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Drama

Review: Which Way Home

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Review: Which Way Home

Which Way Home is a funny, touching and richly layered play. If you get the chance to see it, you may just find yourself wishing you’d booked tickets for the next night too.

Road trips are a great format. Characters travelling from a to b (frequently with a time pressure), spending hours in close proximity in a vehicle (perfect for intimate discussions, reflections and revelations). The landscape is often an important ‘character,’ and reaching the destination can be a moment of catharsis or revelation. Unsurprisingly, road trips are often used in films or television but, as the Ilbijerri Theatre production Which Way Home demonstrates, it can also be used to create great theatre.

Writer and actor Katie Beckett, has produced a clever work using this established format to great effect (with the support of Jane Bodie, dramaturge). The 65-minute play incorporates fragmented conversations, quiet times of reflection, and episodic ‘flashbacks’—complete with references to the which-came-first-chicken-or-egg debate, individual and shared memories of childhood experience, and nagging about the consumption of sweets and the latest boyfriend. 

Tash (Katie Beckett) has “only got the weekend off” for a trip back to Country with her father (Kamahi Djordon King). Having grown up in a Queensland town, Tash expresses concerns as to whether “the mob” will recognise her. But perhaps there is something more than just a concern about being welcome, or recognised—suggested in her opening “Step one: Always add an extra hour before departure to avoid being late.” As the play unfolds, there are references throughout to lists, steps, plans, and schedules—coping mechanisms which include Dad’s repeated “Open. Listen. Breathe.”

The versatile Djordon King has what can only be described as the gift of a part: the ‘daggy dad’ (gambling, eating sweets, thinking tv characters are ‘real’, wearing a toupee) who clearly adores his daughter. The audience connected with his challenges as a single parent, felt a sense of the pain of his being alone, and enjoyed his protective pride in his daughter (the great shared memories of his rescuing her on the beach from knee-high water). But it was Beckett who held the show in her hand, and captivated the audience as the daughter who seeks to find out more about her mother (with so many unanswered questions her father finds too painful to discuss)—recalling childhood memories of time with her dad, of her mum, and even of a wonderfully-recreated ‘Nan’ (who took her to the ‘fancy side of town’ and shopping at Target Country).

Great direction (Rachael Maza) and a set that works really well (Emily Barrie). I loved the simplicity of the map and the use of the tea chests. No unnecessary steering wheel manipulation was a bonus, and just wait until you see the driving on gravel road. The show was beautifully lit (Niklas Pajanti), which was particularly important with the steady pour of sand onto the stage. 

The continuing flow of sand is a vital allusion to many of the issues raised in this play—an hourglass reference to mortality and the passing of time, and a reference to the importance of Country and connection. As Beckett observes, “the past is always with us.” Beautifully crafted, the play is a clever weaving together of past and present, demonstrating how time is not always a linear journey from a to b (past-present-future), but can also be circles and layers of memory, stories, and experience (the past in the present).  The show is funny, touching, and occasionally powerful. Definitely worth an hour of your time.

Verdict: Great writing, and a funny and sometimes touching show.

Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Audience tip: Make sure you arrive early; the Visy Theatre is an intimate space and you will disturb other members of the audience if you arrive after the lockout period starts. Unreserved seating with doors opening 15 minutes before the Show so pick up a drink to take into the space. Parental Advisory (website suggests 15+): Some strong language and adult themes. 65 minutes (no interval). The Show is almost at the end of a national tour (ends 18 August 2018), with a short run at Brisbane’s Powerhouse (8-11 August 2018, 7:00pm each evening plus a 2:00pm matinee on 11th August).  Tickets and information via the Brisbane Powerhouse website or at the Box Office ($49 Full, $35 Concession. Note: Additional $5.95 transaction fee).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 9 August 2018 performance.

Ilbijerri Theatre production image (L-R: Kamahi Djordon King and Katie Beckett).

Ilbijerri Theatre production image (L-R: Kamahi Djordon King and Katie Beckett).

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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: Wheel of Fortune

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Review: Wheel of Fortune

Note: Pictures credit Deelan Do (supplied by Metro Arts).

Wheel of Fortune has a number of meanings: a popular American television game show, a tarot card which is apparently interpreted as signifying change, and now the latest play to open at Brisbane’s Metro Arts.

Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 La Ronde, literally translated as “a round dance,” has ten scenes (or duets) between different pairs of lovers, where a character from each scene moves round to be part of the next, until the final pair includes one of the characters from the first pairing. A circular ‘dance’ which challenged the morals of the day when initially published, and which has been used in a number of iterations to continue to explore contemporary moralities and the dance of private (or not so private) lives and relationships. With a first public performance almost 100 years ago, the play continues to inspire creatives, with almost 20 film variations and nearly as many theatrical reinterpretations. The Brisbane Wheel of Fortune is a version written by Richard Jordan, Jacki Mison, Troy Armstrong and Krystal Sweedman (Producer Troy Armstrong and Director Tim Hill), which cleverly integrates audio and visual screen work created by Optic Archive (Joseph Meldrum, Cinematographer & Editor)

As the lights dimmed the play began with film-like credits, featuring an image of the ‘Wheel of Brisbane’ and spiralling camera work that set the scene for a Brisbane Summer evening. Following a woman walking through a public park, the screen (sound and imagery) acted as backdrop for the live action, as The Public Servant (Meg Bowden) calls out “I know you’re there. There’s no use hiding,” to force The American Marine (Richard Lund) to come out of the shadows. With a first sexual encounter that was perhaps not what the audience had initially feared, the screen action then moves to a Brisbane laneway, where the Marine is now outside a Brisbane nightclub with The Au Pair (Jacqui McLaren). The ‘Irish’ Au Pair is then tempted into a poolside encounter with the son of the household (The School Boy, played by Brendan Lorenzo), and the 17-year old boy then has a rendezvous with The Biology Teacher (Jacqui Story), before the Teacher returns home to her husband (The Lawyer/ Ron Kelly). And so we continue to follow each of the changing pairings until the ‘dance’ turns full circle, as The Public Servant and The Politician (Stephen Hirst) watch the sun rise on another new day.

The play combined some really humorous moments with the presentation of a number of confronting encounters. The scene between The Lawyer (Ron Kelly) and The Socialite (Ruby Clark) had When Harry Met Sally resonances which were greatly enjoyed by the first night audience. The strongest pairings in this production were those involving Elise Greig (The Portrait Photographer) and Veronica Neave (The Stage Actress). The seduction of The Politician by Neave’s The Stage Actress was beautifully done, and very funny, creating much laughter on the way to a believable fall from grace. Ruby Clark (The Socialite) was a great foil for Greig’s portrait photography session, which came as close second to what was, for me, the highlight of the Show: the funny and touching encounter between Neave and Greig. I'd love to see more work that brings these two talented actresses together.

 
Pictured: The Lawyer (Ron Kelly), foreground, on stage, with The Biology Teacher (Jacqui Story) on screen.  NOTE  Picture credit: Deelan Do.

Pictured: The Lawyer (Ron Kelly), foreground, on stage, with The Biology Teacher (Jacqui Story) on screen. NOTE Picture credit: Deelan Do.

 

A second major highlight was the creation of a blended film/theatrical event. I loved the integration of Optic Archive’s audio and visual work with the ‘live action.’ The screen was not merely a backdrop or set in front of which the work took place but was integral to the whole Show. The switching between the audio/visual and the on-stage actors worked well through the performance—particularly in the scene between Kelly and Story.

In creating a contemporary reworking and production of an established play—particularly in a version which included a representation of one sexual encounter that might be described as rape, and another of a relationship of a school teacher with her student—I would like to have seen more exploration of issues of consent, abuse, and contemporary morality. But it’s great to see a reinterpretation of a classic, particularly as a new Brisbane-based work which employs so many local actors and creatives. Hats off to Metro Arts and TAM Presents for bringing this piece to the stage.

Verdict: It is worth seeing the show to see how well the team have integrated the audio and visual work with the live performance, and for the performances by Neave and Greig alone, but note the rating and advice (the producers suggest 15+, highligting swearing or offensive language, adult themes, partial nudity, smoking or smoke effects, strobe lighting, and the portrayal of physical and emotional abuse).

Audience tip: Arrive early to buy a drink to take into the performance. I believe that the only access to the toilets is upstairs and the Metro Arts lift is still ‘work in progress.’ R (strong sexual references and abuse, sexual imagery & occasional language). 90 minutes.

A short season, so book now if you want to see Wheel of Fortune at The Lumen Room, Metro Arts, Brisbane as the season is only 31 May- 9 June 2018 (remaining shows: 4pm matinees on 2 & 9 June; 7pm shows on 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th June). Artist talk follows the 6th June performance. Tickets are available at the Metro Arts Website. $28 ($20 concession).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 1st June 2018 performance.

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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: 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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Review: Once in Royal David's City

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Review: Once in Royal David's City

Once in Royal David’s City by Michael Gow. Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) and Black Swan Theatre Company co-production, at Playhouse QPAC, 22nd April to 14th May, 2017.

 

Michael Gow’s Once in Royal David’s City centers on the Christmas death of Will Drummonds’ recently-widowed mother Jeannie. Less than 2 months after the lingering death of his father, Will (Jason Klarwein) arranges a Christmas holiday with his Mum; a chance for an idyllic rest, and some beachside relaxation. But instead the planned break rapidly turns into a bedside vigil.

During the short period from diagnosis to death, we reflect with Will on key scenes from his life, and join with him as he grapples with how to ‘deal’ with the death of his mother such a short time after she is widowed. We see and experience characters through Will, and also through their connection with Jeannie. For example, the seemingly uncaring Doctor (Adam Booth) is humanised when he relates an earlier conversation with Jeannie.  We also begin to question why we might expect the dying to embark on a deathbed process of unburdening close-held secrets; as Jeannie’s close friend Molly (Kaye Stevenson) suggests, it is for the living to say what they need to, and the dying to say only what they wish.

We also learn much about perspective, misunderstandings, and misreading of people and situations. Perspectives are a central part of the production, particularly when mother and son separately recall a Bondi beach visit, and temporary misplacing of the 6-year old Will. Jeannie recalls ‘losing’ him, but Will’s recollections are of ‘finding’ himself (or at least recalling enjoying his time with the hunky lifeguards). Equally, misunderstanding or misreading of characters and situations is a recurrent theme. Does the preacher (Wally, played by Steve Turner) have any faith at all? Is the hospital visitor (Gail, played by Toni Scanlon) really a nurse or professional carer?

This sounds like it is all serious stuff but—as in real life—even in death, there is usually humour. There are certainly some funny bits in this production, which is beautifully directed by QTC Artistic Director Sam Strong. This is particularly the case in the ensemble work of the cast: the Christmas eve switching between the ‘Dr Google’ prognosis and treatment options and the red-dressed TV star in the TV special (beautifully played by Emma Jackson), Steve Turner “on wheels,” and the poignant humour in Adam Sollis’ skateboarder's description of his fractured family Christmas.

Pictured: A scene from  Once in Royal David's City . Picture credit: Philip Gostelow.

Pictured: A scene from Once in Royal David's City. Picture credit: Philip Gostelow.

The QPAC Playhouse is a battleground that has claimed the heads of many set-designers, so hats off to Stephen Curtis, who used the space with economy and style. In particular, I loved the creation of the airport arrivals area, and of the utilitarian hospital room, at the back of the cavernous stage. That’s not to say I didn’t have a couple of minor quibbles with the setting. I have to admit I found the frequent “swipe left, swipe right” movements of the curtain a little irritating, and was a increasingly concernedat the ominous forward progress of the deathbed (had someone forgotten to put the brake on?). But I was in a minority in our group on both niggles.

Be warned, however. Will is a middle-aged theatre director, and fanatical about Brecht (so much so thathe is invited to teach at a private school—to the delight of his mother, who clearly sees teaching as a higher calling than theatre direction). Audiences are increasingly used to warnings such as those in the QTC program: about coarse language (limited), adult themes (death), and even of smoke and haze (limited smoke). But perhaps we have to introduce a new category, as the QTC promotion doesn’t warn you of a high Brecht content. If you have time before you go, skim Michael Beh’s program notes, which highlight the fusion of “elements of Brechtian theatre with contemporary realism” (and provide a few reminders about Brecht’s theatrical style that may be helpful in your own post-theatre reviews).

Chatting about the play with my fellow theatregoer, I was asked if I felt the play was autobiographical. I understand that Michael Gow was drawing on the loss of his own parents when he wrote this play, but I think the autobiographical question was more as a result of the compelling performance by Jason Klarwein. Despite the Brechtian alienation, for many of us Klarwein is William Drummond (who may in turn be Michael Gow). Klarwein’s superb performance alone is worth the price of entry.  From the opening welcome (“thanks’ for coming... I'm in an airport”) it is perhaps not surprising that we found ourselves questioning if the play was autobiographical.

Gow ends the work by posing the question “why is it so?”  We can of course wonder what the “it” is that is: that we expect certain behaviours or experiences at the time of death, that our plays have to be heart-rending or wildly amusing, that….?

Reflecting on Once in Royal David’s City, I’d also add my own question; when is a theatre not a theatre? Answer: when it’s a lecture theatre. If you prefer your lectures to be just that (at School, college or University)… and want to go to the theatre for entertainment or to relive life experiences and connection… then Once in Royal David’s City is not for you. But if you want to be provoked, to come out of a theatre thinking about what the playwright and Director were ‘trying to say’—and/or just want to see a powerhouse of a performance by Jason Klarwein—then go. And then tell me why you think it’s so.

Once in Royal David’s City is in Brisbane for just over three weeks (22nd April to 14th May, 2017). Tickets $55-$86 (plus $6.95 fee per transaction). 95 minutes, no interval.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended Once in Royal David’s City at Brisbane’s QPAC Playhouse, on Tuesday, 2nd May 2017, 6:30pm

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