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Immersive

Review: Here Comes The Bride!

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Review: Here Comes The Bride!

Weddings are a great place to watch and be watched, and often act as a catalyst for a few home truths and the creation or ending of relationships. Waiting for the return of the bride and groom from their epic photography shoot, guests at this particular wedding begin to share more information than is prudent. The latest gossip, inadvertently overheard by two of the subjects (gossipees?), is that one work colleague is about to propose, while another is about to dump his partner. Confusingly, both men have names that sound the same—a classic basis for a farce/comedy.

Pictured (L to R): Tahira Appadoo (Vera) and Yasmin Larasati (Rose) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Tahira Appadoo (Vera) and Yasmin Larasati (Rose) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

In a short piece it is important to quickly establish the characters and their relationships. Victoria Posner—who presented, introduced, directed and wrote Here Comes The Bride?—clearly enjoys writing about strong female characters. Tahira Appadoo leapt with great relish into the nastier side of the rather bitter Vera—rising to the challenge of bossing everyone around (and demonstrating little compassion for anyone else). Yasmin Larasati (Rose) had a great part, believably transitioning from being the downtrodden and put-upon foil for Vera to becoming a feisty, compassionate and caring colleague. Georgia Pontifex (Deb) played the lovable next bride, demonstrating that she was more than just nice (with a strong moral compass).

These three female characters had the best lines, and were therefore the most interesting in the play. The characters of Justin (Stephen Snape), Justyn (Joseph Davissen) and Jenny (Prathana Thevar-Brink) played important roles in the unfolding plot, but perhaps needed more development if a longer version of Here Comes The Bride? were to be produced.

Pictured (L to R): Prathana Thevar-Brink (Jenny), Stephen Snape (Justin), Georgia Pontifex (Deb), and Joseph Davissen (Justyn). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Prathana Thevar-Brink (Jenny), Stephen Snape (Justin), Georgia Pontifex (Deb), and Joseph Davissen (Justyn). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There were a number of funny lines, delivered with great relish. But the funniest part of the evening for me was when some of the younger members of the audience made encouraging sotto voce comments to Justin, encouraging him to get on with dumping his long-term girlfriend. But this was one of the few points where the piece was truly immersive (on 26th May). For any future iterations, I’d suggest that more thought is given to the immersive aspect. Although the audience were encouraged to wander and overhear, most elected to stay in their seats which were placed in a conventional arrangement around the ‘stage.’ Perhaps welcoming guests to the event, much as an usher greets guests at a wedding (‘‘Bride or Groom?”), and arranging seating along the lines of a traditional wedding reception, would  encourage greater immersive engagement by the audience. For example, at the spacious West End Sideshow creative hub, there were a number of round tables which would have allowed for seating some of the guests at the ‘reception’ tables, leaving others to float around and ‘overhear’ some of the action.

Pictured: Anywhere Festival at The Sideshow ( Here Comes The Bride! ). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Anywhere Festival at The Sideshow (Here Comes The Bride!). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The chatter continued as we left the venue, in particular a chance to reflect on some of the more traditional aspects of weddings that still appear to prevail, and what appears to be a continued fixation on the vexed question of “when will HE propose?” Any piece that keeps the audience thinking about the issues raised, and considering the characters and stereotypes, has to have been a good show!

Verdict: Tight writing, and a funny, enjoyable short piece which needs a little more thought on the immersive aspect.

Audience tip: Easy street parking, and great coffee on sale at Sideshow. Dress warmly as the venue is open to the street at the entrance. 40 minutes.

Tickets at the Anywhere Festival website. $18. Friday and Saturday performances during Anywhere Festival 2018 (18, 19, 25 & 26 May, all at 6:30pm). Presented by Victoria Posner at The Sideshow, West End. Suitable for audiences of any age (production company suggested 15+).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 26th  May performance at The Sideshow, West End. Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: Dinopocalypse

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Review: Dinopocalypse

Picture : Dinosaur behaviour  à la Dinopocalypse .  Picture credit : Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Dinosaur behaviour à la Dinopocalypse. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

One of the first Anywhere Festival 2018 shows ‘off the blocks’ opened its doors to participants in another immersive piece from Ruckus Poetry Slam. This year we are visitors to the inaugural presentation of work to enculturate (rescue?) Dinosaurs. The Dinocorp team are hosting the presentation of their work to prepare creatures, that appear to be similar to humans, for their new lives above ground. To quote from the promo, “Dinopocalypse is an immersive, interactive experience hosted by Dinocorp to challenge our perception of the other […] they may seem human at times but they’re unused to people and we’re still learning a lot about them. What is the truth and how much can we trust what we’ve heard in the news?”

As with the 2016 Straight On Till Morning, the production design ensures that the experience of each member of the audience will be different. Split into groups, there is the opportunity to tour the facilities, observing “natural behaviours,” with some great dance and interaction between two Dinosaurs (see photograph, above) and happy dinosaur-human interactions. But also to watch the darker side of treatment and reinforcement processes. The program and promotion direct the audience to consider the metaphor in the context of “the other” (suggesting links to Manus Island). I found myself reflecting on how PETA or other groups might prefer to consider this in the context of the treatment of animals. Or we might all wish to reflect on the treatment of children as we educate certain behaviours, rewarded with sugary treats.

The opening night audience were enthusiastic participants—occasionally perhaps too enthusiastic, leading to a sudden end to the show and a general move to the bar to continue the conversation. If you enjoy an opportunity for a different experience, and a chance to linger in a busy bar to debate the event you have just attended, this may be the show for you. 

Pictured : Audience interaction at  Dinopocalypse.  Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Audience interaction at Dinopocalypse. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Verdict: If you like immersive/interactive theatre then you may like this—and enjoy the discussions in the bar afterwards.

Audience tip: The show starts and ends in the bar. Dress for going outside and be prepared to spend some of the show standing/walking on the grass (i.e. slightly uneven surface and some slopes/steps, and low lighting levels when outside). Great public transport links (or parking at Mowbray Park City Cat Terminal). 15+.

Catherine Lawrence

$30 ($20 concession). 75 minutes. Presented by Ruckus Poetry Slam, at Backbone Youth Arts, 38 Lytton Road, East Brisbane, QLD 4169.

The reviewer attended the Wednesday 9th May performance. The show runs on Wednesday and Fridays until 18th May 2018. Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

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Review: Cluedo! The Interactive Game (Kookaburra ShowBoat Cruises)

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Review: Cluedo! The Interactive Game (Kookaburra ShowBoat Cruises)

Kookaburra Queen Showboat Cruises’ paddle wheeler is likely to be on most Brisbane Bucket Lists. If you have been waiting for an excuse to visit then the 2017 Anywhere Festival offers a number of opportunities to make that long-intended booking: Cluedo! The Interactive Game, Pepper Jane, and Sugar Sugar! are all Anywhere Festival events taking place on the Kookaburra Cruises boat. For the price of a ticket you get entertainment, food, and (for Cluedo) a three-hour trip on a Brisbane icon.

Brisbane Immersive Ensemble has brought together a cast of your favourite characters from the Hasbro board game to create Cluedo! The Interactive Game. And the boat provides a great space for the event: the two main levels ensure there is plenty of space for movement and seating, with the observation deck offering a quieter space to enjoy the Brisbane skyline (if the excitement of pursuing your favourite Cluedo character gets too much). There are only three points during the evening when everyone needs to be on the main deck of the boat: the safety briefing, the moment when 'the game' starts, and of course at the conclusion of the event. There are 2 bars (one on each of the two larger decks), so if there is a queue at one the other is likely to be empty.

Pictured:  Cluedo  guests dressing the part on 5th May 2017. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Cluedo guests dressing the part on 5th May 2017. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

As the characters assemble, and the guests have their welcome drink in hand, the party begins with a speech from our gracious host. In welcoming us all to ‘his’ ship, Dr Black announces that he knows a secret about one of the main guests... setting the scene for an inevitable and gruesome discovery later in the evening. And yes, there are 6 rooms, 6 possible murder weapons, and 6 characters...

The Cluedo performers were suitably visible and always appeared in character—no mean feat for being on stage for over 3 hours (boarding commences promptly at 6:30pm, with a return to Eagle Street Pier at 10pm). I particularly loved seeing Col Mustard brought so vividly to life; the actor was immersed in the part, taking on his role with great gusto ("God Save the King!'). Miss Scarlett was suitably superior in a very elegant outfit, and Madame Peacock certainly made a fabulous famous author. 

Dressing the part is optional, but it was great to see how many of the couples and groups in the audience had risen to the challenges of a 1936 event. Jazz age and roaring twenties themes prevailed. Visit the Anywhere Theatre Festival Facebook page for photographs by Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography, for some photographs from the opening night performance (and of members of the audience).

The general air of excitement as people boarded quickly built into a hubbub of chatter. The vast majority of the audience took the opportunity to pursue the cast around the boat with great enthusiasm: interrogating their favourite Cluedo characters (even when apparently engaging in light social chit chat) and generally connecting with their fellow passengers. 

Pictured:  Cluedo  guests getting their investigative hats on, 5th May 2017.  Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Cluedo guests getting their investigative hats on, 5th May 2017.  Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The promotion promised swinging jazz music. Music from the 4-piece band was a great accompaniment to the evening. Even as the investigations started there was always suitable background music, and the closing performances as we came back to the dock really showed what they could do (a great "Minnie the Moocher"). The music was not only provided by the band. I loved the idea of having each of 6 main characters being called to the microphone to sing during the earlier part of the evening (who knew that Mrs White was also a chanteuse, making the perfect choice of song, about 'ven I'm cleaning windows'!). So make sure you spend time down on the main deck.

And also ensure you take up the invitation to question each of the characters. A great way to connect with other guests, it enhances your experience of the evening. My final tip is to make sure you are downstairs promptly for the dénouement. It’s worth it.

Pictured: Miss Scarlet. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Miss Scarlet. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

On the opening night there were occasional problems with the microphones and sound, which should be fully resolved by the next show. The audience were certainly ready for the murder to begin a little earlier (even just 15 minutes sooner would allow for more investigative time?). But hats off to the Brisbane Immersive Ensemble—and in particular to Xanthe Jones (Director and Miss Scarlet), Siobhan Batt (Production designer), and Ben Lynskey (Designer for this live action version of Cluedo). But ultimately, as Dr Black said, "you [the audience] were the stars."

I hope you get the chance to tick the paddle wheeler trip off your bucket list. The food looked good, with the desserts looking particularly great. Having looked at options online, the high teas look fantastic; I may just have to go along and see what the Kookaburra Cruises trip is without a murder. …

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended Cluedo! The Interactive Game at Kookaburra Queen Showboat Cruises, on Friday, 5th May 2017. 

Note: Non-smoking boat. Cluedo! The Interactive Game is on for only two shows during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (5th and 19th May. 2017). Tickets: $99.00.  180 mins. Cluedo! The Interactive Game is one of two Cluedo-themed productions at the Anywhere Festival (the second being Professor Plum, In The Parlour, With The Pineapple which takes place at the Paddington substation) .

 

 

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Review: Straight On Till Morning

Picture:   Peter (Grace Finley).    Picture Credit:   Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography  .

Picture: Peter (Grace Finley).  Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Twenty-two people gather, rather nervously, outside the entrance to Foundry Records. It’s Friday 13th, and we’re in Fortitude Valley. We all think we’re in the right place, and wonder quite what we are letting ourselves in for. The Anywhere Festival program leads us to expect a night in a mental asylum (‘Morning’), populated with characters which sound slightly familiar: Wendy (Anastasia Benham), Tink (Chloe Hambleton), and Peter (Grace Finley).

The door opens, and the Orderly (Bethany Latham) instructs us to form a line, give our names, collect a badge (and a drink voucher for later), and we’re in. The enigmatic Dr. Harken (Myles Hornstra) is already multi-tasking: playing the pianola, reading a book, and generally ignoring his audience. Dr Bell—aka Tink (Tinkerbell)—appears, and so we start our ascent into the asylum. Or rather, into the labyrinthine dark corridors of the upper rooms at The Foundry.

 Ruckus Poetry Slam’s co-creators (Director Kiah Latham, together with co-creator Cameron Cliff) have drawn on elements of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and a New York experience of site-specific theatre, to create an immersive theatrical event.  The production has a hard-working cast. Bethany Latham kept everyone under control as a believably competent Orderly. Dr Bell fluttered around as a petulant and entertaining recreation of Tinkerbell as a medical doctor. And the interactions between Anastasia Benham and Grace Finley were the highlights of Straight On Till Morning.   

Pictured: Wendy (Anastasia Benham). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Wendy (Anastasia Benham). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The production design ensures that experience of each member of the audience will be different.  In Straight On Till Morning, the ‘medical team (the orderly, Dr Bell and Dr Harken) variously peel spectators off into different groups—with opportunities to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in Gewendoline/Wendy’s bedroom, to observe the therapy session between Dr Bell/Tink and Peter (or is it Peta?),  or to possibly even venture into Dr. Harken’s office. We all have a chance to observe, and to take part… sharing in the ‘pretend’ tea party, suggesting games to play, and taking our ‘medicine’… and also being privy to passing conversations, arguments or analysis. But as we come back together, into the rather sweaty dorm room that is Wendy’s bedroom, we wonder what information we have missed, or that other listeners may have been party to. For example, in the version of the event I experienced, I saw relatively little of the aloof Dr Harken, and was not privy to any discussions behind his office door.  But perhaps this was meant to mimic the experience of inmates who are rarely given access to the secrets of the Morning asylum.

By the end of the performance, we are encouraged to consider whether such controlling treatments can work. Do patients leave because they are ‘fixed’, or because they cannot be fixed? Is to ‘come fly with me’ to go out into the world, or to ‘fly away’ from/off a tall building?

 We can also consider the risks inherent in inverting the more traditional theatrical experience. Audience members may be uncomfortable when being invited in to the asylum, can occasionally derail performances if too engaged with the experience (when to take part? when to listen and observe?), and may be confused by an abrupt ending in a bar with no opportunity to draw a line under the event with applause. Equally, you may enjoy an opportunity for a different experience, and a chance to linger in a busy bar to debate the event you have just attended. 

Verdict: If you like immersive/interactive theatre then you may like to try this.

Audience tip: There are a number of flights of stairs, some dark corridors, and limited seating (the floor and/or dorm beds).  Make sure you pick up your drink voucher at the entrance (the show ends in the bar).

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 13th performance of Straight on Till Morning. The show ends 21 May 2016. 

 

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