Review: Performance Anxiety – Brian Lucas at Turbine Studio Brisbane Powerhouse

Image: Michael Hills

I love that moment an audience shares when they are in the presence of a truly committed performer. It’s a comfortable acceptance, a feeling of safety despite the fact that what you are seeing may be totally unhinged, or bordering on absurd. This was the vibe enjoyed at the opening night of Performance Anxiety, a one-man show that went up at the Brisbane Powerhouse this week.

The Turbine Studio has been transformed by designers Kieran Swann (set) and Andrew Meadows (lighting) into an uber-cool, in-the-round cabaret den, with bare hanging bulbs, festive Christmas lights and rows upon rows of shiny wine glasses propping up a slick barman.

Centre stage is Brian Lucas – writer, performer and all-round visionary. He is the creator of Performance Anxiety a 90 minute foray into the behind the scenes psyche of a performer, juxtaposed with glimpses into the anxiety-ridden lives of us ordinary folk

Intimate and instantly intriguing, Performance Anxiety exudes cabaret. Mr Lucas uses contemporary dance, movement, physical imagery and his own commanding voice to bring to life a myriad of characters, some funny, some sad – but all compelling. His performance is held together by the soundscape of the piece, engineered and created by sound designer/composer Brett Collery, of whom I have become an instant fan.

The soundscape is sublime; it became a partner to Lucas, working hand in hand with him as a co-performer.

The soundscape is sublime; it became a partner to Lucas, working hand in hand with him as a co-performer. Music (including some original compositions), sound effects and voice-overs were layered and mixed to profound effect. I particularly enjoyed the pairing of Campbell Newman’s promises of a better Brisbane for artists with Gene Wilder singing Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination.” What a giggle.

There is no doubt that this show is what used to be called avant-garde. If I’d taken my mother along she’d be demanding her money back. There’s no plot to follow, it’s not black and white and, if you like a show that crosses its Ts and dot’s its Is,- this isn’t it. If I were to box it up and sell it to my friends I’d say it was primarily a movement and music piece. Only it isn’t. Helpful, I know. I enjoyed it – but it’s certainly not for everyone.

So, what do you get for giving up your evening to sit in a dark room? Well, it gives you a feeling. Don’t roll your eyes at me; that’s a very valid outcome of art – some would say it’s the most valid. The second act is particularly powerful in this regard, with lighting designer Andrew Meadows really stepping up to the plate.

As a performer Lucas is ageless, fluid and engaging.

As a performer Lucas is ageless, fluid and engaging. His choreography is riveting and beautifully harmonised with the music. As he dipped in and out of various characters I felt I would have liked to see more of his own character – the performer – emerge. When he did make brief appearances I was able to identify with him. Many of his other personas, while interesting, were extreme and quite removed from my own experiences – the misogynist (timely), the soldier, and the dictator.

There was no programme. I would’ve liked one. Nothing epic, but something to let us know who the creatives were and possibly some brief notes on the show. It’s my bet these four blokes would have something interesting to say.

Performance Anxiety is playing at the Brisbane Powerhouse until Saturday 3rd November.

The above review has been adjusted to reflect the incorrect credit of Kieran Swann as Lighting Designer. Mr Swann is Designer. Please note Andrew Meadows is the Lighting Designer for Performance Anxiety. We thank Mr Meadows for drawing this to our attention and apologise for the mistake. As noted above – a programme always helps!

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