautiful and ethereal and really suit the theme of the show, while the lighting designer, Spencer Herd cleverly uses lighting to create a bigger more interesting stage, to what is otherwise a minimalistic setting. The audience is also invited to the party! As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of audience participation, I really enjoyed it. I even found myself practically begging to be chosen as they try and guess your horoscope. They were really courteous and made it very clear that if you do not want to participate you don’t have to, this created a warm and welcoming atmosphere mitigating any audience participation anxiety one might experience in other shows.

This show is a showstopper and is for anyone who enjoys brilliant comedy, a fun and entertaining storyline and lots and lots of astrology. I read all of your horoscopes and they all say that to live a full and happy life you must go see STAR POWER!

WHEN: 11th – 15th February 2020 | 9:00pm

WHERE: The Studio | BLUE ROOM THEATRE

INFO: Pricing $18 – $21 | Duration 60m | Suitability M | Occasional Coarse Language, Sexual References, Strobe Lighting | THEATRE

TICKETS: https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/star-power-fw2020

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