FRINGEWORLD, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2022 | Hello, Asteroid | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

What would you do if it was the end of the world? If you only had an hour left before an asteroid crashes into the earth? Would you visit your loved ones? Rob a bank just to see if you could? Hamish chooses to spend his final hour alone singing to his house plants. It’s not as dire as it sounds, Hamish Pickering is a young piano-based comedian who revels in eccentric songs with hilarious, yet poignant lyrics. He spends his potential final moments of his life reflecting on love, family, hope, and despair – Hello, Asteroid is a warm fuzzy existential crisis performed by a kind-hearted and endearing young man. And the songs are catchy as hell!

Welcome to Hamish’s apartment – it’s full of records, wine, a television, house plants, and his precious piano. There’s also a phone with dwindling battery and no charger, but Hamish does his best to avoid looking at it. You see, he’s sad. Not because of his impending doom but because of his failed romance. The show features gentle audience participation – Hamish gives a pot plant each to various people in the crowd so that his plants can answer his questions. He has a great energy, opening the show with a dance like nobody is watching! A bit of air guitar and a few silly dance moves later and Hamish is ready to get to the crux of the show.

Told through silly ponderings like what happens to your Flybuys when you die, to reflections on what real love means and how you know when it’s the real deal, Hamish approaches everything with a wry smile and depth that belies his youth. It is his ability to tap into a wider collective psyche that cement his songs firmly in your head. That and the fact that they’re brilliantly composed and cheekily performed. Hamish scathingly attacks slow walkers in ‘Move You Slow Walking Bastards’ – a refrain that will stay in your head long after you finish singing along, contemplates love, and even sings a cute yet hilarious musical autobiography. This one hits hard, and even though it’s a self-confessed very silly show, seeing footage of a baby Hamish being nurtured and happy in his family home accompanied by reflections of home elicits a strong emotional response.

Hamish Pickering is an endearing and charming performer. Completely at home behind his piano, his unique brand of musical comedy shines as the whimsical yet touching lyrics of his compositions trip elegantly over the melodies. Hello, Asteroid may be a nihilistic look at missed opportunities, but it is also a beautifully poignant exploration of all the little ponderings one makes throughout everyday, ordinary life. It’s definitely one to watch – especially if there’s nothing else to do before your doom!

You can catch Hello, Asteroid at Subiaco Arts Centre until 22nd January 2022. TICKETS

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Review

REVIEW: Monstrous Woman | Framing Greek mythology in contemporary society

Review | Amanda Lancaster

I fell, I fell in love, terrible, horrible, irresponsible love, I fell. Tell the truth and shame the devil –
I fell

What is love if not pain? Pain of that which we seek to gain and fear to lose. Love is without reason, without warning, without rhyme. Its power, its sway, its hold, uncontrollable, irreparable and all-consuming. Love promises nothing and yet one way or another its victims fall to it. Love is the insanity that makes fiends and fools of us all. Monstrous Woman, bought to you by the ever spectacular Tempest Theatre follows the story of Greek mythology’s tragic Phaedra – a woman,  a mark for the world’s contempt, a tale of lust and shame.

Phaedra was the wife of King Theseus, an older woman with an all-consuming, unrequited lust for her stepson Hippolytus. Hippolytus rebuffed Phaedra’s unwanted infatuations with him out of fear and disgust, so ostracised and broken from her stepson’s immediate and humiliating rejection, a heartbroken angry and  guilt-ridden Phaedra chooses death rather than face social, moral, and emotional purgatory. Or so the story goes.

Monstrous Woman is a highly visual and visceral piece, constructed beautifully out of almost nothing but metaphor and interpretive moments seamlessly constructed. Akin to contemporary dance perhaps it is best described as a group exercise in contemporary theatre. Running at just under an hour one might be forgiven for believing this is too short a duration to delve into the character of a Greek tragedy, yet the retelling and rewriting of socio-political, anthropological and gender equalising statements create a piece that has become the signature of this theatre company – and they excel at it.

For those used to  Shakespearean style recitations in prose of yore when viewing a performance of tragic  myth and legend, you need not fear: this is the total opposite of flowery and overdone. It is stunningly minimalist to the point of almost no dialogue. This creates the most wonderful sense of emotional empathy for Phaedra’s inner turmoil. It is all the more salacious for its use of multi faceted performance mediums over vocal outpouring. There is something so intrinsic in the usage of dark against light, white, black, and of course bloodied colourings that without fail always draws attention to it.

Phaedra is  wonderfully and boldly embodied by artistic director of Tempest Theatre, Susie Conte. Also featuring an ensemble cast of Tempest mainstays Amy Welsh, Elizabeth Offer, Joel Mews and Shelby McKenzie. The cast demonstrate some of the most skillfully put together and choreographed elements of storytelling bought to life you will have the fortune of seeing. This is a particularly clever and careful choice for the construction of the performance as a whole as its what provides the gritty, meaty heft of emotional weight behind the tale. The entire performance is played out in a non stop session, as if the entire play is an emotional moment captured in time that the audience is allowed to be privy to.

This is why the piece works so well, it concentrates solely on Phaedra, her journey, the inner turmoil of the character, and how to reinvent the narrative to give back the sense of eventual autonomy, agency and self actualisation. Metaphorical in not just its presentation but also its investigations of thematic underpinnings associated with feminine roles then and now, Monstrous Woman examines the intersecting and converging ideologies behind desires and acting upon them. This performance so delicately rewrites beliefs about what it means to be a woman in a certain role at a certain age engaging in certain types of behaviour and how this role cast upon the gender by outside forces and ideas from within can have such damaging effects upon one’s feelings, future, and fate.

But is it fate and destiny that we fall prey to or our own inner workings pushed and pulled by various pressures projected upon the self by those we choose to see as the victims or villains? Monstrous Woman proves that love makes both victim and villain of us all.

Monstrous Woman is on at Subiaco Arts Centre from 3rd – 6th November 2021. Get tickets HERE

Review

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

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

FRINGEWORLD, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | The Lucky Cat | 3.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

The Lucky Cat is a sweet tale of friendship and adversity with all the charm of a children’s book. The characters leap off the page and onto the stage in a quest complete with puzzles, tricks, and courage needed to find luck. With a simple set, gorgeous puppetry, and a lot of heart The Lucky Cat is the perfect show for the little adventurer in your life.

Alex (Caitlin McFeat) is unlucky. How do we know she is unlucky? She tells us. This is the only downside of what could be a 5 star show – the story is solid, yet Yvan Karlsson‘s script relies heavily on telling rather than showing – rendering the play as more of a book being read out rather than a theatrical piece. Don’t get me wrong, McFeat and Tristan McInnes (lead puppeteer) are great actors who do the characters justice, however there are a few moments that could have been demonstrated better rather than just told to the audience. The story itself is solid, though – who doesn’t love a noble quest where the characters must face their fears and come out on top?

The strength of The Lucky Cat lies in its characters – McFeat as Alex is warm and instantly lovable. She fizzes with energy despite being saddened for being unlucky and is upbeat throughout. McInnes’ Tet (Bastet to strangers) prowls and confidently leaps from box to box with aplomb. He is every bit a cat – proud, arrogant in ways, water averse and there are clever allusions to a past of abandonment. McFeat and McInnes have tremendous chemistry – they lovingly work the puppets to the delight of every child in the audience. While there are sad moments, Alex gets through them with her new friends proving that friendship and support is more real than any temporal, arbitrary concept of luck.

You can join The Lucky Cat on his adventures by clicking HERE

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