World Theatre Festival: the first of the year for Brisbane

8 February, 2012 by No Comments

Brisbane’s World Theatre Festival is 3 years old this year. It’s back bigger than ever at the city’s (arguably) coolest arts venue, the Brisbane Powerhouse on the river at New Farm.

The earlier, cheekier acronym WTF! has gone, but the change of name is probably a good thing. The Festival has a different feel this year. It’s bigger – due to an injection in 2011 of support from the Grahame Wood Foundation and the Queensland Government (Arts Queensland and Events Queensland). The program is also more diverse and even more interesting in our opinion. If Artistic Director Andrew Ross has his way, then the bringing together of international and Australian artists in Brisbane will make for a terrific celebration. It will also kick off the 2012 theatre season in Brisbane.

Mr Ross told me he hopes that local artists will gain something that he gained in Perth in his formative years, ” … a sense of what is possible here and an occasional moment of recognition of our own uniqueness.”  The Festival organisers believe it’s going to be a chance for the city to get involved in theatre and to see the world from a different angle.

Coming from Perth I saw and experienced the way the regular exposure to International theatre through the Perth Festival stimulated and influenced local theatre practice.

I hope World Theatre Festival draws from both of those personal experiences and creates a theatre festival that is right for the here and now.”

Between 16-26 February Brisbane will be able to take in some of the best independent theatre hand-picked by Ross and colleagues from Italy, Belarus, India, the US, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, and join in forums and masterclasses. There’s also a new Festival Lounge with free live music and – wait for it – Wi Fi. Expect lots of social media comment. Twitter hashtag? #wtf2012 maybe?

I asked Andrew whether there was a binding theme to this year’s Festival. “I hope that the diversity of authentic voices amounts to a loose unity with diversity. This year, a level of social political engagement seems to pervade many of the works.”

And how does he choose what appears? How do you program a world theatre festival?

“Along with my colleagues I travel both within and outside of Australia. I am on the internet every day monitoring theatre in many parts of the world and constantly in discussions with other theatre producers. I then endeavour to choose work which represents many strands of contemporary practice. It is not a festival about any preferred theatre form or genre. I look at work and I listen for authentic voices and try to eschew work that is manufactured with the international market in mind.”

Now, that’s a job I’d like!

He goes on:

“I think one thing this year’s festival does well is provide everyone with something to suit their interests. Technology enthusiasts will love Il Pixel Rosso’s And the Birds Fell from the Sky – where two audience members wear video goggles and MP3 players and experience a completely different universe.

“Where We Once Belonged, a Samoan coming-of-age story told by New Zealand’s Pacific Institute of Performing Arts graduates will have musical theatre fans enthralled with its authentic Pacific singing and dancing entwined with serious drama.

“Drama enthusiasts will love Ibsen’s The Lady from The Sea, reimagined with spectacular visuals by India’s Abhinaya Theatre Company in a new collaboration with Brisbane band Topology.

“And anyone who saw Belarus Free Theatre’s visit in 2009 will need to see their new show Discover Love – a beautiful love story and a hard look at political ‘disappearances’ around the world.”

Also heading to Brisbane are Italy’s Motus Theatre with their stripped back version of Sophocles Antigone in Too Late! (Antigone) Contest #2 and the Rude Mechanics from Texas, US. who bring the most dangerous approach to acting back from the 70s in The Method Gun.

Australia is represented by Brisbane Indie champions The Escapists with Elephant Gun – an inventive and clever play using puppets, dance and projections. Team Mess blurs the line between reality and fantasy in This Is It! , a show where the audience take on the role as the press at a movie launch – complete with probing questions on how the movie This Is It! was made.

In addition to these shows World Theatre Festival 2012 presents Scratch – six new works in development by Australian artists where audiences can see how theatre comes to life.

Audiences are also encouraged to take part in industry masterclasses, have their opinions heard during the In Conversation discussion series and relax in the Festival Lounge. It will be open all hours with free live music, and will be the perfect place to relax between shows, discuss what you’ve just seen or meet with friends during the festival.

And, if you’ve read this far (and we thank you for it) watch out for a Greenroom give away in the next few days courtesy of the Powerhouse and the World Theatre Festival. It’s a free day-long, masterclass with the Rude Mechanics from Texas. You’d like that, right? You need to be available on Saturday 25th February.

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