Anthea Patrick (Interview 24)

Anthea Patrick has taken some time off from a busy rehearsal week to chat about her current project, Andrew Bovell‘s Speaking In Tongues which opens soon for Antix as part of the Metro Arts Allies program. We start with the background stuff – Anthea is Brisbane-born, bred and educated, though new to the Brisbane indie scene – so I’m keen to find out more about one of the newest emerging artists in town.

Anthea’s parents were dancers, though she admits to being somewhat ‘uncoordinated,’ so she found herself going to drama classes as a kid. She remembers her teachers there and later with great fondness: ‘They encouraged us to be the leaders of our creative ideas and gave us confidence in pursuing the art form.’ As a teenager she went to youth theatre at the Villanova Players, where she got the chance to devise, direct, and to be involved in as many different parts of theatre as we wanted. ‘The older kids were leaders for the younger ones.’ Later, at QUT, where she graduated in 2003 with a BCreative Industries, Anthea found the ‘golden nuggets’ she received from lecturers like Mark Radvan – with whom she studied directing – of enormous help. ‘I had done a couple of horrible productions for the youth theatre at Villanova earlier on; I struggled, just working on instinct but, as I got the opportunity to learn and do more, things started to go well.’ After graduation, Anthea founded herself directing mainstage productions back at Villanova Players. ‘It gave me the opportunity to direct a team.’ She notes that a major part of directing is ‘managing creative minds.’

Managing creative minds – what’s that about? ‘Really, it’s managing the huge amount of trust they give you and the burden of fulfilling that. It’s very easy to get tired and that is the moment when you can really confuse people. The thing I try to avoid is confusing people. Understanding characters and design is pretty complex. As a director I always feel nervous before rehearsals begin; it’s the responsibility.’

Anthea is the artistic director of Antix, a new company on the indie scene in Brisbane. ‘I created the name Antix when I had to come up with a name to get an ABN. Back then I had this little dream that I would make it a place where actors and creatives could develop and then present. Of course, I was too young,’ she adds, ‘and I didn’t know how to make a company happen.’ As the years passed, Anthea found herself coaching and teaching more and more. ‘The dream of producing and directing wasn’t happening. I got a bit lost there, so I gave myself a good slap in the face and said if I want to do something, I’d need to get moving. I wanted to learn more about directing.’ She did her research and found herself one of 11 international students at RADA in London doing their short, intensive directing course. ‘That experience really grounded me and opened up my thinking; I’ll be forever glad I had the opportunity.’ Continue reading Anthea Patrick (Interview 24)

Review: Orphans – Queensland Theatre Company (Studio) @ Bille Brown Studio

It’s a cool and drizzly Brisbane winter night, the wind is blowing off the river and I’ve scooted back in quick time from my current-neighbourhood playhouse – the Bille Brown Studio at 78 Montague Road. I’ve been disturbed rather more than I would have thought possible by Dennis Kelly’s Orphans, a play out of contemporary Britain that lays bare another part of the barbaric underbelly of the carefully manicured middle class. I wanted to get home, turn the lights on and clear my head.

Orphans‘ action is relentless, and it doesn’t let go for its 105 or so minutes’ playing time. It hooks you from the get-go as the blood-stained figure of Liam bursts in on his sister Helen at home and eating dinner with her husband Danny. Their young son Shane is away – being baby-sat, and they’re having a quiet night at home – a ‘celebratory dinner’ cooked by Danny. We learn Helen is pregnant. The couple appear to be reasonably well-off; they live in a tasteful, beige on beige apartment which is interpreted with spot-on minimalist restraint in Sam Paxton‘s design.

Kat Henry directs this production for Queensland Theatre Company’s Studio with pace and flair. The starkness of Ben Hughes‘ lighting design and the cinematic atmosphere of Guy Webster’s sound composition create a stage world that beautifully complements the play’s dialogue – fragmented, naturalistic sounding yet meticulously crafted to reflect all the tempo-rhythms, poetry and ambiguities of everyday speech. Continue reading Review: Orphans – Queensland Theatre Company (Studio) @ Bille Brown Studio

Review: Gaijin at QUT Gardens Theatre

The word Yakuza written in Hiragana
Image via Wikipedia

Gaijin, currently playing in a very short (3 day) season is the brainchild and production of Director/Designer Ben Knapton and Rock and Roll Musical/Stand-Up Performer/Sound Designer Dave Eastgate.

The play is essentially a series of snapshot episodes played out by various characters involved in the story of a young Australian gaijin (foreigner), Chris Thompson, who has gone to Japan to work in a theme park. He falls in with a Yakuza family member and, after a series of brushes with the underworld, is jailed for possession of drugs. Chris ends up in a notorious Japanese prison where, he is told, he will ‘cry every day.’

The play begins with a long monologue by a young Japanese man, Akira. He explains that he has grown up in a Yakuza family – the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia in other cultures. Although of Yakuza, he has not followed their ‘way.’ Chris Thompson’s one hope is the friendship of Akira who has befriended him and for whom Chris has apparently done favours. We see Akira on his knees at the play’s end pleading before a Yakuza prisoner ‘boss’ (Father) – a wonderful tattooed torso projection – to have Chris spared some of the prison’s horrors.

The play is built from a series of monologues accompanied by some pretty impressive multi-media and lighting and sound effects. The design and manipulation of the production’s projection technology with its live action is most impressive and, arguably, Gaijin’s strength. The big design team credited in the program is testament to the production’s focus. Lighting Design is by Jason Glenwright, whose work is gracing lots of Brisbane stages at the moment. Multimedia Design is by Nathan Sibthorpe and Ben Knapton

Dave Eastgate’s characterisation – the suite of Japanese and gaijin characters who weave in and out of Chris’ story – is strong and assured. His Japanese choreographer and the American theme park manager are particular delights. However, I did have some difficulty simply understanding a couple of his other thickly-accented Japanese English characters and, as a result, suspect I missed a few key plot points as they went by. Loved his musical ‘interludes’ as the drugged-out ‘Chris’ struts the stage howling into a microphone at a concert and, as himself in the closing ‘Epilogue’ moments of the play.

Direct audience address is far more satisfying in Gaijin than a couple of awkward-feeling scenes between one character and an invisible ‘other’ on stage, and when off-stage action is presented through sound effects and disembodied speech whilst the stage remains empty. Empty stages make me nervous.

Gaijin is a good-looking, smart piece of theatre-creation and a vehicle for the undoubted talents of Dave Eastgate and some pretty hot audio-visual designers. It is well worth a visit down to the QUT Gardens Point Theatre.

Review: Water Falling Down – Queensland Theatre Company

The time has come to declare the ubiquitous ’75-110 minute full-length play-without-an-interval’ as the norm on local stages. The hefty play from not all that long ago – the ones with an interval and sometimes even two – seem to have gone. The really old ones – the classics – are more likely to make their appearance in a ‘movie-length’, reworked adaptation like La Boite’s Julius Caesar or Belvoir Street’s recent The Wild Duck. Soon interval drinks will seem quaintly old-fashioned, something which front-of-house bar managers may, or may not appreciate. Of course, it makes for an earlier night than used to be the case, opens up getting home by public transport, and there’s more time for after-show get togethers. Such was the case last night at Queensland Theatre Company’s world-premiere production of Mark Swivel’s Water Falling Down (running time 90 minutes). QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre did the honours, and it was just about the perfect size and space for what is a very intimate take on love, loss and rocky father-son relationships.

Last night also marked Andrea Moor’s professional debut as a director with the state theatre company. Ms Moor is an accomplished actor and teacher of acting and, for the past couple of years, has been honing her directorial skills as an emerging artist with QTC as well as with independent productions in Brisbane. Greenroom had the pleasure of doing an interview with Andrea in 2010. Water Falling Down is Sydney-based playwright Mark Swivel’s fifth work presented first at the National Play Festival in 2010. The play’s subject matter reminded me, albeit briefly, of the bittersweet comedy of the television series of Mother and Son. It plays out in the same territory but in a more sober key – an ageing parent and adult child negotiating a relationship that changes by turn as child becomes parent and parent child. Water Falling Down features Ron Haddrick and Andrew Buchanan in two plum roles as the father and son on a literal and metaphoric journey together. The play’s events are sparked by the increasing frailty and aphasia of the father and by the son’s desire for love and understanding. The setting is a trip to Europe designed to bring the pair together and to revive memories before the progress of the father’s condition removes words and communication forever.

A side note – I must confess to being somewhat in awe of Ron Haddrick. He was one of the actors whose names were very familiar to me when I was growing up as a child of radio drama and black and white television back in the 60s. His voice and acting were always thrilling, and Mr Haddrick’s reputation in the Australian theatre industry remains second to none. He is greatly admired and loved by colleagues and was also a terrific cricketer – he represented SA in the Sheffield Shield competition in the 1950s. Last night I very much enjoyed seeing Mr Haddrick, one of our best senior artists working side by side with one of our best younger ones, Andrew Buchanan. Messrs Haddrick and Buchanan were beautifully cast in their respective roles and they brought their considerable individual and collective acting skills to bear on the work.

Andrea Moor’s directorial vision has wrapped Water Falling Down in a production which provides the dynamic missing in Mark Swivel’s play. The text is essentially a collage of scenes which seem very often repetitious and which don’t take the opportunity to examine further the relationship between father and son. As a result the action feels static, and dramatic tension dissipates in a series of stops and starts. This could also be part of the reason why the play feels longer than its 90 minutes of playing time.

Water Falling Down has a tender heart and it contains many beautifully written and nuanced scenes. I was greatly moved by one towards the end of the play when the father finally opens up to the son in a fleeting moment of lucidity – the words flow as he speaks of his limitations, lifelong fears and especially of the comfort of an understanding wife.  The richness of the writing here was matched by the finesse of the playing by both Haddrick and Buchanan. At the end however, there’s a feeling that the individual trees are more interesting than the whole wood which is Water Falling Down. It just doesn’t pull together.

Andrea Moor has picked an excellent production team for her debut for Queensland Theatre Company – some are collaborators from previous productions. Production values are always high with QTC and this production is no exception. Design for Water Falling Down by Ross Wallace and lit by Jason Glenwright is minimalist-elegant and visually very stylish. Mr Wallace’s video and still images are projected on to a giant bank of sliding screens and help situate the play’s locations. Along with Phil Hagstrom’s music, these contribute to the play’s atmosphere. A revolve enables ‘travelling’ and scene changes without hands-on assistance. Scene changes felt a little long, but perhaps this is something which the season will rectify as backstage changes speed up in what I understand is pretty much a black-out state.

For many in the audience the subject matter of the play will resonate strongly. Mr Swivel himself wrote the play out of the personal experience of his own father’s failing health and Andrea Moor writes in her director’s note of the relationship that was forged as she nursed her own mother in the last year of her life. The subject matter of the play is rich and affecting but, if I had a wish, it would be that the writer looks again at the resolution in the play’s final moments. For my taste, at least, this moment is overly-sentimentalised and reductive. Endings of all kinds are hard.

 

Water Falling Down plays at QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre, Brisbane until 7 May

A correction brought to my attention by Ross Wallace, the designer of Water Falling Down – video and still images were created by Mr Wallace as the Designer and not by Declan McMonagle who is, as the program notes, attributed as ‘Assistant Video Editor.’ Greenroom apologies for this confusion and has made the appropriate correction above.

 

 

 

First quarterly report: jobs onstage

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Facts & Figures

Here it is. Further to an earlier post Jobs for the girls: logging the stats and as promised, herewith the first of 4 planned reports of cast numbers in programmed productions for both subsidised companies in Brisbane in 2011.

Plays include: Julius Caesar; Boy Girl Wall (La Boite) and Sacré Bleu; Man=Man & The Elephant Calf; Water Falling Down – opens this week (Queensland Theatre Company)

 

 

As at 4.4.11

 

Any errors or omissions, please let us know.

Not included in the stats is employment in play-readings, workshops and other creative development activities for both companies which, to be fair, include job opportunities for actors.

A much better and fuller picture would include figures for independent productions. Whilst this would be problematical as a ‘living-wage’ employment statistic – most indie productions are stipend or fee-based, deferred payment or non-waged – it would give a sense of how many performance opportunities are being made available for female actors, which is where this conversation began.

Review: boy girl wall – La Boite Theatre & The Escapists

September 2011 – and they’re back! We probably won’t see it again this time since the season is sold out, and we hear that Mr Stibbard has added new jokes too! Ah well. Get along to one of the funniest, most inventive pieces of theatre you’ll ever see. It’s heading off on a national tour in 2012, but Brisbane has a chance to see it again for the shortest of seasons. Get in fast for tickets.

April 2011 – Greenroom loved it last year. We loved it again last night. Apart from a couple of tweaks – mostly to accommodate the fact that there were no walls in the new space of La Boite’s Roundhouse – this is the same, joyously abandoned performance by master story-teller Lucas Stibbard which delighted audiences in Brisbane at last year’s !Metro Arts season. This reviewer hasn’t changed her mind one little bit, and chalked up her latest response (with new pictures by Al Caeiro) for your reading pleasure. How’s that for thrift! Original review

It may not be spring, but it’s always time for the warmth of a love story, especially when the cool winds and showers of autumn sweep around your ankles and make deciding what to wear to the theatre a right pain. So it was a real thrill to head to the theatre last night to welcome back a tale of young love and other local hazards boy girl wall. With no more than chalk, some blackboards, a couple of puppet socks, a few props and an overhead projector, Lucas Stibbard creates and embodies an entire world in the big, comfy room at Brisbane’s Roundhouse Theatre. It’s a sweet, comic and touching confection from The Escapists who, with this production, have been drawn into the La Boite fold for Season 2011.  The boy girl wall team is the same creative collective that brought you The Attack of the Attacking Attackers some time back. The Escapists’ manifesto: imagination, theatricality and the joy of play are all joyously present in boy girl wall.

Suited up and with a fetching new haircut Lucas Stibbard, like his quirky imagination, takes flight through La Boite Theatre‘s home room.

Stibbard’s is a wonderfully original and intelligent voice, and he leaps and whirls in a non stop, dazzling performance in the best Aussie tradition of yarn spinning. Flicking and switching between characters with the ease of someone totally in charge and on top of his game, it’s a 70 minute delight which flies by at full tilt and as nimbly as the story teller himself.

There’s an entire gallery of characters in boy girl wall but the central protagonists Thom and Alethea, who live side by side in a West End (inner city Brisbane) apartment, are separated by the eponymous Wall. Each is having a bad, bad week; each is attempting unsuccessfully to cope – alone. As narratives go, their individual stories and how they come together – it’s a romance after all – is pretty much it. In this production, the great joy lies in the telling of a simple but unforgettable tale.

Along the way Thom and Alethea encounter some marvellous characters – my favorites: the Magpie of Montague Road; Thursday – yes the day of the week; and Dan – Apple’s thinnest computer yet. There’s also the philosophical powerbox, a Gothic librarian, a toffee-chewing Scottish cabbie, the anxious Wall himself and the serial theatre sports junkie/lover of impro – actually, I think I loved them all.

Last year after the show at !Metro Arts I chatted briefly with Lucas and his wife, Neridah Waters who accompanies the action fromabove on xylophone and other sound fx. I asked whether Lucas, aided and abetted by the other Escapists (principally Matthew Ryan BGW’s co-writer as well as newcomer Sarah Winter), has any other stories to tell. This one had taken a year or more to put together, but I was delighted to hear their treasured notebook is full of more snippets for future delight. Don’t lose that notebook!

Boy Girl Wall was due to play Brisbane in 2009 but, after two shows, had to be cancelled through Stibbard’s then ill-health. The play went on to the Adelaide Fringe Festival in early 2010 where it was well received. A year on this beguiling production is all set to entertain once again and, I’m willing to bet, utterly charm the socks off local audiences during its already almost sold-out season at The Roundhouse.

I was reminded as I watched this sharp, classy piece of theatre of the importance of a nurturing gestation period for new work, and especially of the value of second and subsequent productions. Last year at the !Metro Arts season I spoke with a friend who’d seen the play in that original, short-lived season in Brisbane.  She was delighted at how much it had grown, expanded and developed, and yet it’s actually lost playing time – mostly the jokes – Nerida noted, in the interests of tightening up the central narrative. This production feels a little tighter, faster and funnier without ever losing its freshness or feeling slick.

Get acquainted with the delights of boy girl wall before it leaves town to charm the rest of the world – as it most certainly will!

PS … and just so you know, there’s a hidden hommage in the show to one of Lucas’ former USQ classmates – the real ‘Alethea Jones.’ It’s a rich confection, indeed!