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UQ Great Court

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: Gretel

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Review: Gretel

It is difficult to think of a better place to be than sitting in the bright May sunshine, in UQ’s iconic Great Court, watching a thoughtful and well-crafted new play (complete with original music).

Gretel draws on the argument that there are very few types of story or basic plots, and in particular that there is a universal archetype (or what Christopher Booker terms a recurring motif) about a journey into the woods to find meaning. In a feminist reinterpretation of the Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale, Gretel is framed as the “real story of this legendary girl.”  Gretel (Shayla Ribchester) escapes from her tyrannical father and the men of the village (Maia Von Erkel-Bromley [Joseph], Luci Rawson [Adam]), and travels into the woods. Surviving an encounter with a delightfully batty old lady (Emer Rafferty), a talking crow (Lili Smith), and a witch (Hannah Smailes), Gretel reads from the special book about the “tale of all tales” and the role of the “hero.” Discovering that “to be strong you have to stand alone,” and that “we are the hero,” Gretel decides to return to the village. Inspired, she challenges her father and the cruel patriarchal society that punished her teacher for encouraging girls to study and dream.

Pictured: Emer Rafferty (Old Woman), and members of the cast. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Future Photography. 

Pictured: Emer Rafferty (Old Woman), and members of the cast. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Future Photography. 

I loved the many knowing asides and academic references: the “narrative owl,” the comments about there being no Hansel in the play (“the story has a brother”), and even “it’s all to do with narrative causality.” All perfect of course for a play performed in the heart of a world-class University, and close to the building where Gender and Literary Studies are analysed, taught, and researched.

But this is not a play only for the cognoscenti. This is a highly accessible show. The costumes are creative and well-worked (watch out for the teapot hat, and the umbrella forest). The direction is superb (George Franklin). And the music, performance and writing deserve a larger audience. There is excellent ensemble work, clearly defined and enjoyable characters, great music, and a tightly-written and directed piece. In line with the Scrambled Eggs Ensemble/Scrambled Prince Theatre Company statement, this is theatre that entertains but which is also provocative, giving “the girls in our ensemble a space in which they can be visible, loud and assertive, where they can speak their truth to the world.” And the performers certainly do speak out, and are confident in their space (which is particularly impressive when working in such a large space)

Pictured: The Men of the Village (Maia Von Erkel-Bromley [Joseph], Luci Rawson [Adam]), punishing the teacher (Clare Steele [Writer and Miss Gabriel]). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: The Men of the Village (Maia Von Erkel-Bromley [Joseph], Luci Rawson [Adam]), punishing the teacher (Clare Steele [Writer and Miss Gabriel]). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The story and characters were initially devised by the cast, before development and writing by the talented Clare Steele—who also wrote the original score and plays during the piece (as well as a member of the ensemble and Miss Gabriel). Impressive work. I hope we get to see and hear more of Clare’s writing and music in the future.

This is not the first festival for these talented students from Melbourne’s Eltham High School. And I hope it is not their last. Brisbane, let’s step up and ensure that this talented ensemble perform to full houses (well, full deckchairs at least). And we should all hope that some of these students are so impressed with UQ, and Brisbane, that they decide to come back to pursue their studies.

Pictured: Gretel (Shayla Ribchester) with members of the cast (Full cast: Clare Steele, Maia Von Erkel-Bromley, Luci Rawson, Lili Smith, Meg Whiteman, Dusty Diddle, Emer Rafferty, Hannah Smailes, Claudia Evans, Rosy Flynn, Niamh Macdermid, and Eve Souquet-Wigg). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Gretel (Shayla Ribchester) with members of the cast (Full cast: Clare Steele, Maia Von Erkel-Bromley, Luci Rawson, Lili Smith, Meg Whiteman, Dusty Diddle, Emer Rafferty, Hannah Smailes, Claudia Evans, Rosy Flynn, Niamh Macdermid, and Eve Souquet-Wigg). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Thought-provoking original play and music, performed by a talented interstate ensemble in the iconic UQ Great Court.   

Audience tip: UQ Great Court seating in deckchairs. You are outside, so bring your sunglasses (for the matinee) and dress for a cool evening for the 7pm performances. Almost every sign at UQ provides directions to the Great Court (if traveling by bus, the Great Court is closest to the Chancellery Bus Station). PG (small amount of staged violence). 45 minutes.

Only six more performances:15th -19th May (7pm), with one final matinee on 17th May (1pm), and including an interpreted performance for the hearing impaired/deaf (17th May, 7pm).  Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. $20 ($10 concession).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 15th May matinee (1pm) performance.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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