Review: Children of War, La Boite indie and The Danger Ensemble in association with the Vanguard Youth Theatre

Image: Courtesy La Boite Theatre

I like the concept. Take a group of young characters pulled out of the myths surrounding the Trojan War and make them the seniors of 2012, complete with impending formal. Writer Chris Beckey and director/designer Steven Mitchell Wright have offered up a media-infused collision of old and new that seeks to highlight that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating itself when it comes to growing up in a war zone. The Danger Ensemble collaborated with the Vanguard Youth Theatre to develop and perform the work, and the cast of eight young actors grab the show with both hands (and at times their bared teeth) and run with it. Continue reading Review: Children of War, La Boite indie and The Danger Ensemble in association with the Vanguard Youth Theatre

Review: Some Dumb Play – Metro Arts Allies

I still recall my first Choose Your Own Adventure book. Remember those? You read a chapter and then you’re faced with a choice – do the characters take the river or head through the dunes? Stick the knife in, or show mercy? Drink the potion or storm the castle? Ok, Head to page 26. It was GREAT fun, especially for a child, who is never the boss of anything – not so much the hobby for the compulsively indecisive, but a little bit of a thrill.

Stepping into the buzzing Sue Benner Theatre to take in the digitally experimental Some Dumb Play, that familiar feeling of spine tingling excitement began to brew. For the folks at home, this is how it works: You take along your smart phone; find your wifi settings and connect to ‘some dumb play’; open your browser and type www.somedumbplay.com, and your voting screen pops up.

To get in a bit of practice before the curtain goes up, you can vote for the pre-show music – the punters loved this. I could hear husbands and wives trashing each other’s choice and mates cheering their approval as their song was played. My girlfriend and I had an altercation over whether it was a moral duty to vote against the Backstreet Boys. It certainly got the party started. Continue reading Review: Some Dumb Play – Metro Arts Allies

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

Review: Beauty Is Difficult – Heartbeast Vicious Theatre Ensemble at Trinity Church Hall

It’s always difficult writing a review for a show you don’t particularly connect with; one always wonders whether someone else would have been moved by the piece or inspired to critique it differently – of course they would. However, let’s begin at the beginning.

To use their own words: Heartbeast is

a not-for-profit theatre organisation that offers artists the opportunity to investigate and explore their performance philosophy and skills of artistry through an aesthetic prism that meshes heightened theatricality with the organic performance of archetypal, contemporary, local and world stories.

It’s a mouthful, but I think Heartbeast’s performance of Beauty Is Difficult at the Trinity Church Hall was true to this manifesto.

Trinity Church Hall in the Valley is a beautiful, cavernous and engaging performance space, and punters were received with enthusiasm. A program thrust in hand, we were asked to “back a winner” by placing our name under the character that we thought was destined to die at the finish. I was interested; this sounded interactive. Fun! So I bought a delicious hot chocolate and settled in for a good one.

Earning my gold star as a theatre-goer, I’d investigated the premise of the show and was excited to meet its remarkable line-up of characters; Hedda Gabler (Sherri Smith), Emma Bovary (Karen Dinsdale), Anna Karenina (Anna O’Hara), Phedre (Adrienne Costello) and Danni (Judith Turnbull), based on the character of Mrs Danvers from Rebecca (1938). C’est formidable, I thought!

These women led a cast of eight actors that meet in a ballroom, somewhere in the after-life. Controlled by a puppet master, they use their beauty and feminine wiles to survive the strange experience (I did wonder how someone could die if they were already dead, but I let it go).

Michael Beh, artistic director of Heartbeast and director/creator/costume designer of Beauty is Difficult writes in his notes that his show does, “not tell the story of each of the original texts but dips into them like a stone skipping across the water, allowing the audience to barrack for their favourite femme fatale.”

Mr Beh sets out to achieve a great deal in his 75 minute work (no interval) and on reflection, I think this is the problem. Continue reading Review: Beauty Is Difficult – Heartbeast Vicious Theatre Ensemble at Trinity Church Hall

Review: The NeverEnding Story – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Tim O’Connor writes wonderfully lucid Director’s Notes, and a good thing too, because I have always found The Neverending Story utterly confusing. My memories of the 1984 film are of a leather-bound book, a rock-eating mountain and a flying dog (sorry, luck dragon). There may also have been a mulleted David Bowie singing in a maze … or was that Labyrinth? It’s fair to say I’m not a die-hard fan.

So as my little girl and I sat in the foyer on opening night, flicking through the programme of Tim O’Connor’s re-envisioning of Michael Ende’s fantasy novel, The Neverending Story (1979), I read her the story blurb slowly (nothing wrong with being prepared I thought) and, as we walked into the wonderfully intimate Cremorne Theatre, I was confident she would know what was going on. After all, she’s infinitely smarter than I was at six, and loves a good yarn.

Well, by half way through it became clear that the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree; she didn’t have a clue. This is not the type of show where you can break your concentration to unwrap your lollipop. I’m still answering questions two days later – having to explain both the plot and the higher order concepts at work.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lovely, lovely idea that a child’s imagination can save an entire world from being eaten up by despair. It’s just that, in the telling of it, you meet so many fantastical characters (whose names you can’t pronounce) and your quest takes so many strange twists and turns as you traverse the vast Fantasia, that it can be easy to get a little bit lost. Especially if you’re six. Or thirty.

That’s not to say she didn’t have a marvellous time. It was, after all, a feast for the eyes and the ears. Continue reading Review: The NeverEnding Story – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Review: Chicago – Blue Fish Theatrical at Schonell Theatre

Main Image: Supplied Blue Fish Theatrical

It’s good, isn’t it … grand, isn’t it?

Oh I do love a musical! And as far as musicals go, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s satirical slice of razzle dazzle, the murderous Chicago (1975) is a corker. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not one of the four people alive that hasn’t seen one of the many hundreds of productions on stage since its Broadway opening or the 2002 Academy Award-winning Hollywood blockbuster, so I won’t bore you with a recap. But I’ll say this – I’ve never met a Kander and Ebb number I didn’t like. As I drove out to UQ’s Schonell Theatre for the opening night of Blue Fish Theatrical‘s production of the duo’s best known piece, I was crossing my fingers that this company, who bill themselves as ‘Queensland’s hottest independent musical theatre company,’ would pull it off.

Sitting in the dark, the theatre was half-full and the curtain wide-open. Apart from ‘CHICAGO’ up in lights and the band centre, the stage was bare black, and I immediately knew we’d be stepping into a vaudevillian, concert-style interpretation – excellent, just how I like it. I flicked through the program to check out the designer and was surprised to find there wasn’t one, but three.

Director Tony Campbell, Musical Director Julie Whiting and Stage Manager Brett Roberts are billed under Set Design whilst Choreographer Jenny Usher is ‘costume co-ordinator’ – whatever that means. Alarm bells. Too many cooks? Thankfully, by the end of the opening number – Chicago’s anthem ‘All That Jazz’ – my fears were allayed. This Chicago‘s design is slick and minimalist with sexy but not ‘distracting’ costumes. In fact, apart from a few pairs of ill-fitting men’s trousers, the design was wonderfully simple and classy. And what a joy to see a community theatre company cleverly putting their resources into all the right places.

Blue Fish do a good band and this production was no exception. It’s jazz and liquor hot … Julie Whiting and her troupe of talented musicians are just terrific

Tony Campbell, who clearly knows his way around a comedy, played it safe and directed the show by numbers. If you’re looking for a new or ground-breaking re-invention, you won’t find it here. Then again, if it ain’t broke… Continue reading Review: Chicago – Blue Fish Theatrical at Schonell Theatre