Machina – La Boite Indie and Mad Cat Creative Connections at The Loft

The Parade Ground yard outside the Roundhouse Theatre was buzzing last night with indie patrons there to see not one, not two, but three shows on the La Boite indie calendar: 4000 Miles, Mullah Nasrudin, and Machina, an eagerly-awaited, new work from Richard Jordan, directed by Catarina Hebbard, and which is now playing in the Loft – a space I hadn’t visited before.

The lead up to production – itself subsidised by a ‘long-tail’, online crowd sourced campaign – added clever marketing videos and a website (designed by Nathan Sibthorpe) which teased us with hints of dastardly doings by the evil, faceless ‘Machina,’ and of individuals who have decided to ‘go inside’ the machine and live as disembodied selves in perpetuity. The regularly posted bulletins hinted at evil corporate scheming and fear of their machinations (pun or otherwise intended) and, of course, society’s obsession with online connectivity.  Add the age-old fascination with the idea if not the reality of immortality for a price (Faustus) – and you get a rich and powerful mix that intrigued. Continue reading Machina – La Boite Indie and Mad Cat Creative Connections at The Loft

Review: The Phantom of the Opera – Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)

Image: Empire Theatre

A disclaimer up front – I’m currently serving on the Foundation of the Empire Theatre and am a former Board member. If, then, you think the following should be taken with a grain of salt, so be it!


Theatre, oh theatre, how I love you in all your moods and guises. I’ve been in love with you for many years – too many to recall – and I’ve never lost the excitement and the anticipation of the magic that is made present from talent, sweat and tears. A group of strangers come together to experience something only fully realised in the dynamic of a single moment of pure community.

The theatre is also powerfully transformative of individuals and communities small and large. Playwright Arthur Miller once noted that the theatre is the place where strangers come together in a civilising act as important as road and bridge building. Maybe it’s because of the power theatre holds that, throughout history, it’s been one of the first agencies to be closed down by repressive regimes. Individuals and communities can be changed – are changed – when they come together to be refreshed and renewed, to be inspired, to laugh, to weep, and to think out loud in front of themselves – that last one from Martin Esslin, another great of the theatre. This communing was something I experienced afresh last Thursday night at the opening of the Empire Theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe’s classic of the modern musical theatre, The Phantom of the Opera. Continue reading Review: The Phantom of the Opera – Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)

Review: Cosi – La Boite Theatre Company at the Roundhouse Theatre

Images: Dylan Evans Photography (Main Image L-R: Trevor Stuart, Jessica Marais, Amy Ingram, Anthony Standish, Benjamin Schostakowski, Jennifer Flowers, James Stewart)

Cosi by Louis Nowra is a much-loved and, by now, a classic in the canon of modern Australian plays. According to David Berthold, it’s also the playwright’s personal favourite. It’s certainly admired by La Boite Theatre Company who have produced it three times over the years. The latest has just opened at the Roundhouse under the direction of Mr Berthold and it’s a production that finds the rhythm of the play’s compassionate heart.

Filled with marvellous characters, and set in an asylum during the Vietnam War, Cosi follows the adventures of young Lewis (Ben Schostakowski) a uni student, who gets a job helping the inmates “put on a show.” He’s all for a bit of Brecht but Roy (played with glorious gusto by Trevor Stuart) is adamant that the music of the spheres must be heard in their shabby little theatre, and so it’s Mozart’s opera Cosi Fan Tutte that gets the nod. It’s as nutty an idea as is possible to imagine, and perfect given the play’s setting. No one can sing, one can hardly speak – all are damaged and apparently incapable of any kind of cooperative activity. Young Lewis (‘Jerry’ to Roy’s ‘Martin’) is clearly out of his depth.

Aaron Davison and Benjamin Schostakowski - Photo by Dylan Evans
Aaron Davison and Benjamin Schostakowski

‘Putting on a show’ plays are ready-made for comedy. Typically we are treated to agonising (hysterical) auditions; shambolic (hysterical) rehearsals and, finally, awful (hysterically awful) performances. There are often great one-liners and in-jokes for the theatre crowd so there’s a lot to laugh at. By the way, the little theatre that designer Hugh O’Connor creates in the big room at the Roundhouse is just delightful. Cosi is no different in this regard, but there’s a whole lot more going on.

One of the great strengths of Nowra’s play is its ability not only to make us laugh but also to make us feel the hurt of those we’re laughing at. Cosi also makes plain the importance of so much we take for granted. As we watch the hapless troupe and their director grope and stumble around it’s clear that they are, perhaps for the first time ever, rediscovering what it means to be useful. No longer isolated they come together squabbling, arguing points of view finding a kind of collective wisdom and joy on the fly. Continue reading Review: Cosi – La Boite Theatre Company at the Roundhouse Theatre

Review: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts: shake and stir and La Boite Theatre Company at the Roundhouse

Images: Dylan Evans

It’s the middle summer and in every suburb the cry goes up, “We’re booored!” Kids and their parents are desperate for diversionary tactics to stem the tide of wailing and to escape into the relief of some air-conditioned goodness for an hour or two. Just in time, as they do each year, La Boite Theatre Company produces a show to delight the generations. This year the inimitable shake and stir return with an adaptation of two of Roald Dahl‘s classic books. It’s a compendium of naughty nursery tales entitled Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts directed by Ross Balbuziente.

Our house has an almost 30 years old, wonderfully dog-eared, much-loved copy of Revolting Rhymes lying on a shelf somewhere, and I think Dirty Beasts is somewhere at the bottom of a playbox in the shed – stuff you can’t throw out because the memories they hold are too precious. I recall the fun we had at bedtime perusing Quentin Blake’s great line-drawing illustrations and ‘doing the voices’ of the mad array of characters that Dahl brought to life. Gosh, is it that long ago. But to the production … Continue reading Review: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts: shake and stir and La Boite Theatre Company at the Roundhouse

Reflections: end of year catch-ups

ReflectionsImage: Josh Johnson

Dear Greenroom readers,

It’s been a while … at least it feels that way … a while since a post here on Greenroom, and I’ve been feeling the guilt at not reviewing at least three, new, local shows which, due to the generosity of the producers, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in the past few months. Greenroom is a labour of love for me; I have no editor whacking the timeline stick, and sometimes the labour can get on top of one. The end of year pace and the pressure that creates have been a bit overwhelming to tell the truth. Sound familiar?

I’ve been involved in a few productions, performances and general end-of-year activities that have left little time for anything other than collapsing in a heap in what’s seemed like all too brief snatches of downtime. One fallout from the energy drain has been something new to me: a complete disinterest in writing. I’m going to call it ‘burnout’ for want of a better term, and I know it’s only temporary. At least I trust it will return in the New Year. So, my apologies at the outset to the individuals, companies and groups to whom I am indebted.

Whilst reviews after the fact are less useful to marketing units in production companies, I do know that some appreciate a reflection. Indeed, these memory pieces can be interesting in their own right. What is it that stays with one a week, month, year after seeing a play? I know I have vivid snatches of memory of plays seen over 40 years ago. How these productions made me feel then continues to affect me now.

One of the reasons I started Greenroom back in 2009 was to try to capture an individual slice of the experience of theatre-going. During doctoral research during the 1990s I was shocked to find so little had been captured of Australian theatre over the years. I made a promise that I would try to do my bit to redress the balance if I could. With the internet being a monster archive, it may well be that these posts are also letters to the future. Indeed, if you are reading this (if the technology holds up) many years from when I am writing at the end of 2013. I hope you find it interesting.  But, I digress.

It is with this in mind and having wrapped all the Christmas presents and finished my shopping, that I’ve had time to reflect on: MOTHERLAND by Katherine Lyall-Watson; PREHISTORIC by Marcel Dorney, and CONNECT FOUR – a new musical theatre piece with music and lyrics by Alanya Bridge

With thanks for your interest in reading Greenroom during 2013 and a special hug to Sita Borhani for helping to keep Greenroom engaged. All the best to you and yours for a joy-filled Christmas and a safe and relaxing summer.

Onwards!

Kate (Editor)

Continue reading Reflections: end of year catch-ups

Review: >< R&J - La Boite Indie and the Breadbeard Collective with the support of QPAC at The Roundhouse

Image: Al Caeiro

I was pretty suspicious about and very prepared to dislike this show before I even got there. Its self-conscious title (requiring a sub-title to explain itself) flashed a pretension alert. It was a great relief to be as pleasantly disarmed and delightfully entertained as I was across the 100 or so minutes of The Breadbeard Collective‘s latest offering and final production from La Boite’s Indie series for 2014.

Inhabiting the liminal space between an illustrated lecture on the methods of Post Modernism and a chilled-out theatre laboratory ><R&J directed strongly and inimitably by Lucas Stibbard, takes Shakespeare’s play and wittily deconstructs it. The experiment: to see (as his foot-noted Director’s Notes have it) whether or not a new theatrical creation can assist in saving the star-crossed lovers from themselves, or whether audiences and performers have a need for the particular narrative that is baked into this story. Narrative wins – yes, it is inevitable. Shakespeare trumps again – how can he not – but then so does the production whose content is gloriously geeky and methods deliciously cheeky. But it has a surprise up its sleeve, a sting in its tail – what you will – and is all the more affecting and dramatically satisfying for it.

I’m referring here to the deaths of Romeo and his Juliet which are horrific in their naturalistic presentation. After all the madcap interventions, role and gender swaps, sweet sexiness and sweaty physicality, the ending comes at you like a bucket of iced-water. The tragedy is potent and gut-wrenching.

The Roundhouse is in Studio Mode for this production which means the playing space is ‘front on’ and more intimate than usual. I loved the relaxed, strong physicality of the 10 performers, the way they inhabit the stage as actor and as character slipping freely from role to role. Some of the speaking needs more work – rushed, flat lines in text-dense passages and underpowered throw-away lines are easily fixed with attention or some intensive coaching. I want to see more of their work and hope ><R&J gets another outing after this season at La Boite Indie.

The Breadbeard … is new to me although I have heard of them and seen some of their current members at work elsewhere. They play together in the best sense of the word – loosely and freely, sparking off and supporting one another like a group of old friends. At times you feel the action has broken out into free association and improv – maybe it has – but the laid-back atmosphere belies a discipline that surely underpins the focus, pace and beautifully-crafted structure of this intelligent and sophisticated new work. Hats off to Mr Stibbard and to his team – onstage and off.

PS  Shakespeare & (ampersand) physical theatre together! #Queenslander.

THE BREADBEARD COLLECTIVE

Creative Producer Matthew Higgins; Associate Producer Kat O’Sullivan; Artistic Associate Sarah Winter; Designer Yvette Turnbull

Cameron Clark, Luke Constable, Julia Forsberg, Essie O’Shaughnessy, Steph Stainlay, David Stewart, Steph Tandy, Brett Walsh, Reuben Witsenhuysen, Bianca Zouppas

Music Arrangements by Luke Constable, Matthew Higgins and Reuben Witsenhuysen

Audio Mixed by Brett Walsh

Animation by Luke Constable

Original Dance Choreography by Neridah Waters

Original Fight Choreography by Niki-J Price

Production and Stage Manager Matthew Seery

Technical Coordinator, Lighting Designer, Set Builder Joel Redding