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Review: Retail Therapy

Pictured, above,         CeCe (Cassandra Croucher,    “  Retail Therapy  ”   ): “You see, there’s a reason why people in retail smile so much. It’s not because we’re happy, it’s not because we like you. It’s because secretly, we’re dying inside and we don’t want you to know it.”    Picture credit:  Geoff Lawrence ,  Creative Futures Photography

Pictured, above, CeCe (Cassandra Croucher, Retail Therapy): “You see, there’s a reason why people in retail smile so much. It’s not because we’re happy, it’s not because we like you. It’s because secretly, we’re dying inside and we don’t want you to know it.” Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

For only five performances (24-27 November, 2016), the Brisbane Powerhouse Graffiti Room (aka the Wonderland Festival ‘Leopard Lodge’) is transformed into the changing room of a major clothing store. Once through the curtain, hangers full of garments in hand, you can learn more about the experience from the other side of the counter. If you are really, really quick, you may just snare a bargain. Get in there now for an enjoyable 50 minutes of music, song and witty observation.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘retail therapy’ as the act of buying special things for yourself in order to feel better when you are unhappy.” Cassandra Croucher’s Retail Therapy takes us into the changing room—and mind—ofCeCe, store manager extraordinaire. In doing so, Croucher redefines the well-worn ‘retail therapy’ phrase. Here we discover the destructive impact of customers on retail staff. Given a chance to look behind the thin veneer of the “retail face,” we learn just what the store experience can do to previously happy, optimistic souls. Yes, I am talking about retail employees here. Before we, the customers, entered the shop staff were once real people, with their own hopes and dreams.

Retail manager CeCe’s advice is to “try not to end up in retail.” In this one-act, one-woman show, we learn that everything we thought was true of the shop assistant is true. Favourite time of day? Before opening (“no customers”). Favourite drink? “Alcohol.” CeCe’s trade secrets include everything from selecting the best new items for herself, through to ‘making friends’ in order to upsell, and hiding from the weirder regulars. Clearly, over time, the customers have driven her to it. The descriptions of customer stereotypes amuse (and occasionally horrify) as we learn a few home truths about how retail staff are put upon during their daily life: from the creepy customers who ‘check in’ with their captive audience, through to the often vile activity of the “fitting room terrorists.” Some people clearly find difficulty distinguishing between changing rooms and public toilets.  

The songs are entertaining and the music easily recognisable: 90s popular songs (think Gloria Estefan and Madonna) interspersed with tunes from shows such as Cabaret, Chicago, and Les Miserables.  But the words are new versions of everything from Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ through to my personal favourite of the evening, a reworked LesMis ‘Master of the House.’ I loved the singing and the rewording of the songs. But, I’d also liked to have had more time hearing the conversational thoughts of the brave, funny, and observant CeCe.

Croucher is a talented performer—not only author and co-producer of this one-woman show, but also a character actress with a great singing voice. The reality of the retail world is not always pretty, but in these expert hands, we experience the highs and lows of the retail experience. Croucher is witty and downright funny in her observations of life on the shop floor. She is also able to bring us snapshots of the full gamut of retail emotion—from real anger and vitriolic bile, through to pathos.

This store manager presents a feisty persona. But, behind that name-badge and loud hailer, is a sadness, when CeCe confesses, “this place is turning me into someone I don’t want to be.” Recognising that her retail face, name badge and (CeCe’s own special addition) the loud hailer have protected her from the reality of retail work, we realise she is moving toward facing up to being honest with her family about her real life.

Accompanied by the talented David Mibus (Music Director), and with the support of Danielle Carney (Director), Retail Therapy is a perfect show for a festival program. If I have a criticism, it’s that the ending leaves us wanting more—the first 50 minutes of what could be a longer show. I felt I’d seen the first act of what would be a great two-act show. Perhaps the next iteration of Retail Therapy might take us to a slightly larger space, with dedicated sound and lighting support. A chance to hear more about the life of CeCe. Then again, having wanted to study psychology, her close observation of the retail world leads us to think CeCe has just taken her skills into direct field observation. After all, there’s enough material in there for a longer play—or a thesis?

Clearly Brisbane audiences want to see more of Retail Therapy, as the Anywhere Festival show sold out quickly, and the Powerhouse Wonderland Festival shows are almost completely sold out. Tickets are available via the Powerhouse. But be warned, you may have to start lobbying for CeCe to get that pricing gun out again. As I write, even with an extra show added to the program, there are only 2 tickets left across the remaining 4 shows (yes, literally only 2 tickets available, at $30 each, including booking fee of $3).  Get shopping now!  Oh, and practice those folding skills before you go“neat folds.”

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 24 November, 2016 performance.

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Review: It's Not Easy Being Green

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Review: It's Not Easy Being Green

 

Pictured:    Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)     Picture credit: Unknown

Pictured: Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)

Picture credit: Unknown

For only two nights this week, Paddington’s Room to Play is home to what the author describes as “a light-hearted trip, deep into the twisted rabbit-hole of the human psyche.”  “It’s Not Easy Being Green” is an enjoyable,  thought-provoking showcase, during which Karen Lee Roberts (Alexandra) and Jeff Usher (Mr Sunshine) perform a collection of eight original songs, interspersed with character-filled snapshots, illustrating aspects of Alexandra’s two-year journey towards “being green.”

Life may be a cabaret (“old chum”)*, but Roberts and Usher ably demonstrate that cabaret is also the perfect form to provoke discussions about life’s highs and lows. Alexandra poses the early question “Is it kosher to speak of subjects like this?” In this show,  Roberts and Usher answer that question in the affirmative.  The majority of cabaret performances across Australia this year are more likely to touch on the racier aspects of life. But It’s Not Easy Being Green demonstrates that cabaret can also entertain, educate, and engage when touching on important issues of “mental wellness.” The emphasis throughout the evening is on entertainment: great music, original songs, delicious characterisation, and some enjoyably comic moments. But, in a thought-provoking 60 minute show, Roberts also offers insights into the challenges and experience of dealing with the manic ups and deep downs associated with mental health issues.

Roberts is a talented performer—not only author and co-producer, but also composer, singer, character actress, and comic. On stage she is well-matched by the evening’s Mr Sunshine. Legendary is an over-used word, but it certainly applies to Usher—who plays some perfectly-judged jazz and blues music, and even provides accomplished beat-boxing accompaniments along the way. Audiences will have their personal favourites from the evening. I found it difficult to pick just one song, but got it down to a top three: the opening “Society’s Blues,” the frenetic “Chameleon,” and the closing “Ever Pure.” Mind you, if I could make it a top four then the beat-boxing exercise rap could be a great addition to anyone’s exercise playlist.

The production has clearly benefited from the direction of IndelABILITY Arts  fellow-professional, Catarina Hebbard. Under Hebbard’s direction, the show works well within the intimate space—aided by the beautiful lighting and great technical support.  As a result, we focus on the writing, concentrating to catch every word.  

One of the great things about cabaret is that the audience is an important part of the evening. The interactions between Alexandra and Mr Sunshine were well-worked (perhaps more would have been even better), and the switch from on-stage to direct audience engagement was beautifully done. London’s Time Out suggests that cabaret can “change the world.” At the end of the show you may leave realising that its ok to venture beyond safe chitchat about “canapés and cocktails” and be prepared to respond to honest conversational openers.

Queensland’s Mental Health week starts on 9th October 2016. Why not invest in your own mental wellness and drop into Paddington’s historic 1930’s Substation this weekend to see for yourself how successful the versatile Room to Play performance space is.  It’s Not Easy Being Green is only at Room to Play, Paddington for two nights (730pm on both Friday 7th and Saturday 8th October, 2016).  Tickets are available at Eventbrite ($26.25 adult, $21 concession—including booking fees) or, if not sold out, may also be available at the door (cash payment only,  $25 full and $20 concession). Arrive at 7pm to take the opportunity to visit the cash bar before selecting your seat.

 

* yes, I am singing Fred Ebb’s words and trying to conjure my inner Liza Minnelli as I write…

 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended a dress rehearsal of It’s Not Easy Being Green on Wednesday 5 October, 2016.

 

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2016

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2016

Anywhere Festival 2016: And the winners are…..

 

18 days, 420 performances, and 63 locations.  The May 2016 Anywhere Festival transformed Brisbane—opening up many of the more unusual places across the local area, and giving our ‘creatives’ a chance to shine. Audience members had the opportunity to nominate the shows they wanted to recognise—with eight shows singled out in the inaugural Anywhere Festival awards.  As I only got to see ten events, here are my top ten Anywhere Festival memories. In the tradition of the Anywhere Festival awards, this is not a countdown….

  1. Fantastic costumes, hair and make-up: Kylie Stephenson (as Marilyn Hanold playing Princess Marcuzan)  had the best costume-using-tinfoil of the festival, designed by Kristine Von Hilderbrandt). However (ahh…those aprons!) I loved the attention to detail in the costumes, props, hair and make-up in The Train Tea Society. Congratulations to Jaymee Richards and Kristine Von Hilderbrandt). 
  2. Circus skills: The Circus Claire Show  was a joyous 45-minute performance by a versatile and skilled circus artist.  Claire Ogden illustrated a journey of self-discovery with hula hoops, juggling, partner acrobatics, aerial tissue, physical comedy, and dance—leaving her audience ‘Walking on Sunshine.’ This was a difficult choice, as the Vulcana Women's Circus deserve an honourable mention for their guest performance at the Muses Trio launch.
  3. Risks taken: One of the many great things about the Anywhere Festival is the opportunity to test new ideas.  The team behind Straight On Till Morning perhaps took the biggest risks when inverting the more traditional theatrical experience, complete with an abrupt ending in a bar.
  4. Dance: Candy Shop Show quartet (led by the impressive Jenny Usher) combined close harmonies, and great costumes with some impressive dance moves. Sugar, Sugar! was a slightly cheeky and entertaining way to re-visit times the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
  5. Inspired CD launchThe Muses Trio  describe their work as ‘celebrating music by women, performed by women.’ It was an inspired idea to launch their debut CD (The Spirit and the Maiden) inside the Boggo Road Gaol—celebrating music by female composers with performances by women (including special guests from Vulcana Women's Circus) taking place inside the women-only wing of a former prison. Christa Powell, Louise King and Therese Milanovic demonstrated their virtuosity in an edgy, compelling, powerful, memorable and often-moving performance.
  6. Sound and light at a whole new level: The Cult fun B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster was the first time I’ve seen a production where the lighting (Ghoul Shadows) and Music/Audio (Chris Richards) techs also play such important supporting roles. Shadows created the lighting and a number of different ‘off-stage’ voices, while Richards augmented a fantastic soundtrack of original music and audio with a great narration.
  7. Production & writing:  Honourable mentions to Hannah Belanszky for The Wives of Wolfgang (Work in Progress), as well as to Sarah Clarke and Mark Salvestro (Private Moments – A Double Bill (‘Semi Charmed’ and ‘Buried At Sea’). Belanszky has set the bar high for the future with her first play, while Clarke and Salvestro’s compelling performances created believable characters in an intimate setting. However, I was driven to superlatives by The Train Tea Society—with cups of celebratory tea all round to Emily Vascotto (Writer & Producer) and Gabriella Flowers (Director & Producer).
  8. Entertainment: Gin and Sin Jazz Salon was a standout, thanks to the fabulous performances by Miss Laine (Laine Loxlea-Danann), Alicia Cush, and Dave Spicer (with special guest Zoe Georgakis-Ray).  For a little over 90 minutes the audience were enthralled, amused, moved and greatly entertained by a well-chosen mix of jazz, “mashups” performed by talented musicians who are clearly at the top of their game.  And there was a lot of fun. Just mention maracas, ukulele’s or ‘lazy’ to anyone who was there and you’ll see a smile.
  9. Memorable ensemble: This was a difficult choice, but the characters created in The Train Tea Society were quite fantastic. From the irrepressible twins Nora & Nellie Cummings (Aimee Duroux and Samantha Bull)’s tapping for the troops through to Julia Johnson’scompelling performance as Mrs J.A. Eliza Cameron. Johnson played the ‘lady bountiful’ role with aplomb, and was a compelling presence on the stage as she observed some of the more reckless and ill-advised exchanges between other characters.
  10. Perfect venues: OK, I give up… to chose just one venue which perfectly suited the  particular production is an impossible task.  My five honourable mentions go to:

But arguably the perfect Anywhere Festival venue was the combination of Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett’s Australian Modern home with talented Jazz musicians, a little gin, and a tiny twist of sin.

 

 So… thanks to all of the volunteers, artists, cast, creatives, venue-owners and Anywhere Festival Producers (particularly Paul Osuch and Ally McTavish) for the … the winners are…. Brisbane… and the audience.

Which means that yes… I can’t wait until May 2017 !

Catherine Lawrence

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Review: Gin and Sin

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Review: Gin and Sin

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine, Alicia Cush, and Zoe Georgakis-Ray. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence  , Creative Futures Photography  .

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine, Alicia Cush, and Zoe Georgakis-Ray. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There are some people who just know how to throw a party. Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett certainly know how to mix the perfect ingredients: take one Australian Modern home, invite some of Brisbane’s most-talented musicians, add a little gin, a tiny twist of sin, and you have the perfect Anywhere Festival experience. Saturday 21st May was the final evening of Brisbane’s 2016 Anywhere Festival. I couldn't think of a better way to end the festival than by spending it at the Carina home of Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett, revelling in the fabulous performances by Miss Laine (Laine Loxlea-Danann), Alicia Cush, and Dave Spicer (with special guest Zoe Georgakis-Ray).  For a little over 90 minutes the audience were enthralled, amused, moved and greatly entertained by a well-chosen mix of jazz, mashups” performed by talented musicians who are clearly at the top of their game.

Pictured: Dave Spicer. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Dave Spicer. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

A menu of jazz, with occasional operatic influences, liberal dashes of humour, and tons of style, the Gin & Sin Jazz Salon more-than-delivered on the promised “postmodern Jukebox-inspired mashups.” The 18-or-so song set included original material, as well as reinvented and redefined pieces made famous by Kylie Minogue, K.D. Lang, AC/DC, The Cure... and by Gabriel Fauré. I’d certainly be at the top of any queue to buy a recording of the music, and particularly hope that Alicia Cush and Dave Spicer record their version of The Cure’s In Between Days. Picking out my favourites is a challenge; I’d end up running through the whole set. But I’ll touch on a few special memories of the evening here.

Pictured: Miss Laine. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Miss Laine. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Miss Laine’s set was wonderful—a fantastic selection of contrasting pieces which showed of her jazz abilities.  Let’s be Bad was simply fabulous; the audience were completely enthralled. In her set, Alicia Cush demonstrated that a love of opera is no barrier to some wonderful jazz performances. I absolutely loved Confide In Me—so very much much better as a ‘tango.’ Dave Spicer was variously described as the ‘Mr Music...who wrangles the girls” (Chris Osborne), the man “with the little ‘spicy’ fingers,” and as a great teacher (Miss Laine). In his hands the Kawai keyboard produced some evocative and quite beautiful jazz. A high-point of Dave Spicer’s performance for me was Busy Being Blue. Invited to “tell me a sad song there Dave,” he responded with a truly memorable musical interaction with Miss Laine—matching the evocative performance by a wonderful chanteuse with his skilful playing.

And of course everyone in the audience will come away remembering the fantastic comedic skills of Miss Laine and of Alicia Cush. Just mention maracas, ukulele’s or ‘lazy’ to anyone who was there and you’ll see a smile. Miss Laine’s highly-energetic performance of Boom-Chicka-Boom just had to be seen to be believed (a number of people in the audience were in hysterics). Alicia Cush’s languorous performance of Laziest Girl In Town was lyrical, beautifully judged, and very funny. And when the two artists combined to sing a ‘family piece’ about a fisherman and a fishing trip that went wrong… well...  let’s just say there was a pot and a fish, two ukuleles, and a lot of laughter.

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine and Alicia Cush. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine and Alicia Cush. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Finally, Miss Laine, Alicia Cush and Dave Spicer welcomed Zoe Georgakis-Ray to the stage for four final songs: the lyrical harmonies of the Cole Porter You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, the entertaining Liquid Lunch, giving the Andrew’s Sisters a run for their money with Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen and the encore One Note Samba. A superb final selection which was perfectly arranged and performed.

Look out for future performances by Miss Laine (Miss Laine & the Odd Sox), Alicia Cush (Babushka), Dave Spicer (Odd Sox). Together or independently they will excite, enthral, and entertain. Hopefully we might see them together in next years' Anywhere Festival. If we're lucky, at Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett’s Australian Modern house, which is the perfect space for an intimate salon performance. On 21st May, each ticket-holder was individually welcomed by the owners and encouraged to relax, enjoy their hospitality, and linger after the show. Make sure you get an early copy of the Anywhere Festival program for next year and identify events taking place at this wonderful Carina home. The five events which took place this year at the Barry Walduck-designed Eisenmenger House all sold out, so you need to book early.  Verdict: Fabulous.

Catherine Lawrence

Gin & Sin Jazz Salon was an exclusive 2-night only event as part of the 2016 Anywhere Festival.

The reviewer attended the Saturday 21st May, 2016 performance.

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Private Moments

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Review: Private Moments

Pictured: Sarah Clarke (in   Semi Charmed).   Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography  .

Pictured: Sarah Clarke (in Semi Charmed). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

One of the many great things about the Brisbane Anywhere Festival is it attracts talented and enthusiastic performers from interstate. Private Moments: A Double Bill  brings two 50-minute solo shows (written and performed by Melbourne residents) to the quirky Southside Tea Rooms.

Pop over to Morningside to see two shows ‘for the price of one.’  An opportunity to engage with the work of two talented and enthusiastic authors/actors/singers in an intimate performance space. In Private Moments the audience have the best of both worlds: two different shows drawing on personal histories and aspirations which address common themes of love, loss, romance and reality through music, drama and comedy. Two twenty-something romantics looking for love: one in real-time, looking forward, and the other in the present, looking back.  Sarah Clarke (in Semi Charmed) locates her story in the presentintroducing us to 50 minutes in the life of Daphne as she looks ahead to a first date. In contrast, in Buried At Sea, Mark Salvestro explores fragments of his great-great uncle’s final years—looking back over his own investigations into his family story and comparing his own experience with that of his ancestor. Anyone who has loved and lost, has wanted to know more about the lives of the men who left Australia to fight in the Great War (and the women they left behind), or is currently looking for romance, should go and see Private Moments.

Picture: Sarah Clarke (in Semi Charmed). Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Sarah Clarke (in Semi Charmed). Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Semi Charmed is set in Daphne’s bedroom. The love of her life has left (‘I didn't see the end until it was already over’), and she is taking tentative steps toward finding a new soul-mate. A budding author, Daphne works in a book-store—and it appears that she is spending a lot of her time in the romance section. Having ‘met’ the new David through Tinder, she is gearing up for their first encounter: telling her mum, selecting the right outfit, and researching tips as to what to expect. As a ‘fly-on-the-wall we have a chance to hear her hopes and dreams, listen to the development of her ‘romance’ with David “one button at a time,” and enjoy a range of musical interjections. The show is a funny, revealing, and quite touching portrayal—illustrated with a number of very well-chosen songs (Director Emily Joy, Musical Director Janine Atwill). I particularly enjoyed ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’, and I am sure every woman in the room laughed as they recognized their own attempts to fit into the ‘right’ outfit. The comic-timing was perfect and the writing spot-on.

Pictured: Mark Salvestro, with the portrait of great-great uncle George Bradford (in Buried at Sea). Photo credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Mark Salvestro, with the portrait of great-great uncle George Bradford (in Buried at Sea). Photo credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

In Buried At Sea (Director Phoebe Ann Taylor), we journey with the playwright,  Mark  (Mark Salvestro), as he both travels back in time, and within Australia, to discover more about the romance between Ruby and his great-great uncle George. Inspired by a family portrait of George—who died at sea, on his return home to Australia after fighting in Gallipoli—Mark’s journey leads him to reflect on his own life, and the challenges of finding love. Having asked ‘who else is going to tell this story, in Buried at Sea Mark shares confidences and fears with his ancestor (‘I’m lonely George). He also discovers the anguish and loss experienced by George, portrayed through the letters and ‘voice’ of his imagined ancestor. As he comes to feel closer to George, the work becomes ‘a real collaboration’ and an all-consuming pre-occupation (‘I can’t stop thinking about you George’). Buried at Sea also includes a number of musical numbers (with the support of piano accompanist Joseph Durcau), where Salvestro charmed his audience with a number of songs (I particularly enjoyed ‘Honey Dear’). By the end of play, Mark reflects on the loss of George at only 22, and starts to look ahead to all the ‘work [he has] to do’.

There are many simple comparisons to be made: 2 one-act solo shows written, sung and performed by 2 drama school graduates. 2 stories of personal exploration which touch on issues of love and romance, dating and loss, the traditional and modern, the spoken and sung word. 2 talented young playwrights who combine songs with their words and acting skills to create believable characters in an intimate setting. Go along while you can. It’s great value.

VerdictCompelling (AND it’s effectively two for the price of one. Only $20 to see two plays!)

Audience tipPop into the neighbouring Death Valley bar for a drink before the show. Near to bus stop and lots of street parking right outside this Morningside location.  

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 19th May performance of Private Moments: A Double Bill (Semi Charmed & Buried At Sea). The shows end on 22nd May 2016 (only three performances remaining— 20th, 21st and 22nd). Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website or on the door.

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Review: The Wives Of Wolfgang

Pictured  : Winona (Hannah Belanszky), Wilhelmina (Paige Poulier) and Willow (Caitlin Hill).   Picture Credit  : Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Winona (Hannah Belanszky), Wilhelmina (Paige Poulier) and Willow (Caitlin Hill). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

It is a privilege to see any ‘work in progress’. As I said last year, a chance to look behind the curtain, be exposed to the creative process, and see the tentative early steps of new artists, producers, and authors. The Wives of Wolfgang is promoted as a work in progress in the 2016 Anywhere Festival program, but appears to be a production at an advanced stage in its development. 21 year-old Hannah Belanszky has set the bar high for the future if this is her first play.  

Before I go any further yes, when you look at information on the venue, the production does take place in the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Fortitude Valley. Don’t go to the church hall next door—unless you want to help out at the Anglicare Pantry, or  join the parishoners (on Wednesday, enthusiastically participating in a swing dance class). The 18th May première attracted a large ‘congregation’ of ‘mourners’—friends, family and strangers—who loved the show. Butit is worth mentioning  that not everyone will be comfortable with seeing a church handed over to a production—particularly where one actor climbs up and over the pulpit, and others occasionally sit on the ‘coffin’ placed in front of the altar. Just bear in mind this is a play, and not a real funeral or memorial.

Cast: Winona (Hannah Belanszky), Wilhelmina (Paige Poulier) and Willow (Caitlin Hill). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Cast: Winona (Hannah Belanszky), Wilhelmina (Paige Poulier) and Willow (Caitlin Hill). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The production is described as being ‘co-devised’ by the three actors. This is no mean feat, and I was impressed with much of the blocking, the use of the space, and the careful attention to the needs of audience sitting in a church. The actors moved around and through the space to ensure that, for the majority of the performance, we had a clear view (for example, by standing on chairs, using the pulpit etc). However, there were moments when I felt that the team are ready to bring in a director—as a fourth collaborator, contributing to the further development of the piece.

 Of course, there is a fourth presence on the ‘stage’; the ‘dear departed’ Wolfgang. As the Anywhere Festival information outlines: Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues, Acquaintances and Perfect Strangers, It is with great sorrow that we must inform you of the death of Wolfgang. Your presence at a memorial service in his honour is most humbly requested. A loving man, Wolfgang is survived by three former wives. They pray his soul will rest, somewhat, in peace.  You may go with the expectation of a tussle between three competing loves, but may leave feeling that each is happy to leave him behind at the church.  

Cast: Winona (Hannah Belanszky), Wilhelmina (Paige Poulier) and Willow (Caitlin Hill). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Cast: Winona (Hannah Belanszky), Wilhelmina (Paige Poulier) and Willow (Caitlin Hill). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

All the best fairy tales combine a simple story with dark undertones. The production team describe the show as a merger of the real and imagined, of light and dark, and of poetry and everyday language.  The technical team, including Daniel Endicott (lighting designer, Odyssey Entertainment), ensured we had light and dark, creating an atmospheric staging from the start: recorded organ music playing, with the red lights on the altar and coffin picking out the swirling dry ice ‘smoke.’ The script certainly delivered on occasional black humour and comedic cat references, the simple rhymes, and the real and imagined. However, by the end of the 45-minute show I was not convinced I’d shared in the interactions, thoughts, feelings and memories of three former wives. More, a chance to see into the minds of the three loves of Wolfgang— Winona (Hannah Belanszky), Wilhelmina (Paige Poulier) and Willow (Caitlin Hill). For me, the cat, the wife and the mistress. The three performers created distinct characters, each sharing their motivations for their relationship with Wolfgang. The first partner being a true cat in her independence (loving and leaving), the second settling for the ‘perfect’ life (where being a wife requires a certain amount of ‘blindness’ to her husband’s behaviour), and the third thinking that being a mistress is a route to long-term happiness with ‘BigBadWolf51.’  

There were some great moments in the production. The cast worked well together, but for me the memorable moments were when each took centre stage. I particularly enjoyed the skilful enactment of the cats’ first meeting with Wolfgang—with her ‘acceptance’ of the collar she was prepared to wear for him, for a while—as well as the sheer fun of a cat-like prowling, scratching, and general independence. The second love, as the ‘perfect wife’ with the ‘perfect life’, had some of the best lines, which were delivered with relish and panache. I enjoyed her journey of self-realisation—even if I felt she was leaving merely to find the next man to mow the perfect lawn. And the trio was completed with a believable portrayal of the needy and desperate mistress.  

As with all the best fairy tales, the big bad wolf is left behind. But don’t take my word for it… go along and see what you think.

Verdict: A great chance to see a work in progress—before the team are ready for a bigger stage (and higher ticket prices). The original plan to sell tickets at $20 was withdrawn. Tickets are free, with a ‘retiring collection’ donations box at the door. 

Audience tip: If you are not comfortable with actors climbing on/over a pulpit, or occasionally sitting on a coffin in front of an altar in an Anglican church, then this may not be for you. There is some off-street parking and (if you arrive early enough) parking on the street. 

The Wives of Wolfgang is a work-in-progress from Girl Who Cried Wolf Productions, with the support of Visible Inc and the Anywhere Festival.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 18th May performance. The show ends 21st May 2016. FREE Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website.

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Review: The Circus Claire Show

Pictured (Lto R): Circus Clare (   Claire Ogden), Boris (Shane Smith), Julio 2 (Lachlan Snow [glasses]) and Dimitri (Simon Arnold [Dad]).  Picture Credit : Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured (Lto R): Circus Clare (Claire Ogden), Boris (Shane Smith), Julio 2 (Lachlan Snow [glasses]) and Dimitri (Simon Arnold [Dad]). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

In a joyous 45-minute show, the bubbly and slightly-wacky Circus Claire (Claire Ogden) illustrates a  journey of self-discovery with hula hoops, juggling, partner acrobatics, aerial tissue, physical comedy, and dance. You’ll come out ‘Walking on Sunshine’ (and not just because of the music selection).  The Circus Claire Show is a charismatic performance by a versatile and skilled circus artist.

The premise behind the show is deceptively simple. Circus Clare performs an entertaining monologue about a stage career that includes everything from being an ABBA Tribute back-up dancer (at Wavell Services Club no less) through to being one half of an acrobatic duo. At each juncture, the story is illustrated with new skills learned and acts mastered. We listen to the ups and downs of a circus love story, and hear how Circus Clare pursued a range of different acts before realising that her true passion is for the hula hoop.  

Every member of the 40+ audience had a great view (fantastic facilities at Flipside Circus include comfortable raked seating) and a personal ‘ welcome to my new friends’ from Circus Clare. Younger members of the audience were mesmerised—from the chance to say hello and tell Circus Clare their name, until the opportunity for a photograph with the star at the end of the show. 

Pictured (Lto R): Circus Clare (Claire Ogden), and Boris (Shane Smith). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (Lto R): Circus Clare (Claire Ogden), and Boris (Shane Smith). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

But even if you feel your own circus days were long-gone, everyone can enjoy the skilled display of hula hooping, acrobatics, aerial tissue and juggling. The music choices kept the mood upbeat (music included ABBA, The Weather Girls, and Katrina and the Waves—courtesy of sound/technical support by Kelsey Adams), and the mixture of solo/duo work, speech and dance provide great variety.

The program is a well-judged combination of comedy and skill. I particularly enjoyed the humour of the guest appearances by ‘Boris’ (Shane Smith), ‘Julio 2’ (on the evening I attended, performed by the co-opted Lachlan Snow [glasses]) and ‘Dimitri ‘(on 15th May, courtesy of Simon Arnold [Dad]). The acrobatic/strength ‘pas-de-deux’ with ‘Boris’—in and out of love—were superb. And I hope that Lachlan and Simon get a chance to dine out for many days to come on their hula-hooping and good-natured involvement in the show.

Pictured: A juggling Circus Clare (Claire Ogden). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: A juggling Circus Clare (Claire Ogden). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Claire Ogden is a skilled performer (performing solo and with Shane Smith as the comedic acrobatic duo Scrambled Legs), and teacher (offering a range of circus classes). The Circus Clare Show premiered as part of the 2015 Wonderland Festival—the year when Circus Clare was selected as a Peoples’ Choice Award winner, following her participation in Brisbane’s Guinness World Record ‘World’s Biggest Busk’.  If you get the chance to see her in action in The Circus Clare Show (only one more performance remaining) then go.

Verdict: Great Fun—take your Mum, Dad, and friends along. Be warned… you may find you want to run away to the circus too (or at least sign up for the Circus Clare classes).

Audience Tip: It’s easy to find. Just look out for the hula hoop students (complete with led hoops and fairy light hats) at the Flipside Circus turning off Mina Parade.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Sunday 15th  2016 performance. This short run ends on Saturday 21st 2016 (see the Anywhere Festival website for tickets/ details). The production is available for touring, so if you miss it this time keep an eye open for future shows.

Pictured (Lto R): Julio 2 (Lachlan Snow), Circus Clare (Claire Ogden), and Dimitri (Simon Arnold). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (Lto R): Julio 2 (Lachlan Snow), Circus Clare (Claire Ogden), and Dimitri (Simon Arnold). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: The Spirit And The Maiden

Pictured   (L to R): Alison Snook, with   The Muses Trio  —Christa Powell (violin), Therese Milanovic (piano), and Louise King (cello).   Picture Credit  : Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography  .

Pictured (L to R): Alison Snook, with The Muses Trio—Christa Powell (violin), Therese Milanovic (piano), and Louise King (cello). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The Muses Trio  describe their work as ‘celebrating music by women, performed by women.’ It was an inspired idea to launch their debut CD (The Spirit and the Maiden) inside the Boggo Road Gaol as an Anywhere Festival event: celebrating music by female composers, with performances by women (including special guests from Vulcana Women’s Circus) taking place inside the women-only wing of a former prison. Christa Powell (violin, Topology), Louise King (Cello, Cello Dreaming) and Therese Milanovic (piano, Topology), demonstrated their virtuosity in an edgy, compelling, powerful, memorable and often-moving performance.

Pictured: Christa Powell. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Christa Powell. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The artists played a selection of the pieces from their new CD, providing insights and information as personal introductions as to the selection of the piece or the life of the composer. Powell spoke touchingly about Amy Beach, introducing Romance with reference to the restrictions placed on Beach’s work(when “imprisoned by time and gender,” and restricted by her husband to holding soirées at home).  However, many of the pieces selected by The Muses Trio for the CD are written by their contemporaries. Milanovic talked of the value of direct feedback on recordings, or what she described—when welcoming composer Louise Denson to the launch—as a “dialogue” and a “really lovely process.” Such insights enhanced the experience. For example, Milanovicheld the audience spellbound as she played the charming Song for Comb Man (Kate Neal), having first introduced Neal’s work by encouraging us to look at You Tube video of the TropFest short film which includes the composition. King referred to Nadia Boulanger as “a trailblazer,” before an electric performance of selections from Three pieces for cello and piano. And, having first heard from the composer, in the hands of The Muses Trio Denson’s emotional, lyrical Two Boleros (violin, cello, piano) had us enthralled.

Pictured: Alison Snook, Therese Milanovic (piano), Christa Powell (violin), and Louise King (Cello ) with Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Alison Snook, Therese Milanovic (piano), Christa Powell (violin), and Louise King (Cello ) with Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The performance was a launch of a CD, but may also have been the beginning of a productive partnership between The Muses Trio and VulcanaWomen’s Circus. Artistic Director Celia White (with Co-Director Michelle Grant) created a mesmerizing performance which opened the second half of the production. Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow, evoked the spirits of Boggo Road inmates as they moved into the space—and impressed with their strength, control and elegance in duets on ‘silks’ (in this case thick nets, which seemed so appropriate for the jail).

Pictured: Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The event included an optional addition of a ghost tour. Sadly the Boggo Road Gaol is about to close for a major change: the modern buildings are to be demolished and heritage spaces ‘adapted’. If you want to see a piece of Brisbane’s heritage before it disappears, why not visit the website to book a tour.  If you buy a copy of The Spirit and the Maiden CD you can then listen to the music when you visit, and try to imagine the Anywhere Festival experience (links to purchase the CD & digital albums are available via the The Muses Trio website).

The performance concluded with a list of acknowledgements and thanks for the many supporters of the work of The Muses Trio. Congratulations to Alison Snook for the attentive page turning—and to Boyds for managing to supply and safely deliver a grand piano into the cellblock.

Verdict: Spine-chilling—an inspired launch event. Visit Boggo Road Gaol while you can, and look out for The Spirit and the Maiden CD.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 14th 2016 matinee performance. The launch takes place over three performances, 14-15th May 2016 (see the Anywhere Festival website for details).

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Review: Straight On Till Morning

Picture:   Peter (Grace Finley).    Picture Credit:   Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography  .

Picture: Peter (Grace Finley).  Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Twenty-two people gather, rather nervously, outside the entrance to Foundry Records. It’s Friday 13th, and we’re in Fortitude Valley. We all think we’re in the right place, and wonder quite what we are letting ourselves in for. The Anywhere Festival program leads us to expect a night in a mental asylum (‘Morning’), populated with characters which sound slightly familiar: Wendy (Anastasia Benham), Tink (Chloe Hambleton), and Peter (Grace Finley).

The door opens, and the Orderly (Bethany Latham) instructs us to form a line, give our names, collect a badge (and a drink voucher for later), and we’re in. The enigmatic Dr. Harken (Myles Hornstra) is already multi-tasking: playing the pianola, reading a book, and generally ignoring his audience. Dr Bell—aka Tink (Tinkerbell)—appears, and so we start our ascent into the asylum. Or rather, into the labyrinthine dark corridors of the upper rooms at The Foundry.

 Ruckus Poetry Slam’s co-creators (Director Kiah Latham, together with co-creator Cameron Cliff) have drawn on elements of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and a New York experience of site-specific theatre, to create an immersive theatrical event.  The production has a hard-working cast. Bethany Latham kept everyone under control as a believably competent Orderly. Dr Bell fluttered around as a petulant and entertaining recreation of Tinkerbell as a medical doctor. And the interactions between Anastasia Benham and Grace Finley were the highlights of Straight On Till Morning.   

Pictured: Wendy (Anastasia Benham). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Wendy (Anastasia Benham). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The production design ensures that experience of each member of the audience will be different.  In Straight On Till Morning, the ‘medical team (the orderly, Dr Bell and Dr Harken) variously peel spectators off into different groups—with opportunities to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in Gewendoline/Wendy’s bedroom, to observe the therapy session between Dr Bell/Tink and Peter (or is it Peta?),  or to possibly even venture into Dr. Harken’s office. We all have a chance to observe, and to take part… sharing in the ‘pretend’ tea party, suggesting games to play, and taking our ‘medicine’… and also being privy to passing conversations, arguments or analysis. But as we come back together, into the rather sweaty dorm room that is Wendy’s bedroom, we wonder what information we have missed, or that other listeners may have been party to. For example, in the version of the event I experienced, I saw relatively little of the aloof Dr Harken, and was not privy to any discussions behind his office door.  But perhaps this was meant to mimic the experience of inmates who are rarely given access to the secrets of the Morning asylum.

By the end of the performance, we are encouraged to consider whether such controlling treatments can work. Do patients leave because they are ‘fixed’, or because they cannot be fixed? Is to ‘come fly with me’ to go out into the world, or to ‘fly away’ from/off a tall building?

 We can also consider the risks inherent in inverting the more traditional theatrical experience. Audience members may be uncomfortable when being invited in to the asylum, can occasionally derail performances if too engaged with the experience (when to take part? when to listen and observe?), and may be confused by an abrupt ending in a bar with no opportunity to draw a line under the event with applause. Equally, you may enjoy an opportunity for a different experience, and a chance to linger in a busy bar to debate the event you have just attended. 

Verdict: If you like immersive/interactive theatre then you may like to try this.

Audience tip: There are a number of flights of stairs, some dark corridors, and limited seating (the floor and/or dorm beds).  Make sure you pick up your drink voucher at the entrance (the show ends in the bar).

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 13th performance of Straight on Till Morning. The show ends 21 May 2016. 

 

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Review: B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster

Pictured (L to R):   Princess Marcuzan (Kylie Stephensons as Marilyn Hanold) and Dr Nadir (Trevor Holland as Lou Cutell).   Picture Credit  :   Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Princess Marcuzan (Kylie Stephensons as Marilyn Hanold) and Dr Nadir (Trevor Holland as Lou Cutell). Picture CreditGeoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

For six nights only, Woolangabba’s Padre Bar is hosting a B-movie science fiction feat that is a must-see for fans of the classic genre. Taking us straight back to the 1960s, we see a one-hour extract of the endeavours of the handful of actors brought together to film an extremely low-budget science-fiction film. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster really did make it to celluloid: screenplay by George Garrett, directed by Robert Gaffney, the trailer is available via You Tube (with over 46,000 views), and DVDs of the original 1965 film are available from Dark Sky Films. If you read the Imdb plot outline, you’ll realise just how closely the original film followed all the characteristics of the genre: a solo space mission, an experimental android, a crash-landing, fights and a chase, marauding space aliens who are on a mission to “steal bikini-clad young women to re-populate their nuclear-ravaged planet, a pool party, a space monster… But be warned, it might be a better use of funds to see this Live! production than by the original (the original film was apparently #7 in the 2004 DVD documentary The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, and IMDb score is 3.3/10).

The cast and creatives clearly had a lot of fun pulling the whole event together. The props and costumes (prose by the cast and crew, costumes by Kristine Von Hilderbrandt) are perfect, thanks in particular to liberal dashes of tinfoil. Kristian Fletcher not only produced and co-directed (with Willem Whitfield) the production, but also manages to act as an entertaining stage-hand, clapperboard operator,  and audience manipulator (be prepared to boo! scream!! and applaud when prompted, and take the doll if proffered at the start). And I think this is the first time I’ve seen a production where the lighting (Ghoul Shadows) and Music/Audio (Chris Richards) techs also play such important supporting roles. Ghoul Shadows manages a number of different accents in playing some of the ‘off-stage’ roles, and Chris Richards not only produced a fantastic soundtrack of original music and audio, but also voices a great narration.  

Pictured: Cast and Creatives at the Opening Night of B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Cast and Creatives at the Opening Night of B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The cast hammed up their roles beautifully as B-movie actors—desperate for a drink, forgetting lines, smiling for the camera, handing out autographs. In particular, I loved Kylie Stephenson’s portrayal of the actress Marilyn Hanold, who was playing Princess Marcuzan. Great accents, amusing poses, and demanding leading lady. Arguably she also had the best costume. Her able sidekick, Dr Nadir, was played with great panache and concentration by Trevor Holland (as Lou Cutell). Trevor McMillan’s David Kerman/General Bowers entertained as the slightly bumbling alcoholic general, drawing many laughs with his excellent comic timing.  And Cecile Blackmore (Nancy Marshall/Karen Grant) was a feminist ahead of her time in her interactions with the action-hero James Karen/Adam Steele (Willem Whitfield). Blackmore and Whitfield were a great duo—playing the hero/heroine in true B-movie style. 

Cecile Blackmore (Nancy Marshall/ Karen Grant) – the true B-movie style heroine. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Cecile Blackmore (Nancy Marshall/ Karen Grant) – the true B-movie style heroine. Photo Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Being a supporting player was a thankless task in the B-movie genre, but this production does recognise the group of extras. The original film had two uncredited actors, and the B-movies Live! production respects that aspect of the genre up to a point, but does thank a group of ‘supporting players’ as Truly McCandless, and Earth Women Annaliese McGuire and Anna Reynolds.  Well done to them also, for their supporting roles, and a shout out to Dylan Friedland for managing to watch, drink sideways, and participate as Col. Frank Saunders on the night I saw the show.

 If anyone was going to pull this off, it would be Kristian Fletcher, who certainly has a passion for cult movies. One of the founders of Brisbanes’ cult and classic cinema ‘scene’, Kristian hosts themed events around Brisbane on a regular basis. B-movies Live! has the potential to be a long-running series and not just a one-off (re)production of Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster.  There is a large pool of B-movies to draw on, so taking this format and applying it to other cult classics could be a fruitful and long-running series.

The show only runs Thursday-Saturday for two weeks during the 2016 Anywhere Festival (until 21 May). You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to attend, but there are references to other films and productions to be found. Just as Rocky Horror parodied kitsch science fiction and horror films, so aficionados will pick up Rocky Horror references in this homage to B-movies. We delight in the narration of Chris Richards (who also provides a fabulous soundtrack of original music and audio), while Princess Macuzan and her assistant Dr Nadir adopt the occasional Magenta and Riff Raff moves, and the white-coated Dr Adam Steele and Karen Grant assume intermittent Brad and Janet poses. I am sure the true B-movie/Rocky Horror fans in the audience were picking up every allusion, and revelling in each nuanced reference. Go along and see how many references you can identify.

Verdict: Cult fun (Cosplay outfits optional)—a must-see for B-movie fans, and a fun evening for couples and groups.

Audience tip: The performance takes place in the downstairs room at the The Padre Bar (and is therefore not wheelchair accessible). Make sure you take your drink downstairs with you, and expect that the room may get a little warm (after all, film lights etc!!).

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the opening night performance of B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster (12 May 2016). B-Movies Live!  has a 6-show run (Thursday-Saturday evenings starting 12th May, ending 21st May) Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival Website.

 

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