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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

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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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Review: Bombshell Burlesque: Heatwave!

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Review: Bombshell Burlesque: Heatwave!

The Bombshell Academy has clearly built a devoted following as part of Brisbane’s Wonderland Festival; a run of three virtually sold-out years continuing, as the Friday and Saturday evenings of this year’s run are already sold out. Clearly, audiences know what they like. My three recommendations are: (1) if you want to see many of the Wonderland Festival events, don’t delay: book now; (2) put the 2019 Festival in your diary so you get to see your favourites next year. Oh, and (3) going out on a Thursday night means you get to see shows that otherwise are sold out!

Bombshell Burlesque: Heatwave is a selection of burlesque acts, themed around… heat (unsurprising really, with that title). A great end-of-year showcase for the Bombshells, and the students and tutors of the Bombshell Academy.

Ella Fontaine is a well-chosen MC, keeping the evening on track, as a quick-change host, raconteur and chanteuse (memorably with Hotline Bling and Heat Wave). The talented Lila Luxx (Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame 2016 & 2017) directs the show and was one of our highlight acts of the evening as a devilish ‘tease. Jacqueline Furey showed why she has been recognised as International Sideshow Showgirl (although no sword-swallowing or fire-eating on display this time), with some flowing dance and also making sparks fly. And I believe it was Cello Bordello (Miss Burlesque Queensland 2016) who rocked Highway to Hell with a hoop, attitude and an altitude ‘tease.

Pictured  :  Jacqueline Furey  (R) in conversation with Kelly Higgins-Devine (Turbine Platform, live ABC Radio 612 Broadcast). Pictures Credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured : Jacqueline Furey (R) in conversation with Kelly Higgins-Devine (Turbine Platform, live ABC Radio 612 Broadcast). Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The music was well-chosen, the show fast-paced (Fontaine commenting on the chaos of behind-the-scenes quick change), the tassels spun, the flesh was revealed, and the audience had a ball. My two highlights were the dance class routine (complete with leg-warmers, to what else but a version of Olivia Newton-John’s Physical), and of course the ‘Bev-in-Accounts’ Hot Summer Nights fun.

The traditional definition of burlesque is an exaggerated parody, or variety show that includes striptease. But it has come to refer to the sequins, strip-tease, and showgirls, as seen at Bombshell Burlesque: Heatwave. If you like contemporary burlesque, are looking to sample a burlesque show, or want to see more of the students and tutors of the Bombshell Academy, them this is for you.

Verdict: If you are a fan of Bombshell Burlesque, and the Bombshell Academy, I’m sure you’ve got tickets already. If you’ve not seen a burlesque show before, this might be a good place to start.

 Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre (coarse language, implied nudity, sexual references, strobe effects, adult themes, and light smoke/haze effects. Drinks purchased at the bar can be taken into the show). There are only three performances Bombshell Burlesque: Heatwave in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (22-24 November, 2018, all 9pm), and it appears that the remaining shows are already sold out. Tickets may still be available or try the box office for returns? $35 ($30 for groups over 10+ concession), 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 22nd November 2018 performance (9pm).

Pictures Credit:  Creative Futures Photography.

 

 

 




 

 

 

 

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Review: Lady Sings the Blues

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Review: Lady Sings the Blues

As gardenias are now flowering in Brisbane gardens, Mama Alto’s celebration of Billie Holiday, the ‘lady of the gardenias,’ is timely. It’s also a great way to spend an hour; a ‘Diva Show’ that should be on everyone’s list when planning a visit to the 2018 Wonderland Festival. A great selection of songs, with a  number of well-chosen anecdotes and commentary on the life and loves of Billie Holiday, interwoven with the reflections of an artist “of colour.” Oh, and some fabulous sequins, and a supporting musical director (Miss Chief) who enjoys playing the blues.

Mama Alto’s Lady Sings the Blues is everything you might expect from a cabaret show: an audience seated around small tables, in close proximity to the performer. As Mama Alto observed, many members of the audience might have been attracted to the show as a chance to hear a live performance of Billie Holiday’s life and music. Having attended this very intimate soiree, I’m certain that next time this same audience would plan to attend any show which features Mama Alto—in whichever incarnation the Diva chooses to showcase.

Picture : A view from the audience of Mama Alto, in  Lady Sings The Blues . Picture Credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Picture: A view from the audience of Mama Alto, in Lady Sings The Blues. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

All of the songs were perfectly suited to Mama Alto’s countertenor voice.  Some were new to me, but each showcased different aspects of Holiday’s life (the ups and downs). Highlights of course included the fantastic opening Lady Sings the Blues, and the scat/piano duet and vocal range on display in The Blues Are Brewin.' But Fine and Mellow was also a deserved crowd-pleaser, and the murmurings during the poignant I cover the waterfront reflected the appreciation of the enthralled audience.

Yes, the lighting changes were not always too subtle, and it’s probably best when it runs for a full 2-hours (rather than the 60-minute selection). All too quickly, we were demanding our encore and the evening was over. Or rather, we were off to our next show that’s part of the Wonderland ‘chocolate box’…and wondering when we’d next be able to see the fabulous Mama Alto.

Verdict: An enchanting, enthralling, enjoyable and entertaining 60 minutes. A wise investment of $20 (& booking fee).

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio (light smoke/haze effects, and drinks purchased at the bar can be taken into the show). There are only three performances of Lady Sings the Blues in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (22-24 November, 2018), and it appears that the Friday night show is already sold out. Tickets may still be available for the 24th November show (7:30pm) $20 ($15 concession) 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 22nd November 2018 performance (7:30pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.



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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: Dust

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Review: Dust

Birth is a time of strength and vulnerability: of hopes and dreams, light and dark, chaos and order. The Directorial team behind Dust (Artistic Director Kyle Page, and Associate Artistic Director Amber Haines) were inspired, by the 2017 birth of their son, to reflect on issues of inheritance and their own roles in shaping the society into which Jasper was born. Drawing on this inspiration, each of the partners in the production have brought their own reflections and talents to the piece. Haines and Page credit Dust as a “true collaboration” between cast and creatives: dancers, set design, music and costume all being highlights.

Picture : Set design by Liminal Spaces.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Set design by Liminal Spaces. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture (L to R) : Samantha Hines, Jack Ziesing and Ashley McLellan.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture (L to R): Samantha Hines, Jack Ziesing and Ashley McLellan. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The Dancenorth dancers (Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson, and Jack Zeising) are talented, expressive, controlled and flexible performers. A real pleasure to watch their enthralling conception of the light and dark that creates our society, particularly when working with such a fabulous soundtrack and versatile set, and in such stunning clothing. Harriet Oxley has created stage costumes which really enhance the piece, inspiring delicate other-worldliness references to what a fellow audience member described as stardust. Often appearing quite flimsy and translucent (production warnings suggest partial nudity), the costumes are beautifully created works of art, and perfect for the production. 

The music is worth the price of admission alone, with Jessica Moss’s post-rock violin providing a moving and often ethereal soundtrack for the production (composer/sound designer Alisdair Macindoe and Jessica Moss composer/musician).

Impressive and architectural, the set is a work of art, dominating the piece (set design by Liminal Spaces). In the hands of the cast, the building blocks represent society’s mundane and extraordinary. First appearing as a grey wall or wedge, the set is manipulated by the cast throughout the 70-minute show. Others in the audience had a different ‘take’ on the uses of the set. For me, following the removal of the grey cover, the charcoal or black frame and boxes became a road, river, boat, auditorium/walls, and cityscape.

 
Pictured: The   Dancenorth     ensemble(Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson, and Jack Zeising).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: The Dancenorth ensemble(Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson, and Jack Zeising). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

The initial ‘movement’ of the piece was a compelling separation of the newborn from the adoring supportive family and society. Stage left, the newborn coming to life and learning its place in the new world (a beautiful solo performance by Ashley McLellan). Stage right, the rest of the dancers establishing a sense of the wider society collecting around the new family before moving to and from the ‘wall’ along the centre of the stage—building a tension between the two sides of the stage before a beautiful duet. During the remaining 60-minutes the production created images of work, love, travel—where each dancer came to the fore, engaged in duets, and performed as part of the mesmerising ensemble. In such a collaborative piece it is always unfair to pick out particular solos or duets, but memorable elements of the piece included solos by Samantha Hines, Ashley McLellan and Jenni Large, and also the ensemble spinning which finally left Jack Ziesing dominating the stage.

 
Pictured: Jessica Moss provided a haunting soundtrack  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jessica Moss provided a haunting soundtrack Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

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. It would have been fascinating to attend the Brisbane Festival Conversation (20th September). But we had our own 6-way conversation after the Show. One of the three main centres of the 2018 Brisbane Festival (the others being at QPAC and the Southbank Arcadia, and at La Boite/QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus), the Powerhouse is the perfect venue for this production—a large space, with raked seating offering great views from any seat. It also has a number of bars and restaurants to sit in post-show comfort to reflect on any production.

Each member of our party had a different take on the performance, enthusiastically debating the narrative—framed as everything from dust particles to the stifling impact of society on an individual. And that, to me, is the sign of a great evening, and part of the attraction of this often-moving production. A creative perspective, illuminating the society in which we all live, and provoking a conversation about whether we are leaving the right legacy to future generations.

Verdict: Thought-provoking.  We should all be very ‘regionally proud’ of Dancenorth’s world-class work.

 Audience Notes: Dust has only four performances in the 2018 Brisbane Festival program, including the 19th September preview (19-21 September, 7;30pm). Tickets $35-$38 (plus booking fee). Producers advise partial nudity, sound pressure effects and use of a haze machine and pyrotechnics. Suitable for audiences 12+ years. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Friday 21st September 2018 performance (7:30pm).

All pictures credit Creative Futures Photography. Main image, the Dancenorth dancers, accompanied by Jessica Moss.





 



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