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, having run around malls and sites trying to find the perfect gift for my outdoorsy nephew, finally settling on one of the top 10 EDC knives. Now I finally have 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      

Review: The Wizard of Oz – La Boite, The Danger Ensemble and Brisbane Festival at The Roundhouse

Images: Morgan Roberts
Carrying the burden of  iconic stardom has crippled and destroyed many - like Judy Garland. She gets resurrected from time to time in shows that reconstruct or deconstruct the legend of the woman known simply as Garland or Judy. This year alone we've had End of the Rainbow from Queensland Theatre Company and, a week or so ago at Toowoomba's Arts Theatre, the first performance of a one-woman play, Bernadette Meenach's Miss Garland at Twilight as part of the USQ Twilight Series. Judy Garland's life, film and stage career have been picked over and over, like soothsayers of old delving into the entrails of sacrifices. What are they looking for? We're less interested in what made her the extraordinarily gifted artist she undoubtedly was. It seems the appetite is for the tragic morsels her life produced.  Some would say Judy Garland (the artist formerly known as Frances Ethel Gumm) became a sacrifice to the insatiable appetite of the crowds who created her as a star and then dined off the many disasters and breakdowns that dogged her life. Judy Garland's role as Dorothy from the 1939 MGM classic movie The Wizard of Oz shot her into an orbit that she (and the studios who owned her) fought to control for the rest of her life. The movie was based on one of L Frank Baum's popular children's stories The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first published in 1900. American culture owes Mr Baum much. He went on to write other tales about the people in the Land of Oz, then came the movie and, of course, Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the west the huge musical which owes, in turn, its genesis to Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel of the same name. Mr Maguire mined Oz for four more books in his Oz series, and so it goes. wizardnarrow-300x0Now Maxine Mellor (as Principal Writer), The Danger Ensemble and La Boite have a go in their The Wizard of Oz currently playing at The Roundhouse as part of the Brisbane Festival program.  In Director Steven Mitchell Wright's production we meet the old familiar figures: Dorothy (Caroline Dunphy in great form) and her little black dog Toto, the munchkins (Lucy-Ann LangkildeThomas Hutchins and Thomas Larkin) who also play the lion, tin man and scarecrow respectively - and scarily. Of course, there is a beautiful witch (Polly Sara) and Oz himself (Chris Beckey a spectacle in emerald green). Ms Mellor's tale reframes the original into a contemporary, local setting in order to examine the burden of lost hopes and aspirations so, of course, the Garland persona will get an airing. Continue reading Review: The Wizard of Oz – La Boite, The Danger Ensemble and Brisbane Festival at The Roundhouse

Review: Miss Garland at Twilight: USQ Arts Theatre (Toowoomba)

Image: Cindy Laine, USQ Photography.
I’ve had a lot of chats with a lot of different grandmas over the course of my journalistic career. Grandmas who sent husbands off to war, never to see them again. Grandmas who survived the Depression, grandmas forgotten by their children, grandmas befuddled by a rapidly changing world. Some grandmas are funny, some are sad. But spend some time with grandmas – really give them your ear - and they all have a few things in common. They will talk of days gone by, they will reminisce about their childhood, they will tell stories of people you don’t know, they will show you the treasures accumulated over their lives, they will ponder the choices they made and the roads they travelled, they may even break into song. Now just imagine “grandma” is the icon of long-ago Hollywood, the infamous Judy Garland. We’d all love to have a chat with her, right? Well, Bernadette Meenach gave audiences that chance in her self-devised show Ms Garland at Twilight at the University of Southern Queensland on Wednesday, September 4. Continue reading Review: Miss Garland at Twilight: USQ Arts Theatre (Toowoomba)

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble at Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre

Main Image: Silvan Rus and Rebecca Murphy - Benjamin Prindable Photography
Perhaps the most-produced and certainly (in this theatre-goer's humble opinion) the most accessible of Shakespeare's comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream is the latest from the Brisbane-based QSE under the artistic direction of Rob Pensalfini. Rob has also directed and composed the original music for this production but, according to a declaration in a Q&A post-show session he almost didn't do either. When the idea first came up at a company meeting, he said he'd rather 'gouge his eyes out with a spoon.' The Romantic 19th century fairy 'sheen' of most productions that he'd seen or been involved with just hadn't clicked.  With this production, Rob took up the theme of 'discord in the land of shadows.'  I'm pleased to report he's got both eyes still and that his brushed-up Dream is fresh and great fun.
Matt Gaffney, Laura McKenna, Colin Smith, Brandon Dowery
It's high-energy with action that never stops till that final 'Curtain' - spot on! Some of the ensemble play multiple roles and join in the offstage band that accompanies the action. With choreography and movement by Zoe Tuffin this dream is physical and dance-like helping, as does the music, to manifest the differing tempo-rhythms of the play's worlds. The twelve-strong ensemble trip the light fantastic, cavorting, frisking and frolicking their way through the faerie kingdom of Oberon (Zac Kelty) and Titania (Ruby Drewery). Mr Kelty and Ms Drewery double as often happens in productions of this play with Duke Theseus and his Amazon Queen bride-to-be Hippolyta. They are joined by Louise Brehmer as a spring-heeled Puck, Brandon Dowery (in an impressive first showing for QSE)Matt Gaffney, Sam Jeboult, and Laura McKenna as assorted goblins, fairies and mechanicals.  Colin Smith gets to wear the asses' head as a robust Nick Bottom, and Nick James, Silvan Rus, Rebecca Murphy, and Johancee Theron battle it out - athletically and delightfully - as the quartet of lovers and, of course, end up happily ever. Now, you must know the story, so don't look for a plot summary. If it's not familiar to you, go and read it here but, better still, get along to the Roma Street Parklands and see for yourself. Continue reading Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble at Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre