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UQ Theatre Festival

Review: Mary and the Murderer

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Review: Mary and the Murderer

Mary and the Murderer is a pleasant way to spend an hour at UQ’s St Lucia Campus. Four actors perform a short play, set against the iconic sandstone walls of University. Aside from it not being in the Wild West (they probably didn’t have too much Helidon sandstone to call on for building materials in the American Wild West), the Show is exactly as advertised. A gun-toting vigilante captures a travelling musician who has been accused of murder. As news breaks that the Marshall will not be arriving with the promised bounty, the local townsfolk intervene, and the audience is called up for ‘jury service,’ with the opportunity to decide on how the play ends.

Pictured: Mary (Stephanie Dwyer). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Mary (Stephanie Dwyer). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Congratulations to Lonnie Gilroy and Senaai Chapple for co-writing and producing the play (co-produced with Joanna Lyon), and to Gilroy for also acting as Director. The play is well-cast,  and provides an opportunity for each of the four actors to enjoy interesting cameos, duos, and even audience interaction. I loved the costumes (the heart-shaped blood markings at the centre of ‘Colin’s’ shirt were a nice touch), the use of personal microphones meant that everyone could hear all the words, the show was well-lit, and the accents were suitably Ye Olde Wilde Weste. The audience interaction was enjoyable (including the cast members’ in-character questioning, pleading their case, and general involvement).

I may have said this before, but it bears repeating: those who can, direct…and those who don’t, review. I’d probably have called this Mary The Murderer? And where the show touches on many contemporary preoccupations—from domestic violence and child abuse, through to #MeToo—occasionally the language is a little too contemporary. But these are minor issues. In a future development, I’d also love to see a clearer staging of place, and a less linear blocking of the action —perhaps having the audience sitting around a saloon bar, and being drawn into the action as onlookers when Mary chases her prey into the space (bringing the ‘bar’ from the back of the room to perhaps stage right/ or on the side of the audience space)? And a longer version of the action might also include a first act that sets the scene of the relationship with the unfortunate Betty-Lou and our ‘hero’, Colin (Nicolas Angelosanto)—and gives more of a backstory to the interesting Mr Gallagher (Chris Slater) and his relationship with Mary (Stephanie Dwyer).

Pictured: Mary (Stephanie Dwyer).Colin (Nicolas Angelosanto), and Mr Gallagher (Chris Slater). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Mary (Stephanie Dwyer).Colin (Nicolas Angelosanto), and Mr Gallagher (Chris Slater). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Congratulations also to Angelosanto (definitely hero material), to Dwyer (an interesting presentation of a complicated character, conjuring Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling), and to Slater (a suitable counterpoint to the vigilante Mary). And thanks to Tammy (Rosie Anderson) for keeping in-character throughout—from bar-tending to declaring the results of the vote.  It’s a pity that the performances fell at a time when many assignments appeared to be due, so there weren’t too many students able to  take time out to see this work of this Gilroy Chapple Lyon Production Team.

Verdict: Only one more show. Your final chance to decide on the outcome.

Pictured: What did you decide? Colin (Nicolas Angelosanto) and Mary (Stephanie Dwyer). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: What did you decide? Colin (Nicolas Angelosanto) and Mary (Stephanie Dwyer). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Audience tip: 50-60 mins. Suitable for all ages. The performance is outside, so take a blanket and wrap up warm. Mary and the Murderer had a total of six performances during the 2019 Anywhere Festival (7:15pm. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24 May, 2019). Information at https://anywhere.is/listings/Mary/ and the Show is also part of the UQ Theatre Festival ($15).  Paid parking available on-site. If you don’t know the campus very well, aim for the Great Court, take the Forgan Smith Tower exit, and turn right at the bottom of the steps. Walk toward the Library, and the ‘Duhig Gardens’ are on your right (close to the Library Book Return chute and fountain).

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Thursday 23 May 2019 performance (7:15pm), at Duhig Gardens, The University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, Brisbane.

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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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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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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