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Improv

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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