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Review: 'BrisFest2018'

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Review: 'BrisFest2018'

September 2018 is over, and it seems to have passed in a flash—probably because of the 22 days of Brisbane Festival. Sadly I only saw about 20% of the shows & events (I’ll try to do better next time)… but here’s my #BrisFest2018 ‘wrap.’ Hats off to Festival Director David Bertold for a clever-crafting of an epic program into three ‘acts.’ It’s been hard to pick my top three festival experiences, so here’s my 3 lists of 3: memories, picks, and what I am looking forward to in 2019.

My top three memories are the spine-chilling performance of Jocelyn Pook’s score in Memorial, rainbows in the rain at Qweens on King, and the exceptional aerial tube act in Life—The Show.

  • Qweens on King, was one of the official opening events of the festival, complete with opening speeches and a range of musicians, as well as boylesque, drag and comic performers. At its heart was the first mass wedding of LGBTIQ couples in Australia—complete with laughter and tears of joy.

  • Memorial,  is a stunning piece of musical ‘dialogue’ with the performer (a fantastic feat of memory by Helen Moore) of Alice Oswald’s epic poem. Sublime vocals, and congratulations also to the 215-strong chorus for bringing each of the memorialised soldiers briefly to life.

  • Life—The Show is the newest Strut & Fret cabaret show. If, like me, you’ve seen Club Swizzle, La Soirée, and La Clique, then your very high expectations may first need to be dropped a little. For me, Life had a little too much of the ‘international clowning royalty’  and not enough of different cabaret acts. But it is worth the ticket price to hear Fantine Pritoula, and to see ‘Banana Boy’ (Tim Kriegler), in a spectacular aerial tube act (created by Nick Beyeler and performed by Kriegler with Elke Uhd). 

Picture:   Qweens on King    memories. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Qweens on King memories. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

 
Picture:   Qweens on King    memories. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Qweens on King memories. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

My top three festival shows are Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin (which has been on the festival circuit since 2016, and deserves a legendary run), and two new works, A Coupla Dogs and Dust. All three deserve to sell out every time. I hear from Geoff (Creative Futures photographer) that I would have included Rovers in my top three list—but as I missed it, I will have to track it down in a future run (congratulations to Belloo Creative)

  •  Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin is an unmissable evening: three expert cabaret performers who offer a feminist perspective on the history of gin, with good humour and fabulous close-harmonies. What’s not to love? 

  • A Coupla Dogs combines thinking about fear, desire, hope, and mortality with some very funny moments. A strong team for this world premiere, and I hope that it tours to festivals large and small. A well-written and directed new play, with compelling performances by Ron Kelly and Tom Oliver.  See it if you can.

  • Dancenorth's Dust was a thought-provoking collaboration between cast and creatives: superb dancers and a fabulous soundtrack, with a set and costumes that are works of art.

Pictured: The fabulous cast of   Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin  .  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: The fabulous cast of Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Tom Oliver and Ron Kelly at their canine best in   A Coupla Dogs    Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Tom Oliver and Ron Kelly at their canine best in A Coupla Dogs Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

There are also a number of shows or events I was really pleased to have seen, even if they didn’t make it to my top three. Many of them are likely to be ‘coming to a festival or theatre near you.’ If you get the chance to see Kaput! or California Crooners Club, or David Baddiel’s My Family: Not the Sitcom, my advice is GO.

  • Thomas Flanagan’s Kaput!  is a marvellous tribute to silent film, and an impressive show that entertains both the under-10s and over-30s.

  • California Crooners Club is a Hollywood-style party, complete with live music led by a quartet who are determined to ensure everyone has a good time. Try to see it while Maiya Ociean and Johnny Manuel are in the mix.

  • David Baddiel’s My Family: Not the Sitcom was one of the many festival events held at the Tivoli. A searingly honest, and very funny sharing of many aspects of Baddiel’s family-life, with a little bit of social media education thrown in for good measure. Inspired by the 2014 death of his mother, and his father’s dementia, the show was both enlightening and downright funny.

I would also recommend considering Man With The Iron Neck, and you may enjoy Home or En Masse more than I did:

Pictured: Entranced at the QSO playing of the  New World in    Symphony for Me   .  Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Entranced at the QSO playing of the New World in Symphony for Me. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

  • Man With The Iron Neck is a compelling piece of theatre which provokes debate about the rate and clustering of suicide in Indigenous communities. Writer/actor Ursula Yovich gave a powerful performance as the widow who lost both a husband and son to suicide, with some spectacular physical theatre work by the cast and marvellous audio-visual design by Sam James. The focus of the piece is in finding hope through trauma, and I commend the team for encouraging those who feel lost to reach out for help, and for partnering with Balunu Foundation (who provide tools and support).

  • Home was a fascinating blend of mime, physical theatre, dance, slapstick, immersive performance art, and Ikea-style house construction which encouraged audiences to reflect on the nature of ‘home.’

  • En Masse was arguably the most heavily-promoted of the 2018 Brisbane Festival events, which brings challenges in the preconceptions and expectations of the audiences. The show included some great performances: a fabulous tenor voice and some exceptional strength, lifts, jumps and balance. We certainly saw a lot. But all together? Not for me.

So… only 11 months until BrisFest2019… Three things I am hoping to see in 2019? Symphony for Me (a symphony for everyone, and I can see why there was an outcry when it took a break in 2017), the local buskers and performers at Arcadia and Theatre Republic, and festival conversations following new works.  

Pictured: Theatre Republic. P icture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Theatre Republic. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

The festival had four main locations across Brisbane. The Tivoli and Brisbane Powerhouse are well-known and loved Brisbane icons which needed little festival ‘dressing.’ But in recent years the producers have also created two special festival spaces: the Southbank Arcadia and Kelvin Grove Theatre Republic. In 2018, Arcadia was buzzing all day and into the evening. A great space to relax, to visit some of the food and beverage outlets, watch the free #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light show and enjoy the buskers (some great local acts, although just occasionally too loud for the paying Spiegeltent audiences). Theatre Republic, at QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus and La Boite, was a popular evening hangout, with a number of free ‘activations,’ and occasional free music performances. All of these spaces would not have worked so well without the hard work and enthusiasm of over 300 volunteers—with everything from flash mobs and back-of-house input, to the all-important information and usher work. And occasional dog-minding!

Pictures of some of the many hard-working volunteers.  All pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictures of some of the many hard-working volunteers. All pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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One of the great features of the Brisbane Festival program is the opportunity to attend a ‘conversation’ with the cast and creatives behind the major productions. We managed to miss every single one of the official festival conversations this year, but each work prompted our own debates after every performance. Arcadia, Theatre Republic and the Powerhouse were perfect for such deliberations with bars, deckchairs and nooks for post-show reflection. I wish I was there now. Roll on 2019…

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

For more information on Brisbane’s 2018 events, check out the Brisbane Festival website.  Individual show reviews also available at perspectives.

 

 

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Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

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Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin is a great evening: three expert cabaret performers who re-frame the history of gin through a feminist perspective. A love story about the beverage of choice, enhanced with fantastic harmonies, and great humour by chanteuses Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood—with superb musical direction and performance by Jeremy Brennan. What’s not to love?  

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Elly Baxter (writer/researcher—aka The Ginstress), and the performers, clearly know everything there is to know about gin. By the end of the 60-minute show we walked out feeling a little thirsty…but also better informed about some of the politics behind our favourite beverage. The Show has been running for three years, following a first outing in 2016. I am not surprised it continues to attract rave reviews around the world. It’s slick, informative, and professional—and yet is funny and feels fresh. For example, it was lovely to hear the occasional local mention—particularly the ‘Drinks for Women” reference to Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bognor’s 1965 Regatta Hotel Bar protest.

Everyone will have their highlights from the evening. For me, Wood’s version of Sia’s Chandelier—definitely hitting all the right notes. But Marsden’s performance of Lionel Bart’s Oom Pah Pah also left a lasting impression on at least one of our group...

Pictured: Maeve Marsden.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Maeve Marsden. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 
Pictured: Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Be assured this will be one of my picks from the 2018 Brisbane Festival—and we are only at the start of Festival Director David Bertold’s ‘Act 2.’ Last night was meant to be my night off from reviewing. But Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin deserves to sell out the rest of this Brisbane run. Book now!

Verdict: Unmissable. Definitely one of my picks of the 2018 Brisbane Festival.   

Audience tip: The La Boite Roundhouse is a great venue for the show, with good views from any seat—but the ‘floor’ and the first row of the raised seating are probably the best. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin has a six-show season at the 2018 Brisbane Festival, so buy your tickets now ($34-$37). 18th-21st September (7:30pm), plus two shows on 22nd September (6:45pm & 9:15pm). Production suggests 18+ (adult themes, coarse language, and alcohol references) & a smoke machine is used throughout. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 18th September 2018 performance (7:30pm).

All pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: Symphony For Me

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Review: Symphony For Me

Aside from the Royal Albert Hall’s BBC Last Night of the Proms, Symphony for Me must be one of the fastest-‘selling’ classical music events around the globe. Admittedly, the Brisbane tickets are free (which may have something to do with it). But it appears that the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) and Brisbane Festival have a bit of a success on their hands. For each of the three events, all tickets have gone less than 20 minutes after going ‘on sale.’ Such a success, that complaints about not programming the event in 2017 ensured that the concert was programmed for ‘BrisFest 2018’, and is already confirmed for 2019.   

Classical music may have connotations of expense and exclusivity, but events such as Symphony For Me remind audiences of the importance of music in memory and story. We may not think of ourselves as classical music buffs, but certain orchestral pieces evoke memories of advertisements, major family events, fragments of childhood memories, special films, or epic moments in life. Most people, it appears, have a fascinating story linked to certain pieces of music. The 2018 concert included stories of migrants, of new beginnings, of time with Dad, and of much-cherished films.  

Hosted by local TV news presenter, Andrew Lofthouse, the program was well-paced. Community members were brought to the stage to introduce their special piece of music, before greeting the conductor and then sitting stage left on a special bench to hear their music played just for them. Just in case anyone was tempted to shed the odd tear, a box of tissues was strategically placed under the seat, and a number of cameras were on hand to share the moment with the rest of the audience. Most of the tears were shed by the rest of the audience, however, as those on-stage sat in rapt attention, enjoying every last drop of their special music.

 
Pictured: The stage is set (complete with tissues!).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: The stage is set (complete with tissues!). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

Even if you think you don’t really like classical music and believe it’s not for you, I guarantee you would have found a piece to enjoy or that you recognised. It was great to see some of the children who nominated tunes dressed as their favourite film character: ‘Hermione’ (aka Cleo from Chapel Hill) and Jessica both requested Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (John Williams), and ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’ (Anderson, accompanied by his Dad, Karl) and Zara all wanted to hear the Main Theme from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Klaus Bedelt). Stories of new beginnings included decisions to move to Australia (the second movement from Dvořák’s  Symphony No. 9, From the New World), of the fall of the Berlin Wall (the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7), and of a wedding day (Alan Silvestri’s Main theme from Forrest Gump).

Pictured: Listening to the  New World. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Listening to the New World. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 
Pictured: Andrew Lofthouse, greeting the first storytellers of the evening ('including ‘Hermione’).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Andrew Lofthouse, greeting the first storytellers of the evening ('including ‘Hermione’). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

It was fascinating to hear each of the stories behind the pieces of music—and my two favourite pieces from the evening program were highlights because of the stories they connected with. It was just wonderful to see Karl sit on stage, lost in memories of time with his late father, as he listened to the fourth movement from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.7 (Tchaikovsky, completed by Semyon Bogatyrev). For the final piece of the evening, Ben and his Mum spoke of how inspired he was by a previous concert, and how he has now taken up trumpet-playing (much to the horror of their dog). The orchestra, conducted by Brett Kelly, seemed to enjoy playing the Main theme from Star Wars (John Williams) as much as Ben enjoyed hearing it.

Yes, it was a selection of pieces selected and performed for the couples, families and individuals who were on stage. But, together, they created a symphony for everyone.

 
Pictured: Karl (on the big screen), listening to the fourth movement from  Tchaikovsky ’s  Symphony No.7  (completed by Semyon Bogatyrev).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Karl (on the big screen), listening to the fourth movement from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.7 (completed by Semyon Bogatyrev). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

I wish QSO and QPAC did this more often—bringing new audiences to classical music and in to the heart of the superb facilities in Brisbane’s Southbank. However, I can see why this is a once a year treat. Even with the challenge of getting tickets in that mad 20-minute scramble once the box office opened, many ticket-holders decided not to turn up on the night. Which was a pity; not only did they miss a great evening, but they prevented others attending. This is always a challenge for any free event, and I wish the organisers well in thinking through how they can achieve 95%+ attendance next year: perhaps entry by donation (I’m sure $10 per ticket would have made a great donation to Queensland farmers, and if people have paid then perhaps they may turn up to the event?), ‘rush’ tickets on the day, or ??? Whatever the solution, I do hope that future events have fewer empty seats.

Verdict: Definitely worth the 20-minute ticket scramble to see Brisbane coming together through story, community and music.   

Audience tip: Symphony For Me is a one-day only event, but organisers have already confirmed that this will return as part of the 2019 Brisbane Festival 2019 program. Watch out for an opportunity to request your personal favourite piece, and get ready to explain why you chose it. And make sure you put the sign-up date for tickets in your diary now, as the event was one of the fastest-selling in the 2018 program. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Saturday 15th September 2018 performance (7pm).

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Review: Home

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Review: Home

It is always great to see a production that combines, in an effortless way, different dramatic forms and genres. Home is a blend of mime, physical theatre, dance, slapstick, immersive performance art, and Ikea-style house construction—all held together with wandering minstrel-style musical narration (by Elvis Perkins).

From your first home (likely to be “your mother’s house”) to your own family home (“lay your foundation now”), where you spend time sleeping, showering, cleaning, cooking, working and celebrating, home is an important place in everyone’s life. During the 100-minute performance, the cast (Geoff Sobelle, Sophie Bortolussi, Ching Valdes-Aran, Justin Rose, Elvis Perkins, Ayesha Jordan, and Luke Whitefield) encourage us all to reflect on the nature of ‘home.’ They achieve this feat through a gradual building of a house (one of the best uses of the sizeable QPAC Playhouse stage I have seen in a long time), where we experience the passing of time as layers of moments spent using the building—from daily bathroom ablutions through to a major house party (where members of the audience are hosts and guests). At the end of the show, two members of the audience speak about special memories of their first homes, encouraging us all to reflect on the importance of our own houses (as the minstrel sings at the end, “thank heavens for the roof overhead”).

 
Picture: The cast, building the house.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: The cast, building the house. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

It is fair to say this was not the ‘theatre’ production I had expected. Most of the show relies on the choreography/physical theatre, where the occasional musical numbers are the only verbal communication to the whole audience (the quotes in this review are from some of those songs). The exception is where the cast members engage directly with individual members of the audience—coaching them through the production when they are brought on-stage, or encouraging those seated in the stalls to assist with putting up the party lights.  

Pictured: ‘Layers’ of bathroom use.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: ‘Layers’ of bathroom use. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Cast and audience members staging the house parties.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Cast and audience members staging the house parties. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The choreography of movement is superb (particularly when it comes to the bathroom and kitchen pieces), and the incorporation of the audience members kept us all completely fascinated and entertained. Throughout the piece, audiences gasp at some of the illusions, laugh at the moments of celebration, and ponder the process of laying down the rich-layers of memory through which we turn a house into a home.  A fascinating show, and an excellent choice for ‘Act One’ of Brisbane festival 2018. Congratulations to creator/performer Geoff Sobelle, Director Lee Sunday Evans, and their co-creators (in particular the set designer, Steven Dufala, and lighting designer, Christopher Khul).

 
Pictured: Events at the house, including cast members (third from left: Geoff Sobelle) and audience participants.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Events at the house, including cast members (third from left: Geoff Sobelle) and audience participants. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

Verdict:  Fascinating.   

Audience tip: Signs at the entrance alert visitors to what is described as a “10+” rating as there is some full-frontal nudity in the ‘bathroom’ of the ‘house’ (a member of our party commented they wished their parents had let them go to anything with nudity when they were younger, so you may have your own views on the rating). Be prepared to get involved (don’t worry—you will be able to remain fully-clothed)!

Home had only five shows in the September 2018 Brisbane Festival program (12th-15th September, 7:30pm, with a matinee on Saturday 15th September at 1:30pm). For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Saturday 15th September 2018 performance (1:30pm).

 

 

 

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Review: California Crooners Club

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Review: California Crooners Club

Coming out of a California Crooners Club show I felt like I’d just attended a Hollywood-style party, complete with live music led by a vocal quartet who were determined to ensure everyone has a good time. If you are looking for a fun evening, or an event to get the party started with friends or colleagues, then this is for you. And if you’re on your own that particular night then don’t worry—you’ll still feel as if you’d been at a party with some great friends.

Pictured (L to R): Hugh Sheridan, Johnny Manuel, and Emile Welman.  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Hugh Sheridan, Johnny Manuel, and Emile Welman. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The format might not be new, but Hugh Sheridan has built on a great concept: a changing collection of talented singers who he entices to join him on stage for a fun evening of music that showcases their acapella, r&b, jazz, and salsa swagger (here with a little rap thrown in for good measure). Spicing things up a little, the California Crooners Club members don’t only line-up by the band but spend much of their time on the round central stage, as well as getting up-close-and-personal with their enthusiastic audience. The Club format is perfect for a festival, and very well-suited to a Spigeltent, giving everyone a chance to party along (particularly when the performers roam around the space).  By the end of the night, everyone was on their feet.

 
Pictured: Maiya Ociean. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Maiya Ociean. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

 

Since their first performance, a mere 3-years ago, the California Crooners Club has built an enthusiastic following, and both Sheridan and fellow original Crooner Emile Welman will be well-known to their admirers. Maiya Ociean and Johnny Manuel are a fantastic addition to the mix. Ociean (introduced as the first female member of the California Crooners Club) has a compelling stage presence, and a vocal range that will delight fellow-Aretha Franklin devotees. The 9th September show was the first time I had come across the exceptional talent that is Johnny Manuel—but I may be one of the last to have heard of him, as his 2017 America’s Got Talent performance of I Have Nothing continues to attract millions of views.

Live music is certainly being celebrated at the 2018 Brisbane Festival. The success of the California Crooners Club format is that the singers have a solid band behind them that includes a brass section who are happy to limbo or conga along when needed. In September 2018, the brass section comprised Jamie Kennedy (Trombone), Julian Palma (Sax), and Malcolm Wood, (Trumpet)—alongside Alex Wignall (piano and keys), Milush Piochaud (double bass, electric and synth bass) and Jacob Mann (drums).

 
Pictured: Hugh Sheridan leading the conga limbo.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Hugh Sheridan leading the conga limbo. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

 

Highlights of the 70-minute show included the spine-chilling I Like it Like That (Ociean), Cole Porter’s Night & Day (wonderful harmonies from Manuel), James Arthur’s Say You Won't Let Go (enchanting close harmonies from all four singers), Midnight Train to Georgia (giving Gladys Knight & The Pips a run for their money), Beyonce’s Halo (Sheridan introduced the goosebumps-creating performance of this one) and the wonderful Aretha Franklin’s Respect (Ociean). And of course there was the crowd-pleasing Uptown Funk encore (so make sure you don’t leave without it!).

A great evening. And a bit of a shock to come out of the ‘nightclub’ and discover we were still in time to catch the 6:30pm performance of the free light show. The Treasury Brisbane Festival Arcadia is a great space to relax, to visit some of the food and beverage outlets, and of course to watch the free lighting show that is #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light. A really nice touch to have some local buskers providing free entertainment to the crowds (I hope you get to hear from Lennon Bosschieter who was performing a great selection of music that was just perfect for a Sunday afternoon session—always good to hear a little Tracy Chapman and Johnny Cash in the same set). However, some of the later buskers might need to have their sound system turned down a little lower, as Sheridan commented that the sound outside was not best-suited to their quieter Spiegeltent numbers. But that’s a small inconvenience. Don’t let it stop you catching the show if you can, and enjoy a rich medley of performances that showcase the vocal talent of each of the four members of this latest California Crooners Club combination.

 
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Verdict: Buy tickets if you still can. Everyone loves a party—especially when you can join in the fun with the four charismatic performers (and particularly when you get the chance to hear Ociean and Manuel).  

Audience tip: Linger after the Show to visit the Brisbane Festival Arcadia, and perhaps catch the free #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light shows (3 shows daily during the festival until 29th September 2018), and listen to some of the Arcadia buskers. If you purchased the Premium tickets for this show, be aware there is no separate queue, but there are reserved seats inside for you (closest to the stage). Everyone gets a great view as the performers ‘work the space.’ My personal recommendation is to sit on the first row of elevated seats (the central seats on this row are Premium, and at the side are General Admission). Bring your dancing shoes and perhaps pick up a glass of your favourite beverage from the bar inside the venue.

California Crooners Club has only eight shows in the September 2018 Brisbane Festival program and a number fo the remaining shows are already showing as limited availability (Saturday 8th  was the only 9:30pm show. On 9th, 15th and 16th September, the shows are all at 4:45pm. 11-14th September shows are all at 7:00pm). For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Sunday 9th September 2018 performance (4:45pm).

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Review: Qweens on King

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Review: Qweens on King

Brisbane Festival certainly opened with a bang this year, with a number of major events taking place across the city on the official first day—including the celebration of Pride, Qweens on King. As an official opening event, Qweens on King had opening speeches, a range of musicians, boylesque, drag and comic performers. But at its heart was the first mass wedding of LGBTIQ couples—and when it came to exchanging their vows, the event was transformed.

Pictured: Members of the wedding party. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Members of the wedding party. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Michelle Diconski’s powerful book, Ghost Wife (published in 2013), weaves Dicinoski’s own story—of travelling to Canada to marry, when marriage to the love of her life was not yet possible in Australia—with that of the many couples whose stories had previously remained hidden. Following the 2017 vote in Australia, and change in legislation, the sixteen participants in the 8th September celebration were able to exchange their vows ‘at home,’ in front of their family, friends, and members of the local community.

Andrea Kirwin was a fantastic choice as the opening act, with a selection of soulful, and highly-appropriate pieces which demonstrated the versatility and range of this wonderful singer. I particularly enjoyed ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ and will certainly be off to buy an album to hear more of Kirwin’s own music. It’s a pity that the heavens opened as Kirwin began her set, leading many of the audience to dash for cover and conversation, rather than listen to the performance.

 
 

Hosts, the "Prince of Polyester," comedian Bob Downe (Mark Trevorrow), and the glamorous, witty and ever-sassy ring-bearer, Shivannah (Fez Fa’anana), set an upbeat tone—introducing the opening speakers, and welcoming Katie Noonan and the celebrant (Gai Lemon) to the stage. They were also joined by a wonderful Auslan signer (also pictured, above... Pictures credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography). But it was always going to be members of the wedding parties who stole this ‘show.’

 
Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

 

Congratulations to each of the eight couples who invited us to your wedding. Carrying umbrellas, you entered the stage through a crowd of well-wishers, friend and family members (serenaded by Katie Noonan, who greatly improved on Kermit the Frogs’ performance of The Rainbow Connection). But when it came to exchanging your vows, the umbrellas were all down, the rain had stopped, and we were all too busy listening to your special words to look up into the sky to spot rainbows. We joined with members of your family who shed the occasional tear of joy (see pictures, below. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography), applauded your highly-personal vows and pledges, and wish you and your families every future happiness together.

 
 

Verdict: You can’t have rainbows without a little rain…

Audience tip: Look out for future opportunities to hear Andrea Kirwin, and make sure you put King Street on your list as a place for a pre-Tivoli meal, or just a great place to meet up with friends.

Held on the opening day of Brisbane Festival 2018, the free event was also the official opening for Brisbane’s 27th Pride (which also runs during September.  For more information about other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website or Facebook page. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Saturday 8th September 2018 celebration.

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Review: Memorial

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Review: Memorial

Memorial is a stunning piece of music, which enters into a dialogue with the performer (Helen Moore) of Alice Oswald’s epic poem. War and poetry may seem strange bedfellows, but war poetry is among the most powerful and cherished of the form (I’m thinking here of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est, Henry Reed’s Naming of Parts, and even Homer’s The Iliad). Oswald’s Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Illiad has been described as a remarkable, luminous, and affecting obituary, and a poem which is “a meditation on the loss of human life.” Oswald distils and reimagines Homer’s Illiad, touching on the over 200 soldiers who died in battle—capturing our attention from the opening line, “The first to die was PROTESILAUS.”

Composer Jocelyn Pook has produced a spectaular piece of music, which enters into an inspiring dialogue with the spoken word. Under the leadership of Jonathan Peter Kenny (music director) the musicians and singers were more than up to the challenges of the score—particularly thanks to the sublime voices of Loni Fitzpatrick (soprano), Jonathan Peter Kenny (counter tenor), Kelly McCusker (soprano), Melanie Pappenheim (mezzo soprano), Belinda Sykes (Bulgarian singer) and Tanja Tzarovska (Macedonian singer). I really hope that the team produce a recording for sale which combines the music, song and spoken word.

As the many recordings of the great Richard Burton demonstrate, the spoken word, particularly when illuminated by a great score (who can forget War of the Worlds), makes compelling listening. Helen Morses feat of memory, performing the poem throughout the 105-minute show, held the rapt attention of the preview audience. At times, the only sound to be heard was the squeak of stalls seat L29 (hint to QPAC—oil needed!).

The staging was epic in scale, and certainly aimed high (director Chris Drummond, concept Chris Drummond & Yaron Lifschitz, and producer Lee-Anne Donnolley). Fantastic lighting design (Nigel Levings) and some striking aspects to the set design (Michael Hankin)—particularly the blue water. However, I found some of the repetitive marching distracting, and felt that Morse’s performance was better-served when speaking directly to the audience (memorably when stepping over the footlights to engage with us) or when round the ‘campfire’ with smaller groups from the chorus.  Congratulations to each of the members of the 215-strong chorus for bringing each of the memorialised soldiers briefly to life. Perhaps a future staging might more directly link each member of the chorus with the names memorialised in the poem—building the on-stage presence to a crescendo? A greater focus on naming each person might enhance the re-telling of each character and their death. And I’d love to have seen the musicians and singers in more of a direct dialogue with the performer—perhaps stage left to the performers stage right movements? But then… those who can, do, and those who review… dream.

Me? I’m off to buy a copy of the poem, and will watch out for the CD of the music and speech.

Verdict: Go. Revel in the music, marvel at Helen Moore’s compelling feat of memory—and then reflect.  

Audience tip: Linger after the Show to visit the Brisbane Festival Arcadia, and perhaps catch the free #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light shows (three shows daily during the festival until 29th September 2018).

Memorial ran for 4 shows during the opening weekend of Brisbane Festival 2018 (Friday 7th & Saturday 8th  7:30pm performances, in addition to matinees on Saturday [1:30pm] and Sunday 9th [3:00pm]). For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Friday 7th September 2018 preview.

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