Viewing entries tagged
Australian Modern

Review: Anywhere Festival 2018, 'Four' Me

Comment

Review: Anywhere Festival 2018, 'Four' Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine Lawrence

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

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

All Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Comment

Review: "Oh Lady Be Good"

Comment

Review: "Oh Lady Be Good"

Melissa Western is not just “good.” Together with her jazz band—Tnee Dyer (music director/piano), Helen Svoboda (double bass), and Lachlan Hawkins (Drums)—Melissa Western is really quite fabulous.

The lights dimmed, the music started, and suddenly the room was filled with a beautiful voice, as Western walked round the audience and along the main aisle into the room, with a very tactile performance of (Romance) in the Dark. The audience was hooked.

During the 75 minute show (just incredible value for money at only $30 a ticket), Weston held the attention of everyone in the room. She introduced stories and information about many of the inspirational leading ladies of jazz and blues, illustrated with some great selections of black and white images and fascinating nuggets of information. Or, in her own words, performed “my love letter to the great chanteuses of the twentieth century.”  Describing Ella Fitzgerald as perhaps her “biggest inspiration,” Western’s second song of the evening was an unsurprising choice; the George and Ira Gershwin’s Oh Lady Be Good (a 1947 hit for Fitzgerald). Western would have delighted her heroine with the performance on Friday night, which included an epic scat ‘trumpet’ solo voiced by our chanteuse.

Pictures: Melissa Western. Photo credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictures: Melissa Western. Photo credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

And then we were on to Marilyn Monroe, and of course it had to be delectable performances of  I Wanna Be Loved by You,  and Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. And a fascinating anecdote about the support Monroe gave to Fitzgerald, ensuring that a career-changing booking was made for Fitzgerald at the previously all-white Mocambo nightclub.

But we didn't have too much time to ponder these insights, as Western was quickly on to talking about Billie Holiday, and performing two wonderful classics (God Bless the Child, and Love for Sale). Holliday’s  performance of her hit song God Bless the Child (written together with Arthur Herzog, Jr) is a difficult one to beat. But Western made the song her own, again with great scat singing.

There were just so many highlights from an evening that also included Carmen Miranda’s I like you very much, Eartha Kitt’s C’est Si Bon, Aretha Franklin’s (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman. Beyonce and Bieber weren’t around when Nina Simonne recorded My Baby Just Cares for Me. But if they had been, we were all convinced Simonne would also have worked them into her song.

Not all of the stories were uplifting, sexy or fun. Bessie Smith’s story was one of many sad tales during the evening, but selecting two of Smith’s songs gave Western an opportunity to add some humour into the mix, with the highly entertaining Just Give me a Man. And then the tempo slowed, as Western talked about Edith Piaf; and you could have heard a pin drop during a mellifluous performance of La vie en rose.

Picturesd (L to R): Helen Svoboda, Lachlan Hawkins, Melissa Western and Tnee Dyer. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picturesd (L to R): Helen Svoboda, Lachlan Hawkins, Melissa Western and Tnee Dyer. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The band were excellent—playing together as only the best jazz performers can. I loved Svoboda’s solos, in particular in Western’s version of Peggy Lee’s Fever, and was thrilled by Dyer’s solo in Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies (a la Fitzgerald), and each of the spotlight performances by all three members of the band were so very memorable in both Route 66 and Caravan.

Favourite song of the evening? Possibly Etta James’ Cry me a river (performed in honour of Chris and Susan Osborne). It was great to hear the compliments about the venue, and hosts, from Western and her fellow musicians. An invitation to perform at Australian Modern has to be on the ‘bucket list’ of any musician. Chris and Susan Osborne are wonderful and generous hosts—turning their home into a fantastic location for intimate music events, and throwing what have to be among the best parties in Brisbane. For 4 of the 7 Brisbane Anywhere Festivals, Chris and Susan have transformed their lounge and kitchen into an exceptional performance space. Welcoming guests on 12th May, Chris modestly described this hospitality as being due to their shared vision, and that they simply “love to support the arts and the artists.” And support them they do. With style. Where else can you experience live music up close and personal, and do so with a glass in your hand? And having a chance to step inside the Osborne’s Carina home is the icing on that particular cake (check out the website to learn a little more about Australian Modern).

Pictured: Kitchen art at Australian Modern. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Kitchen art at Australian Modern. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Sadly Melissa Western’s shows at Australian Modern ended on 13th May. Look out for her at Brisbane Jazz Club and other great venues far and wide. And my advice for future Anywhere Festivals? If it’s on at Australian Modern, then book it. You’ll have a fabulous evening.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 12th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

Tickets $30  https://anywheretheatre.com/listings/lady/.  75 minutes.  The show had only 2 sell out performances during the Anywhere Festival (12th & 13th May).

 

 

Comment

Review: Anywhere Festival 2016

Comment

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

Comment