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Review: A Coupla Dogs

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Review: A Coupla Dogs

One cage, two dogs and five days of hope—all in just 60-minutes. A Coupla Dogs interweaves many adages about ‘man’s best friend’ in a tightly-written play (co-written by Sue Rider with Director, Andrew Cory).

Dogs are in rescue kennels for a variety of reasons: the abandoned ‘Christmas dog,’ unwanted litters, victims of cruelty, or those surrendered on the death of their owner. A Coupla Dogs presents life from the dog’s perspective. Or rather, that of the two dogs who share a cage at Beryl’s Kennels—receiving second-rate care while they wait for rescue or the inevitable ‘backroom’ death. Humans only appear as disembodied voices, mainly over the crackly holiday-camp-style speaker system (Beryl, voiced by Barb Lowing, with Fred and others performed by Andrew Cory, Noah Cory, Sue Rider, and Peter Crees).

 
Pictured (L to R) : Compelling performances by Tom Oliver (Young Dog) and Ron Kelly (Old Dog).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Compelling performances by Tom Oliver (Young Dog) and Ron Kelly (Old Dog). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

The dog aspects of the production are often quite brilliant, and very entertaining. Everyday sayings are beautifully placed throughout the show (‘every dog has his day,’ ‘let sleeping dogs lie,’ ‘play dead,’ ‘It’s a dog’s life’ to include just a few). The musical choices are a nice touch. And the canine characteristics are entertainingly portrayed—from turning circles before sleep, to eating food and of course the wagging of the ‘tails’ (Movement Director/Assistant Director Matt Dear)

But this isn’t merely a tale (or even two tails) about the ways in which ‘man’s best friend’ is abandoned, imprisoned and even re-programed. Or how society treats its most vulnerable. It is also an opportunity to delve into some of the deeper philosophical questions of life. In the words of Young Dog (Tom Oliver), ‘what am I doing here?’ Compassion, fear, love, desire, hope and mortality wrapped up in thinking about the meaning of life. Think Animal Farm (George Orwell) meets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard) and Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett). Two animal characters, dependent on powerful controlling outside forces, waiting to be ‘rescued’ and filling their time with discussions of philosophy, life and survival.

Don’t let me give you the impression it’s all gloom and doom. There are some very funny moments in this production—from the stage business (that squeaky tog, the tail-wagging, and those outfits) to the news-reporting/distortions by the ‘Channel Four’ reporter (“sponsored by Hard Force Dog Catchers”). And at the end we have a glimmer of hope…or is it just a flame for the moth to die in?

 
Pictured (L to R) : Ron Kelly (Old Dog) and Tom Oliver (Young Dog).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Ron Kelly (Old Dog) and Tom Oliver (Young Dog). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R) : Ron Kelly (Old Dog) and Tom Oliver (Young Dog) in chains.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Ron Kelly (Old Dog) and Tom Oliver (Young Dog) in chains. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Dog Spoon Theatre has assembled a strong team for this world premiere, and I hope that it tours to festivals large and small. Great casting and absolutely compelling performances by Ron Kelly (Old Dog) and Tom Oliver (Young Dog). Fabulous Production Design (Josh McIntosh), lighting (Jason Glenwright), and Sound Design (Peter Crees, with intern Isabella Hall). And a well-written and directed new play. See it if you can.

Verdict: Great to see new, local work in the 2018 Brisbane Festival. See it while you can.

Audience tip: Go—but make it an evening for friends rather than younger members of the family. Book a babysitter so you can relax and enjoy the show (suitable for 16+, with adult themes, sexual references, and coarse language). Tickets $24 - $32 (25-28 September 2018 at 7:15pm, and 29 September at 4:30pm). A Coupla Dogs is at The Block, located in Theatre Republic, QUT Kelvin Grove. Make sure you spend some time in Theatre Republic to visit the various free ‘activations’ (including the book exchange and seed library) and enjoy the occasional free music performances. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 25th September 2018 performance (7:15pm).

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Review: Kaput!

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Review: Kaput!

Thomas Flanagan delivers with Kaput! For many of us who grew up with variety acts on television and in films, the slapstick silliness, acrobatic humour, and well-observed wonder of Kaput! is a welcome return. And for the younger members of the audience? Let’s just say there was fascination and giggling in equal measure. Children young and old were enthralled and entertained (with occasional hysterical laughter from the adults in the room).

Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin would have been proud of this tribute to silent film. The attention to detail is perfect, with beautiful observation of all aspects of the genre creating much entertainment: popcorn, mime, gestures, intertitles, piano accompaniment, and even ‘no smoking.’

The story is a simple one. A cinema projectionist who has a love-hate relationship with his old-time projector, and who works hard to try to ensure his audience get to see the ‘Love Story’ film they have bought tickets for. As fans of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Norman Wisdom, and Laurel & Hardy will anticipate, all does not go smoothly for the ‘little man’: the screen collapses, the projector expires, and rain falls on his love story. But of course, the clown triumphs: the audience get their show, he wins his ‘girl’, and who cares if the stage is destroyed in the process?

 
Pictured: Thomas Flanagan ( Kaput! ).  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Thomas Flanagan (Kaput!). Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

 

The audience interaction was perfect, and beautifully-managed. Make sure you don’t have your phone out (he’ll spot you!), put you hand up for the popcorn (you may end up wearing it anyway), be prepared to get involved (you may not have a choice in the matter). Look out for the fabulous acrobatic pratfalls with the step-ladder. And even if you didn’t recall the Wisdom and Forsyth ‘wallpaper (or decorator’s) sketch’, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the silly attempts to ‘repair’ the projection screen.

Silent clowning is an artform that few can excel at. In the 60-minute show Flanagan wordlessly held the attention of his audience (occasionally with the aid of a kazoo…and yes, they are on sale afterwards). “He talks!” was the surprised comment behind me, when he introduced ‘Ernesto’ and encouraged everyone to spread the word about the Show.

Pictured: ‘Wallpapering’ the screen (Thomas Flanagan,  Kaput! ).  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: ‘Wallpapering’ the screen (Thomas Flanagan, Kaput!). Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Thomas Flanagan ( Kaput! ), with a member of the 25th September audience  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Thomas Flanagan (Kaput!), with a member of the 25th September audience Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

I hope they did all tell their friends. It’s impressive to see a show that entertains the under-10s and over-30s—a perfect choice for children as a ‘grandparent-minding’ activity during this mid-term break. ‘Kaput’ may be defined as meaning broken and useless. But with Thomas Flanagan in the spotlight (and Wayne at the piano), Kaput! is a show that works for all the family.

Verdict: 60 minutes of giggles for all ages. Grandparents will be top of the heap with this half-term treat.    

Audience tip: Tickets for Kaput! may still be available (25 & 27 September 2018 at 12 noon, and 26 & 28 September at 10am). $18 - $26 (families $65). Kaput! is at The Courier-Mail Spiegeltent, located in the Treasury Brisbane Arcadia (Southbank Cultural Centre Forecourt). Arrive early as there are usually buskers and other free entertainment, as well as a chance to stock up on fairy floss and popcorn before (or after) the show. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 25th September 2018 performance (12 noon).

 

 

 

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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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