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Review: Reagan Kelly

Reagan Kelly is a play set in 2013 Brisbane. Focused on one slightly dysfunctional family, the plot incorporates divorce and threatened suicide, all framing a story about the development of new relationships, and seen through the microscope of millennial angst. Although the title suggests that it is all about Reagan (Emily Carr), the most interesting characters are those in her orbit. The most interesting parts of the evening were the interactions between her parents, and the struggles faced by her twin brother (Jeremiah Wray), who so desperately wishes to conform—when announcing his engagement to his girlfriend (Lisa Huynh) while actively pursuing a relationship with Reagan’s ‘gay best friend’, Hugh (Jackson McGovern).

Reagan Kelly is a show of great promise. Advertised as a ‘bitterly hysterical comedy,’ the cast and creatives include a number of people who have worked on other great shows: Producer, Danielle Carney (Retail Therapy), as well as Director Tim Hill and actor Elise Greig (both most recently in the excellent Wheel of Fortune).

The writing was interesting, and it is always great to see ‘Brisbane stories’ on the local stage. Lewis Treston (playwright) melds millennial dilemmas with a touch of farce, and has created a work that deserves better.

There were some highlights. The set and costume design worked well (in particular the costume choices for Kristy!). I liked the use of the videography, and it was a pity that the show didn’t blend more of these images into the performance (for example, as in the Wheel of Fortune). Scenes of the evening were those featuring the divorcing husband and wife, Ewan (Chris Kellet) and Kristy (Elise Grieg). Greig gave a compelling performance as the slightly neurotic mother figure, where the sauce bottle/frenzied fridge-cleaning scene was entertaining and memorable. Jeremiah Wray’s portrayal of the conflicted twin brother, Oliver, was relatable and sensitive.

But perhaps in a future iteration, a director might debate some cuts to Regan’s monologues, move away from stereotyping gay characters, and consider how to better integrate videography in the show?

The audience response was fascinating. If you want to giggle at every swear word and laugh hysterically at sexual references, then this is a show you will find entertaining. But this production didn’t hit the spot for me. Sitting watching Reagan Kelly in the Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre, I reflected on some of the many great shows I have seen in this building. I hope to add a few more wonderful memories before the building closes—but sadly Reagan Kelly is not one for the great-shows-I-have-seen-at-Metro-Arts list.

Verdict: One for Millennials, perhaps.

Audience tip: 150 minutes (including 20 minute break), Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts (16+. Sexual references, coarse language, portrayal of drug use, and suicide references,  and adult themes). The show opened on 20th March and closes 30 March 2019. Tickets $25-$31 plus transaction fee.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 28 March 2019 performance (7:00pm).

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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: 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: Anywhere Festival 2018, 'Four' Me

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2018, 'Four' Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine Lawrence

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

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

All Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

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Review: Kiss of the Vampire Squid

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Review: Kiss of the Vampire Squid

Yo Ho Ho. The lights dim, and the crew join their “new recruits,” with a reassuring “don’t worry, we’ll get some salt in your blood.” Extracting a few key pieces of information from the audience (for the second show, a frightened octopus named Bella), the company then cast a very tall, improvised tale.  Sorry, I mean, “the real story of Bella the frightened octopus.”

Pictured: "Jack," Kiss of the Vampire Squid: Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures

Pictured: "Jack," Kiss of the Vampire Squid: Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures

I don’t want to spring all of the surprises of the evening. On 12th May, there were a lot of European stereotypes (perfect for Eurovision weekend), some spectacularly amusing accents, a fez, a tale of love and loss, a crewman called Jack (aren’t they all?), and a Norwegian octopus. As an improvised piece, the tales told during the last three evenings of the run of the Kiss of the Vampire Squid may differ. But I am certain they will be at least as funny.

Tall tales and creepy stories of the sea have to be enjoyed on a boat. So where better than sitting on the deck of the HMAS Diamantina. Even the curlews got in on the act with the occasional creepy wail to augment the excellent work of the accordion player. Act/React have a team who work well together. The device of the narrator keeps the show on the road, and the other actors on their toes as they react to changes in the various scenarios. Some great observations about inter-European rivalries, appropriate costumes and makeup, and excellent props all help in creating a really enjoyable 60 minutes.

Picture: The Narrator in control,  Kiss of the Vampire Squid . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: The Narrator in control, Kiss of the Vampire Squid. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Anywhere Festival is Brisbane. A chance to experience new works which reimagine different places across the city. Kiss of the Vampire Squid is Anywhere Festival at its best: a fun evening that will always echo around in my mind any time I am near the Maritime Museum. I’m sure every evening will be different…so, if funds allow, go to all 3 remaining shows and get a chance to see some very funny improv.

Verdict: Go. It’s a fun evening, and a chance to see what Anywhere Festival is all about.

Audience tip: Arrive early so you can have a quick look at part of the Queensland Maritime Museum, and enjoy fantastic views of the Brisbane skyline. Dress for the cool evenings (you’re outside, but seating is undercover). Buy a drink on your way onboard (on-site bar a very reasonable $2-$5). PG (sexual references & occasional language). 60 minutes.

Pictured: Kiss of the Vampire Squid. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence

Pictured: Kiss of the Vampire Squid. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence

Presented by ACT/React, at Maritime Brisbane (the Queensland Maritime Museum).Only three more performances (17th, 18th & 20th May) so get in quick. Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. $22. 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 12th May performance.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: The Kingfisher

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Review: The Kingfisher

The Javeenbah is a fantastic theatre: an intimate space located close to the motorway, so ideal for locals and visitors from Brisbane (100 comfortable seats, great lighting set up and excellent facilities following the 2002-03 rebuild).  For over 40 years, the Javeenbah Theatre Company has offered a program of 6 productions a year, bringing comedies and musicals to a local audience.

The Kingfisher appears to be an ideal choice for Javeenbah members. A light romantic comedy that has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic: with Broadway success (staring Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert) and a more recent British touring production (staring Francis Matthews and Honor Blackman). The playwright had an excellent pedigree for writing sit-coms about upper-class Brits. Born into an aristocratic family, William was the younger brother of Sir Alec Douglas-Home (British Prime Minister). William also had a brief political career, but is perhaps best known for writing around 50 plays—apparently most built on his personal experience, being comedies set in upper-class homes.

The program prologue sets the scene. Fifty years ago Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins) wooed Evelyn Rivers (Viviane Gian) under a beech tree, but lost his bride-to-be to the now-recently deceased Reggie Townsend. Five decades later Sir Cecil (now a successful playwright) makes contact with the widow, inviting her to visit the home he now shares with his faithful butler, Hawkins (Graham Scott). The routines established by Hawkins, during almost fifty years of devoted service to his master, seem certain to be disturbed by Sir Cecil’s plans to propose. As Lady Evelyn hot-foots it straight from the funeral to see Sir Cecil for afternoon tea, the scene is set...The play sees the retelling, and unravelling, of anecdotes about Sir Cecil’s love life, and of tales of Lady Evelyn’s life since she left the amorous Cecil fifty years earlier. By the second act we have the much-anticipated proposal and Evelyn’s abrupt departure for another possible second husband. 

Sadly this 1977 play has not travelled the decades well, and I feel even the best actors would struggle a little. Certainly I was not convinced that Sir Cecil was the love of anyone’s life. Scott’s role has all the best lines, and some great opportunities for ‘business’ during the play: from the delight in re-telling exaggerated tales of his masters caddish behaviour, through to the distraught over-hearing of Cecil’s protestations of love. Gian played Lady Evelyn role with great style, which made her impressive unravelling (as she drank her way through numerous Sidecars, and lots of spirits) even more amusing. The second act was much more enjoyable than the first—where the talented Director, Nathan Schulz (see my earlier review of his most recent work in 2 Across), creates great humour around the proposal/dénouement. But I suspect that even Francis Matthews struggled to bring out the best in this play.

Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Congratulations to the production team—in particular costume designers Christine MacLachland and Gillian-Eve Butcher (Lady Evelyn’s outfits were just perfect). On the first night I did find some of the lighting changes were a little abrupt, and while the fountain helped to create the impression of a running stream it became a little distracting. But these are problems that are easily rectified.

The script, however, is very much of its time, and is probably best left back in the 1970s.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended The Kingfisher at Nerang’s Javeenbah Theatre, on Saturday, 27th May 2017, 8pm. The Kingfisher has nine performances (26th May to 10th June, 2017).

Tickets $20-$25. Two acts, one interval.

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

Dear Anywhere Festival Organisers,

Debretts advise that thank-you letters should be hand-written and sent within ten days of an event or gift. Well, I’ve met the ten-day rule, but let me assure you it’s just as well this is typed (otherwise, you’d never be able to read it). Apparently I am supposed to be specific as to what I am thanking you for, to tell you why I cherish or enjoyed it, share some news, and close. So here goes..

May seems to have flown by, and that is largely down to you both. Another Anywhere Festival is behind us, and I am missing it already. So thank you for all that you have done in creating and inspiring the Anywhere Festival concept. And for making it happen again in 2017.

There are so many reasons why Anywhere Festival is a vital part of the fabric of Brisbane (and now in other communities across the coast):

Site-specific: My favourite performances in the 2017 festival were Signs, 2 Across and Oh Lady Be Good. The shows combined fantastic performers and great writing with perfect location choices. The productions were a perfect fit with the venues: 2 Across had two people meeting on a real, moving tram, Signs was set in a classroom, and Oh Lady Be Good was an intimate soirée/house party in a house.

A broad range of work: Great theatre, but also a broad range of circus (from the adult dark clowning and sideshow of Hiraeth, to the more traditional and youthful Fusion) and story-telling through song (including the fabulous Melissa Western’s Oh Lady Be Good, and Bethan Ellsmore… is the Queen of the Night).

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in  2 Accross . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in 2 Accross. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Showcases talented people: Great actors (including Nathan Schultz in 2 Across, and the impressive Brodie Greenhalgh in both Signs and Immaculate Confection), artists (Melissa Western, Bethan Ellsmore), writers (Aimee Duroux, Jerry Mayer), performers (Ty Fitzsimons, Nadia Jade), directors (Samantha Bull), costume-designers, and more.

Incredible value: For example, tickets for Hiraeth were only $15—for a 60 minute show which included standout performances by Ty Fitzsimons (acrobatics and clowning) and Nadia Jade (aerial apparatus and dangerous sideshow). Fitzsimons’ acrobatics were probably the best I have ever seen when climbing up the rope upside down, and some great ‘air walking, and Jade fascinated and revulsed the audience in equal measure with fire-, glass- and balloon-eating, and amesmerising mixture of aerial silk with glass-walking.  You should have been there.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons in  Hiraeth . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons in Hiraeth. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Provocative: New work and new ideas this year included fantastic new writing (Signs), interesting ideas (Immaculate Conception), and fascinating facts (Oh Lady Be Good),  

New places: The Festival introduces audiences to new and old spaces—encouraging spectators to start working through their local bucket lists. This year, fantastic new venues included The Bison Bar at Nambour (an excellent venue for Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night), and the Brisbane Tramway Museum (a perfect choice for 2 Across). Oh, and of course the Kookaburra Queen Showboat Cruises’ paddle wheeler; it was wonderful to see audiences dressing the part for Cluedo! The Interactive Game.

Pictured: Melissa Western in  Oh Lady Be Good . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Melissa Western in Oh Lady Be Good. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Fun: Quite a lot of the shows I saw touched on serious themes, in particular about the agony of growing up. But there was a lot of fun, laughter, and fabulous humour along the way. For example, Peter Wood as school Drama President in ‘Signs’ and as Grant in Immaculate Conception certainly made some memorable entrances.

Intimate spaces: In seeking out place that are “anywhere but a theatre,’ performers bring work to new audiences in often intimate settings. The fabulous Australian Modern again hosted fantastic, including the magnificent performances by Melissa Western and her band. Oh Lady be Good is a wonderful show, and the chance to see a jazz band and chanteuse at the top of their game was greatly enhanced by the wonderful hospitality of Susan and Chris Osborne. I can’t wait to see what house parties they host next year.

Community celebration: Not only for the creatives and performers, but also for their supporting casts of families and friends. So great to come out of shows and see the hugs from proud parents, and slightly amazed friends, as they gather round the team.

... To be fair, I didn't enjoy every show I saw this year. There are probably three events that I felt needed significant work before coming back into the light of day again. But I am hugely impressed that everyone put so much effort and energy into making their vision a reality. And that’s because of the festival. And because of the work you do.

Following the specified format for such notes, I know I have to provide some news before I close. My ‘news’ is that I'm gearing up for next year. Only 11 months until Anywhere Festival 2018

So, again, thank you!

Yours sincerely,

 

Catherine Lawrence, Official Anywhere Festival Reviewer

The reviewer attended performances of 2 Across, Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night, Cluedo! The Interactive Game, The Flood, The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts & Immaculate ConfectionFusion, Hiraeth, The Last Ginger, Oh Lady Be Good, The One Room of the House, and Signs during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (4th-21st May).

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in  Signs . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in Signs. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

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Review: Signs

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Review: Signs

‘Signs’ is a wonderful example of the best of the Anywhere Festival: site-specific new work, beautifully written, sensitively directed, and performed by a talented cast in front of local audiences. A funny, illuminating, and highly-entertaining show about 5 high school students, ‘Signs’ is one of my top picks for the 2017 festival. Following a sell-out run of only 4 shows, I really hope that Vacant Collective are able to bring this production to a wider audience. It’s perfect for educational theatre, and I am certain that more people around Brisbane would love to see it coming to their schools (or even theatres).

School Captain, Noah (the impressive Brodie Greenhalgh), chairs a small committee—an unlikely group charged with designing and producing the graduating class yearbook. Noah introduces the concept of a “safety net” to encourage participation as, aside from an aspiring writer (Levi Wilcox as Cam), the rest of the group appear to have little real interest in yearbook production. The Football Captain (Dean Taylor as Jock) and Sports Captain (Caeleb Grosser as Simon) are best friends, but otherwise the rest of the committee appear to have very different interests and social spheres. Their roles in the school define them, and establish specific sets of friends. Thus, despite a high profile as school Drama President, Byron (Peter Wood) has to correct Noah at the end of the first meeting: “My name’s Byron, not Brian.” And when Cam confides in Noah, his note adds that “no one ever asks.” During the 60 minute play, they all discover the benefits of working together, learning more about each other and themselves in the process.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Some of the plays I have seen during the 2017 Anywhere Festival promised hilarity and great humour. In contrast, the promotional material for ‘Signs’ promised neither, but writer Aimee Duroux, and Director Samantha Bull, have created a really funny and enjoyable show, using words and silences to great effect. Some of the humour centred on the committee beginning to work together. Agreeing on the “vintage” styling of Polaroid portraits, the group began to gel when Cam managed to get Jock to smile, and as they all gathered to wait for the picture to develop. But much of the fun was to be had in the smaller cameos. When Jock and Byron remain alone in the classroom, I enjoyed both the writing (in the interaction between Taylor and Wood), and also Greenhalgh's departing ‘business,’ as he reminded them of the continued operation of the “safety net” once he had left.  

Working on the yearbook allows the committee to split up into many different combinations. A number of these ‘double acts’ were memorable both for the humour but also for revealing the developing trust and openness between the students. Working together on the arts section of the yearbook—Jock gets the great line that “Simon and Byron sounds like a ‘90s pop duo”—creates an opportunity for Grosser and Wood to have an open conversation that goes to the heart of the play. For it isn’t all laughter and fun—as Wood vents his fears and frustrations as to how to answer the difficult questions as to “What else do you do?[…] What are you going to do with your life, Byron?”

The casting was excellent. I really did believe that each member of the team was that person. Greenhalgh was the School Captain who struggled to juggle his responsibilities, Grosser the all-rounder who proved himself to be a great friend, Wilcox the talented introvert who becomes a key member of the team, and Taylor the sporting ‘Jock’ who was more intelligent than he might have first seemed. (Incidentally, I understand that Taylor was a late addition to the cast and did an excellent jobjust  occasionally needing to have a bit more confidence in some of the great lines). Wood also maintained his record for funniest entrances of the festival, luxuriating in the green cloak when announcing he was “feeling particularly sassy today.”

Pictured: Byron (Peter Wood) and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Byron (Peter Wood) and Cam (Levi Wilcox). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

And the location is perfect. Redcliffe State High School provided a wonderful setting for the show. The audience waited outside to enter the classroom, and quickly entered into the spirit of being back at school.  Once seated, we had front-row seats for a sequence of meetings and side discussions, and the cast had our full attention.

A sign is not only the acting of making your mark (an autograph), but can be a fixed information point or gesture to indicate direction or convey information. In the hands of the talented Duroux and Bull—and through the excellent performances of Greenhalgh, Grosser,  Taylor, Wilcok, Wood,  and great work of Stage Manager Melissa Herburg, and Costume Designer Jaymee Richards—‘Signs’ was a really enjoyable show that highlighted that appearances can be deceptive, and that colleagues should be more open to picking up on the feelings and challenges faced by those around them.

Catherine Lawrence

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Cam (Levi Wilcox), and Simon (Caeleb Grosser). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Cam (Levi Wilcox), and Simon (Caeleb Grosser). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

The reviewer attended the 20th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/signs/ $17-22 .  60 minutes.  The show had only 4 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (18th-21st May).

 

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Review: 2 Across

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Review: 2 Across

It’s just after 4am and two people meet on the San Francisco BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The desire to sit in a “lucky seat,” and a shared interest in completing the “sadistic Saturday” New York Times crossword, lead to a flirtatious conversation between this modern ‘odd couple.’ In an intimate production of this funny, witty and entertaining script, the audience are fellow passengers during the 80 minute trip. Nathan Schulz Presents (NSP) and the Brisbane Tramway Museum have produced a show that demonstrates the best aspects of the Anywhere Theatre Festival—an annual theatrical celebration which brings nooks and crannies from across Brisbane (and beyond) to life.  We may all be at the Ferny Grove Tramway Museum, sitting on a real Brisbane tram, but we are soon enthralled in the ‘will they won’t they’ interplay between Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/Josh). 

‘She’ is the organised, sensible, Catholic psychologist—who sees crosswords as “a metaphor for life – those who finish, succeed, those who don’t fail.” ‘He’ is about to return to a career in advertising; the Jewish son who has a track record of failing to commit, and who has walked away from a 25 years working in the family button business. At best, She seems him as a “charming free spirit,” initially implying that he is not “mensch“ ('mensch' is a Yiddish compliment, suggesting honour and integrity). He is clearly alarmed that she carries a range of books (including an atlas) to help her complete the crossword, and feels that she needs to reassess her rigid approach to life. It appears that the only points they have in common are an interest in crosswords and being married (to other people). But nothing is quite what it seems.  

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The direction is impeccable (a great use of the space), the ‘off-stage’ Foley work superb (hats off to the hard-working front of house and voice artist!), and the tram is a perfect space for the show (complete with comfortable seats, suitable lighting, excellent acoustics, and movement!).  But the stars of the production are Dittmann and Schulz. The actors create two convincing characters, performing their lines in a highly-believable and natural way. Soon we really are voyeurs, travelling in the carriage, watching two people only lightly resist a growing mutual attraction. Having seen them in this show I will certainly look out for other opportunities to see them perform.

Pictured (L to R): A crossword clue. Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): A crossword clue. Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There is no gratuitous sex or violence, no earth-shattering world-changing themes; just a charming, flirtatious, witty romantic comedy. Perfect for a first date, an anniversary celebration, or as a Mother’s Day gift. This is what it ‘says on the box’ (“a comedy of romance and crosswords”). The humour has a witty, light, flirtatious touch, but you don’t have to be passionate about crosswords (or worry about being dragged to see a soppy romance) to enjoy this show. The play is charming, funny, and beautifully acted and directed. Oh, and you get to visit the tramway museum and ride on a real Brisbane tram! The only disappointment is that it closes on 12th May.

So cancel any plans for tonight or tomorrow, buy a ticket (or two) and enjoy.

Tickets $25-$30 (why not enter into the spirit of the show and purchase the $30 ‘romance package,’ complete with rose of course) https://anywheretheatre.com/listings/2-across/.  80 minutes.  The show has a mere 4 performances during the Anywhere Festival (tickets still on sale for 11th and 12th May).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 10th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

An Amateur Production By arrangement with ORIGIN Theatrical on behalf of Samuel French Inc.

 

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Review: The Food and Masculinity Double

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Review: The Food and Masculinity Double

The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts (by Share House Theatre Company) & Immaculate Confection (by Josh Lyons), at Bedouin Brew, Rocklea (6 performances, 4th -15th May, 2017).

As with many double bills, there are some common themes across the two shows in The Food and Masculinity Double. On this occasion, less a focus on food and more about the fluctuating concepts of masculinity.  

In May Contain Traces of Nuts we follow Evan (James Hammond) as he grapples with his relationship with Cass (Rebekah Schmidt), and just ‘what type of man’ he wants to be.  Both Evan and his father have a number of failed relationships behind them. As his Dad (Brendan O’Leary) says of the women in his life, “they come and they go.” During the 37 minute performance, Evan learns that he needs to move away from what he perceives to be ‘advice’ from his friends, his father, and from macho role models. The production ends on a hopeful note that Cass and Evan may find a way forward, based on a relationship of mutual respect.

Hammond and Schmidt were excellent in their duet—and in their portrayal of the frustration, confusion, and uncertainty that runs hand-in-hand with many embryonic relationships. They are also both actors to watch in the future. The production had moments of great humour. For example, both Evan and Cass engage with their celebrity poster idols—brought to life as Dim Visel (humorously played by Johanna Lyon) and as Yonce (to much hilarity, as a result of the cameo by Brendan O’Leary). O’Leary is an engaging and compelling presence on stage, and I greatly enjoyed his portrayal of both Dad and of Yonce—although it is perhaps disappointing that the greatest laughs came when he sculled a bottle of water. 

Pictured (L to R):  James Hammond (Evan) with Brendan O’Leary (Dad). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured (L to R): James Hammond (Evan) with Brendan O’Leary (Dad). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Share House Theatre Company is credited as producer and author of the piece (directed by Emma Black). Perhaps future developments of the work might include a writer/editor, and an additional actor for some of the female roles (which might lessen potential confusion between Cass and Sam—both played by Schmidt—and also allow Lyon to concentrate more on the Dim Visel cameo).

Immaculate Confection centres on Chris’s (Brodie Greenhalgh’s) participation in a psychology project. Gift cards are a sufficient incentive for Chris to participate in a 6-week experiment, which touches on issues of dependence and relationships. And which involves a watermelon. At 23, Chris is in a relationship with Louise (Emma Youngberry), and still living at home in a household that includes his Mum (Joyce, played by Emma Lamberton), step-father (Ken, played by Zach Finlayson), and brother (Grant, played by Peter Wood). During the experiment, Chris brings what soon becomes a “gendered” watermelon into the home—disturbing the equilibrium of the household, and unsettling his developing relationship with Louise.

Serious stuff? Sometimes. Greenhalgh was certainly up to the darker challenges of the role, with a compelling central performance as Chris. But there were also some fabulous and funny moments—mainly as a result of some great comedy performances by Greenhalgh and by Wood. For example, The Carpenters’ rendition of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David "(They Long to Be) Close to You" will never be the same again if you manage to buy a ticket and get to see Wood and Greenhalgh’s watermelon duet. And Wood was a great foil as Grant (with one of the best entrances I’ve seen for a while when he first came on stage), and also made the most of his ensemble role as a Psychologist.

Pictured:  Brodie Greenhalgh (Chris), with Peter Wood (Grant) in background. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Brodie Greenhalgh (Chris), with Peter Wood (Grant) in background. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Looking ahead, as the play develops, I feel that there could be some further work on the script, and the actors certainly deserved a curtain call. But congratulations to John Lyons for writing and directing an enjoyable 40 minute production—and for bringing some of the Nirvana Teen Spirit themes of the challenges of transitioning towards being an adult, to the stage.  Or rather, to the garden centre coffee shop.

The Anywhere Festival draws audiences to new, non-theatre spaces. The Food and Masculinity Double is held in a great venue. By day, My Plants and Bedouin Coffee. And by night, during May 2017, Bedouin Coffee hosts two great Anywhere Festival events; not only The Food and Masculinity Double but also, on different evenings, Junkyard Wormhole (puppetry for more adult audiences). It’s great for theatre: coffee on hand, a flexible space (with good off-stage areas), excellent acoustics (the occasional passing lorry doesn’t really distract), excellent sight-lines, and comfortable seating. Oh, and a chance to see new and developing work at incredibly reasonable prices. What’s not to like? Share House Theatre Company focuses on performance art for and by young people. The double bill is certainly worth the price of the ticket for young and old.

NoteRating MA15+, as the productions contain coarse language, sexual references, and adult themes. There are also limited (what I felt to be unnecessary) strobe lighting effects.

The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts & Immaculate Confection is at Bedouin Brew, Rocklea, for just 6 performances (ending 15th May, 2017). Tickets available at the door or online: $20-$25 (plus $2.20 fee per transaction if purchased online). 90 minutes, including a 15 minute interval.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended The Food and Masculinity Double at Bedouin Brew on 4th May 2017, 7pm.

 

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