Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Howl

Art collective Aphids create contemporary performance art projects that combine media, bodies, music, site specificity and technology. They use their art forms to critique and question what is relevant in the contemporary art scene and wider culture. Their all-encompassing work, Howl seeks to re-imagine fifteen significant moments of controversy in art history and parade them for the audience. Performers Lz DunnLara Thoms and Wiloh S. Weiland rightly assert that “in Australia we hold parades for football stars, community dance troupes and war veterans. In Howl we are asking: what might it look like to give artists the same public recognition?”

The performance at Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) begins upstairs on the balcony, overlooking the main performance space where several women are dressed in white clothing, resembling Tennis ‘ball boys’, marking out lines of gold glitter to create a giant penis. This is the first art work to be referenced – A Dick Captured By the FSB in which art collective Voina painted a 65 metre high phallus on the bridge road surface in front of the Federal Security Service building in Russia. Two women hold a white sheet with the title in black writing and walk it ceremoniously as though holding a flag, up and down the shaft of the penis image. They highlight the piece’s significance and show genuine reverence for its artists, yet make the new work entirely their own.

Afterwards come a series of controversial moments in art history – a woman reclines nude from the waist down, spreading her legs to reveal her pubic hair a la L’Origine Du Monde by Gustave Corbet – this ‘live version’ references Deborah De Robertis who was famously escorted out of the Musee d’Orsay after performing a live version of the work. This time, our live model is able to bask in the glow of celebration and firmly entrenches her gaze onto the audience in the upper gallery. There are references to religious works (Piss Christ), political and biohazardous works (Sunflower Seeds) and feminist works (Artforum Ad) – each of the works are built upon the framework of women’s bodies being objectified, yet have a feeling of agency about them. They reimagine the power structures put in place and stare defiantly at you, all to the dramatic score of Mozart‘s Requium in D.

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The audience proceeds downstairs after hearing Hitler’s manifesto on art ahead of his ‘Degenerate Art’ Exhibition, conjuring up the philosophy of censorship, and is greeted by a true mainstay of controversial art – Marcel Duchamp‘s Fountain.The performers place themselves in the urinal, providing the physical aspect of both urination and drinking water. This highlights the fine line between bodily orifices in an intelligent and visceral display. Identity politics and human rights burst into the spotlight by a Segway riding Captain Cook in a balaclava (Australia was Stolen by Armed Robbery by Jason Wing) who takes Wing’s original bust and animates it – staring menacingly at the audience and appropriating ‘thug life’ body language. This is juxtaposed by a balloon arch representing Tecza a rainbow installation in Poland that was continually a victim of arson. Both of these works have sparked controversy (and both topics are continually brought up by conservative columnist Andrew Bolt) and as such, the performer ironically lights a sparkler and proceeds to burst the balloons. Each gentle tap removing a little bit of hope from the world.

Howl, Aphids. Photo by Bryony Jackson (3).jpg

Every single piece referenced provides a visually impacting tableau of powerful art and imagery. At the intersection between static art, or non-live art and physical performance art, Aphids creates an entirely new piece that builds on the source material, taking it to new heights. Building on live performance, the sequence referencing Amber Doll > Tilikum injects a frenzied pornographic energy that was only hinted at in the original work. It speaks to the invisible hoops that women have to jump through for equality. It takes notions of women’s sexual pleasure and likens them to the novelty of captivity in say, the institution of marriage. Ending on a high, Howl literally climbs to the top of the space to prove that Paul Yore got it right – Everything Is Fucked. Of course, Howl doesn’t purport to come to that conclusion – it is a visual and physical celebration of controversy – not a shying away from it. Howl welcomes criticism with open arms and then creates a unique, intelligent, and memorable artwork around it.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 27 & 28 July 2018 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Perth Contemporary Institute of Contemporary Arts | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $26 – $32 | Duration 70 mins | Adult content | 18+ | SOLD OUT

LINKS: http://pica.org.au/show/howl/

http://aphids.net/

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Past Production, Review

REVIEW: Cloud Nine

Staging Caryl Churchill‘s intelligent commentary on sexual politics, gender, race and repression, Cloud Nine is not easy, even if the content is especially relevant in 2018 – yet the cast and crew of WA Youth Theatre Company prove themselves more than adept in their stand-out rendition of this incredible play. Under the guidance of director Jeffrey Jay Fowler, the young talent is encouraged to shine and provides a unique take on a show that (on paper) appears to be beyond their maturity.

Everything about this production is elegant. There is a simplicity to the set – a black box essentially with white hanging frames representing a homestead, and only a few items that signify location, such as a park bench. Rhiannon Walker‘s stripped back and clever set allows the actors to create the environment around them. Combined with the simple, yet targeted lighting design of Kristie Smith, Churchill’s script fills the stage and washes over the audience. With so little to work with, the actors must be at the top of their game, and it is clear that Fowler provides a masterclass in directing – he ekes out inspired performances from all.

Cloud Nine is a strong script with precise language that is delivered in an understated way – there are a few initial titters as Phil Lynch – resplendent in his nineteenth century dress – is revealed to be Clive’s (Isaac Diamond) wife, yet Lynch’s performance is so brilliant that he transcends gender entirely, truly becoming the silly and confused wife and mother living in the Colonies. Likewise, Cam Pollock as the ‘boy’ Joshua – a white man playing a black servant, provides a surreal giant smile and speaks the language given to him, yet doesn’t descend to cariacature. This is the true strength of the piece – it highlights inequality and ridicules people’s attitudes by not turning them into spectacle. As things are stripped back, they reveal their potency.

There is a note in the program on the doubling up of characters – as Act I is set in a British Colony in Africa in 1879 and Act II in London 1979 (but the characters of the play have only aged 25 years) all of the actors switch characters. This allows for some incredibly poignant moments as characters are able to reminisce and are often haunted by their past. Phoebe Sullivan as Betty in the second half is not only remarkable in creating a strong character, but her acting directly references that of Lynch who played the role in the first half. As each character recognises their flaws and face their fears, there are silent power structures that shift and pitch at such a fast pace, some of the characters just want support. It is achingly beautiful to see Lynch and Sullivan embrace as both incarnations of the same character – simply stunning.

Despite being 39 years old, Churchill’s play is chillingly pertinent – the glorification of colonialism is especially relevant in Australia, but also women’s rights and equality, and in a post-postal vote climate and Yes vote, equality in attitudes towards homosexuality are a hot topic. The whole script is whip-crack funny – you will literally laugh out loud, as this experienced cast deliver their lines with precision. Attitudes are ridiculed – from the double standards of men and women having affairs, to innuendo, and especially in David Mitchell‘s hilarious rendition of Martin – who puts one in mind of that old joke “why did the male feminist trip over? Because the bar was set so low.” Martin is eerily reflective of the #notallmen handle – considering these words were written nearly 40 years ago.

If you want to see a show that will challenge gender norms and attitudes, that is hilarious, and intelligent and brilliantly acted by an extremely capable company, then look no further than Cloud Nine.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 19 – 28 July 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: State Theatre Centre WA

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 2hrs 30mins with interval | Age restriction 16+ | Adult themes, smoke haze, sexual references and depictions

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/cloud-nine/

Review

REVIEW: A Mind Transcendent

Contemporary sci-fi dystopian fiction is not traditionally a genre you associate with the theatre, yet Hand in Hand Theatre Company are pushing the limits with A Mind Transcendent. Inspired by and clearly referencing the many young adult dystopian novels and series currently circulating our bookshelves, Jordan Baynes has written a script that steps right off the pages of these popular novels.

The set is great – two bunker-style doorways flank a raised platform where three Judgement League members sit, overseeing the action. They look straight out of The Hunger Games – coldness and quirky hair and everything. As Summer (Tiarn Hutton), Ethan (Domenic Scriva) and Soren (Kamara Churchill) wake up, they are forced to work together to complete a series of tests (a la Maze Runner) and many different ways of thinking are questioned.

Scriva’s Ethan is hotheaded, arrogant and selfish. He dismisses Soren’s ways of approaching the tasks and bombards her with his strong personality. Scriva is perhaps a little over the top and could do with shouting less to get his point across. His strength is in his relatable delivery when discussing his sister. Churchill provides an empathetic Soren – sincerity etched onto her face. Her eyes are full of expression although her character does get a little lost in the action.

Baynes’ script is gripping and fast-paced but could do with some trimming. There are almost too many ultimatum moments and twists, although the cast handles them well. Hand in Hand Theatre Company have got something special here with A Mind Transcendent. Not only is the set and costuming clever and resourceful, the acting is solid, and the direction by Justin Mosel-Crossley acknowledges the genre, translating it to the stage well.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 12 – 14 July 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: Studio 411 Murdoch University

INFO: Tickets $20 | Duration 120 mins including interval | Suitable 15+

LINK: https://handinhandtheatreco.com/

Review

REVIEW: Lysistrata

Stepping straight out of Ancient Greece as though 2000 or so years have never passed, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is the misogynist play turned firmly feminist by director Susie Conte and her team at Tempest Theatre Company. There has been a gross misconception about this work, says Conte – it was originally written by a man for men and is full of erect penises and lines that undermine women as thinkers and philosophers. ‘Silly women’ are not seen as a threat. In the last 50 years or so, Lysistrata has become synonymous with female power and women’s movements.

Hovering under white tulle at the back of the stage, Conte’s cast provide an ethereal backdrop against a ‘blank slate’ stage – ready to be written on. Contemporary sound bytes from The Women’s March, Hilary Clinton, Beyoncé and others fill the audience as the cast of five steel themselves.

Stephanie Somerville is remarkable as the fierce Lysistrata. She eats up the stage with her strong pacing – a caged lioness rattling the bars. A cast of women wrenches the power back from a male dominated theatre culture and highlights stereotypes in the script. Every cliche about the silliness of women is rendered ridiculous and returns agency to them. It’s crystal clear when Colonica (Amy Welch) declares her enthusiasm for sex – in particular penetrative heteronormative intercourse. However, her comical facial expressions and tone create a laughable hilarity that would be completely missed if in the hands of men.

Conte’s Lysistrata takes the ancient script and incorporates contemporary imagery and key phrases. Slogans from the Women’s March don the Acropolis, politicians call for Lysistrata to be ‘grabbed by the pussy’, Lysistrata declares herself a ‘nasty woman’ and references Julia Gillard’s monumental misogyny speech. It’s an intelligent and critical conversation between two eras that have a lot to say to each other. The Greek Chorus becomes hauntingly beautiful song, the male characters are parodied by the women this time, and there is more emphasis on the solidarity between the women rather than the leadership of Lysistrata.

Lysistrata has been confused in its feminist message in the past, but in this production there is no doubt. This is a fierce, fiery, and feminist manifesto that should be seen by everyone.

Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 10 – 14 July 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco

INFO: Duration 60 mins | Suitable 15+ | Adult content, sexual themes

LINK: https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/lysistrata/

Review

REVIEW: Treasure Island: A Musical Pantomime

The Murdoch Theatre Company presents Treasure Island: A Musical Pantomime, written by Kathryn Petersen and Michael Ogborn. Starring Ainsley Marr as Jamie Hawkins, Julia Parks and Dr. Livsee, Maximiliano Laffont as Squire Treelawnee, Rosalie Schneider as Miss Evelyn Treelawnee, Zenna Newman-Santos as Captain Smilenot, Evie Mcpherson as Ezekial Machete Scabs, Sean Wcislo as Tinnitus Tom the Terrible, Maggie Cope-Thomas as Israel Chopped Hand, Pheobe Dingli as Boyscout Devil Dan, Vasco Jansen as Long John Silver, Injeong Hwang as Polly the Parrot, Max Conroy as Mother Hawkins and Melissa Munoz Escobar as Mama Kura.

As you could guess it is loosely based on the 1882 adventure novel Treasure Island written by Robert Louis Stevenson, it shares most of the same characters and the typical start to this classic but doesn’t get too far before this all changes.

Going into the Nexus Theatre we are presented with a set depicting a ship’s deck as we are introduced by – and musically accompanied throughout – by James Jury to the pantomime.  Without knowing exactly what elements of pantomime were going to occur, the light bulb was immediately switched on as cross-dressing and audience participation was evident straight away! Not to mention the use of dance, songs, slapstick/physical comedy, Perth related humour as well as some sexual innuendo. All classic hallmarks of that illustrious genre – the panto.

Very little can be said for their take on Treasure Island as to not spoil its plot, however what I can comment on is the acting, singing, set and costuming. The acting was exceptional – albeit a bit over the top, and camp as a row of tents – but being that this is a pantomime it can definitely be forgiven. Going all-out makes it fun for some, funny for others, and cringe worthy for those who don’t know what to expect! The singing was a bit hit and miss, as quite often leads were either being overshadowed by the music, the supporting characters, and occasionally the audience. The set was excellent aside from a loose ship’s wheel – which was made fun of so often it left me wondering whether it was on purpose or was done on the fly to get a laugh – and the lighting was also exceptional. The costuming was definitely good to look at even if it was also over the top but again considering this is pantomime you can forgive its use of using a sharpie to draw a beard onto a lady.

Having seen many a take on Treasure Island in the past I can honestly say that whilst entertaining  as a pantomime, it unfortunately didn’t add anything to the story with the changes that were made to make it more comical. If you like pantomimes then give this show a look and even if you don’t your kids will – so please support the Murdoch Theatre Company by watching their take on the classic Treasure Island.

Review | Link Harris

WHEN: 5 – 7 July 2018 | 7:00pm

WHERE: Nexus Theatre | Murdoch University | Murdoch

INFO: Tickets $10 – $15 | Duration 120 mins | Suitable 12+ | COMEDY/MUSICAL

LINK: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=393525&