Viewing entries tagged
circus

Review: Elixir

Comment

Review: Elixir

First, book this show. Then, pop back here to read the review before you get down to the Brisbane Powerhouse. Elixir is a great tonic, with a mesmerising mix of acrobatics, balancing, beatbox, breakdance, comedy, cyr wheel, dance, juggling, ladder, physical theatre, slapstick, strength, teeterboard, trapeze, tumbling and even whip-cracking. Old-style circus given a very contemporary twist, and all presented as a cautionary tale of how testing your hoped-for ‘elixir of life’ concoctions may have dramatic consequences.

So it’s likely to have sold out already. In which case, here’s an idea of what you have missed.  

 
Pictured: Thomas Gorham ‘head first’ balancing on Cal Harris. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Thomas Gorham ‘head first’ balancing on Cal Harris. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

Melbourne-based Head First Acrobats have a winning formula—combining the talents of Cal Harris, Thomas Gorham, and Rowan Thomas to produce a number of internationally-successful shows. Elixir presents the tale of three scientists who are now engaged in clinical trials of what they hope will be an elixir of life. The disembodied voice of ‘control’ at the ‘research facility’ warns the audience that those using flash photography ‘may die’; or those not turning their phone to silent ‘may die’; and that those testing the ‘drug’ may suffer the consequences. I didn’t hear any phones ring, but the ‘scientists’ do go ahead with their tests.

Each variant of the ‘drug’ has differing results, giving Harris, Gorman and Thomas to showcase their individual and collective talents. And they are certainly multi-talented.

IMG_8633.jpg
IMG_8628.jpg

Harris demonstrated some amazing & often quite spectacular ladder, incredible balance, and fantastic strength work. Gorman’s breakdance was superb, as were his acrobatics and highly-memorable trapeze work (that headstand… on a trapeze…). Thomas relished the comedic role, and I’ve never seen the cyr wheel worked with quite such style before—just… wonderful.

The circus skills are definitely the reason to go. But Elixir is more than ‘just’ circus. The dance moves were entertaining (look out for the Thriller piece), the story held the show together, and with some old-fashioned slapstick, audience-interaction, and ‘Australian humour’ this is a show that has something for almost everyone. Oh, and did I mention that shirts are removed?

The Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre is a flexible space, and it was interesting to see it set up in a slightly different way, giving the performers a three-sided stage to work within (all set against the backdrop of the Powerhouse brick). A perfect choice and space for this production. But if you can’t get tickets for the Wonderland Festival show, then Elixir is worth travelling to see.

Verdict: Love circus? Go. Looking for a good night out? Go. Not quite sure if this is for you? Go.

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre. There are only three performances of Elixir in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (9:30pm, 29 November until 1st December 2018). Tickets may still be available: $45 ($39 concession, and pp for a group of 6+) plus $5.95 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 29th November 2018 performance (9:30pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Comment

Review: Anywhere Festival 2018, 'Four' Me

Comment

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

Comment

Review: Super Circus Squad

Comment

Review: Super Circus Squad

Super Circus Squad is a great idea, well-executed, and just perfect for audiences young and old. Great outfits, good humour, enjoyable audience interaction, and some great physical theatre, trapeze, acrobatics, balance and ‘strength’ along the way. Feisty, feel-good chuckles, complete with a positive message, a strong female role-model, and suggestions as to how to handle those who are being mean to you when a visiting superhero isn’t on hand to come to your rescue.  Perfect for school fundraisers, educational treats, festivals and parties—and a great choice to include in the 2018 Anywhere Festival.

Pictured: Reece Cooper and Hannah Cryle. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Reece Cooper and Hannah Cryle. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Hannah Cryle and Reece Cooper—with additional support from superhero Rose and ‘villan-teer’ Matt Rowe—held the attention of their all age audience at the Queensland Maritime Museum on 20th May. The show ran for perhaps 40 minutes although, even during warm-up, Hannah maintained a positive interaction with the audience (an extra bonus, we learned, from watching an Anywhere Festival event).  Having captured the interest of the younger spectators, and explained that Super Circus Squad is a “superhuman story” where the audience get to choose the adventure (and where “everyone is allowed to have fun”), the performers were soon rewarded with squeals of laughter at their “pre-show ritual.”

The ‘opening credits’ for the show are a great idea—demonstrating some of the complementary skills of the performers (with strength and trapeze by Cryle, and acrobatics by Cooper), some well-observed humour, and (of course) superhero poses. The audience were kept on their toes by having to assist in naming their superheros (there is a ‘formula to such things, apparently), before hearing about some of the successful world-saving recently undertaken by (at our show) The Blue Boat and The Purple Blahblah. The ‘slow-motion galaxy’ story was not only great fun, but also an excellent demonstration of Cooper’s headstands and work on the handstand poles—as well as of the comedic skills of Cryle.

Pictured: Reece Cooper (L) and Rose. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Reece Cooper (L) and Rose. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

An important part of the show was the selection, naming and ‘training’ of the volunteers. On the 20th May, Rose proved a perfect superhero, great dancer, and future acrobat with charming interactions with fellow superhero The Blue Boat (Cooper). Cryle’s transformation of Matthew Rowe was very amusing, and we all now know the key traits of any cartoon anti-hero (Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Maritime Museum, who proved to be a general good sport as co-opted villan-teer for our show).

The show had a great finale, integrating trapeze, strength and acrobatics in a ‘duet’ between Cryle and Cooper, and closing with a reminder of a useful technique for dealing with everyday villains (or, at least those who are trying to be mean to you). Leaving just enough time for a picture with your favourite superhero before going off to find some ice-cream.

Pictured: Hannah Cryle and Reece Cooper. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence,  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Hannah Cryle and Reece Cooper. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Great fun. Feisty, feel-good chuckles that everyone can enjoy (and a positive message to take away).  

Audience tip: Seek this one out at future festivals.

Only three performances during Anywhere Festival 2018: Montessori International College, Forest Glen (11am on 13th and 19th May), and Queensland Maritime Museum 3pm, 20th May).

Tickets were available at the Anywhere Festival website. $10. Suitable for audiences of any age.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 19th May (7:30pm) performance.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

Comment

Review: Invisible Things

Comment

Review: Invisible Things

The Powerhouse Stores Studio is a wonderful, pared-back, high-ceilinged space—perfect for a show that places the creator/performer (Alex Mizzen) in the centre of a 3m x 3m smoke-filled cube. On 13th May, the audience filtered into the dimly-lit room, drawn toward and walking round the cube, peering in at the artist, anticipating what they might experience. Over the next 40 minutes, we watched Alex as she peeled back the layers (literally and metaphorically), allowing us to share some of the rage and frustration associated with finding her own creative voice. As the journey unfolded, so the artist demonstrated her skills in gymnastics, circus, and dance—with some impressive en pointe skipping, handstand cane balancing, and aerial. 

Picture : Alex Mizzen in the 3m x 3m cube, watched by members of the 132th May 2018 audience ( Invisible Things ). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Alex Mizzen in the 3m x 3m cube, watched by members of the 132th May 2018 audience (Invisible Things). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

As an artist working in the very physical arena of gymnastics, circus, aerial, dance, and balance, any serious injury must be a time for reflection, and concern. Invisible Things draws on the dialogue between the performer and her journals—described as “an unedited exposé of my internal world”—which led to a “realisation of a collection of patterns or mindsets […] noticings.” As the show unfolds, we see some of the writings on the walls, but find it difficult to read their meanings. The artist speaks through her body and movements, but without using her voice. At the end we feel we have learned more from the compelling interaction  between the performer and soundtrack, and from her destruction or ultimate breaking free from the box.

Alex has brought together a great team together for this production (Anna Whitaker [soundtrack], Michael Maggs, [Collaborating Artist], Helen Clifford [Rigging], and Kristian Santic [Dramaturg]). Unfair perhaps to select out one element of this but, for me, the soundtrack was absolutely perfect. I felt that the sound artist and performer created a compelling dialogue, perfectly anticipating each other’s mood and moves. A production that would work well in a modern art gallery, as well as in contemporary circus. If you are looking for a show that draws your full attention, then why not visit the Powerhouse Stores Studio while you can.

Picture : Alex Mizzen ( Invisible Things ). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Alex Mizzen (Invisible Things). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Verdict: Prepare to be challenged. Performance art/contemporary dance meets modern angst—with some excellent balance and aerial work and a fantastic soundtrack.

Audience tip: Seating is available, but you may prefer to walk around the outside of the cube during the performance. 15+ (some nudity). 40 minutes.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Sunday 13th May performance. Only four more performances (19th, 20th, 26th & 27th May). Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. $25.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment

Review: Hiraeth

Comment

Review: Hiraeth

Fortunately circus has moved beyond the Ringling Bros-style shows of my youth to darker, more adult, narrative-driven spectacles such as the Moment of Inertia Productions ‘Hiraeth,’ which debuted at the 2017 Brisbane Anywhere Festival. Ty Fitzsimons (acrobat and clown), Kelsey Adams (aerial), Phoebe Manning (clown), and Nadia Jade (aerial apparatus and dangerous sideshow) impressed with this work by one of Brisbane’s newest “arts collectives.”

It was a wise decision to start slightly late (at 8:40pm), allowing the excited audience and performers from the earlier ‘Fusion’ show to disperse, and ensuring the ‘Hiraeth’ audience could fully concentrate on the unfurling spectacle. The audience walked through the ‘set’, into the darkened space, to the sound of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’  Manning welcomed each of the spectators to the evening, handing out glass jars/shakers. And so we were all drawn into an hour of clowning, aerial, and dangerous sideshow acts.

The one hour program included Adams’ macramé-style aerial hoop, fire-eating and fascinating consumption by Jade, Fitzsimons’ rope acrobatics, and clowning by both Manning and Fitzsimons.  

Pictured (L to R): Nadia Jade (kneeling), Kelsey Adams, Ty Fitzsimons, and Phoebe Manning. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Nadia Jade (kneeling), Kelsey Adams, Ty Fitzsimons, and Phoebe Manning. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The standout performances of the evening were by Fitzsimons and by Jade. The acrobatic work on the rope by Fitzsimons was just superb; probably the best I have ever seen when climbing up the rope upside down, and some great ‘air walking.’ I was also greatly entertained by Fitzsimons’ clowning (I hope everyone gets to see his cautious gift-opening someday). Jade fascinated and revulsed an enthralled audience with the fire-, glass- and balloon-eating (with great supporting mime by the rest of the cast). And the mesmerising mixture of aerial silk with glass-walking was fabulous combination. Based on this show alone, Fitzsimons and Jade would certainly be useful additions to future Strut + Fret shows.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I loved the idea of interspersing the show with key words (each carefully defined): lacuna, hiraeth (defined here as ‘a longing, homesickness, for a place you cannot go or maybe never was’), liminality… (although a face-mic may have helped as Manning walked through the audience). Manning held our attention for the extended ‘Ingrid’ piece, but if I had been the director I would have ended the show with the aerial/glass, and perhaps have started with ‘Ingrid.’ But I’m not in charge.   

Pictured: Nadia Jade. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Nadia Jade. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Great set design, with words defined in chalk across the black back wall, and rows of seating arranged within the enclosed space so that everyone could see the show. And my congratulations to the sound and lighting team as the audio was a great compliment to the clowning, aerial, and sideshow performances.

A pity this team only had three performances at the 2017 Anywhere Festival. Fantastic value at only $15, so let’s hope they look for other festivals for the show.  

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 19th May 2017 (8:30pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/hiraeth/ $15. 60 minutes. The show had only 3 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (19th–21st May).

Comment