on now, Review

REVIEW: The Communists Are In the Funhouse

Review | Laura Money

A lot of literature has been devoted to the human body and its many ailments and inner workings, yet there is a surprising lack of theatrical explorations of menstruation – until now. In a post #metoo era,’ period pieces’ have become de rigueur and exposing the truth about periods, destigmatising them and the pain associated is particularly timely. Tackling this topic head on is Tempest Theatre, a feminist theatre company that makes theatre for women, by women, and about women. The Communists Are In The Funhouse – a euphemism for menstruation – takes a topic made taboo by the patriarchal society we all suffer in and brings it to the fore. It boldly highlights the contradictions and hipocrasy surrounding periods, allows women to tell their stories freely, and shines a light on the dangers of a lack of medical education.

As comedic as this topic can be (let’s be honest, any show about bodily functions is going to have a few hilarious moments!) the ensemble cast provide a more subtle approach to humour and some beautifully poignant moments, beginning with a stunning piece of interpretive dance by Maxine Singh set to Samuel Barber’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Adagio For Strings.’ It takes the beauty of the moment – that transition from girl to woman but has an underlining uneasiness, we all know what happens when girls become sexualised. The devised work is part video presentation, part monologues, part stories, part history lesson, part silliness, and all important. Personally, I think too much is going on – it would have been nice to pare it back and pick one focus but conversely that confusion of everything assaulting your senses sits firmly within women’s lived experiences of menstruation.

Tempest Theatre are keenly aware that the voices in The Communists Are In The Funhouse do not encompass every femme-identifying person and this is one of their greatest strengths – the show comes from the performer’s hearts. The strongest voices in art are those of the artists’ and this is well demonstrated as each ensemble member has a moment. Angela Mahlatje brings an embarrassing story about staining a white couch with her colloquial style that sounds like a girlfriend about to spill the tea. Sankari Sivaramlingam tells the heartfelt story of religious attitudes towards women’s bodies, and Nefeli Perdekouli discusses the callous nature of medical professionals and privacy. Keeping all of this held together is Dawn Farnham an mc-cum-ringmaster-cum-narrator, dropping in with horrible historical facts regarding women’s bodies and hysteria.

Possibly the strongest voices come from Amy Welsh who, despite her stand-up comedy routine deriving mostly from BuzzFeed style listicles, provides an insight into how stupidly we trivialise a damn serious medical condition that effects half of our population. The other voice who is a delight to watch is that of Sabrina Seconi – her story of getting her first period and having to awkwardly tell every single family member is bittersweet. It will literally take every single woman crashing back to the awkwardness felt and the thrill of aging only felt for a very small amount of time – way before we all want to halt the aging process.

The Communists Are In The Funhouse is a well-constructed devised work that explores a delicate subject in a beautiful and intimate way. The ensemble open up and are very giving with their performances, and add new voices that are shining a spotlight on women’s experiences. Not only does it achieve all of this, it might make the women in the crowd realise that their pain is legitimate. That their experiences are shared and the men in the audience to also realise the pain that women undergo is legitimate – and that’s a very commendable message to communicate.

 

WHEN: 4 – 8 June 2019 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco

INFO: Tickets $25 – $36 | Duration 75 mins | Recommended 15+ | Coarse language, nudity, haze effects, loud noises, flashing lights, explicit medical imagery, adult themes

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/the-communists-are-in-the-funhouse/

 

 

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on now, Review

REVIEW: Unrule

Review | Kieran Eaton

It is understandable to have an aversion to blood but menstrual blood is confusing because it is needed for healthy reproduction. Is it maybe the ignorance and lack of care for those experiencing it that creates a fear of having to deal with it? This ignorance has hardly changed over the years and especially as a man I can attest to living in fearful ignorance! Are we all a bit confused? How do we deal with something that should be taken more seriously? Hey! Precious tackle this taboo subject with a combination of humour and realness.  It’s directed by a deep thinker in Michelle Aitken who is a natural at creating pieces of work that make you want to know more.

Menstruation is the main issue dealt with in this surreal theatrical piece but Unrule also deals in general how women’s bodily issues are made out to be imagined. This is not an easy message to push – especially to those who have it easy, thus the imagery needs to be graphic to almost absurd levels! As the show goes on, you can hear more and more heart, including a personal tale from the director told by a performer. It is a crazy journey you go on, watching this production and still there is enough focus to give it some good punch.

Every line in this show is thoughtfully used with the best one of, “Just take a Panadol” repeated throughout that emphasises how we can laugh at how stupid that statement is. There are many metaphors that not all may get (including myself) – however this highlights the lack of honesty and empathy in the world of menstruation. The dark, and slightly creepy set created in the Blue Room Theatre sets the tone subtly of how society has judged women to be witches, if their body does not function how ‘men’ expect it to be. With lack of help from others we often get the wrong answers, so even Google cannot help you! The only issue the Googled information about medical concerns is that from the back you had to take the word that what was being said was there as the projection could have been bigger. This is only minor as all the performers deliver vocally with true credibility – even while weird hair monsters are parading around!

Each actor creates a feel not just telling their story but showing in a manner that is sincere and yet humorous. Nothing is predictable in what you see and so be prepared to be open minded. From comical wig use to a scene in the bath, this production is still clever in not overusing props. The performers, Chelsea Gibson, Mani Mae Gomes, Alicia Osyka, and Rhiannon Petersen were all part of the devising and you could clearly see this as their personalities shine through.

In the end you get the picture that Unrule breaks all the rules, in typical Aitken style that makes you share your knowledge or lack of knowledge about the perceived scary menstrual blood – with an amazing combination of style and delivery of a hugely important topic!

WHEN: 28 May – 15 June 2019 | 7:00pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 75 mins | Relaxed Performance Tuesday 11 June | Warnings: Adult Concepts, Nudity, Strobe Lighting

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

on now, Review

REVIEW: The Line

Review | Amanda Lancaster

Cuts leave scars, scars leave tracks, tracks can be followed.

Shadow Lines; Stephen Kinnane

Kinnane writes of the lines and boundaries created and imposed upon society, how the definitions of these niche areas in physicality and social structure can be of such an inflexible and narrowly definitive nature around us that they in turn create echos and ripples within us which is what Kinnane calls shadow lines.

Shadow lines are the places within our own minds that hold certain beliefs and make up our own sense of self and belonging or alienation. These are the area’s of negotiation, cognitive understanding and connectivity the lines we draw, cross, follow or erase throughout our history stories and lives.

Co3 has taken on the bold and heady task of putting some of Kinnane’s philosophical ideologies about lines and boundaries, how they are created, changed and altered not just in a sense of the physical or geographical but also our very base thought function an interactive systems as human beings.

The Line tells of the often forgotten, unspoken and unfortunate period in WA’s historical background that saw a geographical segregation line on a map cause a traumatic long standing shadow line of oppression drawn between colonising parties of the time and the Nyungar people of Perth.

Created by Co3 founding director and one of the foremost professionals in the field of dance to date Raewyn Hill and associate artist and co-director the Award winning Mark Howett it’s not hard to see why The Line is getting rave reviews from audiences.

Featuring an almost skeleton cast for such a huge topic the show features just a trio of – as always – exquisitely talented dancers. Nyungar dancer and guest artist Ian Wilkes, CO3 founding dancer and guest artist Andrew Searle and last but not least Co3 founding dancer and artist Katherine Gurr. Alongside and also interspersed quite literally at times during the shows performance The Line also stars the renowned musical artists classical-accordionist James Crabb and composer/musical director Eden Mulholland.

The performance is a dense textured layering of haunting melancholy and sadness which is at times quite palpable to the point of bringing audience members to literal tears. This serious vibe and often unrelenting mood of tension is beautifully handled. The music, lighting, movement and everything that has bought the audience so powerfully up to a single moment of what feels like almost breaking point is then cleverly broken up at repetitive intervals with an almost black humoured slapstick violence and humour akin to that of a vaudevillian shows aesthetic and then just as suddenly bought to a halting stop.

Cue the slow motion, silent, screaming, nightmarish, captured realism of violence and trauma played out with such aesthetic beauty and grace of movement that one might be forgiven the momentary lapse that this is all stemming from our actual historical and cultural make up.

The use of minimalist setting design is both beautiful in look and almost eerie in feel, a hand full of unadorned chain link swing sets hang and sway gently seemingly by themselves from the rafters, condensed lighting barely shines down in narrow pyramids and lines. The choices one assume are made to further heighten the segregated elements between light and dark and does so with subtle elegance.

Contemporary dance for some may be hard to understand to define what is happening within the narrative flow, however Co3 have once again taken an often hard to swallow topic and laid it out for the world to see.

It is important I think to mention that Co3 have beautifully taken the philosophical inspiration of Kinnane’s work, the delicate subject matter of our Australian history and amalgamated the elements of this show, not to show u something concrete, not to tell you what to think or feel and not to define this moment in our cultural background with their own line of understanding but to ask the audience to perhaps consider where they draw their own lines from now on.

Whatever you do, do not miss this thought provoking heart aching performance.

WHEN: 16th – 19th May 2019 | 7:30pm & 4:00pm

WHERE:  Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre of WA

INFO: Tickets $55 | Duration 60 mins | DANCE

LINK: https://co3.org.au/program/the-line-2019/

on now, Review

REVIEW: Cracked

Review | Amanda Lancaster

Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company is company closely involved in the representation and development of artists and the performing arts alike with a close focus on indigenous storytelling, cultural representations and opportunities for up and coming performers. They work hand in hand with some of the best seasoned playwrights and scripted works, which means that this company continues to offer some of the most powerful viewing you are likely to have the privilege of ever experiencing. It is with little to no wonder that the company’s latest offering Cracked is getting rave reviews.

Cracked is a self professed 90 minutes of complexity. It’s filled with the aptly all too realistic plight of not only the judicial system’s successes and failures but also that of our mental health and substance abuse systems, whilst being bitterly disenfranchised, utterly heart wrenching and humourless at the same time. Follow along with Frankie and the small intimate cast as they so beautifully and tacitly demonstrate the non stop pitfalls of basically being human.

Written by Barbara Hostalek  – coming off her first play Banned which sold out two seasons at the Blue Room Theatre – and starring Bobbi Henry, Bruce Denny, Holly Jones, Luke Hewitt, Matthew Cooper and Rayma Morrison, it is impossible to say too much about the details of the performance itself without giving any of its very important powerfully layered build up and narrative flow so forgive my unwillingness to disclose more in depth for fear of it being too much, however I will say that the minimal and malleable sets work exquisitely, the venue is superb and that it is impossible not to fall in love with or in pieces over absolutely every single character in Cracked.

Whatever you do make sure this show is on your must see list for the year and everyone elses for that matter.

For a company whose chosen Noongar name Yirra Yaakin means to stand tall, the company certainly always manage to keep a tight grip on the audience’s heart strings and conscience and have you all thinking about just how desperately hard that can sometimes be to manage.

WHEN: 14th – 18th May 2019 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco

INFO: Tickets $50 | Duration 90 mins | MA15+

LINK: https://yirrayaakin.com.au/production/cracked/

on now, Review

REVIEW: Death Throes

Review | Laura Money

This review doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end. It simply serves as a statement about how this piece of art – Death Throes is made and how it achieves its outcome. Combining the creative talents of Joe Lui, Julia Croft and Harriet Gillies, Death Throes challenges the concept of power structures in language, hierarchies, capitalism and more. It dissolves the myths we keep perpetuating and reclaims language for those at the bottom of the totem pole. It’s post truth, post myth, and most certainly post language.

The only way to truly escape language as a power structure is to step away from what is generally considered a way to tell a story – clear arc, narrative and plot, characters with dialogue that has been carefully constructed. There are many ways in which theatre can challenge this, but it still remains in use. Lui, Croft and Gillies corrupt the language at play here by not using it. By becoming physical beings and expressing themselves through their bodies with visceral physicality – every grunt, breath, pant – becomes a new rhythm and language. They literally carve out a space for themselves on the stage – running endlessly in a controlled chaos that feels warm – the gold clothing and soft buttery light pulses about them as a dance track builds the tension.

There are darkly humorous moments – from Gillies munching away at KFC during a panel discussion on capitalism and language, to Crofts’ deadpan delivery, every moment carries a binary of hilarity and potential depression. House lights begin up during a panel – like Q&A and the audience feels just as scrutinised and involved as the performers – Death Throes intially invites a discourse about mythologies yet slowly allows the lights to dim and the power to be given back to the performer. Light is power on this stage. From wielding lights and searching through a haze, to literally expanding the horizon of clouds projected onto the performers in a way that references sexual awakening and ‘The Neverending Story’ (just me?!) the way that certain topics are given weight through enlightenment is a brilliantly codified language that I, for one, can happily get on board with.

There is whimsy. There is pain. There are highly emotional and animalistic moments of exhaustion. If you don’t feel any of these things, did you even go and see Death Throes? Remember – language is only as important as you make it. Why not order in a little corruption and take back some control?

 

WHEN: 30 April – 18 May | 7:00pm & 8:30pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 70 mins | Warnings: Coarse Language, Thick Smoke/Haze, Flashing Lights | Wheelchair accessible | Recommended 15+

LINK: https://blueroom.org.au/events/death-throes/