Review: Superstars ‘15 Years Celebration’

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Review: Superstars ‘15 Years Celebration’

If you live in or near Carina Heights or Coorparo you will know all about Superstars. You will be already be chorusing ‘where everyone shines.’ But if you haven’t heard about this wonderful dance and performance school then I’d suggest you might want to look out for it. Particularly if you know anyone of school age. Over the last 15 years, Superstars has grown to become a popular local performing school with over 600 students. Attending the end-year concert at the Chandler Theatre (Sleeman Sports Complex) it was not a surprise to discover that Superstars was this year recognised as the best local school aged activity provider (What’s On 4 Kids Awards).

Picture: Great to see so many boys onstage. Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Great to see so many boys onstage. Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

During the afternoon, the School had over 500 of its 650 students on the stage for the 15 years celebration, treating the audience of proud parents and impressed friends and supporters to a professional program of song and dance. The teachers and support staff kept everything moving, and the time just flew by. By the end of the afternoon the audience had been treated to a smorgasbord of song, ballet, tap, Irish dance, contemporary dance, break-dancing, musical theatre, hip hop….

The opening number (with 60 students of all ages) set the tone. Beautiful costumes (great to spot the hard work of Jaymee Richards in the Superstars team), and choreography that was tailored to the skills of the individual performers. I am sure that everyone smiled at the charming ‘When I grow up,’ and there wasn’t a dry eye by the time all 500 students (including 82 boys) were called back on stage for the pre-interval awards.

Picture: Those tap-dancing teachers.... Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Those tap-dancing teachers.... Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The show was all about the students, but I have to say that I spent some time mesmerised by the focused and enthusiastic performances of their teachers. And I am not just talking about their tap-dancing (when a student seated behind me proudly pointed out, in a suitable stage whisper, ‘that’s my teacher’). Well done to Gabriella Flowers, Bronte Devine, and the rest of the teachers who coached the students throughout the afternoon (and during the year). You clearly bring out the best in your students.

Throughout the show it was clear to see that the Superstars performers were having fun, concentrating hard (so lovely to watch the interactions with their teachers), and doing their absolute best. It is difficult to pick out any single highlight. I loved the break-dancing (those poses), was impressed by the ballet, was entertained by the tap-dancing, and smiled broadly through the contemporary dance.

Picture: I just loved those poses.... Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: I just loved those poses.... Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The marching/ cheerleading performance to Different Drum was beautifully done, and such a great choice of music, with the line “All you need to try to be is who you're made to be.” Rachael Tiernan has created a School that encourages students to have fun, and brought together a team of teachers who each encourage the celebration of individual potential. Which meant that it wasn’t just the performers who had fun: there were some exceptionally proud and very happy parents, grandparents and friends who had a wonderful time.   

The Chandler Theatre was the perfect venue for this show. I think if Superstars had found somewhere bigger, they would still have filled it.  Look out for more about their annual program—which includes holiday classes—by visiting their Facebook page or website. Makes you wish you were school-age again!

 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended Superstars 15 Year Celebration at the Chandler Theatre, Chandler, on Sunday 19th November 2017, 2:00pm.

 

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Review: There’s Something About Mary(s)

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Review: There’s Something About Mary(s)

The title of the show co-created by Cassie George (writer and performer) and Michael Mandalios (co-creator) references the 1998 film which launched the career of Cameron Diaz. Something about Mary is a film about men vying for Mary’s (Diaz’s) attention. There’s Something About Mary(s) looks at the theme from a different angle: reflecting on hunting for the man of your dreams, and the relationship with friends George describes as a “gaggle of gays” (‘Marys’).[1]  We follow George's journey from a demure Church-going start, to the wider horizons of University life and dating.  Embarking on a Bachelor of Musical Theatre, George quickly discovers that she has much in common with her fellow students: they love performing, and are all looking for the “men of their dreams.” But, as the publicity states, “Every day, she met the men of her dreams. Unfortunately, so did they!”

During the 60-minute show, George runs through some of the many highlights—and low points—of trying to find the right guy, each introduced as differently numbered ‘acts’ (look forward to “Act 21, Taylor the Latte Boy,” and “Act 28, Priscilla”). The show is peppered with almost as many songs as there are tales of dates, and a wide variety of musical genres: from 70s/80s/90s power ballads through to rap. Outing herself as a “fag hag” (or, more specifically, acknowledging she “sashayed [her] way the top of the ladder” as “top fag hag”), George recognises the challenge of balancing her love-life with love of her friends. She concludes that having a wide circle of gay male friends has a number of advantages: shared interests (men and music), and a ready pool of supporters for sleepovers and gossip. 

The Show has the almost obligatory audience participation number (beautifully handled—to the delight of the friends of the chosen spectator), and many entertaining asides (particularly as “Mum” was in the audience that night). Some great one-liners, delivered with excellent comic timing—many of which were close observations, causing the audience to laugh with a knowing nod (for example, “when you date the hag, you date the gays”).

Musical Director, Luke Volker was excellent, and is clearly making a name for himself as a foil for one-woman cabaret performers (I first saw Volker when performing with Bethan Ellsmore in the superb Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night). Volker is a talented musician, with the bonus of contributing excellent comic timing when delivering  wry asides or observations. But it would have been good to see a third performer. Perhaps a future development of the show might bring the co-creator, Mandalios, on stage (after all, George described him as the “Will’ to her ‘Grace’)—and perhaps also partner the production with another one-hour cabaret to produce an entertaining double-bill.

George demonstrates a mastery of the musicals genre, and of the 70s-90s powerhouse ballads, in this confident performance. Many of the choices sat well for her voice, with “Don’t have to be rich/Kiss” as one of several highlights. Personally, I would like to have heard a little more of the reflective or quieter tunes—or even a different take on some of the songs which were belted out. For example, I would love to have heard George’s version of “Do you believe in life after love” as a more reflective performance; perhaps a chance to illustrate how she still seeks to address the challenge of balancing a love life with keeping her friends.

Studio 188 is a great venue, and it will be interesting to see how the show transfers to the Turbine Studio at the Powerhouse. Go along and see it for yourself. As the show is part of the Wonderland Festival, this is the perfect chance to create your own two- or three-act show, combining There is Something About Mary(s) with one or more of the other 60-minute events included in the festival program.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended There’s Something About Mary(s) at the Studio 188, Ipswich, on Saturday, 18th November 2017, 7:00pm. The Show is part of the Wonderland Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse, 23rd-27th November 2017 (7:30pm [6:30pm on Sunday only]). Tickets $27-$32.95 (adult, $27 plus transaction fee of $5.95). 60 minutes.

 

Note[1]: Having heard of a ‘Friend of Dorothy’—after all, what’s not to love about the Wizard of Oz—I must confess I hadn’t come across the slang use for ‘Mary.’ But as Wikipedia lists over 80 different slang terms for gay men, I’m not surprised I’d missed many of them.  

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Review. The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical

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Review. The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical

Most producers dream of a hit show, a runaway success, and a long run—where a New York, Broadway success is the pinnacle of achievement. But the fictional Max Bialystock (Gary Rose) and Leo Bloom (Joshua Thia) are not ‘most’ producers. Their aim to produce a profitable flop turns sour as the fictitious 1959 Springtime for Hitler has a rapturous reaction from audiences and reviewers alike (ah, beware those reviewers!). The Producers is a satirical romp that enterains as it exposes the worst aspects of the Broadway production treadmill: greed, the casting couch, and the perils of being an ‘angel’ (investor).

Pictured: Ensemble 'Old Ladies,' The Producers. Picture Credit: Chirstopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards) 

Pictured: Ensemble 'Old Ladies,' The Producers. Picture Credit: Chirstopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards) 

Mel Brooks ‘s music and lyrics (book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan) has been highly-successful on film (1968, and later reworked in 2005) and on the stage. And the work was well-served by this excellently-paced, humorous, stylish, and beautifully-cast 2017 Savoyards production. The creative team clearly gelled: hats off to the talented Gabriella Flowers (Director), Mark Beilby (Musical Director) and Hannah Crowther (Choreographer). Costume design by Kim Heslewood deserves praise—in particular, the outfits for Keep It Gay and Ulla’s blue dress for That Face. Sheryl-Lee Seecomb’s Set Design was excellent—funds may have been low for the courtroom scene, but the DeBris Townhouse, Bialystock and Bloom Office, Whitehall and Marks Offices, and main set were quite fabulous.

Highlights of the performance included The King of Old Broadway (including those high-kicking dancing nuns), I Wanna Be A Producer (great work by Thia and the tap-dancing Chorus, with the lovely deep voice of the soloist in the accounting team, and a quite fantastic set), any time the ‘old ladies’ took to the stage (particularly when dancing with those Zimmer frames), and the audience favourites Betrayed and Keep It Gay. The ensemble work was superb, and the three lead actors produced believable characters that were at their finest in the opening of Act Two (That Face,with great harmonies by Rose and Bloom, and dance by Grace Clarke [Ulla] and Thia).

Pictured: Scott Edward (Carmen Ghia). Picture credit: Christopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards).

Pictured: Scott Edward (Carmen Ghia). Picture credit: Christopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards).

Memories that remain with me after the show include a number of wonderful pieces of ‘business’—from the pigeon, to the camping up by the resident team in Roger DeBris’s Townhouse (notably in Keep it Gay). And special mentions for two brilliant cameo performances: Reindert Toia was just fabulous as the ‘choreographer,’  keeping many of those around me in stitches, and we all enjoyed the great work by Scott Edwards (Carmen Ghia), who nearly stole the show. Edwards’s comic partnership with David Morris (Roger DeBris) resulted in hysterical laughter from much of the audience—and not just as the result of the high camp walk, the flashing of those fabulous heels and rather too much of the undergarments of the ‘Chrysler Building dress.’

With a production of such a high standard I have very few quibbles. For me the sign of good lighting design and operation is that I’m not too aware of it. Generally good (credit to Alan Nutley for his hard-working lighting design), there were a few times when the cast still managed to be left in the dark—most notably when the ‘spot’s’ led, rather than followed, the usherettes at the start of the show. Opening night problems with Sound (David Sowdon) mainly appeared to be fixed, although there were occasional problems with balance (notably hearing Rose’s words during some of the songs) and some microphone cackles and pops (possibly as off-stage mics were fixed during the second half). And although the orchestra did a great job—itis wonderful to have live music at any performance—I did feel that the brass section might have been occasionally a little ‘fluffy’ (but I joined the many enthusiastic members of the audience in remaining to give them their full applause).

Iona Performing Arts Centre is a great venue: large stage, great acoustics, ample free parking, and comfortable and spacious seating. But it is a pity that this cast did not have the opportunity to bring their work to one of Brisbane’s main stages. It’s a fun show: cheeky satire with great costumes, plenty of high kicks, live music and wonderful direction. But the production was only available for a mere 7 shows. I look forward to seeing the next Savoyards show with these three talented creatives at the helm, as the current run of The Producers ended on 7 October 2017.

The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical The Savoyards (Directed by Gabriella Flowers). IONA Performing Arts Centre, Wynham, 23 September - 7 October, 2017. Tickets $25 (prep-Yr 12)-$48 (Adults). Concessions $45 and group tickets $43(10+). 170 minutes (including an interval).

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical at the Iona Performing Arts Centre, on Saturday, 7th  October 2017, 1:30pm.

 

Main image (L to R): Max Bialystock (Gary Rose) and Leo Bloom (Joshua Thia). Picture Credit Christopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards Musical Theatre).

 

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Review: Screw Loose

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Review: Screw Loose

Screw Loose is fast, funny, and often quite fabulous. Emily Vascotto showcases her witty writing, funny moves, fantastic voice, and comic characterizations in this over-too-soon cabaret act. A few tickets appear to be on sale for the last night in this oh-too-short run. Buy now.

Screw Loose is what the advertising promises: “a comedy cabaret [and] delectable smorgasbord of musical numbers and moves,” and “one woman’s unwavering quest for love in all the wrong places.” Vascotto introduces us to the probably neurotic and definitely melodic ‘Emily’ (yes, I'm drawing on one of the songs here). And, in just under 50 minutes, we have a whistle-stop tour of her search for ‘the one.’  With a sprinkling of anecdotes, and a feast of songs to illustrate the tale, there are even a few tips along the way (who knew language lessons were a way to hook up, and don’t forget to watch out for how to create the “sexy face”).

Pictured: Emily Vascotto (Screw Loose). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Emily Vascotto (Screw Loose). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I was captivated from the get-go with the fantastic portrayal of the 5 year-old Emily and her first love, Tommy.  I hope you enjoy the version of Hello (“from the outside”) as much as I did... move over Adele. But, too soon, we were on to another highlight in the dating catalogue, and the hugely enjoyable song that accompanies the tale of Daryl and the closet. Sadly there was a hiatus in the dating from grades 3-10, but it was worth the wait for the anecdote about the “Surprise Attack” double date and Saw 2. It was at this point in the show that the inner stalker really came out into the open, with the first tale of car keying and general destruction.

Only in the last 25 years has the word ‘stalker’ transitioned from referring to a poacher or hunter to the more ominous connotations of the harassment and persecution of a human target. For the object of desire, stalking can generate a range of emotions: from irritation and confusion through to a genuine fear of the femme/homme fatale. But the stalker can also be an object of pity—particularly if motivated by a desire for intimacy. In Screw Loose the portrayal of Emily allows the audience a chance to see behind the sexy face, and to gain some insight into the depth of a desire to be loved—particularly with Vascotto’s poignant change of tempo in the title song, which ends on the plaintive “I’ll be here if you need a loose screw.”

Cabaret is a great vehicle to convey a serious message. Screw Loose highlights the inherent danger in wishing for a ‘Disney-style’ fairy-tale ending. Not all whirlwind romances end happily ever after (probably too early to be selecting wedding dresses three days in to any new relationship), the way to a new partners’ heart is not necessarily to lock them in a castle (in Emily’s case, read closet), and not every prince will hang around once he’s had that first kiss. And, when it comes to smooching, Screw Loose certainly underscores that there can be a lot of frog-kissing to be done before finding your prince/ess.

Screw Loose is written and performed by Vascotto. I’d love to know who wrote all of the music as it sounded as if there may have been some original pieces in the mix. A number of the choices fitted so very well to the new and repurposed words—from the Disney-style theme tunes, to Adele’s Hello and Kooman and Dimond’s ‘In excess.’ Vascotto not only makes some great musical choices, but has a fantastic team along for the ride. The work of director Gabriella Flowers, and support of accompanist Ben Murray, ensured I enjoyed every moment.

It would have been great to see this show as part of a double bill (perhaps an idea for future Queensland Cabaret Festival programs), and I would love to hear a couple of further anecdotes (in particular, perhaps one inserted between the last two songs). But, really, Vascotto's performance is “absolutely gorgeous” (to quote from one of the final songs). The Queensland Multicultural Centre provides a fantastic venue for theatre and cabaret: centrally located, and in close proximity to a popular ‘watering hole.’ I am certain that most of the customers at the Story Bridge Hotel would have really enjoyed Screw Loose—even if not fans of music theatre or new to cabaret. So stop on your way to your favourite hotel, buy a ticket now, pick up a drink at the bar, and select a seat at one of the cabaret tables. It’s sheer fun.

Pictured (L to R): Emily Vascotto performing to a co-opted audience member (Peter Wood) in Screw Loose. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Emily Vascotto performing to a co-opted audience member (Peter Wood) in Screw Loose. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Presented by Queensland Cabaret Foundation (and supported by Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland), Screw Loose had a mere two outings during Queensland Cabaret Festival (7:15pm, 7th & 8th June, 2017). Tickets $24-$35. 48 mins.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended Screw Loose at the Queensland Multicultural Centre (part of the 2017 Queensland Cabaret Festival), on Wednesday, 7th  June 2017, 7:15pm.

 

 

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Review: The Kingfisher

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Review: The Kingfisher

The Javeenbah is a fantastic theatre: an intimate space located close to the motorway, so ideal for locals and visitors from Brisbane (100 comfortable seats, great lighting set up and excellent facilities following the 2002-03 rebuild).  For over 40 years, the Javeenbah Theatre Company has offered a program of 6 productions a year, bringing comedies and musicals to a local audience.

The Kingfisher appears to be an ideal choice for Javeenbah members. A light romantic comedy that has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic: with Broadway success (staring Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert) and a more recent British touring production (staring Francis Matthews and Honor Blackman). The playwright had an excellent pedigree for writing sit-coms about upper-class Brits. Born into an aristocratic family, William was the younger brother of Sir Alec Douglas-Home (British Prime Minister). William also had a brief political career, but is perhaps best known for writing around 50 plays—apparently most built on his personal experience, being comedies set in upper-class homes.

The program prologue sets the scene. Fifty years ago Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins) wooed Evelyn Rivers (Viviane Gian) under a beech tree, but lost his bride-to-be to the now-recently deceased Reggie Townsend. Five decades later Sir Cecil (now a successful playwright) makes contact with the widow, inviting her to visit the home he now shares with his faithful butler, Hawkins (Graham Scott). The routines established by Hawkins, during almost fifty years of devoted service to his master, seem certain to be disturbed by Sir Cecil’s plans to propose. As Lady Evelyn hot-foots it straight from the funeral to see Sir Cecil for afternoon tea, the scene is set...The play sees the retelling, and unravelling, of anecdotes about Sir Cecil’s love life, and of tales of Lady Evelyn’s life since she left the amorous Cecil fifty years earlier. By the second act we have the much-anticipated proposal and Evelyn’s abrupt departure for another possible second husband. 

Sadly this 1977 play has not travelled the decades well, and I feel even the best actors would struggle a little. Certainly I was not convinced that Sir Cecil was the love of anyone’s life. Scott’s role has all the best lines, and some great opportunities for ‘business’ during the play: from the delight in re-telling exaggerated tales of his masters caddish behaviour, through to the distraught over-hearing of Cecil’s protestations of love. Gian played Lady Evelyn role with great style, which made her impressive unravelling (as she drank her way through numerous Sidecars, and lots of spirits) even more amusing. The second act was much more enjoyable than the first—where the talented Director, Nathan Schulz (see my earlier review of his most recent work in 2 Across), creates great humour around the proposal/dénouement. But I suspect that even Francis Matthews struggled to bring out the best in this play.

Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Congratulations to the production team—in particular costume designers Christine MacLachland and Gillian-Eve Butcher (Lady Evelyn’s outfits were just perfect). On the first night I did find some of the lighting changes were a little abrupt, and while the fountain helped to create the impression of a running stream it became a little distracting. But these are problems that are easily rectified.

The script, however, is very much of its time, and is probably best left back in the 1970s.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended The Kingfisher at Nerang’s Javeenbah Theatre, on Saturday, 27th May 2017, 8pm. The Kingfisher has nine performances (26th May to 10th June, 2017).

Tickets $20-$25. Two acts, one interval.

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

Dear Anywhere Festival Organisers,

Debretts advise that thank-you letters should be hand-written and sent within ten days of an event or gift. Well, I’ve met the ten-day rule, but let me assure you it’s just as well this is typed (otherwise, you’d never be able to read it). Apparently I am supposed to be specific as to what I am thanking you for, to tell you why I cherish or enjoyed it, share some news, and close. So here goes..

May seems to have flown by, and that is largely down to you both. Another Anywhere Festival is behind us, and I am missing it already. So thank you for all that you have done in creating and inspiring the Anywhere Festival concept. And for making it happen again in 2017.

There are so many reasons why Anywhere Festival is a vital part of the fabric of Brisbane (and now in other communities across the coast):

Site-specific: My favourite performances in the 2017 festival were Signs, 2 Across and Oh Lady Be Good. The shows combined fantastic performers and great writing with perfect location choices. The productions were a perfect fit with the venues: 2 Across had two people meeting on a real, moving tram, Signs was set in a classroom, and Oh Lady Be Good was an intimate soirée/house party in a house.

A broad range of work: Great theatre, but also a broad range of circus (from the adult dark clowning and sideshow of Hiraeth, to the more traditional and youthful Fusion) and story-telling through song (including the fabulous Melissa Western’s Oh Lady Be Good, and Bethan Ellsmore… is the Queen of the Night).

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in 2 Accross. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in 2 Accross. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Showcases talented people: Great actors (including Nathan Schultz in 2 Across, and the impressive Brodie Greenhalgh in both Signs and Immaculate Confection), artists (Melissa Western, Bethan Ellsmore), writers (Aimee Duroux, Jerry Mayer), performers (Ty Fitzsimons, Nadia Jade), directors (Samantha Bull), costume-designers, and more.

Incredible value: For example, tickets for Hiraeth were only $15—for a 60 minute show which included standout performances by Ty Fitzsimons (acrobatics and clowning) and Nadia Jade (aerial apparatus and dangerous sideshow). Fitzsimons’ acrobatics were probably the best I have ever seen when climbing up the rope upside down, and some great ‘air walking, and Jade fascinated and revulsed the audience in equal measure with fire-, glass- and balloon-eating, and amesmerising mixture of aerial silk with glass-walking.  You should have been there.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons in Hiraeth. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons in Hiraeth. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Provocative: New work and new ideas this year included fantastic new writing (Signs), interesting ideas (Immaculate Conception), and fascinating facts (Oh Lady Be Good),  

New places: The Festival introduces audiences to new and old spaces—encouraging spectators to start working through their local bucket lists. This year, fantastic new venues included The Bison Bar at Nambour (an excellent venue for Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night), and the Brisbane Tramway Museum (a perfect choice for 2 Across). Oh, and of course the Kookaburra Queen Showboat Cruises’ paddle wheeler; it was wonderful to see audiences dressing the part for Cluedo! The Interactive Game.

Pictured: Melissa Western in Oh Lady Be Good. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Melissa Western in Oh Lady Be Good. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Fun: Quite a lot of the shows I saw touched on serious themes, in particular about the agony of growing up. But there was a lot of fun, laughter, and fabulous humour along the way. For example, Peter Wood as school Drama President in ‘Signs’ and as Grant in Immaculate Conception certainly made some memorable entrances.

Intimate spaces: In seeking out place that are “anywhere but a theatre,’ performers bring work to new audiences in often intimate settings. The fabulous Australian Modern again hosted fantastic, including the magnificent performances by Melissa Western and her band. Oh Lady be Good is a wonderful show, and the chance to see a jazz band and chanteuse at the top of their game was greatly enhanced by the wonderful hospitality of Susan and Chris Osborne. I can’t wait to see what house parties they host next year.

Community celebration: Not only for the creatives and performers, but also for their supporting casts of families and friends. So great to come out of shows and see the hugs from proud parents, and slightly amazed friends, as they gather round the team.

... To be fair, I didn't enjoy every show I saw this year. There are probably three events that I felt needed significant work before coming back into the light of day again. But I am hugely impressed that everyone put so much effort and energy into making their vision a reality. And that’s because of the festival. And because of the work you do.

Following the specified format for such notes, I know I have to provide some news before I close. My ‘news’ is that I'm gearing up for next year. Only 11 months until Anywhere Festival 2018

So, again, thank you!

Yours sincerely,

 

Catherine Lawrence, Official Anywhere Festival Reviewer

The reviewer attended performances of 2 Across, Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night, Cluedo! The Interactive Game, The Flood, The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts & Immaculate ConfectionFusion, Hiraeth, The Last Ginger, Oh Lady Be Good, The One Room of the House, and Signs during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (4th-21st May).

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in Signs. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in Signs. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

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Review: The Last Ginger

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Review: The Last Ginger

It’s 2117 and Scarletta Rose (Julie Stewart) is the last redhead: “I’m your celebrity now!” Confined in two rooms, the Celtic Scarletta reflects and regrets, rants and raves, dances and shouts, during a 23 minute solo performance.

Declaring that "2017 you really @#%&*! up" (apparently all redheads should be actively procreating to ensure that "gingers" do not die out), Scarletta shares fragmented memories of her life. The monologues focus on a former lover (Todd), and on her grandmother, both of whom met grisly ends (Todd knifed in bed, probably at the hands of Scarletta, and granny in a fire).

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

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

Being the last of your kind, and “appreciated” purely for being “the only one,” is an unbearable pressure. The Last Ginger was certainly a presentation of a woman driven to madness, so it is perhaps understandable that the best parts of the show were the dancing to Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ (great choreography by Lynette Wockner), the sad and furious listing of slang (and often abusive) terms for redheads, and the off-stage ending (when Scarletta appears to end it all). But I find it difficult to recommend this show. I may not be alone; as I left, a fellow member of the audience asked ‘was that it? is it over?’

Congratulations to the team for bringing a show to the festival (director Silva A Sal, stage manager Tom Makepeace, and writer and performer Julie Stewart).

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

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

 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 21st May 2017 (8pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/ginger/ $12-17. 30 minutes (on 21st May began at 7:58 and ended at 8:21).  The show had 3 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (19th–21st May).

 

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Review: Hiraeth

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Review: Hiraeth

Fortunately circus has moved beyond the Ringling Bros-style shows of my youth to darker, more adult, narrative-driven spectacles such as the Moment of Inertia Productions ‘Hiraeth,’ which debuted at the 2017 Brisbane Anywhere Festival. Ty Fitzsimons (acrobat and clown), Kelsey Adams (aerial), Phoebe Manning (clown), and Nadia Jade (aerial apparatus and dangerous sideshow) impressed with this work by one of Brisbane’s newest “arts collectives.”

It was a wise decision to start slightly late (at 8:40pm), allowing the excited audience and performers from the earlier ‘Fusion’ show to disperse, and ensuring the ‘Hiraeth’ audience could fully concentrate on the unfurling spectacle. The audience walked through the ‘set’, into the darkened space, to the sound of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’  Manning welcomed each of the spectators to the evening, handing out glass jars/shakers. And so we were all drawn into an hour of clowning, aerial, and dangerous sideshow acts.

The one hour program included Adams’ macramé-style aerial hoop, fire-eating and fascinating consumption by Jade, Fitzsimons’ rope acrobatics, and clowning by both Manning and Fitzsimons.  

Pictured (L to R): Nadia Jade (kneeling), Kelsey Adams, Ty Fitzsimons, and Phoebe Manning. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Nadia Jade (kneeling), Kelsey Adams, Ty Fitzsimons, and Phoebe Manning. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The standout performances of the evening were by Fitzsimons and by Jade. The acrobatic work on the rope by Fitzsimons was just superb; probably the best I have ever seen when climbing up the rope upside down, and some great ‘air walking.’ I was also greatly entertained by Fitzsimons’ clowning (I hope everyone gets to see his cautious gift-opening someday). Jade fascinated and revulsed an enthralled audience with the fire-, glass- and balloon-eating (with great supporting mime by the rest of the cast). And the mesmerising mixture of aerial silk with glass-walking was fabulous combination. Based on this show alone, Fitzsimons and Jade would certainly be useful additions to future Strut + Fret shows.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I loved the idea of interspersing the show with key words (each carefully defined): lacuna, hiraeth (defined here as ‘a longing, homesickness, for a place you cannot go or maybe never was’), liminality… (although a face-mic may have helped as Manning walked through the audience). Manning held our attention for the extended ‘Ingrid’ piece, but if I had been the director I would have ended the show with the aerial/glass, and perhaps have started with ‘Ingrid.’ But I’m not in charge.   

Pictured: Nadia Jade. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Nadia Jade. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Great set design, with words defined in chalk across the black back wall, and rows of seating arranged within the enclosed space so that everyone could see the show. And my congratulations to the sound and lighting team as the audio was a great compliment to the clowning, aerial, and sideshow performances.

A pity this team only had three performances at the 2017 Anywhere Festival. Fantastic value at only $15, so let’s hope they look for other festivals for the show.  

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 19th May 2017 (8:30pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/hiraeth/ $15. 60 minutes. The show had only 3 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (19th–21st May).

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Review: Signs

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Review: Signs

‘Signs’ is a wonderful example of the best of the Anywhere Festival: site-specific new work, beautifully written, sensitively directed, and performed by a talented cast in front of local audiences. A funny, illuminating, and highly-entertaining show about 5 high school students, ‘Signs’ is one of my top picks for the 2017 festival. Following a sell-out run of only 4 shows, I really hope that Vacant Collective are able to bring this production to a wider audience. It’s perfect for educational theatre, and I am certain that more people around Brisbane would love to see it coming to their schools (or even theatres).

School Captain, Noah (the impressive Brodie Greenhalgh), chairs a small committee—an unlikely group charged with designing and producing the graduating class yearbook. Noah introduces the concept of a “safety net” to encourage participation as, aside from an aspiring writer (Levi Wilcox as Cam), the rest of the group appear to have little real interest in yearbook production. The Football Captain (Dean Taylor as Jock) and Sports Captain (Caeleb Grosser as Simon) are best friends, but otherwise the rest of the committee appear to have very different interests and social spheres. Their roles in the school define them, and establish specific sets of friends. Thus, despite a high profile as school Drama President, Byron (Peter Wood) has to correct Noah at the end of the first meeting: “My name’s Byron, not Brian.” And when Cam confides in Noah, his note adds that “no one ever asks.” During the 60 minute play, they all discover the benefits of working together, learning more about each other and themselves in the process.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Some of the plays I have seen during the 2017 Anywhere Festival promised hilarity and great humour. In contrast, the promotional material for ‘Signs’ promised neither, but writer Aimee Duroux, and Director Samantha Bull, have created a really funny and enjoyable show, using words and silences to great effect. Some of the humour centred on the committee beginning to work together. Agreeing on the “vintage” styling of Polaroid portraits, the group began to gel when Cam managed to get Jock to smile, and as they all gathered to wait for the picture to develop. But much of the fun was to be had in the smaller cameos. When Jock and Byron remain alone in the classroom, I enjoyed both the writing (in the interaction between Taylor and Wood), and also Greenhalgh's departing ‘business,’ as he reminded them of the continued operation of the “safety net” once he had left.  

Working on the yearbook allows the committee to split up into many different combinations. A number of these ‘double acts’ were memorable both for the humour but also for revealing the developing trust and openness between the students. Working together on the arts section of the yearbook—Jock gets the great line that “Simon and Byron sounds like a ‘90s pop duo”—creates an opportunity for Grosser and Wood to have an open conversation that goes to the heart of the play. For it isn’t all laughter and fun—as Wood vents his fears and frustrations as to how to answer the difficult questions as to “What else do you do?[…] What are you going to do with your life, Byron?”

The casting was excellent. I really did believe that each member of the team was that person. Greenhalgh was the School Captain who struggled to juggle his responsibilities, Grosser the all-rounder who proved himself to be a great friend, Wilcox the talented introvert who becomes a key member of the team, and Taylor the sporting ‘Jock’ who was more intelligent than he might have first seemed. (Incidentally, I understand that Taylor was a late addition to the cast and did an excellent jobjust  occasionally needing to have a bit more confidence in some of the great lines). Wood also maintained his record for funniest entrances of the festival, luxuriating in the green cloak when announcing he was “feeling particularly sassy today.”

Pictured: Byron (Peter Wood) and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Byron (Peter Wood) and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

And the location is perfect. Redcliffe State High School provided a wonderful setting for the show. The audience waited outside to enter the classroom, and quickly entered into the spirit of being back at school.  Once seated, we had front-row seats for a sequence of meetings and side discussions, and the cast had our full attention.

A sign is not only the acting of making your mark (an autograph), but can be a fixed information point or gesture to indicate direction or convey information. In the hands of the talented Duroux and Bull—and through the excellent performances of Greenhalgh, Grosser,  Taylor, Wilcok, Wood,  and great work of Stage Manager Melissa Herburg, and Costume Designer Jaymee Richards—‘Signs’ was a really enjoyable show that highlighted that appearances can be deceptive, and that colleagues should be more open to picking up on the feelings and challenges faced by those around them.

Catherine Lawrence

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Cam (Levi Wilcox), and Simon (Caeleb Grosser). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Cam (Levi Wilcox), and Simon (Caeleb Grosser). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

The reviewer attended the 20th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/signs/ $17-22 .  60 minutes.  The show had only 4 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (18th-21st May).

 

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Review: Fusion

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Review: Fusion

There are times when I wish I was ten again. Last Friday evening was one of them. As the lights dimmed and the first performer appeared on the stage—casually ‘walking’ along on a rolling oil drum while holding a painters palette, and smiling confidently at the audience—I wished circus school has been an option ‘back in the day.’ For the next 56 minutes the troupe of 11 performers (Jedda Bell, Mia Hughes, Kelsey Booth, Alana Langley, Luke Whitfield, Indra Garvey, Indigo Macrokanis, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Nina O’Brien, and Victoria Mattison) presented a highly-professional and often very polished show that ‘fused’ comedy, tumbling, trapeze, plate-twirling, juggling, and more. And all without safety nets.

Pictured: Members of the Fusion Troupe (Jedda Bell, Mia Hughes, Kelsey Booth, Alana Langley, Luke Whitfield, Indra Garvey, Indigo Macrokanis, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Nina O’Brien, and Victoria Mattison). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Members of the Fusion Troupe (Jedda Bell, Mia Hughes, Kelsey Booth, Alana Langley, Luke Whitfield, Indra Garvey, Indigo Macrokanis, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Nina O’Brien, and Victoria Mattison). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The show was tightly directed to allow each performer to present some of their specialities to an enthusiastic audience. Everyone will have had their own favourites. I was very impressed by the strength work, the chair ‘climbing’ (when reaching for the balloons) was really well done, and the ‘spoonful of sugar’ trapeze work was superb (elegantly demonstrating wonderful control and skill). It was great to see such a range of ages in the group: the older performers demonstrating skills in strength and in major set-pieces (such as the Carmen-style rope work). Some of the younger members of the troupe really shone—for example, when the “puppet” freed herself from the strings to be able to work with hoops while balanced on a ball, and when participating in some of the tumbling and dance.

Pictured: Members of the Fusion Troupe (Jedda Bell, Mia Hughes, Kelsey Booth, Alana Langley, Luke Whitfield, Indra Garvey, Indigo Macrokanis, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Nina O’Brien, and Victoria Mattison). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Members of the Fusion Troupe (Jedda Bell, Mia Hughes, Kelsey Booth, Alana Langley, Luke Whitfield, Indra Garvey, Indigo Macrokanis, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Nina O’Brien, and Victoria Mattison). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I do hope that Flipside Circus can find the funds for a new speaker system, or get the sound operator to turn the sound down a little (as one of the speakers vibrated and cackled quite alarmingly at various stages, which was a distraction). And if I had to suggest changes, well I might not have included singing or playing the sax in a circus revue, and would have liked to have seen a little more of the comedy ‘fights’ in the first half, as they worked so well when threaded throughout  the second half of the show. But these are tiny points. A talented troupe of performers, showing the skills they have learned and entertaining not only proud Mums and Dads but also a broader critical audience.

Pictured: A member of the Fusion Troupe (Jedda Bell, Mia Hughes, Kelsey Booth, Alana Langley, Luke Whitfield, Indra Garvey, Indigo Macrokanis, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Nina O’Brien, and Victoria Mattison). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: A member of the Fusion Troupe (Jedda Bell, Mia Hughes, Kelsey Booth, Alana Langley, Luke Whitfield, Indra Garvey, Indigo Macrokanis, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Nina O’Brien, and Victoria Mattison). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I know I’d never have been able to perform at the level demonstrated by the Fusion Performance Troupe. But how lucky are these students to have had the chance. Flipside Circus offer classes during school terms and school holiday workshops and advise that they are “suitable for everybody; ages from 18 months – adults, all skill levels, and all abilities” (http://www.flipsidecircus.org.au/). That particular tent may have gone for me, but having seen ‘Fusion,’ I am sure there are many people who may just have been inspired to give it a go. 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 19th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/fusion/ $0-22 (children under 5 free).  60 minutes.  The show had only 5 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (12th-20th May).

 

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