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Brisbane Powerhouse

Review: Statum

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Review: Statum

It looks as if Flipside Circus have another hit on their hands. And of course, as skilled circus practitioners, ‘on their hands’ is a feature of Statum, a production that includes a witty take on different types of ‘walking on hands.’  

The title of the show is suitably intriguing, bringing to mind everything from data points through to health status and the components of The State. Apparently ‘statum’ is the singular of the word status, and the word can also be translated as meaning to stand still or firm (fortunately there are on-line Latin to English translations available). Let’s just say that Statum is a blend of all of the above, and more.

Although the show starts with a wealth of data—provided by the ‘big brother’ voice—the artists gradually move from being “the performers” (obeying the disembodied instructions, and undertaking various challenges) to being named individuals who share information about their concerns, things they find difficult to do, and even the list of what they have eaten today.

 
Picture :  Statum  is a ‘must see’ for fans of circus and acrobatics, and also for videographers and self-proclaimed geeks.  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Statum is a ‘must see’ for fans of circus and acrobatics, and also for videographers and self-proclaimed geeks. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

The Flipside performance troupe are credited as performers and creators (Mia Hughes, Tula Homes, Zebedee Davies, Eden Vann, Oscar Morris, Samantha Giles, Cassidy Burke, Lucy Hunterland, Aurora Bennett-Godde and Indra Garvey). They each have the chance to shine with a menu of tricks that includes with excellent balance, controlled headstands, some amazing jumps flips and rolls (particularly by Oscar Morris), focused floor bouncing/juggling (Cassidy Burke), skipping and great aerial (Aurora Bennett-Godde), and strength. The troupe also work well together, often when required to stand still or support a fellow artist. The work is polished and professional, benefiting from the experience of the Flipside trainers and creatives (main trainer/creator: Aliya Abisheva), and from the confident and focused performances of the artists. What is even more impressive is that all of the performers are under 18, and they each make important contributions to the show (including the youngest member of the troupe, Eden Vann, who is a confident and focused performer—with great ‘hand walking,’ some very fast spinning and skipping ‘rope’ work, and quite fabulous ‘crowd surfing’/rolling).  

 
Pictured : Fast skipping (Aurora Bennett-Godde) and controlled floor bouncing/juggling (Cassidy Burke).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Fast skipping (Aurora Bennett-Godde) and controlled floor bouncing/juggling (Cassidy Burke). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured : Flipside & Counterpilot selfies, balance and strength.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Flipside & Counterpilot selfies, balance and strength. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

Statum is not only a show that should be on the ‘must see’ list for fans of circus and acrobatics. Nathan Sibthorpe (Counterpilot Director/video co-design/creator) and Robert Kronk (Flipside’s Director/dramaturg/creator)—with the support of their co-creatives, Jeremy Gordon, Christine Felmingham, Sarah Winter, John Felmingham, Clinton Freeman, Kelsey Booth—have created a show that is a ‘must see’ for videographers and self-proclaimed geeks. Statum is a technically complex piece, integrating projections (including ‘live-streaming’ of video from cameras and phones) with audio and data from other sources (including an ‘accelerometer’ and heart-rate monitors). We came away marvelling at the integration of the circus and technology, which makes it a show worth seeing more than once (to catch all of the special details).  
Another reason to book tickets for at least two shows is that it’s not all serious. There were many chuckles along the way, particularly as the audience participation is well-judged and often funny. The mini-competitions were a great way to share factual information, and to incorporate the different data points. And we certainly picked up a lot of random information on the way. Did you know that pigs can’t look up? That ‘now’ is an illusion? And.… well.. you’ll just have to see the Show.

 
Pictured : Oscar Morris, in full-flight.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Oscar Morris, in full-flight. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

After only an hour, Statum drew to a close to the sound of Superorganism’s Everybody Wants To Be Famous (excellent Audio/sound design by Mike Willmett). We realise that we are ‘staring at stars’: individual Flipside stars, who together have been “part of something bigger.”

“We see you,” Flipside. And we hope that Statum is the sellout it deserves to be.

Verdict: A Mesmerising integration of circus, data and video. See it while you can.

Audience tip: General admission, so arrive in time to select a central seat if you can. 10+ with some strobe lighting. The Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre run is 17-27 October 2019: Wed-Fri 7pm; Sat 2pm & 7pm; Sun 2pm). 65 minutes. Tickets are $24.50 (adult), or $18 (groups of 6+, or concession). Note: All ticket sales incur an additional $6.60 transaction fee.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the preview night performance (7pm, Thursday 17 October 2019).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography

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Review: Letters I Never Sent

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Review: Letters I Never Sent

The program for the fifth Brisbane Powerhouse Melt: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture is a chocolate box full of temptations. Killer Queens is certain to rock Brisbane audiences, Yank sounds as if it’s an unmissable musical,  and everyone will want to drag themselves along to the fabulous Melt Beauty Pageant. It’s also great to see that the program is not all about sequinned parties and great music, but also includes drama and comedy.

Magnetic North Theatre Company’s Letters I Never Sent brings the voices of members of the Brisbane LGBTAIQX+ to the stage—or rather to the intimate Powerhouse Graffiti Room. Promotional material refers to the ‘letters’ as having been ‘sourced from queer networks’ to produce a ‘verbatim piece.’ As the audience steps into the space, the five performers (Cecile Blackmore, Sarah Hendon, Brodie Shelley, Ebony Webb, and Joseph Wilson) are busily ‘writing’ letters—all in their individual worlds and words. The set is also decorated with letters, hung above the space, and throughout the show, the actors select different envelopes, from which they read the various letters during the performance. The letters are also interspersed with what the zine-like program describes as a ‘reality check’—quotes from relevant court cases and news reports, including statistics about deaths from domestic abuse—intermingled with a sympathetic soundtrack (music credit: Jonny Easton). As part of the soundtrack suggests, it may be that many of the contributors typed their hearts and feelings out onto the digital page. But, whether written in pen and ink or onscreen, the end result was the same—text that documented the feelings, concerns and experiences of individuals who identify as ‘queer.’

The Director (Art Green) and cast have developed a piece which works well within the space—although the Maglite was a little unnecessary, and the regular moving around of the boxes was increasingly distracting. Probably the strongest parts of the show were the ‘court’ piece and the concluding ‘sorry’ build-up. Perhaps I just prefer my theatrical events to have a more distinct narrative flow, but I’d have preferred a piece that took the audience on more of a journey, perhaps with a stronger narrative arc (for example, five core stories which might have been illustrated by quotes from additional letters).

If you are interested in verbatim theatre, you may want to try to catch this 45-minute show before it ends—particularly to see Magnetic North at work, and to listen to the words of their anonymous contributors. My two personal takeaways from this piece are from the performances, and in particular the words. I wasn’t always sure why some of Cecile Blackmore’s characters had to be eating, but this didn’t detract from Blackmore’s interesting work. And Ebony Webb was a standout; I look forward to seeing future shows that feature this versatile artist. Most importantly, it is the letters themselves that have an impact. The piece reinforces the importance of understanding ‘queer’ as a broad spectrum of experience—as seen in writing, dignity, vulnerability, and love of the authors. Words that deserve to be read.

Verdict: Get along to Melt before it closes (Melt runs 27 June-7 July). If you are interested in verbatim theatre, you may be interested in adding Letters I Never Sent to your order.

Audience tip: Unallocated seating. 45 minutes. 15+ (coarse language, adult themes and suicide references). The Brisbane Powerhouse Graffiti Room Show has four performances (27-29 June, all at 7:15pm. An additional show at 9pm on 29 June 2019 only). Tickets $25 ($15 concession) plus $6.60 transaction fee. Presented by Magnetic North Theatre Company in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 27 June 2019 performance (7:15pm).

Image: Brisbane Powerhouse

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Review: Magpie

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Review: Magpie

In Magpie, Mordecai (Barb Lowing) is making a reluctant return to Brisbane, having left many decades earlier. Estranged from her recently-deceased Romani father, she is only returning to handle the sale of the family home to ensure she receives her much-needed inheritance (as his Will requires that she disposes suitably of his ashes and of his belongings). The action centres on the family home—where flashbacks to 1961 are interspersed with grumpy (and occasionally downright nasty) contemporary telephone conversations with her UK-based daughter, Fortuna (voiced by Luisa Prosser).

The discovery of her 1961 journal (and also a notebook of her late-Mother), inspires a sequence of revelatory flashbacks. She recalls her parents (Kathryn Marquet and Julian Curtis) as having a tempestuous and often violent relationship, where she felt excluded from their family history (and even from understanding what they said, when speaking in Romani). Through reading the journal, and recalling her attempts to investigate what really had happened, we see an unravelling of Mordecai’s misunderstanding of what led to their move to Australia—and an eventual realisation of quite how wrong she had been.

The naive, playful, flirtatious, and inquisitive Splinter (Michael Mandalios) was a standout character in the play, and his sad story was arguably more powerful than Mordecai’s family misunderstandings. Lowing and Mandalios’ interchanges were both poignant and funny; I really did feel the summer sun and enjoyed their child-like determination to discover the story behind her parents’ arguments. Lowing flicked with ease between the inquisitive Magpie and the grumpy older woman—although I didn’t always buy in to the oncoming thunderstorm, or feel that Mordecai deserved much sympathy.

It is always great to see ‘Brisbane stories’ on the local stage, and new writing (Elise Greig, Playwright) which explores outsider or marginalised communities is important. Romani are one of the smaller groups of people who have migrated to Australia, where Scottish Romani are an even smaller proportion. The Romani traditions were beautifully interwoven into the story—from the role of the shawl, and the ever-present security and warmth of the vardo, through to understandings of what is polluted, what can and cannot be spoken about, and what is a suitable way to deal with the belongings of the deceased. However, the ‘Scottish’ issue was a bit too much of a barrier for me—particularly distinguishing between when the parents were speaking privately, in Romani, and when they were arguing in often thick Scottish accents. This led to a period of initial confusion for some of audience members (including me), which distracted from early involvement in the story. And that was a pity.

Magpie references abound in the play. Magpie is Splinter’s nickname for Mordecai, and her mother feeds a magpie in their garden (until her father finds it, dead). Magpies are also an interesting choice when establishing a story about Australian outsiders, and the contrasts between Australia and Europe (Australian Magpies have beautiful song and are often hand-fed in domestic gardens, whereas European Magpies are regarded as inquisitive predator and are frequently associated with trickery, theft and bad news).  Perhaps there is more to be teased out of this script in a future production?

Magpie is an enjoyable 90-minute show, but I left wishing for more lightness and dark (and certainly less of Scotland). It’s an interesting idea, and an intriguing, well-written story. It was also great to see a different use of the Visy Theatre space (Josh McIntosh, Designer). I’d certainly look out for it again.

Verdict: Go for the ‘Splinter’ story, Romani references, and childhood memories.

Audience tip: Unallocated seating, so arrive a little early and aim to sit in the central seats you can. 90 minutes (lock out, and ‘lock in’, with no break). 15+ (two short complete blackouts, coarse language, adult themes, violence and suicide references). The Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre Show runs until 9 June, 2019 (7:30pm—with a 2pm performance also on 8 June 2019 only). Tickets $45 (student, concession and group discounts) plus transaction fee. Presented by Metro Arts, Playlab and E.G., in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse.

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Thursday 30 May 2019 preview (7:30pm).

Production Image (supplied): Mordecai (Barb Lowing), with Mother and Father (Kathryn Marquet and Julian Curtis) in the background. Picture credit: Stephen Henry

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Review: Skyward

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Review: Skyward


Skyward is a great concept. Built on the friendship between Jo Willans (Soprano) and Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), the Show combines live music, video projections, aerial hoop and tissu, with a beautiful voice and selection of relaxing music. On arrival, members of the audience were encouraged to sit on the floor (mats and cushions provided) or in seats facing the ‘stage,’ and we all received a copy of the program which spoke of mindfulness, and how “the movement, music, poetry and imagery of Skyward are designed to mellow and move you.”   

There were many things I enjoyed about this production: the interactions between the soprano and aerialist (particularly when Willans performed on, and with, the hoop), the selection of costumes, the tissu work by Bale, the incorporation of the video projections (Michael Owen)and some of the musical choices (Toby Saltwell [cello] and John Woods [piano]). In addition, it is always fascinating to see the ‘behind-the-scenes care and hard work of the crew (Ashleigh Freed and Ruby Simpson).

Pictured (L to R):  Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), and Jo Willans (Soprano). Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured (L to R): Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), and Jo Willans (Soprano). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The Anywhere Festival challenge for any aerialist is finding a suitable space to perform. In an ideal world, it would have been wonderful to experience this show by a beach, or with a water view. But the video projections were used to good effect to establish that mood, playing against the brick walls of the space. (Credit is also due to the space and hosts. Vulcana work out of a great space, which has hosted many memorable Anywhere Festival performances (including the 2015 Learning to Love Gravity and 2018 Invisible Things).

The collaborators’ aim was to create 45 mindful minutes. For a future iteration, I would suggest the team might wish to look at how they could minimise the breaks between each piece (reducing the entrance/exit process, to sustain the flow of the program). I would also suggest that the audience might be encouraged to adopt a more mindful engagement with the performance. Perhaps to look ‘Skyward;’  to set aside cameras and other electronic devices, particularly if seated in the floor area, so that everyone can experience the work firsthand.

There were only two performances  of Skyward in the 2019 Anywhere Festival program. Let’s hope that the team find other places and spaces for future performances which build on this concept.

Picture (L to R):  Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), Jo Willans (Soprano). John Woods (piano), and Toby Saltwell (cello). Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Picture (L to R): Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), Jo Willans (Soprano). John Woods (piano), and Toby Saltwell (cello). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.



Verdict: Keep an eye out for future creative collaborations between this team.

Audience tip: 45 minutes. Late arrivals not admitted, so arrive early for any future productions.

Catherine Lawrence. perspectives

The reviewer attended the Sunday 12 May 2019 performance (8:00pm), at Vulcana (adjacent to The Brisbane Powerhouse, New Farm, Brisbane.

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal

The Brisbane Comedy Festival is certainly not going out with a whimper, with a final week program that includes Judy Hainsworth’s #FirstWorldWhiteGirls: Spirit Animal—a parody of the narcissistic Instagram-able world, featuring two self-obsessed rich white girls. BFF’s Tiffany (Judy Hainsworth) and Maddison (Kyra Thompson) share some legit first world probs—from the heartbreak of Harry marrying Meagan (“I didn’t love him; I just wanted to be a Princess”) to the challenge of creating the perfect flat lay (that’s an Instagram board of your fave items for sale, photographed from above, for those who don’t know).  

 
Picture (L to R): Tiffany (Judy Hainsworth) and Maddison (Kyra Thompson). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture (L to R): Tiffany (Judy Hainsworth) and Maddison (Kyra Thompson). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

 

Occasionally “cray,” Spirit Animal is a fascinating review of everything the self-obsessed millennial is likely to care about: the right outfit, the must-have operation, the latest on-trend food to eat (or avoid), and the newest mindfulness and meditation trends… as well as the ongoing demands of Instagram-ing, blogging and YouTube-ing the lot. All interwoven with a darker #MeToo undercurrent, and references to the mental health impacts of trying to live the perfect life in a far-from-perfect world.

The tightly-written 60-minute show (written by Judy Hainsworth, and directed by Lewis Jones) centres on a number of original pieces—with Disney Princess-style songs (albeit with very ‘contemporary’ lyrics) as well as sprinklings of grunge and rap. Highlights included the crowd-pleasing “I’m better than you,” and the ‘flat lay’ song. Thompson is an excellent foil to Hainsworth’s Tiffany, and the show provides each performer with solos as well as providing some close harmony. I last saw Judy Hainsworth’s work in the fabulous Happily Ever After, and Hainsworth’s versatility and harmonies were also on show in Spirit Animal (both shows under the Musical Direction of Luke Volker).

Some of the older members of the audience might have needed an urban dictionary, but I think they got the message (David even stepped bravely on the stage to learn more about creating the perfect flat lay—one of the highlights of the Tuesday night show).

 
Picture: Drawing on the “7% Indian” in  #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal  (Judy Hainsworth) Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Drawing on the “7% Indian” in #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal (Judy Hainsworth) Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

I have a feeling that the show would be better-suited to a later evening slot, as the audience energy seemed to drop a little in the second-half of the opening night of this run. #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal is a closely-observed satire that may occasionally step close to the line between humour and offensiveness (such as the “Little Black Babies” song?). But then, that is when satire is working well: constructively criticising, and drawing attention to  issues across society.  Go along and see what you think.

Verdict: Def one for millennials/Gen WE everywhere.

 
Picture: Kyra Thompson. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Kyra Thompson. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Rooftop Terrace (15+. Sexual references, coarse language, drug references and adult themes). There are six performances of #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal in the 2019 Brisbane Comedy Festival program (6:45pm, 19-23 March—and 5:45pm on 24 March). Tickets $20-$29 ($20 on 19 March, $25 on 20/21/24, & $29 on 22 & 23 March) plus $6.60 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the Powerhouse website, and see what else might tempt you (2019 Brisbane Comedy Festival: 22 February-24 March).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 19 March 2019 performance (6:45pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: Happily Ever After

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Review: Happily Ever After

Conjuring their inner Rapunzel/Goldilocks (Judy Hainsworth), wicked step-mother/Queen (Alicia Cush), and Little Red Riding Hood (Bethan Ellsmore), the three Babushka divas have concocted a delightfully-distorted and ever-so entertaining reworking of many well-known fairy tales. Hats off to the performers, and to Penny Challen, designer and co-director of Little Match Productions. Think popular music, inverted and re-worked with different musical styles, add in a sparkle of fantastic styling, and tie it all together with humorous dialogue from a highly-professional team. Or what Cush described as “musical mashups, quirky humour and simple choreography”. It works. And don’t just take my word for it. This was one of the few cabaret shows I’ve been to where the evening ended with a standing ovation.

Fairy tales are cautionary myths. In Happily Ever After many of our favourite stories (and songs) are reinterpreted and postmodernised with great style.  Twisting everything from the Snow White & Seven Dwarfs’ I’m Wishing ( ‘the story of the girl who swiped right’) through to the audience-pleasing Umbrella (‘Dirty Little Cinderella’) Babushka’s mashups had us all captivated. The talented Luke Volker (Musical Director, ‘narrator’ & Piano) introduced each chapter (or song) of their anthology of fairy tales, all were reinvigorated into what Volker referred to as “marvellous morals for modern maidens.”

 
Pictured  (L to R): Judy Hainsworth, Bethan Ellsmore, and Alicia Cush.  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Judy Hainsworth, Bethan Ellsmore, and Alicia Cush. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

If opera isn’t really your ‘thing’, don’t be put off by description of operatic skills. Cush, Hainsworth and Ellsmore are three talented divas with fantastic voices. Not only can they produce some stunning close harmonies, but they also add to the musical diversity of the evening with piano accordion, kazoo, violin, triangle and drum. And they selected an eclectic collection of material, twisting and transforming songs that spanned many decades.

Favourite moments? Ellsmore’s princess and the pea references had the audience in fits, Cush was absolutely compelling with her reflections of a bitter queen (‘I’ll put a spell on you” tango, sung to the apple, of course). And I’d happily buy a copy of the Babushka re-working of Lordes’  Royals (great performance by Hainsworth, but also for the memories of the disdainful triangle-playing by Cush). Certain songs just lend themselves to this show of twisted fairy-tales—memorably Umbrella and the Hungry Like a Wolf/Like a Virgin medley (for the vocals, and for Hainsworth’s performances). If you only go to see one cabaret, make it a Babushka show like this (and ideally one that includes their performance of Sweet Dreams are Made of This).

Pictured : Judy Hainsworth.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Judy Hainsworth. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured : Bethan Ellsmore. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Bethan Ellsmore. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The ‘peasants’ from the ‘Fabled Kingdom of New Farm’ had a ball. All too soon it was time for Mr Sandman to send us on our way, after a deserved standing-ovation. I’ll certainly be following Little Match on ‘fairybook’ for details of future shows. And looking out for the 2019 Wonderland Festival program.

Verdict: Standing ovations all round. Look out for future Little Match Productions. You’ll be enthralled, enchanted and entertained.

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre (15+. Limited coarse language and adult themes). There are only three performances of Happily Ever After in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (9pm, 29 November until 1st December 2018). Tickets were $32 ($30 concession, and pp for a group of 6+) plus $5.95 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the Powerhouse website, and see what else might tempt you (and plan your festive celebrations around the 2019 Wonderland Festival).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 30th November 2018 performance (9pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

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Review: Elixir

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Review: Elixir

First, book this show. Then, pop back here to read the review before you get down to the Brisbane Powerhouse. Elixir is a great tonic, with a mesmerising mix of acrobatics, balancing, beatbox, breakdance, comedy, cyr wheel, dance, juggling, ladder, physical theatre, slapstick, strength, teeterboard, trapeze, tumbling and even whip-cracking. Old-style circus given a very contemporary twist, and all presented as a cautionary tale of how testing your hoped-for ‘elixir of life’ concoctions may have dramatic consequences.

So it’s likely to have sold out already. In which case, here’s an idea of what you have missed.  

 
Pictured: Thomas Gorham ‘head first’ balancing on Cal Harris. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Thomas Gorham ‘head first’ balancing on Cal Harris. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

Melbourne-based Head First Acrobats have a winning formula—combining the talents of Cal Harris, Thomas Gorham, and Rowan Thomas to produce a number of internationally-successful shows. Elixir presents the tale of three scientists who are now engaged in clinical trials of what they hope will be an elixir of life. The disembodied voice of ‘control’ at the ‘research facility’ warns the audience that those using flash photography ‘may die’; or those not turning their phone to silent ‘may die’; and that those testing the ‘drug’ may suffer the consequences. I didn’t hear any phones ring, but the ‘scientists’ do go ahead with their tests.

Each variant of the ‘drug’ has differing results, giving Harris, Gorman and Thomas to showcase their individual and collective talents. And they are certainly multi-talented.

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Harris demonstrated some amazing & often quite spectacular ladder, incredible balance, and fantastic strength work. Gorman’s breakdance was superb, as were his acrobatics and highly-memorable trapeze work (that headstand… on a trapeze…). Thomas relished the comedic role, and I’ve never seen the cyr wheel worked with quite such style before—just… wonderful.

The circus skills are definitely the reason to go. But Elixir is more than ‘just’ circus. The dance moves were entertaining (look out for the Thriller piece), the story held the show together, and with some old-fashioned slapstick, audience-interaction, and ‘Australian humour’ this is a show that has something for almost everyone. Oh, and did I mention that shirts are removed?

The Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre is a flexible space, and it was interesting to see it set up in a slightly different way, giving the performers a three-sided stage to work within (all set against the backdrop of the Powerhouse brick). A perfect choice and space for this production. But if you can’t get tickets for the Wonderland Festival show, then Elixir is worth travelling to see.

Verdict: Love circus? Go. Looking for a good night out? Go. Not quite sure if this is for you? Go.

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre. There are only three performances of Elixir in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (9:30pm, 29 November until 1st December 2018). Tickets may still be available: $45 ($39 concession, and pp for a group of 6+) plus $5.95 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 29th November 2018 performance (9:30pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: Love Hurts

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Review: Love Hurts

A comedy cabaret show about love and sex, at 6pm on a Thursday evening in Brisbane, is a hard ask. But Emily Kristopher and Katrina Davidson are an excellent duo. Katrina Davidson is a well-known comedienne and radio personality, and makes an excellent sparring partner for this show with the multi-talented Emily Kristopher. They really succeeded in getting the audience “in the mood” right from the start in the intimate space of the Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio.

The show is based around stories, gleaned from the internet, about the highs, lows and pains of love. Categories such as “First Dates”, “Pickup lines” and “Cheating” inspire some very funny tales. Each subject is are chosen at random by spinning a wheel. Amazingly, each category came up during the performance on the opening night (!). It’s a great device, giving these two talented performers ample opportunity to ad lib and interact with the audience.

 
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And this is a show where the audience are inspired to share some of their own stories. Tales about painful relationships or sexual injuries, were also very funny. With prizes of “Adult Toys” for the best.

The laughter is sustained throughout the one-hour show. But a definite highlight had to be the “Song and Dance-offs” between Emily and Katrina. Each song was chosen to illustrate the pain and joy of dating, where the audience were asked to vote on their individual performances.

This all works to create a very funny hour of entertainment. Don’t go if you’re a bit prudish—and leave the parents at home if they’d be offended by the sachets of “Intimate Lube” or “Arousal Cream” (which were scattered on the tables and chairs when we arrived). But it would be a pity if you missed this one.

The Wonderland Festival is a great opportunity to catch up with friends for a festive drink. Chatting between shows on the Bar Alto terrace (arguably one of the best places for a Brisbane catch-up, with that great river view) we all agreed that Love Hurts was a really entertaining way to start the evening. A fellow member of the audience re-told some of the stories from the Show with great glee, commenting that the performances had made them roar with laughter.  A great recommendation to go.

Katrina Davidson

Katrina Davidson

Emily Kristopher

Emily Kristopher

And if you’re looking for additional ideas… Emily is in three shows at the Brisbane Powerhouse over the next few weeks—two of which are this weekend at the Wonderland Festival (not only Love Hurts, but also Two-Man Tarantino), with the third starting on 6 December (A Very Naughty Christmas). So, lots of opportunities to have some great festive nights out.

Verdict: A really funny way to start your evening. See it if you can.

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio (15+. Coarse language, adult themes and sexual references). Drinks purchased at the bar can be taken into the show. There are only three performances of Love Hurts in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (6pm, 29 November until 1st December 2018). Tickets may still be available: $30 ($25 concession, and pp for a group of 6+) plus $5.95 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival.

Geoff Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 29th November 2018 performance (6pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

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Review: Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl

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Review: Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl

Jess Love has written and performs a courageous solo piece that is one-part family history, two-parts circus skills, and three-parts humanity. Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl is a postmodern mashup of circus, physical theatre, family history research, audience participation, genetics/science education, comedy, and raw human emotion. A personal testimony, and exploration of nature vs nurture, all wrapped up in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

 
Picture : Jess Love (“My Name is Jess”). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Jess Love (“My Name is Jess”). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

The title of the show is taken from the report of the Providence ships’ surgeon, writing in his log during the journey to Australia about Love’s ancestor Julia Mullins. The numerous reports of Mullins’ transgressions provide a picture of a feisty and determined woman who sought escape from her conviction for theft, and deportation to Tasmania, in sex and alcohol. Discovering that Mullins was her great (x4)-grandmother, led to Love’s research—not only into her own family history, but into thinking about the DNA ‘lottery’ of life.

Don’t look away now, or think that this show isn’t for you. It’s funny, witty, honest, skilful and thought-provoking art.

 
Picture : Jess Love (bingo-calling the DNA Lottery). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Jess Love (bingo-calling the DNA Lottery). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

Yes, there are ‘science-y bits’ (multimedia is mainly used to provide science education that even I understood…and the ‘Boozy Bingo’ was a very funny way of illustrating the DNA-lottery that can lead to a pre-disposition to alcohol addiction). There is history and academic research. And there is some very honest disclosure and raw human emotion...as Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl interweaves Love’s story of addiction and personal decline—from illicit first nips of booze from the dusty family drinks cabinet, to a cocktail of drugs and alcohol leading to sleepless nights and blackouts.

But the show also features a range of very impressive circus skills—including disaffected and funny extreme hula hoop, hardcore dancing, trashy trapeze, spectacular skipping, and remarkable bottle-walking. As Love demonstrates, people can do amazing things. Including hitting rock-bottom and then working their way toward recovery, one step at a time.

Deadly serious, intoxicating and sometimes dizzying (each in more ways than one), Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl is one of the most memorable shows I’ve seen in the last five years.

Verdict: Compelling. Brave, powerful, raw emotion—which entertains, educates, and enthrals. Hunt this show down.

Audience tip: 70 minutes, Powerhouse Theatre (18+. Nudity. Drug, sexual, suicide and alcohol references). There were only two performances of Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (22 & 23 November, 2018—tickets $39 [$34 concession and/or groups of 6+] plus $5.95 transaction fee). Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival?

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday, 23rd November 2018 performance (9pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.  

 

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Review: Beer Drinking Woman

Comment

Review: Beer Drinking Woman

Who better than a vaudeville vamp to chart the life experiences of a self-proclaimed “lush,” and the lifestyle choices of a dive bar diva? Christa Hughes creates a highly-believable character: the woman at the bar who wants you to buy her another drink, who has been the life and soul of the party, and who is gradually falling off the bar stool of life. All in one night. Think the best of German cabaret, with a good dose of Australian self-deprecating humour and close observation; add an experienced pianist and serve with a great voice.

The show is well-researched and, as Hughes notes, “educational” (particularly when it comes to describing the hangover experience). The extent to which alcohol references dominate popular film, television and advertising are ably demonstrated—requiring a depth of research, and perhaps being one of the better sobriety tests around. Indeed, the rapid-fire lip-synch of alcoholic references from film and TV we know and love (although only the most devoted of fans will have been able to identify the films) was only surpassed by the advertising-medley encore.  

The set list includes a number of songs written by Hughes, including a version of My Favourite Things that Julie Andrews definitely would not recognise. Whiskey Trail and The Stink of Desperation are unlikely to be chart-topping, but both were beautifully-crafted and performed.

Pictured : Christa Hughes, with pianist Leonie Cohen. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Christa Hughes, with pianist Leonie Cohen. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Hughes’ own songs were good, but her performances and reinterpretation of some classics were definite highlights. It is difficult to identify a single favourite among the songs, but Lilac Wine (Shelton) had to be in the top three—showing off the skills of pianist Leonie Cohen, as Hughes brought out the meaning of the song in a poignant and heartfelt way. Cheap Wine (Cold Chisel) was an audience favourite, and Hughes’ performance brought the words to life in a very funny way.  Is That All There Is? (Peggy Lee) and The Piano’s Been Drinking (Tom Waits) were funny and sad in equal measure.

Picture : Christa Hughes. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Christa Hughes. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Amazing to discover that this show was first written by Hughes back in 2000. Let’s hope that the final show in the 2018 Wonderland Festival is not the last time this Beer Drinking Woman is garnishing cabaret calendars. If you don’t have plans for tonight, book your ticket now.

Verdict: Funny, bawdy, boozy—mixed together with a great voice.

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre (15+. Light smoke/haze effects, coarse language, sexual and alcohol references). Drinks purchased at the bar can be taken into the show. There are only three performances of Beer-Drinking Woman in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (22-24 November, 2018). Tickets may still be available for the 24th November show (7:30pm) $39 ($32 concession, $35 pp for a group of 8+) plus $5.95 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 23rd November 2018 performance (7:30pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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