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Vulcana

Review: Skyward

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Review: Skyward


Skyward is a great concept. Built on the friendship between Jo Willans (Soprano) and Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), the Show combines live music, video projections, aerial hoop and tissu, with a beautiful voice and selection of relaxing music. On arrival, members of the audience were encouraged to sit on the floor (mats and cushions provided) or in seats facing the ‘stage,’ and we all received a copy of the program which spoke of mindfulness, and how “the movement, music, poetry and imagery of Skyward are designed to mellow and move you.”   

There were many things I enjoyed about this production: the interactions between the soprano and aerialist (particularly when Willans performed on, and with, the hoop), the selection of costumes, the tissu work by Bale, the incorporation of the video projections (Michael Owen)and some of the musical choices (Toby Saltwell [cello] and John Woods [piano]). In addition, it is always fascinating to see the ‘behind-the-scenes care and hard work of the crew (Ashleigh Freed and Ruby Simpson).

Pictured (L to R):  Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), and Jo Willans (Soprano). Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured (L to R): Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), and Jo Willans (Soprano). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The Anywhere Festival challenge for any aerialist is finding a suitable space to perform. In an ideal world, it would have been wonderful to experience this show by a beach, or with a water view. But the video projections were used to good effect to establish that mood, playing against the brick walls of the space. (Credit is also due to the space and hosts. Vulcana work out of a great space, which has hosted many memorable Anywhere Festival performances (including the 2015 Learning to Love Gravity and 2018 Invisible Things).

The collaborators’ aim was to create 45 mindful minutes. For a future iteration, I would suggest the team might wish to look at how they could minimise the breaks between each piece (reducing the entrance/exit process, to sustain the flow of the program). I would also suggest that the audience might be encouraged to adopt a more mindful engagement with the performance. Perhaps to look ‘Skyward;’  to set aside cameras and other electronic devices, particularly if seated in the floor area, so that everyone can experience the work firsthand.

There were only two performances  of Skyward in the 2019 Anywhere Festival program. Let’s hope that the team find other places and spaces for future performances which build on this concept.

Picture (L to R):  Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), Jo Willans (Soprano). John Woods (piano), and Toby Saltwell (cello). Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Picture (L to R): Georgia-Elizabeth Bale (aerialist), Jo Willans (Soprano). John Woods (piano), and Toby Saltwell (cello). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.



Verdict: Keep an eye out for future creative collaborations between this team.

Audience tip: 45 minutes. Late arrivals not admitted, so arrive early for any future productions.

Catherine Lawrence. perspectives

The reviewer attended the Sunday 12 May 2019 performance (8:00pm), at Vulcana (adjacent to The Brisbane Powerhouse, New Farm, Brisbane.

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: The Spirit And The Maiden

Pictured   (L to R): Alison Snook, with   The Muses Trio  —Christa Powell (violin), Therese Milanovic (piano), and Louise King (cello).   Picture Credit  : Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography  .

Pictured (L to R): Alison Snook, with The Muses Trio—Christa Powell (violin), Therese Milanovic (piano), and Louise King (cello). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The Muses Trio  describe their work as ‘celebrating music by women, performed by women.’ It was an inspired idea to launch their debut CD (The Spirit and the Maiden) inside the Boggo Road Gaol as an Anywhere Festival event: celebrating music by female composers, with performances by women (including special guests from Vulcana Women’s Circus) taking place inside the women-only wing of a former prison. Christa Powell (violin, Topology), Louise King (Cello, Cello Dreaming) and Therese Milanovic (piano, Topology), demonstrated their virtuosity in an edgy, compelling, powerful, memorable and often-moving performance.

Pictured: Christa Powell. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Christa Powell. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The artists played a selection of the pieces from their new CD, providing insights and information as personal introductions as to the selection of the piece or the life of the composer. Powell spoke touchingly about Amy Beach, introducing Romance with reference to the restrictions placed on Beach’s work(when “imprisoned by time and gender,” and restricted by her husband to holding soirées at home).  However, many of the pieces selected by The Muses Trio for the CD are written by their contemporaries. Milanovic talked of the value of direct feedback on recordings, or what she described—when welcoming composer Louise Denson to the launch—as a “dialogue” and a “really lovely process.” Such insights enhanced the experience. For example, Milanovicheld the audience spellbound as she played the charming Song for Comb Man (Kate Neal), having first introduced Neal’s work by encouraging us to look at You Tube video of the TropFest short film which includes the composition. King referred to Nadia Boulanger as “a trailblazer,” before an electric performance of selections from Three pieces for cello and piano. And, having first heard from the composer, in the hands of The Muses Trio Denson’s emotional, lyrical Two Boleros (violin, cello, piano) had us enthralled.

Pictured: Alison Snook, Therese Milanovic (piano), Christa Powell (violin), and Louise King (Cello ) with Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Alison Snook, Therese Milanovic (piano), Christa Powell (violin), and Louise King (Cello ) with Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The performance was a launch of a CD, but may also have been the beginning of a productive partnership between The Muses Trio and VulcanaWomen’s Circus. Artistic Director Celia White (with Co-Director Michelle Grant) created a mesmerizing performance which opened the second half of the production. Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow, evoked the spirits of Boggo Road inmates as they moved into the space—and impressed with their strength, control and elegance in duets on ‘silks’ (in this case thick nets, which seemed so appropriate for the jail).

Pictured: Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The event included an optional addition of a ghost tour. Sadly the Boggo Road Gaol is about to close for a major change: the modern buildings are to be demolished and heritage spaces ‘adapted’. If you want to see a piece of Brisbane’s heritage before it disappears, why not visit the website to book a tour.  If you buy a copy of The Spirit and the Maiden CD you can then listen to the music when you visit, and try to imagine the Anywhere Festival experience (links to purchase the CD & digital albums are available via the The Muses Trio website).

The performance concluded with a list of acknowledgements and thanks for the many supporters of the work of The Muses Trio. Congratulations to Alison Snook for the attentive page turning—and to Boyds for managing to supply and safely deliver a grand piano into the cellblock.

Verdict: Spine-chilling—an inspired launch event. Visit Boggo Road Gaol while you can, and look out for The Spirit and the Maiden CD.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 14th 2016 matinee performance. The launch takes place over three performances, 14-15th May 2016 (see the Anywhere Festival website for details).

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