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Dance

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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Review: The Lounge Suite

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Review: The Lounge Suite

Dale Pengelly’s Lounge Suite is a two-hour song and dance show packed with anecdotes, tap-dancing, high-kicks, and even opportunities for audience participation. The program combines Dean Martin-style/’rat-pack’ classics with a sequence of musical theatre numbers—all threaded together with some of the many highlights from Dale’s 36+ years in showbusiness. 

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The Lounge Suite isn’t purely a one-man show. Hello Dolly was a great choice for the opening number, with close harmonies provided by the Candy Shop Show’s Maureen Bowra and Jenny Usher, who returned to the stage at different points during the evening—including encouraging and leading the audience in two great participation numbers. For example, Everybody Loves Somebody was a fantastic choice as an audience participation number, and everyone certainly had as much fun with the fans as Dale did performing that one.

Pictured:  Everybody Loves Somebody . Dale Pengelly (centre), with fans. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Everybody Loves Somebody. Dale Pengelly (centre), with fans. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The “story-time” anecdotes were well-chosen and kept the audience enthralled as names were “dropped” left, right, and centre. Great to see both photographs and video illustrating Dale’s cv—in particular, the Paula Yates dance lesson (by Dale and Hot Shoe Shuffle colleagues) which led into the enjoyable performance of  L-O-V-E.  Suitable changes of pace ranged from the entertaining and well-choreographed Sway and the cast having fun with Amore (using the lounge at the back of the stage to great effect), through to the touching Tenterfield Saddler (introduced as “my tribute to Todd McKenney”).

Musical theatre is no easy gig. From his early days in State and National ballet companies, Dale moved on to performing/understudying some of the major roles in musical theatre (with many national and international tours), as well directing and choreographing a number of shows. To maintain a steady program of work over a period spanning almost four decades is impressive—particularly when the performer can still tap dance and high-kick in the way that he does. Just watch out for the high-kicking in New York, New York!  The audience certainly got their value for money, with over 20 pieces including dance solos, a voice solo by Maureen, and two dance duets featuring Jenny (Rich Man’s Frug with Maureen, and You Were Meant for Me with Dale).

Pictured: Dale Pengelly. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative FUtures Photography.

Pictured: Dale Pengelly. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative FUtures Photography.

I am sure that The Lounge Suite would work well as a Dean Martin tribute show, leaving ‘my life in musical theatre’ as a separate piece. It would have been great to see this Show with a larger audience (but the crew attending on 25th May had a ball), and perhaps better sound monitors onstage for the performers. But at $30 for a 2-hour program of music and dance, I am sure the audience didn’t feel short-changed.

Verdict: I would love to see this with a live band. Look out for future opportunities to see Dale Pengelly.

Audience tip: Easy on-site parking, and great value drinks and food available at the Queensland Russian Community Group, Woolloongabba. A two-hour show (including a 20-minute interval).

Tickets at the Anywhere Festival website. $30. Friday and Saturday performances during Anywhere Festival 2018 (11, 12, 18, 19, 25 & 26 May. All 7:30pm with one 3pm matinee [19 May]. Presented by Pengelly Productions at Anywhere Festival,  at the Kenmore Retro Bar, and Woolloongabba  Queensland Russian Community Group. Suitable for audiences of any age.

Catherine Lawrence

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Dale Pengelly and Jenny Usher. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The reviewer attended the Friday 25th  May performance at the Queensland Russian Community Group, Woolloongabba. Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: It's Not Easy Being Green

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Review: It's Not Easy Being Green

 

Pictured:    Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)     Picture credit: Unknown

Pictured: Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)

Picture credit: Unknown

For only two nights this week, Paddington’s Room to Play is home to what the author describes as “a light-hearted trip, deep into the twisted rabbit-hole of the human psyche.”  “It’s Not Easy Being Green” is an enjoyable,  thought-provoking showcase, during which Karen Lee Roberts (Alexandra) and Jeff Usher (Mr Sunshine) perform a collection of eight original songs, interspersed with character-filled snapshots, illustrating aspects of Alexandra’s two-year journey towards “being green.”

Life may be a cabaret (“old chum”)*, but Roberts and Usher ably demonstrate that cabaret is also the perfect form to provoke discussions about life’s highs and lows. Alexandra poses the early question “Is it kosher to speak of subjects like this?” In this show,  Roberts and Usher answer that question in the affirmative.  The majority of cabaret performances across Australia this year are more likely to touch on the racier aspects of life. But It’s Not Easy Being Green demonstrates that cabaret can also entertain, educate, and engage when touching on important issues of “mental wellness.” The emphasis throughout the evening is on entertainment: great music, original songs, delicious characterisation, and some enjoyably comic moments. But, in a thought-provoking 60 minute show, Roberts also offers insights into the challenges and experience of dealing with the manic ups and deep downs associated with mental health issues.

Roberts is a talented performer—not only author and co-producer, but also composer, singer, character actress, and comic. On stage she is well-matched by the evening’s Mr Sunshine. Legendary is an over-used word, but it certainly applies to Usher—who plays some perfectly-judged jazz and blues music, and even provides accomplished beat-boxing accompaniments along the way. Audiences will have their personal favourites from the evening. I found it difficult to pick just one song, but got it down to a top three: the opening “Society’s Blues,” the frenetic “Chameleon,” and the closing “Ever Pure.” Mind you, if I could make it a top four then the beat-boxing exercise rap could be a great addition to anyone’s exercise playlist.

The production has clearly benefited from the direction of IndelABILITY Arts  fellow-professional, Catarina Hebbard. Under Hebbard’s direction, the show works well within the intimate space—aided by the beautiful lighting and great technical support.  As a result, we focus on the writing, concentrating to catch every word.  

One of the great things about cabaret is that the audience is an important part of the evening. The interactions between Alexandra and Mr Sunshine were well-worked (perhaps more would have been even better), and the switch from on-stage to direct audience engagement was beautifully done. London’s Time Out suggests that cabaret can “change the world.” At the end of the show you may leave realising that its ok to venture beyond safe chitchat about “canapés and cocktails” and be prepared to respond to honest conversational openers.

Queensland’s Mental Health week starts on 9th October 2016. Why not invest in your own mental wellness and drop into Paddington’s historic 1930’s Substation this weekend to see for yourself how successful the versatile Room to Play performance space is.  It’s Not Easy Being Green is only at Room to Play, Paddington for two nights (730pm on both Friday 7th and Saturday 8th October, 2016).  Tickets are available at Eventbrite ($26.25 adult, $21 concession—including booking fees) or, if not sold out, may also be available at the door (cash payment only,  $25 full and $20 concession). Arrive at 7pm to take the opportunity to visit the cash bar before selecting your seat.

 

* yes, I am singing Fred Ebb’s words and trying to conjure my inner Liza Minnelli as I write…

 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended a dress rehearsal of It’s Not Easy Being Green on Wednesday 5 October, 2016.

 

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2016

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2016

Anywhere Festival 2016: And the winners are…..

 

18 days, 420 performances, and 63 locations.  The May 2016 Anywhere Festival transformed Brisbane—opening up many of the more unusual places across the local area, and giving our ‘creatives’ a chance to shine. Audience members had the opportunity to nominate the shows they wanted to recognise—with eight shows singled out in the inaugural Anywhere Festival awards.  As I only got to see ten events, here are my top ten Anywhere Festival memories. In the tradition of the Anywhere Festival awards, this is not a countdown….

  1. Fantastic costumes, hair and make-up: Kylie Stephenson (as Marilyn Hanold playing Princess Marcuzan)  had the best costume-using-tinfoil of the festival, designed by Kristine Von Hilderbrandt). However (ahh…those aprons!) I loved the attention to detail in the costumes, props, hair and make-up in The Train Tea Society. Congratulations to Jaymee Richards and Kristine Von Hilderbrandt). 
  2. Circus skills: The Circus Claire Show  was a joyous 45-minute performance by a versatile and skilled circus artist.  Claire Ogden illustrated a journey of self-discovery with hula hoops, juggling, partner acrobatics, aerial tissue, physical comedy, and dance—leaving her audience ‘Walking on Sunshine.’ This was a difficult choice, as the Vulcana Women's Circus deserve an honourable mention for their guest performance at the Muses Trio launch.
  3. Risks taken: One of the many great things about the Anywhere Festival is the opportunity to test new ideas.  The team behind Straight On Till Morning perhaps took the biggest risks when inverting the more traditional theatrical experience, complete with an abrupt ending in a bar.
  4. Dance: Candy Shop Show quartet (led by the impressive Jenny Usher) combined close harmonies, and great costumes with some impressive dance moves. Sugar, Sugar! was a slightly cheeky and entertaining way to re-visit times the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
  5. Inspired CD launchThe Muses Trio  describe their work as ‘celebrating music by women, performed by women.’ It was an inspired idea to launch their debut CD (The Spirit and the Maiden) inside the Boggo Road Gaol—celebrating music by female composers with performances by women (including special guests from Vulcana Women's Circus) taking place inside the women-only wing of a former prison. Christa Powell, Louise King and Therese Milanovic demonstrated their virtuosity in an edgy, compelling, powerful, memorable and often-moving performance.
  6. Sound and light at a whole new level: The Cult fun B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster was the first time I’ve seen a production where the lighting (Ghoul Shadows) and Music/Audio (Chris Richards) techs also play such important supporting roles. Shadows created the lighting and a number of different ‘off-stage’ voices, while Richards augmented a fantastic soundtrack of original music and audio with a great narration.
  7. Production & writing:  Honourable mentions to Hannah Belanszky for The Wives of Wolfgang (Work in Progress), as well as to Sarah Clarke and Mark Salvestro (Private Moments – A Double Bill (‘Semi Charmed’ and ‘Buried At Sea’). Belanszky has set the bar high for the future with her first play, while Clarke and Salvestro’s compelling performances created believable characters in an intimate setting. However, I was driven to superlatives by The Train Tea Society—with cups of celebratory tea all round to Emily Vascotto (Writer & Producer) and Gabriella Flowers (Director & Producer).
  8. Entertainment: Gin and Sin Jazz Salon was a standout, thanks to the fabulous performances by Miss Laine (Laine Loxlea-Danann), Alicia Cush, and Dave Spicer (with special guest Zoe Georgakis-Ray).  For a little over 90 minutes the audience were enthralled, amused, moved and greatly entertained by a well-chosen mix of jazz, “mashups” performed by talented musicians who are clearly at the top of their game.  And there was a lot of fun. Just mention maracas, ukulele’s or ‘lazy’ to anyone who was there and you’ll see a smile.
  9. Memorable ensemble: This was a difficult choice, but the characters created in The Train Tea Society were quite fantastic. From the irrepressible twins Nora & Nellie Cummings (Aimee Duroux and Samantha Bull)’s tapping for the troops through to Julia Johnson’scompelling performance as Mrs J.A. Eliza Cameron. Johnson played the ‘lady bountiful’ role with aplomb, and was a compelling presence on the stage as she observed some of the more reckless and ill-advised exchanges between other characters.
  10. Perfect venues: OK, I give up… to chose just one venue which perfectly suited the  particular production is an impossible task.  My five honourable mentions go to:

But arguably the perfect Anywhere Festival venue was the combination of Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett’s Australian Modern home with talented Jazz musicians, a little gin, and a tiny twist of sin.

 

 So… thanks to all of the volunteers, artists, cast, creatives, venue-owners and Anywhere Festival Producers (particularly Paul Osuch and Ally McTavish) for the … the winners are…. Brisbane… and the audience.

Which means that yes… I can’t wait until May 2017 !

Catherine Lawrence

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Review: Jazz Age Dance Cabaret

Pictured: Jenny Usher (Director/Choreographer/Performer), in Top Hat n’Tails, at   The Jazz Age Dance Cabaret  . Picture credit:    Geoff Lawrence .

Pictured: Jenny Usher (Director/Choreographer/Performer), in Top Hat n’Tails, at The Jazz Age Dance Cabaret. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

For an afternoon or evening of sequins, feathers, high-kicks, close harmonies, and energy, there is no better place to be than the Woolloongabba Antique Centre. The Candy Shop Show promised performers singing and dancing their way through the Prohibition and Speakeasy’s of the 20s and 30s and reliving the melodic harmonies of the 1940s. Their production delivered on that promise. I saw the matinee on 9th May, 2015, where Jenny Usher (Director/Choreographer/Performer) was joined on stage by Erin Coates, Maureen Bowra, and Natalie Renouf. The high-energy musical theatre production had plenty of opportunity to see their combined “over 12 metres of legs” as the audience enjoyed a “delicious journey through the 20s, 30s, and 40s.”

The music was well-chosen, there was a wonderful balance between dance and song, and the costumes complemented each of the set-pieces. The cast, ably supported by Kym Brown (stage manager), produces an hour and a half of high-class entertainment that is educational and fun.

Pictured: Jenny Usher, Erin Coates, Maureen Bowra, and Natalie Renouf. à la Moulin Rouge!, in The Jazz Age Dance Cabaret (9th May 2015). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

Pictured: Jenny Usher, Erin Coates, Maureen Bowra, and Natalie Renouf. à la Moulin Rouge!, in The Jazz Age Dance Cabaret (9th May 2015). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

Song and dance routines were interspersed with short talks, contextualising the change in dance and musical styles with film excerpts and newsreel footage. This gave the cast a chance to make a number of quick costume changes—moving with a flourish from the flappers of the 20s, to the top hat and tails of the 30s, and Andrew’s sisters-style uniforms of the 40s.  In the second half, the cast touched on a number of aspects of the modern revival of the jazz age—complete with performances of CandyMan (in sailor suits of course), music and dance from Chicago, and even racy red outfits à la Moulin Rouge!

The Jazz Age Dance Cabaret (9th May 2015). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

The Jazz Age Dance Cabaret (9th May 2015). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

I found myself thinking it would be an ideal Mother’s Day gift: a chance to shop in the Woolloongabba Antique Centre, enjoy interval refreshments at the 1950’s Milk Bar style cafe, and settle the family into vintage cinema seats to enjoy a performance of high-kicks and close harmonies.  Shoppers longingly peeked through the curtains, clearly wishing they’d also invested in a ticket.

Only four more performances remain in the Anywhere Festival Brisbane season. I’d recommend you snap up any remaining tickets if you can. Sequins and feather boas optional (for the audience).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the matinee performance on 10th May, 2015

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