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student drama

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: 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.

Review: The One Room of the House

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Review: The One Room of the House

Key information for anyone attending this is show is D49.  The University of the Sunshine Coast is not huge, compared with other campuses. But if the A4 signs have disappeared from the bit of the campus you arrive at, you will need to know this key nugget of information in order to get to the show.

I’d also suggest you aim to arrive early. Unlike many of the shows and events I have been to in Queensland—and certainly at most of the established, non-AnywhereFest traditional theatre venues, which seem to start fashionably late—this show is likely to start on time. Indeed, for the show I saw on 7th May 2017, the 3pm performance started 6 minutes early. This did mean that many of the members of the audience didn’t get to see each of the 7 monologues. Which was a pity as one of the best performances of the show was therefore over by 3 minutes past 3 (‘Gluttony’).

The advertising suggests that the production questions whether the 7 deadly sins are “still considered the big bad? Or do they now have a celebrated place in us all?’ Certainly there were some interesting re-imaginings of what might be defined as ‘sins.’ For example with ‘Wrath’ ( a double monologue considering the frustration of a trans offspring), and with ‘Pride’ (gay pride? Or the pride of a grandparent whose interpretations of Biblical texts lead to a strong belief that homosexuality is the only way).

Pictured: Tamara Collins (Sloth).Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Tamara Collins (Sloth).Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The strongest performances were by Georgia Toner (Gluttony) and Tamara Collins (Sloth). In the hands of Collins, the ‘Sloth’ monologue was moving and believable; we felt the pain, anguish and sheer weariness of the wife who had elected to bear the IVF twins. We sympathised with her frustration and anguish at the response of her wife, understood her concern that “my babies are feral, and they are trying to kill me,” and worried at her decision to hide the anti-depressants.

The show is set in ‘the one room of the house’—which the Director/co-author (Anthony Borsato) explains as being inspired by the escape that can be had in spending time in the smallest room. Time for reflection,  and for honesty. Given that the toilet is often the ‘smallest room’ in the house, it is an interesting observation that this small room often provides the freedom and space for introspection.  I certainly would like to have see more of an emphasis on the confines of the ‘smallest room’ space—which was best performed during the Sloth monologue. 

This is a student production (University of the Sunshine Coast Ursa Major Theatre Association) and I congratulate all of the participants for their enthusiasm.

Ticketshttp://anywheretheatre.com/listings/one-room/. 51 minutes. The show has 6 performancesduring the Anywhere Festival (tickets still on sale for 14th and 21st May)

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 7th May 2017 (3pm) performance.

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