Review: Anywhere Festival 2018, 'Four' Me

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2018, 'Four' Me

And… suddenly… May is over. Hopefully, like me, you have spent the last few weeks immersed in theatre, dance, circus, and music—and have chuckled, cried and pondered your way through many of the works that have been available as part of Anywhere Theatre Festival 2018.

Reflecting on the last few weeks, my fourth Anywhere Festival experience can be summarised in just four words: immersive, involvement, improv, issues.

 Pictured:    Dinopocalypse .  Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured:  DinopocalypsePictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Immersive has certainly been a bit of a buzz-word this, although the experience has not always been quite as immersive as it could have been. Sometimes audiences need a little more encouragement—or direction—as to just how involved they can be. For example, Here Comes the Bride!  was an entertaining show where the audience might have been more fully immersed with tables set around the venue. However, sometimes audiences can become so engrossed that directors do have to step in. At the other end of the immersive scale Dinopocalypse ended the opening night with some of the audience a little too immersed and having to be directed off the stage for the safety of the artists.

 Pictured :  Dale Pengelly in   The Lounge Suite .   Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Dale Pengelly in The Lounge Suite Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Clearly immersive theatre does rely on audience participation, but many of the events created great opportunities for enthusiastic audience involvement Perhaps unsurprisingly two of these were shows with a musical flavour: The Lounge Suite and To Sergio With Love. Dale Pengelly’s Lounge Suite had most of the audience on stage for two numbers during the show, where patrons clearly loved the chance to be in on the act.  And Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett always make their guests feel that they’ve attended the best party in town at events held at their Carina home (this year hosting The View From Madeleine’s Couch). The third show with some really enjoyable audience interaction was the kid-friendly Super Circus Squad—an action-packed, physical theatre show, combining displays of trapeze, acrobatics, balance and ‘strength.’ Only one audience member got to be a superhero on the day, but the show provided everyone with feisty, feel-good fun.

  Pictured : Super Circus Squad at the Queensland Maritime Musuem. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Super Circus Squad at the Queensland Maritime Musuem. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Done well, improv can also make for a really entertaining evening. I understand that A Midsummer Night’s Whatever hit the spot, particularly on the evening photographer—and reviewer for the night—Creative Futures Photography’s Geoff Lawrence attended “The Merchant of Bunnings: As You Like Charcoal.” And I chose equally well in seeing the improvised Kiss of the Vampire Squid. A fun evening with a chance to really experience Anywhere Theatre Festival at its finest, and the Maritime Museum was a great venue choice for a suitably tall (and funny) seafaring tale.

 Pictured: Kiss of the Vampire Squid. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Kiss of the Vampire Squid. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Of course, entertainment is not only judged based on the chuckle quotient. Many of the shows I saw this year provoked discussions about very serious issues. Anywhere Festival 2018 included many circus or physical theatre performances which told stories and opened up debate about serious issues. In Invisible Things, Alex Mizzen shared some of the rage and frustration associated with finding her own creative voice, which was inspired by facing up to the possibility of not being able to continue with her chosen career. Kelsey Laura’s Proximity explored issues of consent. And The Box was an inspiring and insightful piece encouraging audiences to reconsider “what stigma is (especially in relation to the actors’ experiences as people living with a disability),” and to respond to the challenge of “why did you assume?”

 Pictured (L to R): Joe Surawski, Niala Lewis, and Alex Procopis in  The Box  at the UQ Pergola. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured (L to R): Joe Surawski, Niala Lewis, and Alex Procopis in The Box at the UQ Pergola. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I have tried to summarise my experience in four words and failed (I’m already at over 550…). But when I think back over the last few weeks the most memorable events are not just those which combined improv, issues, and immersion. It is also those productions which had the “right” venue. In 2018, my top four venues were Queensland Maritime Museum, UQ Great Court, UQ Pergola, and Brisbane Modern. Brisbane Modern is always an Anywhere Festival highlight, and inevitably shows there will be near the top of my list.

 Pictured: Gretel. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Gretel. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Inevitably, I have found it difficult to identify my top picks… but the four really memorable shows of my fourth season are also those which took place at some of those top venues: Gretel, Super Circus Squad, The Box and Kiss of the Vampire Squid. Gretel was a great piece of new writing, beautifully directed in a compelling UQ Great Court production. The Box was a cast-devised piece of physical theatre and spoken word in an equally well-chosen UQ site. And the Queensland Maritime Museum was a marvellous venue for a number of festival shows: a great space for Super Circus Squad, and a perfect choice for Kiss of the Vampire Squid. Let’s hope all of these venues are part of Anywhere Festival 2019—and that we get to see much more of these talented performers and creatives. Only 11 months to wait for the next Anywhere Festival…

Catherine Lawrence

 Pictured: Alex Mizzen in Invisible Things. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Alex Mizzen in Invisible Things. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

All Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

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Review: Wheel of Fortune

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Review: Wheel of Fortune

Note: Pictures credit Deelan Do (supplied by Metro Arts).

Wheel of Fortune has a number of meanings: a popular American television game show, a tarot card which is apparently interpreted as signifying change, and now the latest play to open at Brisbane’s Metro Arts.

Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 La Ronde, literally translated as “a round dance,” has ten scenes (or duets) between different pairs of lovers, where a character from each scene moves round to be part of the next, until the final pair includes one of the characters from the first pairing. A circular ‘dance’ which challenged the morals of the day when initially published, and which has been used in a number of iterations to continue to explore contemporary moralities and the dance of private (or not so private) lives and relationships. With a first public performance almost 100 years ago, the play continues to inspire creatives, with almost 20 film variations and nearly as many theatrical reinterpretations. The Brisbane Wheel of Fortune is a version written by Richard Jordan, Jacki Mison, Troy Armstrong and Krystal Sweedman (Producer Troy Armstrong and Director Tim Hill), which cleverly integrates audio and visual screen work created by Optic Archive (Joseph Meldrum, Cinematographer & Editor)

As the lights dimmed the play began with film-like credits, featuring an image of the ‘Wheel of Brisbane’ and spiralling camera work that set the scene for a Brisbane Summer evening. Following a woman walking through a public park, the screen (sound and imagery) acted as backdrop for the live action, as The Public Servant (Meg Bowden) calls out “I know you’re there. There’s no use hiding,” to force The American Marine (Richard Lund) to come out of the shadows. With a first sexual encounter that was perhaps not what the audience had initially feared, the screen action then moves to a Brisbane laneway, where the Marine is now outside a Brisbane nightclub with The Au Pair (Jacqui McLaren). The ‘Irish’ Au Pair is then tempted into a poolside encounter with the son of the household (The School Boy, played by Brendan Lorenzo), and the 17-year old boy then has a rendezvous with The Biology Teacher (Jacqui Story), before the Teacher returns home to her husband (The Lawyer/ Ron Kelly). And so we continue to follow each of the changing pairings until the ‘dance’ turns full circle, as The Public Servant and The Politician (Stephen Hirst) watch the sun rise on another new day.

The play combined some really humorous moments with the presentation of a number of confronting encounters. The scene between The Lawyer (Ron Kelly) and The Socialite (Ruby Clark) had When Harry Met Sally resonances which were greatly enjoyed by the first night audience. The strongest pairings in this production were those involving Elise Greig (The Portrait Photographer) and Veronica Neave (The Stage Actress). The seduction of The Politician by Neave’s The Stage Actress was beautifully done, and very funny, creating much laughter on the way to a believable fall from grace. Ruby Clark (The Socialite) was a great foil for Greig’s portrait photography session, which came as close second to what was, for me, the highlight of the Show: the funny and touching encounter between Neave and Greig. I'd love to see more work that brings these two talented actresses together.

 
 Pictured: The Lawyer (Ron Kelly), foreground, on stage, with The Biology Teacher (Jacqui Story) on screen.  NOTE  Picture credit: Deelan Do.

Pictured: The Lawyer (Ron Kelly), foreground, on stage, with The Biology Teacher (Jacqui Story) on screen. NOTE Picture credit: Deelan Do.

 

A second major highlight was the creation of a blended film/theatrical event. I loved the integration of Optic Archive’s audio and visual work with the ‘live action.’ The screen was not merely a backdrop or set in front of which the work took place but was integral to the whole Show. The switching between the audio/visual and the on-stage actors worked well through the performance—particularly in the scene between Kelly and Story.

In creating a contemporary reworking and production of an established play—particularly in a version which included a representation of one sexual encounter that might be described as rape, and another of a relationship of a school teacher with her student—I would like to have seen more exploration of issues of consent, abuse, and contemporary morality. But it’s great to see a reinterpretation of a classic, particularly as a new Brisbane-based work which employs so many local actors and creatives. Hats off to Metro Arts and TAM Presents for bringing this piece to the stage.

Verdict: It is worth seeing the show to see how well the team have integrated the audio and visual work with the live performance, and for the performances by Neave and Greig alone, but note the rating and advice (the producers suggest 15+, highligting swearing or offensive language, adult themes, partial nudity, smoking or smoke effects, strobe lighting, and the portrayal of physical and emotional abuse).

Audience tip: Arrive early to buy a drink to take into the performance. I believe that the only access to the toilets is upstairs and the Metro Arts lift is still ‘work in progress.’ R (strong sexual references and abuse, sexual imagery & occasional language). 90 minutes.

A short season, so book now if you want to see Wheel of Fortune at The Lumen Room, Metro Arts, Brisbane as the season is only 31 May- 9 June 2018 (remaining shows: 4pm matinees on 2 & 9 June; 7pm shows on 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th June). Artist talk follows the 6th June performance. Tickets are available at the Metro Arts Website. $28 ($20 concession).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 1st June 2018 performance.

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Review: Here Comes The Bride!

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Review: Here Comes The Bride!

Weddings are a great place to watch and be watched, and often act as a catalyst for a few home truths and the creation or ending of relationships. Waiting for the return of the bride and groom from their epic photography shoot, guests at this particular wedding begin to share more information than is prudent. The latest gossip, inadvertently overheard by two of the subjects (gossipees?), is that one work colleague is about to propose, while another is about to dump his partner. Confusingly, both men have names that sound the same—a classic basis for a farce/comedy.

 Pictured (L to R): Tahira Appadoo (Vera) and Yasmin Larasati (Rose) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Tahira Appadoo (Vera) and Yasmin Larasati (Rose) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

In a short piece it is important to quickly establish the characters and their relationships. Victoria Posner—who presented, introduced, directed and wrote Here Comes The Bride?—clearly enjoys writing about strong female characters. Tahira Appadoo leapt with great relish into the nastier side of the rather bitter Vera—rising to the challenge of bossing everyone around (and demonstrating little compassion for anyone else). Yasmin Larasati (Rose) had a great part, believably transitioning from being the downtrodden and put-upon foil for Vera to becoming a feisty, compassionate and caring colleague. Georgia Pontifex (Deb) played the lovable next bride, demonstrating that she was more than just nice (with a strong moral compass).

These three female characters had the best lines, and were therefore the most interesting in the play. The characters of Justin (Stephen Snape), Justyn (Joseph Davissen) and Jenny (Prathana Thevar-Brink) played important roles in the unfolding plot, but perhaps needed more development if a longer version of Here Comes The Bride? were to be produced.

 Pictured (L to R): Prathana Thevar-Brink (Jenny), Stephen Snape (Justin), Georgia Pontifex (Deb), and Joseph Davissen (Justyn). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Prathana Thevar-Brink (Jenny), Stephen Snape (Justin), Georgia Pontifex (Deb), and Joseph Davissen (Justyn). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There were a number of funny lines, delivered with great relish. But the funniest part of the evening for me was when some of the younger members of the audience made encouraging sotto voce comments to Justin, encouraging him to get on with dumping his long-term girlfriend. But this was one of the few points where the piece was truly immersive (on 26th May). For any future iterations, I’d suggest that more thought is given to the immersive aspect. Although the audience were encouraged to wander and overhear, most elected to stay in their seats which were placed in a conventional arrangement around the ‘stage.’ Perhaps welcoming guests to the event, much as an usher greets guests at a wedding (‘‘Bride or Groom?”), and arranging seating along the lines of a traditional wedding reception, would  encourage greater immersive engagement by the audience. For example, at the spacious West End Sideshow creative hub, there were a number of round tables which would have allowed for seating some of the guests at the ‘reception’ tables, leaving others to float around and ‘overhear’ some of the action.

 Pictured: Anywhere Festival at The Sideshow ( Here Comes The Bride! ). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Anywhere Festival at The Sideshow (Here Comes The Bride!). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The chatter continued as we left the venue, in particular a chance to reflect on some of the more traditional aspects of weddings that still appear to prevail, and what appears to be a continued fixation on the vexed question of “when will HE propose?” Any piece that keeps the audience thinking about the issues raised, and considering the characters and stereotypes, has to have been a good show!

Verdict: Tight writing, and a funny, enjoyable short piece which needs a little more thought on the immersive aspect.

Audience tip: Easy street parking, and great coffee on sale at Sideshow. Dress warmly as the venue is open to the street at the entrance. 40 minutes.

Tickets at the Anywhere Festival website. $18. Friday and Saturday performances during Anywhere Festival 2018 (18, 19, 25 & 26 May, all at 6:30pm). Presented by Victoria Posner at The Sideshow, West End. Suitable for audiences of any age (production company suggested 15+).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 26th  May performance at The Sideshow, West End. Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: The Lounge Suite

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Review: The Lounge Suite

Dale Pengelly’s Lounge Suite is a two-hour song and dance show packed with anecdotes, tap-dancing, high-kicks, and even opportunities for audience participation. The program combines Dean Martin-style/’rat-pack’ classics with a sequence of musical theatre numbers—all threaded together with some of the many highlights from Dale’s 36+ years in showbusiness. 

 Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The Lounge Suite isn’t purely a one-man show. Hello Dolly was a great choice for the opening number, with close harmonies provided by the Candy Shop Show’s Maureen Bowra and Jenny Usher, who returned to the stage at different points during the evening—including encouraging and leading the audience in two great participation numbers. For example, Everybody Loves Somebody was a fantastic choice as an audience participation number, and everyone certainly had as much fun with the fans as Dale did performing that one.

 Pictured:  Everybody Loves Somebody . Dale Pengelly (centre), with fans. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Everybody Loves Somebody. Dale Pengelly (centre), with fans. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The “story-time” anecdotes were well-chosen and kept the audience enthralled as names were “dropped” left, right, and centre. Great to see both photographs and video illustrating Dale’s cv—in particular, the Paula Yates dance lesson (by Dale and Hot Shoe Shuffle colleagues) which led into the enjoyable performance of  L-O-V-E.  Suitable changes of pace ranged from the entertaining and well-choreographed Sway and the cast having fun with Amore (using the lounge at the back of the stage to great effect), through to the touching Tenterfield Saddler (introduced as “my tribute to Todd McKenney”).

Musical theatre is no easy gig. From his early days in State and National ballet companies, Dale moved on to performing/understudying some of the major roles in musical theatre (with many national and international tours), as well directing and choreographing a number of shows. To maintain a steady program of work over a period spanning almost four decades is impressive—particularly when the performer can still tap dance and high-kick in the way that he does. Just watch out for the high-kicking in New York, New York!  The audience certainly got their value for money, with over 20 pieces including dance solos, a voice solo by Maureen, and two dance duets featuring Jenny (Rich Man’s Frug with Maureen, and You Were Meant for Me with Dale).

 Pictured: Dale Pengelly. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative FUtures Photography.

Pictured: Dale Pengelly. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative FUtures Photography.

I am sure that The Lounge Suite would work well as a Dean Martin tribute show, leaving ‘my life in musical theatre’ as a separate piece. It would have been great to see this Show with a larger audience (but the crew attending on 25th May had a ball), and perhaps better sound monitors onstage for the performers. But at $30 for a 2-hour program of music and dance, I am sure the audience didn’t feel short-changed.

Verdict: I would love to see this with a live band. Look out for future opportunities to see Dale Pengelly.

Audience tip: Easy on-site parking, and great value drinks and food available at the Queensland Russian Community Group, Woolloongabba. A two-hour show (including a 20-minute interval).

Tickets at the Anywhere Festival website. $30. Friday and Saturday performances during Anywhere Festival 2018 (11, 12, 18, 19, 25 & 26 May. All 7:30pm with one 3pm matinee [19 May]. Presented by Pengelly Productions at Anywhere Festival,  at the Kenmore Retro Bar, and Woolloongabba  Queensland Russian Community Group. Suitable for audiences of any age.

Catherine Lawrence

 Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The reviewer attended the Friday 25th  May performance at the Queensland Russian Community Group, Woolloongabba. Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: The Box

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Review: The Box

Dis has so many negative connotations and uses in our language: dislike, discontent, disbelief,  disown... In The Box, the artists created and performed a moving contemporary physical theatre piece, challenging perceptions of people living with disability.  In the promotional material for the show, Screech Arts note that the artists seek to encourage audiences to reconsider “what stigma is, especially in relation to the actors’ experiences as people living with a disability.” Individual performers in The Box may need support to achieve some of their goals, but they all demonstrated a variety of talents, and many great abilities, in their production. Together they have created an inspiring piece that hopefully will not be hidden away in a box but will be shared at future events. It is a work that deserves to reach a wider audience.

 Picture: Danielle Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Danielle Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Campbell Place is a road at the back of the UQ Union complex. It is also a grassed area between UQ Union and the Great Court, 5 minutes’ walk away. I’m sure that the UQ team will work on their naming of places and signage for any future theatre festivals. And I’m delighted the performance was at the grassed area, which has a pergola that makes for a perfect outdoor stage. When I arrived, I worried if I’d missed half of the show because a number of the performers were also in the Screech Arts Dance Troupe, already entertaining an enthusiastic audience with some great dance moves. However, this was a bonus activity: a great way to attract an audience for the theatre piece, to demonstrate some fantastic dance moves, and to warm up on a cool evening.

The Box mixed contemporary dance, spoken word (often through speech synthesizers), song, mime, and theatre. The performance space (using the pergola to create elements of the box, augmented with clingfilm and black tape) was described as symbolic of “society’s treatment of minority groups, where vast assumptions are based on first impressions and appearances.” It was an inspired choice to use the pergola, bringing the piece out of a traditional theatre and into the daily lives of students in the centre of the UQ campus.

 Pictured: Joe Surawski, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Joe Surawski, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There were so many highlights in the production: dance and mime (unfair to single out two performers, but perhaps most notably by Julie Stewart and Amy Lawrence who created a real sense of the frustrations of ‘inhabiting’ the box), poignant dance and speech (from Dale Gonelli and Danielle Stewart), compelling stage presence and work (by Joe Surawski, Niala Lewis, and Alex Procopis), and a great soundtrack (technical support by Julian Rodriguez Campos). The movement and interactions were well-judged, but it was much of the voice work that will stay with me. I loved the discussion between Amy and Dale (“How are you?”), which led up the poignant story about the experience of the 11-year old Dale at the train station. Danielle’s powerful monologue “I’m an aunt and I babysit” rose to a screech that created a real sense of both the joy and frustrations of a life spent fighting other people’s perceptions. And Danielle and Dale also performed the thought-provoking “just because” duet.

 Pictured: Dale Gonelli, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

Pictured: Dale Gonelli, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

The piece ended on a very quiet note, but if I had to make suggestions for future developments of the work, I might suggest ending on Danielle’s monologue instead. And I found the hospital-style emergency bleep a little disconcerting when played for any length (but that may have been the intent).  My enthusiastic congratulations to all of the team—led by Martina Cross (Director, Screech Arts State-wide Coordinator and Facilitator), and supported by volunteers (in particular Natarsha Wrensted [Stage Manager], and Cate Collopy: [Stagehand and Mentor] and Julian [technical support, as noted above]). Proving that with the right support, they can achieve their collective goals, the performers created a memorable piece. I hope it leads to many more conversations, and a “breaking down the box that is stigma” (to quote Martina).

 Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Heartfelt communication. An enthusiastic, enjoyable and insightful piece, which encourages everyone to rise to the challenge of “why did you assume?”

Audience tip: Arrive early and get to cheer on the Dance Squad. Wrap up warm and bring a seat/blanket (UQ did have some deckchairs).

Only five performances during Anywhere Festival 2018 (all 7pm): Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre10, 17 & 24 May) and at The University of Queensland’s Campbell Rd Promenade (16 & 23 May).

Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. Free. Suitable for audiences of any age.

Catherine Lawrence

 Pictured: Dale Gonelli and Joe Surawski. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Dale Gonelli and Joe Surawski. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The reviewer attended the Wednesday 23rd May (7:00pm) performance at The University of Queensland.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: A Midsummer Night's Whatever (Review by Geoff Lawrence)

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Review: A Midsummer Night's Whatever (Review by Geoff Lawrence)

You know you are in safe hands with EDGE Improv, particularly when the cast includes Anne Pensalfini (“legendary shakespearean actor, teacher and improvisor”), who is also staring in a second show during the Anywhere Festival (I Stand Here Ironing). Anne is joined by Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham (previously seen in the successful 2017 Anywhere Festival Hard-Boiled dick show), with music by David Peachey.

The Junction Hotel at Annerley, a fairly typical Brisbane pub, is a great choice of location: food and drinks on tap, and a wood-panelled room as to establish a suitably Elizabethan mood. All we really needed was a little sawdust on the floor and we could have been in the Globe Theatre, thanks to the welcome by musician, David Peachy, dressed in suitably Elizabethan garb.

 Pictured: A Midsummer Night's Whatever (cast Anne Pensalfini, Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: A Midsummer Night's Whatever (cast Anne Pensalfini, Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Of course, the excitement mounts once the three players join us, announcing that a new folio of Shakespeare works have been found. We are the first to see one of these 6 new plays, as each is to  be  performed for the first time (one a night, during the 2018 Anywhere Theatre Festival). As improv, the audience play a key role in providing information to inspire the cast. On 20th May, The Merchant Of Venice (“it’s about ordinary people”), As You Like It (“the seven ages of man speech”), and ordinary activities (“bought charcoal at Bunnings”). Oh, and “plum.”

Coincidentally, the play we then saw was The Merchant of Bunnings, subtitled As You Like Charcoal—a 40-minute, 4-act love story.

 Pictured: A Midsummer Night's Whatever (cast Anne Pensalfini, Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: A Midsummer Night's Whatever (cast Anne Pensalfini, Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Yes, the language and characters were Shakespearean (sort-of), and you can play ‘spot the reference’ if you are up-to-date with the works of Shakespeare. But this is not an evening where you have to know very much about Shakespeare or his plays. This play is new to everyone after all.

As is often the case with this type of improvised theatre there were some moments of hesitation (or ‘pauses for theatrical effect,' as I am sure those in the profession might say). But the performance moved quickly on, and became funnier by the 3rd and 4th acts. My highlight was the serious delivery of “The Seven Ages Of Charcoal.” Quite why Shakespeare ever replaced it with The Seven Ages of Man I don’t know. If you ever get a chance to hear about the seven stages—from The Growth Of The Sapling to The Second Burning on the BBQ, then it’s worth the trip to Alderley (or Stratford-Upon-Avon).

 Pictured: Music by David Peachy, settign the scene before the cast and audience arrived for A Midsummer Night's Whatever (cast Anne Pensalfini, Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Music by David Peachy, settign the scene before the cast and audience arrived for A Midsummer Night's Whatever (cast Anne Pensalfini, Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

It can be difficult to attract larger audiences on Sunday nights, but the intimate crowd really enjoyed the show. The new folio deserves a larger audience.

But be warned, the play I saw may (or probably will) not be what is on the next night.  As for reviews, the Bard best sums it up “Let every eye negotiate for itself and trust no agent”

Verdict: Worth a visit.

Audience tip: The Library Room is upstairs in The Junction Hotel. Audience members are welcome to take food and drink purchased at the bar into The Library Room.

Geoff Lawrence

The reviewer/photographer saw the Sunday 20th May performance.

Presented by EDGE Improv, in the Library Room at The Junction Hotel, Annerley. The show has six performances during the Anywhere Theatre Festival (13th-15th May, and 20th-22nd May). The final two shows are on 21st and 22nd May (7:30pm). Tickets are available via the Anywhere Theatre Festival website. $12. 

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Review: Super Circus Squad

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Review: Super Circus Squad

Super Circus Squad is a great idea, well-executed, and just perfect for audiences young and old. Great outfits, good humour, enjoyable audience interaction, and some great physical theatre, trapeze, acrobatics, balance and ‘strength’ along the way. Feisty, feel-good chuckles, complete with a positive message, a strong female role-model, and suggestions as to how to handle those who are being mean to you when a visiting superhero isn’t on hand to come to your rescue.  Perfect for school fundraisers, educational treats, festivals and parties—and a great choice to include in the 2018 Anywhere Festival.

 Pictured: Reece Cooper and Hannah Cryle. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Reece Cooper and Hannah Cryle. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Hannah Cryle and Reece Cooper—with additional support from superhero Rose and ‘villan-teer’ Matt Rowe—held the attention of their all age audience at the Queensland Maritime Museum on 20th May. The show ran for perhaps 40 minutes although, even during warm-up, Hannah maintained a positive interaction with the audience (an extra bonus, we learned, from watching an Anywhere Festival event).  Having captured the interest of the younger spectators, and explained that Super Circus Squad is a “superhuman story” where the audience get to choose the adventure (and where “everyone is allowed to have fun”), the performers were soon rewarded with squeals of laughter at their “pre-show ritual.”

The ‘opening credits’ for the show are a great idea—demonstrating some of the complementary skills of the performers (with strength and trapeze by Cryle, and acrobatics by Cooper), some well-observed humour, and (of course) superhero poses. The audience were kept on their toes by having to assist in naming their superheros (there is a ‘formula to such things, apparently), before hearing about some of the successful world-saving recently undertaken by (at our show) The Blue Boat and The Purple Blahblah. The ‘slow-motion galaxy’ story was not only great fun, but also an excellent demonstration of Cooper’s headstands and work on the handstand poles—as well as of the comedic skills of Cryle.

 Pictured: Reece Cooper (L) and Rose. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Reece Cooper (L) and Rose. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

An important part of the show was the selection, naming and ‘training’ of the volunteers. On the 20th May, Rose proved a perfect superhero, great dancer, and future acrobat with charming interactions with fellow superhero The Blue Boat (Cooper). Cryle’s transformation of Matthew Rowe was very amusing, and we all now know the key traits of any cartoon anti-hero (Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Maritime Museum, who proved to be a general good sport as co-opted villan-teer for our show).

The show had a great finale, integrating trapeze, strength and acrobatics in a ‘duet’ between Cryle and Cooper, and closing with a reminder of a useful technique for dealing with everyday villains (or, at least those who are trying to be mean to you). Leaving just enough time for a picture with your favourite superhero before going off to find some ice-cream.

 Pictured: Hannah Cryle and Reece Cooper. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Hannah Cryle and Reece Cooper. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Great fun. Feisty, feel-good chuckles that everyone can enjoy (and a positive message to take away).  

Audience tip: Seek this one out at future festivals.

Only three performances during Anywhere Festival 2018: Montessori International College, Forest Glen (11am on 13th and 19th May), and Queensland Maritime Museum 3pm, 20th May).

Tickets were available at the Anywhere Festival website. $10. Suitable for audiences of any age.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 19th May (7:30pm) performance.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

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Review: To Sergio With Love

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Review: To Sergio With Love

Over the last 20 years, The View From Madeleine’s Couch has established a strong following among lovers of what has become known as OzBrazilian music—bringing their passion for Brazilian music and culture to enthusiastic Australian audiences. Anywhere Festival fans were treated to two private concerts this weekend, celebrating the best of Sergio Mendes, bossa nova, and Brazil 66. I say Anywhere Festival fans, because this was one of the first (if not the first) shows to sell out in this years’ program. A testament to the following established by Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett. If a show is selected for the festival by Chris and Susan, then get in quick. They are Anywhere Festival curators par excellence and always know how to put together an enjoyable evening. On 19th May, guests travelled in from Sydney and Melbourne to join the local crowd for what was introduced as a ‘bop along kind of night.’

  Pictured : Brisbane Modern audience at  To Sergio With Love . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Brisbane Modern audience at To Sergio With Love. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

In the hands of Sergio Mendes, Brazilian beats were mashed up with pop to create a sequence of major international hits. Which meant that To Sergio With Love included music by composers such as Burt Bacharach, Jorge Ben, and The Beatles. And as bossa nova is a lyrical fusion of jazz and samba , we also had the chance to enjoy solos by each of the performers, two great instrumental pieces, and a band that was tightly held together by Kym Ambrose (drums) and Anje West (voice and percussion).

During the 70-minute show, the audience were treated to a great range of 60s and 70s numbers, each given the Mendes styling. And the evening was peppered with nuggets of information about the real (and occasionally rude) meaning of the songs.

 Pictured: Jamie Clark. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jamie Clark. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Highlights of the program included the evocative Chove Chuva, fabulous One Note Samba, and Look of Love (all just perfect for the wonderful voice of Anje West). Day Tripper was one of many songs that gave Jamie Clark (guitar) and Dale Rabic (hammond organ) a chance to shine. And if I had to choose just one piece as a personal favourite it was probably Zanzibar (great scat singing)… But then again… it could have been the final song of the night.  Mas Que Nada is used as a means of cynically disagreeing with someone (perhaps similar to ‘yeah, right’). A perfect choice for the last piece of the evening—leaving the audience humming away and wanting to dance a little samba.  

 Pictured: Anje West. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Anje West. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Fortunately we could linger a little longer and enjoy the warm hospitality of our hosts. If you get in really quick, you may just be able to join them next weekend for The Clints Come Again. I’m sure it will be an entertaining evening: great hospitality and a program that includes the fabulous Laine Loxlea Danann.

Verdict: Always the best parties at Australian Modern. Great shows curated by fabulous and stylish hosts.    

Audience tip: If it’s on at Brisbane Modern, then book it. You’ll have a fantastic evening.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 19th May (7:30pm) performance.

To Sergio with love was presented by Madcouch Productions at Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett’s Brisbane Modern, Carina. Only four Brisbane Modern performances during Anywhere Festival 2018: Only $35 Friday and Saturday nights (7:30pm). The Clints Come Again is on 25-26 May 2018 (tickets available at the Anywhere Festival website). To Sergio With Love ran on 18th-19th (details at the Anywhere Festival website).

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: Proximity

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Review: Proximity

Circus is often associated with fun and a demonstration of feats of skill and strength. Circus protest may conjure up thoughts of ethical treatment of animals, or female equality (both of which have been linked to protests associated with established circuses in recent years). But, reflecting on the opening night of Kelsey Laura’s Proximity, it appears to me that Serious Circus (or Circusactivism) is making its way to Brisbane.  Anywhere Festival 2018 includes a number of shows using circus or physical theatre as a means to tell stories and open up debate about some serious issues. For example, Alex Mizzen shared shares some of the rage and frustration associated with finding her own creative voice in Invisible Things. Kelsey Laura’s Proximity, seeks to explore and examine issues of consent. Very serious circus, indeed.

 Pictured: Kelsey Laura, Proximity. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Kelsey Laura, Proximity. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

As a sensitive exploration of issues of consent, trust and safety, the audience are warned at the start about the subjects to be addressed (and the program provides details about a range of support and counselling services). And then we walk out, into the dark, and toward the staged area. Ahead of us is a single female, speeding up and slowing down, depending on our proximity to her. Waiting for us is a single, lit trapeze. And then we are looking into the clear gaze of Kelsey Laura, who is defensively clutching a handful of keys. Over the 25 minutes of the show, Kelsey demonstrates skills in trapeze and physical theatre, while gradually unpacking a box of eggshells. A literal demonstration of discussions which need to be held.

 Pictured: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The excellent soundtrack (sound design, Shelby Neufeld) incorporates extracts from interviews with a range of young people, playing back discussions about potential rapists, the issues of blame and responsibility, and the need for consent to be an ongoing process of checking and re-checking between partners. As one commented, “communication about sex is not seen as sexy,” but they all gave frank and insightful responses to some very direct questions about the subject (interviewees: Maddy, Catherine, Alex, Ali, Paige, Shantona, Shelby, Jen, Bree, and Ruthie). It was great to see how, as the performance and discussions unfolded, the performer moved from uncertainty (and a self-conscious ‘covering up’) towards a stronger and more positive exposition of an empty box and a throwing of the keys to one side.

A successful solo show requires the support of a network of work ‘behind the scenes.’ It’s great to see that Kelsey has drawn on excellent rigging, crew, marketing, sound, marketing and tech support (and Director Lara Croyon). I really like the idea of circus being used to provoke serious debate, and even to making change. Perhaps in a future iteration the show might be included in a longer program of material or incorporate different acts to reach a wider audience (as seen in the marvellous 2017 Hiraeth, also at Flipside Circus, Alderley, in which Kelsey performed).

 Picture: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Serious issues raised for debate, in a new work which includes strong trapeze and physical theatre.    

Audience tip: Outside seating, so wrap up warm (or pick up one of the blankets on some of the seats). 15+ (adult themes). 25 minutes. 

Only four performances during Anywhere Festival 2018: Friday and Saturday nights (7pm), 18-26 May 2018. Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. $15.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 18th May (7pm) performance.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: Gretel

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Review: Gretel

It is difficult to think of a better place to be than sitting in the bright May sunshine, in UQ’s iconic Great Court, watching a thoughtful and well-crafted new play (complete with original music).

Gretel draws on the argument that there are very few types of story or basic plots, and in particular that there is a universal archetype (or what Christopher Booker terms a recurring motif) about a journey into the woods to find meaning. In a feminist reinterpretation of the Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale, Gretel is framed as the “real story of this legendary girl.”  Gretel (Shayla Ribchester) escapes from her tyrannical father and the men of the village (Maia Von Erkel-Bromley [Joseph], Luci Rawson [Adam]), and travels into the woods. Surviving an encounter with a delightfully batty old lady (Emer Rafferty), a talking crow (Lili Smith), and a witch (Hannah Smailes), Gretel reads from the special book about the “tale of all tales” and the role of the “hero.” Discovering that “to be strong you have to stand alone,” and that “we are the hero,” Gretel decides to return to the village. Inspired, she challenges her father and the cruel patriarchal society that punished her teacher for encouraging girls to study and dream.

 Pictured: Emer Rafferty (Old Woman), and members of the cast. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Future Photography. 

Pictured: Emer Rafferty (Old Woman), and members of the cast. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Future Photography. 

I loved the many knowing asides and academic references: the “narrative owl,” the comments about there being no Hansel in the play (“the story has a brother”), and even “it’s all to do with narrative causality.” All perfect of course for a play performed in the heart of a world-class University, and close to the building where Gender and Literary Studies are analysed, taught, and researched.

But this is not a play only for the cognoscenti. This is a highly accessible show. The costumes are creative and well-worked (watch out for the teapot hat, and the umbrella forest). The direction is superb (George Franklin). And the music, performance and writing deserve a larger audience. There is excellent ensemble work, clearly defined and enjoyable characters, great music, and a tightly-written and directed piece. In line with the Scrambled Eggs Ensemble/Scrambled Prince Theatre Company statement, this is theatre that entertains but which is also provocative, giving “the girls in our ensemble a space in which they can be visible, loud and assertive, where they can speak their truth to the world.” And the performers certainly do speak out, and are confident in their space (which is particularly impressive when working in such a large space)

 Pictured: The Men of the Village (Maia Von Erkel-Bromley [Joseph], Luci Rawson [Adam]), punishing the teacher (Clare Steele [Writer and Miss Gabriel]). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: The Men of the Village (Maia Von Erkel-Bromley [Joseph], Luci Rawson [Adam]), punishing the teacher (Clare Steele [Writer and Miss Gabriel]). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The story and characters were initially devised by the cast, before development and writing by the talented Clare Steele—who also wrote the original score and plays during the piece (as well as a member of the ensemble and Miss Gabriel). Impressive work. I hope we get to see and hear more of Clare’s writing and music in the future.

This is not the first festival for these talented students from Melbourne’s Eltham High School. And I hope it is not their last. Brisbane, let’s step up and ensure that this talented ensemble perform to full houses (well, full deckchairs at least). And we should all hope that some of these students are so impressed with UQ, and Brisbane, that they decide to come back to pursue their studies.

 Pictured: Gretel (Shayla Ribchester) with members of the cast (Full cast: Clare Steele, Maia Von Erkel-Bromley, Luci Rawson, Lili Smith, Meg Whiteman, Dusty Diddle, Emer Rafferty, Hannah Smailes, Claudia Evans, Rosy Flynn, Niamh Macdermid, and Eve Souquet-Wigg). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Gretel (Shayla Ribchester) with members of the cast (Full cast: Clare Steele, Maia Von Erkel-Bromley, Luci Rawson, Lili Smith, Meg Whiteman, Dusty Diddle, Emer Rafferty, Hannah Smailes, Claudia Evans, Rosy Flynn, Niamh Macdermid, and Eve Souquet-Wigg). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Thought-provoking original play and music, performed by a talented interstate ensemble in the iconic UQ Great Court.   

Audience tip: UQ Great Court seating in deckchairs. You are outside, so bring your sunglasses (for the matinee) and dress for a cool evening for the 7pm performances. Almost every sign at UQ provides directions to the Great Court (if traveling by bus, the Great Court is closest to the Chancellery Bus Station). PG (small amount of staged violence). 45 minutes.

Only six more performances:15th -19th May (7pm), with one final matinee on 17th May (1pm), and including an interpreted performance for the hearing impaired/deaf (17th May, 7pm).  Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. $20 ($10 concession).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 15th May matinee (1pm) performance.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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