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Review: Orpheus

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Review: Orpheus

Brisbane Festival’s Theatre Republic is this week visited by two troubadours—newly arrived from the UK to retell a tale of love and loss, trust and colour, youth and age, spring and winter. In this case, the lyric-poet is Tom Figgins (performing a role written and created by Alexander Wright), and the poet-musician is Phil Grainger. In the true style of the troubadours of old, Figgins and Grainger switch between performing and chatting directly to the audience. So we are quickly warned that Eurydice will die, that if we came to the show because we wanted to hear Bruce Springsteen then there is only one of his songs that evening and, finally, that a knowledge of Greek mythology is not a prerequisite. There is a smattering of Bruce Springsteen (Dancing in the Dark, of course), but most of the music is composed by Grainger. Knowing Greek mythology is neither a help nor hindrance, as this love story is beautifully told.

Picture : The tools of the troubadours.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture: The tools of the troubadours. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Also in the style of the traditional troubadours, Figgins and Grainger rely on few props. As the audience walks into the La Boite Studio, a single book and a guitar are on the floor, and the two performers are chatting. But then that is all they really need to create a world of pubs, mates, karaoke bars, new love, hell and a world that can be transformed into vibrant, living colour: words, song, a book and a guitar. And a story about Dave.

The technical touches were light, and worked well. Simple lighting, but we really felt the warmth when the colour came into the room, and into Dave’s life. The space worked well for the sound-levels (make sure you concentrate on the words), and I loved the musical choices as we filed into the room (what’s not to love about a soundtrack that includes “I want you back” and “I’m coming up” as a prelude to a story about trying to bring someone back from hell?).

The switching between performance and chatter is a great way to relax the audience, to build rapport, and to encourage some laughter. The chatter was also used to great effect when Grainger called a mini interval—encouraging the audience to briefly stand up, but not to leave the room. This ‘tension break’ was a great idea, as there were times during the show when the audience was completely spellbound—listening so carefully to the words of the story and song that a pin dropping would have crashed to the ground.

The applause was warm and well-deserved. Having heard the story from Orpheus’ perspective, I’ll just have to make time to see the companion piece (Eurydice) to hear her side of the story.

Verdict: We all need more of such modern troubadours in our lives—or at least, on our stages. One to look out for.

Audience notes: 70 minutes. Seating at the La Boite Studio (Theatre Republic) is on two sides of the space. Don’t worry, you’ll get a great experience from either side, but try to sit in the first four rows if you can. 13+. Consider booking tickets for both Orpheus and the companion piece, Eurydice; conveniently the two shows run concurrently in the same space. The two shows are part of the 2019 Brisbane Festival, 17-21 September 2019 (7:15pm or 9pm—Orpheus timing alternates with Eurydice). Tickets are $20-35 (plus booking fee, note that the Festival uses ‘airline pricing’ for the Show, so select the lowest available price on booking).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 17 September 2019 performance (7:15pm).

Note: Promotional material for the festival includes pictures of Wright, but the show is performed by Figgins (pictured, promoting Eurydice) and Grainger.

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Review: From Darkness

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Review: From Darkness

On the anniversary of Vinnie’s suicide, the family gathers for a meal. Grief manifests in a variety of ways. Vinnie’s parents seem unable to talk about their feelings: Mum (Abigail, Lisa Maza) turning to drink, and Dad (Eric, Colin Smith) brooding over the horrendous experience of being the first to find his son. Vinnie’s siblings appear to be retreating from the family: Preston (Benjin Maza) locking himself in his room, with 15-year old Akira (Ebony McGuire) staying glued to her phone. But if the rest of the family is finding it difficult to talk Nanna Lou (Roxanne McDonald)—the feisty, funny and occasionally foul-mouthed matriarch—certainly overcompensates.  

Steven Oliver (writer) has a wickedly funny turn of phrase and a strong stage presence. The ‘voice’ of the writer comes through so powerfully that I could imagine Oliver playing all of the roles; so, it’s just as well that the director (Isaac Drandic) has assembled a strong cast and fantastic creative support. The set design (Kevin O’Brien) worked perfectly for this piece. La Boite is a flexible space, and although I heard one audience member muttering about entering from level 2, I thought it was a good choice; looking down onto the performance space was a great way to start, and end, the experience of the play. Keith Deverall’s videographic work was a standout: compelling visual design that was both a work of art and also a vital means of communicating the dreams and spirit-world relationships which formed a central part of the story.

“R U OK?” Day seemed a perfect time to be sitting in the quirky (and fun) Brisbane Festival Theatre Republic space, waiting to see a play about a family coping with the aftermath of suicide. I’m glad I saw it. The interpersonal relationships were beautifully established, and the messages about family, belonging, and the need to listen to all members of the family (of whatever age) were carefully set up. Go with an open mind…enjoy the dark humour of some of the one-liners… and come away reflecting on the importance of being with those who are close to you. Or, in Preston’s words, “we need to remember us.”

Verdict: Stephen Oliver’s play about family, belonging, and the need to listen is a good investment of 70 minutes of your time. Great cast (and worth the price of admission just to see the standout videographic work), with the bonus of  a great venue (La Boite) and a chance to spend time in Theatre Republic.

Audience tip: Sit in the centre seats if you can. 15+ (coarse language, references to spirits, and themes of suicide, death, grief and loss). 70 minutes. 2019 Brisbane Festival, 7-28 September 2019. Tickets are $35-56 (plus booking fee).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 12 September 2019 performance (7:30pm). An abbreviated version of this review is included in the 2019 Brisbane Festival In My Honest Opinion website.

Picture: The anniversary meal. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture: The anniversary meal. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography

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Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

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Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin is a great evening: three expert cabaret performers who re-frame the history of gin through a feminist perspective. A love story about the beverage of choice, enhanced with fantastic harmonies, and great humour by chanteuses Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood—with superb musical direction and performance by Jeremy Brennan. What’s not to love?  

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Elly Baxter (writer/researcher—aka The Ginstress), and the performers, clearly know everything there is to know about gin. By the end of the 60-minute show we walked out feeling a little thirsty…but also better informed about some of the politics behind our favourite beverage. The Show has been running for three years, following a first outing in 2016. I am not surprised it continues to attract rave reviews around the world. It’s slick, informative, and professional—and yet is funny and feels fresh. For example, it was lovely to hear the occasional local mention—particularly the ‘Drinks for Women” reference to Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bognor’s 1965 Regatta Hotel Bar protest.

Everyone will have their highlights from the evening. For me, Wood’s version of Sia’s Chandelier—definitely hitting all the right notes. But Marsden’s performance of Lionel Bart’s Oom Pah Pah also left a lasting impression on at least one of our group...

Pictured: Maeve Marsden.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Maeve Marsden. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 
Pictured: Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Be assured this will be one of my picks from the 2018 Brisbane Festival—and we are only at the start of Festival Director David Bertold’s ‘Act 2.’ Last night was meant to be my night off from reviewing. But Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin deserves to sell out the rest of this Brisbane run. Book now!

Verdict: Unmissable. Definitely one of my picks of the 2018 Brisbane Festival.   

Audience tip: The La Boite Roundhouse is a great venue for the show, with good views from any seat—but the ‘floor’ and the first row of the raised seating are probably the best. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin has a six-show season at the 2018 Brisbane Festival, so buy your tickets now ($34-$37). 18th-21st September (7:30pm), plus two shows on 22nd September (6:45pm & 9:15pm). Production suggests 18+ (adult themes, coarse language, and alcohol references) & a smoke machine is used throughout. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 18th September 2018 performance (7:30pm).

All pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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