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drama

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: Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus)

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Review: Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus)

Everyone has a different bus trip technique. For some, it’s a chance to catch up on a book, email and the news. For others, a chance to enjoy the view or ‘zone out’ before getting to their destination. Every new stop brings potential interruptions—perhaps someone panhandling, or even just wanting to sit next to you and chat. Tales of an Urban Indian reminds us that everyone has a story to tell, where ‘tuning in’ to the chatty person next to you may be the best possible investment of your time. They may make you laugh, and may even make you cry, but they’ll certainly give you food for thought.  Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus) is a not-to-be-missed experience: a one-man, 20+ character, 90-minute tragi-comic show on a moving bus.

Yes. That's right. This Translink bus does move. We all joined the bus at Stop 15, and took a journey around Brisbane (complete with occasional stops), fully immersed in this memorable show.

Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) is a contemporary Canadian First Nations man, whose conversation charts a life that began on a British Columbian Reserve, and moved to the streets of downtown Vancouver. There are very few props in this immersive performance: a backpack (containing only a few pictures/photographs, and a bottle), a bus, and a well-judged soundtrack (with great stage/bus management by Erica McMaster). But that is all Lauzon needs to conjure up a cast of perhaps 20, and a story about ‘choices.’

Pictured:  Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) in  Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus) . Anywhere Festival, Brisbane, May 2019. Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) in Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus). Anywhere Festival, Brisbane, May 2019. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

This is serious stuff. Set in an environment where suicide can be contagious, and drugs and alcohol appear to be an inevitable path. Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus) is a story about the lived experience of a First Nations man—including his experience of the challenges of racism, homophobia, discrimination, survival and identity.

But it is also very funny. Highlights for me were the appearances of Simon’s priest, and of his friends Daniel and Nick. And also of the many women in his life: including Rhonda (his agent), Brenda (the love of his life), and his grandmother (kyé7e, complete with the ‘fly-swatter of fury’).

Pictured:  Members of the audience, pictured with   Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) in  Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus) . Anywhere Festival, Brisbane, May 2019. Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Members of the audience, pictured with Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) in Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus). Anywhere Festival, Brisbane, May 2019. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The possibly semi-autobiographical script is well-crafted (Darrell Dennis), and the play is sensitively directed (Herbie Barnes). Lauzon offers an acting masterclass: using the space well, connecting with individual audience members and commanding the space through occasionally athletic moves. We all laughed, some of us cried—and I am certain we all came away thinking about our ‘meeting’ with Simon, and about the First Nations experience in Australia. The 2pm, 11 May 2019 show in Brisbane was the 500th performance of this play—which has travelled across Canada and further afield. Every show will be different: different cities, different views, different buses, and different times of day or night. Most importantly, there will be a different experience for each member of the audience. A big audience will restrict the space for movement, a smaller audience will have a more intimate connection with the performance. But what every show will have in common is an up close and very personal insight into aspects of the lived experience of First Nations people.

Don’t avoid it because you think its serious stuff. Don’t avoid it because you think its ‘just’ about Canada. Go because you get to see a great, often-funny, immersive Anywhere Festival event.

Verdict: A tour de force. Take your school group. Bring your friends. Go. Don’t miss this bus.

Pictured:  Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) in  Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus) . Anywhere Festival, Brisbane, May 2019. Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Simon Douglas (Craig Lauzon) in Tales of an Urban Indian (City Bus). Anywhere Festival, Brisbane, May 2019. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Audience tip: 90 mins. 12+ some coarse language, and adult themes (alcohol, drug and sexual references). Be on time (no one wants to miss the bus). The meeting point is Stop 15, New Farm (outbound—that is, adjacent to New Farm Park). Tickets are available at https://anywhere.is/listings/urbanindian/ ($32). Further performances twice a day (2pm and 7pm) on 12 May and then 14-19 May.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer caught the Saturday 10 May 2019 bus (2:00pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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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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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

Dear Anywhere Festival Organisers,

Debretts advise that thank-you letters should be hand-written and sent within ten days of an event or gift. Well, I’ve met the ten-day rule, but let me assure you it’s just as well this is typed (otherwise, you’d never be able to read it). Apparently I am supposed to be specific as to what I am thanking you for, to tell you why I cherish or enjoyed it, share some news, and close. So here goes..

May seems to have flown by, and that is largely down to you both. Another Anywhere Festival is behind us, and I am missing it already. So thank you for all that you have done in creating and inspiring the Anywhere Festival concept. And for making it happen again in 2017.

There are so many reasons why Anywhere Festival is a vital part of the fabric of Brisbane (and now in other communities across the coast):

Site-specific: My favourite performances in the 2017 festival were Signs, 2 Across and Oh Lady Be Good. The shows combined fantastic performers and great writing with perfect location choices. The productions were a perfect fit with the venues: 2 Across had two people meeting on a real, moving tram, Signs was set in a classroom, and Oh Lady Be Good was an intimate soirée/house party in a house.

A broad range of work: Great theatre, but also a broad range of circus (from the adult dark clowning and sideshow of Hiraeth, to the more traditional and youthful Fusion) and story-telling through song (including the fabulous Melissa Western’s Oh Lady Be Good, and Bethan Ellsmore… is the Queen of the Night).

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in  2 Accross . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in 2 Accross. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Showcases talented people: Great actors (including Nathan Schultz in 2 Across, and the impressive Brodie Greenhalgh in both Signs and Immaculate Confection), artists (Melissa Western, Bethan Ellsmore), writers (Aimee Duroux, Jerry Mayer), performers (Ty Fitzsimons, Nadia Jade), directors (Samantha Bull), costume-designers, and more.

Incredible value: For example, tickets for Hiraeth were only $15—for a 60 minute show which included standout performances by Ty Fitzsimons (acrobatics and clowning) and Nadia Jade (aerial apparatus and dangerous sideshow). Fitzsimons’ acrobatics were probably the best I have ever seen when climbing up the rope upside down, and some great ‘air walking, and Jade fascinated and revulsed the audience in equal measure with fire-, glass- and balloon-eating, and amesmerising mixture of aerial silk with glass-walking.  You should have been there.

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

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

Provocative: New work and new ideas this year included fantastic new writing (Signs), interesting ideas (Immaculate Conception), and fascinating facts (Oh Lady Be Good),  

New places: The Festival introduces audiences to new and old spaces—encouraging spectators to start working through their local bucket lists. This year, fantastic new venues included The Bison Bar at Nambour (an excellent venue for Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night), and the Brisbane Tramway Museum (a perfect choice for 2 Across). Oh, and of course the Kookaburra Queen Showboat Cruises’ paddle wheeler; it was wonderful to see audiences dressing the part for Cluedo! The Interactive Game.

Pictured: Melissa Western in  Oh Lady Be Good . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Melissa Western in Oh Lady Be Good. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Fun: Quite a lot of the shows I saw touched on serious themes, in particular about the agony of growing up. But there was a lot of fun, laughter, and fabulous humour along the way. For example, Peter Wood as school Drama President in ‘Signs’ and as Grant in Immaculate Conception certainly made some memorable entrances.

Intimate spaces: In seeking out place that are “anywhere but a theatre,’ performers bring work to new audiences in often intimate settings. The fabulous Australian Modern again hosted fantastic, including the magnificent performances by Melissa Western and her band. Oh Lady be Good is a wonderful show, and the chance to see a jazz band and chanteuse at the top of their game was greatly enhanced by the wonderful hospitality of Susan and Chris Osborne. I can’t wait to see what house parties they host next year.

Community celebration: Not only for the creatives and performers, but also for their supporting casts of families and friends. So great to come out of shows and see the hugs from proud parents, and slightly amazed friends, as they gather round the team.

... To be fair, I didn't enjoy every show I saw this year. There are probably three events that I felt needed significant work before coming back into the light of day again. But I am hugely impressed that everyone put so much effort and energy into making their vision a reality. And that’s because of the festival. And because of the work you do.

Following the specified format for such notes, I know I have to provide some news before I close. My ‘news’ is that I'm gearing up for next year. Only 11 months until Anywhere Festival 2018

So, again, thank you!

Yours sincerely,

 

Catherine Lawrence, Official Anywhere Festival Reviewer

The reviewer attended performances of 2 Across, Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night, Cluedo! The Interactive Game, The Flood, The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts & Immaculate ConfectionFusion, Hiraeth, The Last Ginger, Oh Lady Be Good, The One Room of the House, and Signs during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (4th-21st May).

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in  Signs . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in Signs. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

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Review: The Flood

Review: The Flood

On Wednesday night I saw the wonderful Nathan Schultz Presents production of Jerry Mayer’s 2 Across. I had equally high hopes for The Flood, but sadly the Tim Horgan (writer/director) show just was not in the same league.  It is always great to see new work performed by an enthusiastic cast in front of local audiences. But The Flood is in need of some serious editing and reworking before it comes back to a Brisbane stage.

Set in January 2011, the play is set in the kitchen/lounge area of a Yeronga house. The 7 acre property is on the banks of the Brisbane river, and represents a major investment for the four housemates, who have found the only way to get onto the property ladder is to pool their resources. Conflicts about lifestyle, house cleanliness and responsibilities abound as some members of the household seem to have continued the lifestyle of their youth (throwing beer cans around, smoking inside the house, taking drugs, being reluctant to clean, and enjoying having parties) while others are looking for a more homely experience. Damo (Bernard Mina) and Sandra (Briellen Juracic) return from a 3 week holiday to the mess left by Glenn (Cliff Ellis) and Karl (Jack Murphy), and we follow the experiences of the four main characters during the ensuing Brisbane Flood.

Pictured: Damo (Bernard Mina) and Sandra (Briellen Juracic). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Damo (Bernard Mina) and Sandra (Briellen Juracic). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

As far as I know, there were no crocodiles swimming around Brisbane during the floods (or at any other time). The introduction of the crocodile (Mitchell Cobcroft) highlights that the Brisbane floods are almost incidental to the action of the play. I’d suggest the use of a different catalyst/external event to force 4 such housemates to grow up and help them to “see the forest from the trees” (Glenn) would have worked better (a storm? a gas main explosion? anything really). There was so much trauma, humour, and life experience that happened only 6 years ago in Brisbane in January 2011, much of which the spectators who attended last night’s The Flood would have experienced. That people bought tickets to the show demonstrates that there is a ready audience for such Brisbane 2011 stories—that is, plays grounded in the real event.

Horgan and the team are to be congratulated for their investment in bringing the play to the Anywhere Festival. But many of the monologues were over-long, and each act could have been shortened/tightened up without losing any drama or what comedy there is. The play is not ‘hilarious’ (as claimed in the program notes and promotion). There was some humour: Juracic’s explosion at the lack of respect and care for the house was beautifully performed and drew the first laughs of the evening, while Murphy and Mina entertained with their “stoned” watching of the TV news, and Ellis made the most of his lines in the second half.

Pictured: Karl (Jack Murphy), and Glenn (Cliff Ellis). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Karl (Jack Murphy), and Glenn (Cliff Ellis). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The use of the Queen Alexandra Home space was well-thought through—although sight-lines are a challenge if you are not in the front row, and it did appear that there was very little leg room for those who were in the back row. The walls created for the show supported the sense of isolation—and the representation of the floodwaters took a little time to set up and dismantle, but helped to create a real sense of the encroachment of the water and restriction of their movement in the house.

With a significant edit, and a new catalyst… well… then it might work. I’d suggest the start point would be to work on a show length of one hour, and not the 115 or so minutes of the opening night (included a 15 minute interval).

Note: Rated M (Adult Themes, Coarse Language, and Drug Use).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 11th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/flood/ $20 .  115 minutes (including 15 minute interval).  The show continues until 21st May, 2017.