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Screech Arts

Review: Charlie

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Review: Charlie

Charlie is a three-part event. Arrive early and you can catch some creative dance moves as the performers warm up (this also helps those unfamiliar with the campus layout, as you can follow the music when you get to the Great Court). The 6pm Main Show then has two key components: a creative, play-focused theatrical event, which concludes when the larger ‘dance crew’ join them onstage for some great singing and enthusiastic dance.*

I use the word ‘stage’ loosely, as the show takes place outside. The audience sits on the grassy knoll (some deckchairs and bean bags provided), while the main action takes place on the concrete surface, under a decorated and beautifully-lit pergola. It’s a well-chosen spot for Charlie: suitable for play, for connecting and for relaxation. It is cold at this time of year, but it’s a fantastic spot, set against the backdrop of some of UQ’s iconic sandstone walls.

Pictured (L to R): Michael Doust and Sarah McGill in  Charlie . Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Michael Doust and Sarah McGill in Charlie. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The show is interactive, rather than immersive, beginning as the cast start to look for Charlie. Charlie is the main word spoken during performance, and there is a real sense of a child-like seeking for a friend and a wanting to connect and play. Tone and actions indicate whether the words is used as a question, an invitation, encouragement or admonishment. Willing audience members were invited onto stage to join in, and each performer created different playful moves, drawing on props which included a much-loved teddy, flowers, a notebook, pompoms, a scarf, and even walking sticks.

Screech Arts is certainly an organisation to follow. Their last show, The Box, was a highlight of the 2018 Anywhere Festival, and it was great to again have the opportunity to enjoy the work of this creative and enthusiastic group. Congratulations to Directors Martina Cross and Lisa Alsop, the support staff (Sarah McGill, Julie Stewart, Niala Lewis, Timothy Searle), and their technical and stagehand volunteers (Amily Chen, Wendy Kinyanjui, Lauren Archer and Rupa Pun) for their work in creating this show with the performers.

Picture : Dale Gonelli and Danielle Stewart in Charlie. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Dale Gonelli and Danielle Stewart in Charlie. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

If I had to pick my three favourite moments from Charlie, I’d probably settle on: first, the arrival and speech of the self-styled “Boss Man” (Dale Gonelli—funny, with a wicked grin, great comic timing and wearing a fantastic tie); second, the story-telling, where the performers gathered to hear the words of Danielle Stewart, where each line of the tale was beautifully illustrated by individual members of the cast; and, third, the song and dance crew song performance of the Legally Blonde The Musical song Omigod You Guys (infectious enthusiasm from of the dance crew members: Mags Doherty, Eve May, Tom Hinds, Haley Rickards, David Rodriguez, Matty Fortunaso, Yuki Hashimoto, Tia Van’t Hof, Lisa Alsop, Lucy Foran, Carlos, and Justin Stewart).

But there was so much more I could have picked: the conga line (with very active participation by Julie Stewart); the centre-stage performance by the green bow tie-wearing Joseph Surawski; the grumpy-let-me-sleep humour of the blue-clad Sarah McGill; the pompoms interventions by Miranda Sherman; the enthusiastic crowd management by the orange-clad Wendy Chauncy and red-clad Niala Lewis; the flirtatious use of the bunch of flowers by Alex Procopis; the singing, the well-chosen costumes (I loved the sparkly green scarf and hat, worn with great pzazz and during some great dance moves by Michael Doust); and the great choreography. Perhaps the audio tracks could have been tightened a little (occasionally too repetitive), but that’s a minor piece of constructive criticism.

Pictured; The enthusiastic song and dance crew in Charlie. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured; The enthusiastic song and dance crew in Charlie. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Charlie was… to quote from the introductory audio… “artistic, sophisticated, […]. and with no pink dinosaurs” (I hope I got that verbatim?). Wacky, fun, joyful, inspiring... and free. Just wrap up warm.

Verdict: Only two more shows, so catch it if you can.

Audience tip: 60 mins. Suitable for all ages. The performance is outside, so take a blanket and wrap up warm. And if you are not comfortable in a deck chair (or using a bean bag) then take your own seat or picnic blanket. Charlie had only three shows during the Anywhere Festival (6pm Saturday performances on 11, 18, and 25 May, 2019). Information at https://anywhere.is/listings/charlie/ (FREE, with free weekend parking across campus. The Show is also part of the UQ Theatre Festival. If you don’t know the campus very well, aim for the Great Court and then follow the music (the grassy knoll is just outside the Great Court—effectively ‘behind’ the Merlos coffee shop).

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Saturday 11 May 2019 performance (6:00pm), at the Campbell Place Grassy Knoll, Campbell Road, The University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, Brisbane.

Picture: The cast of  Charlie . Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: The cast of Charlie. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

* Warm-up moves by the Dance troupe performed by Danielle Stewart, Joseph Surawski, Alex Procopis, Jasmine Cox, Miranda Sherman, Aidan Chauncy, Annabella Maguire, Joseph Lee, and Michael Doust (with support staff Julie Stewart, Sarah McGill, Niala Lewis and Timothy Searle.

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Review: The Box

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Review: The Box

Dis has so many negative connotations and uses in our language: dislike, discontent, disbelief,  disown... In The Box, the artists created and performed a moving contemporary physical theatre piece, challenging perceptions of people living with disability.  In the promotional material for the show, Screech Arts note that the artists seek to encourage audiences to reconsider “what stigma is, especially in relation to the actors’ experiences as people living with a disability.” Individual performers in The Box may need support to achieve some of their goals, but they all demonstrated a variety of talents, and many great abilities, in their production. Together they have created an inspiring piece that hopefully will not be hidden away in a box but will be shared at future events. It is a work that deserves to reach a wider audience.

Picture: Danielle Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Danielle Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Campbell Place is a road at the back of the UQ Union complex. It is also a grassed area between UQ Union and the Great Court, 5 minutes’ walk away. I’m sure that the UQ team will work on their naming of places and signage for any future theatre festivals. And I’m delighted the performance was at the grassed area, which has a pergola that makes for a perfect outdoor stage. When I arrived, I worried if I’d missed half of the show because a number of the performers were also in the Screech Arts Dance Troupe, already entertaining an enthusiastic audience with some great dance moves. However, this was a bonus activity: a great way to attract an audience for the theatre piece, to demonstrate some fantastic dance moves, and to warm up on a cool evening.

The Box mixed contemporary dance, spoken word (often through speech synthesizers), song, mime, and theatre. The performance space (using the pergola to create elements of the box, augmented with clingfilm and black tape) was described as symbolic of “society’s treatment of minority groups, where vast assumptions are based on first impressions and appearances.” It was an inspired choice to use the pergola, bringing the piece out of a traditional theatre and into the daily lives of students in the centre of the UQ campus.

Pictured: Joe Surawski, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Joe Surawski, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There were so many highlights in the production: dance and mime (unfair to single out two performers, but perhaps most notably by Julie Stewart and Amy Lawrence who created a real sense of the frustrations of ‘inhabiting’ the box), poignant dance and speech (from Dale Gonelli and Danielle Stewart), compelling stage presence and work (by Joe Surawski, Niala Lewis, and Alex Procopis), and a great soundtrack (technical support by Julian Rodriguez Campos). The movement and interactions were well-judged, but it was much of the voice work that will stay with me. I loved the discussion between Amy and Dale (“How are you?”), which led up the poignant story about the experience of the 11-year old Dale at the train station. Danielle’s powerful monologue “I’m an aunt and I babysit” rose to a screech that created a real sense of both the joy and frustrations of a life spent fighting other people’s perceptions. And Danielle and Dale also performed the thought-provoking “just because” duet.

Pictured: Dale Gonelli, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

Pictured: Dale Gonelli, Amy Lawrence, and Alex Procopis. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence.

The piece ended on a very quiet note, but if I had to make suggestions for future developments of the work, I might suggest ending on Danielle’s monologue instead. And I found the hospital-style emergency bleep a little disconcerting when played for any length (but that may have been the intent).  My enthusiastic congratulations to all of the team—led by Martina Cross (Director, Screech Arts State-wide Coordinator and Facilitator), and supported by volunteers (in particular Natarsha Wrensted [Stage Manager], and Cate Collopy: [Stagehand and Mentor] and Julian [technical support, as noted above]). Proving that with the right support, they can achieve their collective goals, the performers created a memorable piece. I hope it leads to many more conversations, and a “breaking down the box that is stigma” (to quote Martina).

Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Heartfelt communication. An enthusiastic, enjoyable and insightful piece, which encourages everyone to rise to the challenge of “why did you assume?”

Audience tip: Arrive early and get to cheer on the Dance Squad. Wrap up warm and bring a seat/blanket (UQ did have some deckchairs).

Only five performances during Anywhere Festival 2018 (all 7pm): Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre10, 17 & 24 May) and at The University of Queensland’s Campbell Rd Promenade (16 & 23 May).

Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. Free. Suitable for audiences of any age.

Catherine Lawrence

Pictured: Dale Gonelli and Joe Surawski. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Dale Gonelli and Joe Surawski. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The reviewer attended the Wednesday 23rd May (7:00pm) performance at The University of Queensland.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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