Review: The Empty City – The Human Company at Powerkids Festival @ Brisbane Powerhouse

The Empty City, directed by David Fenton, is based on the picture book of the same name by David Megarrity and Jonathon Oxlade. It explores an idea that has undoubtedly crossed the mind of every child: What if, for one day only, everyone disappeared and the city belonged to you? What would you do? Go on, you’ve already started picturing yourself eating and playing your way through a large department store, haven’t you? Jumping on all the beds, stuffing yourselves with gumballs, pouring your own McDonald’s thick-shake? Thought so.

Tom, our young protagonist, explores his options in the empty city between two projection screens that give the animated metropolis a 3D effect, allowing plenty of room for snazzy tricks and magical sleight of hand. Designer Jonathon Oxlade, lighting designer Freddy Komp, animator Luke Monsour and graphic designer Ray Pittman have done a fabulous job creating a city that is familiar yet mysteriously different; it could exist anywhere. The actors, Tom Oliver and Bridget Boyle collaborate inventively with their surroundings to tell Tom’s tale. Continue reading Review: The Empty City – The Human Company at Powerkids Festival @ Brisbane Powerhouse

Review: Argus – Dead Puppet Society at Powerkids Festival @ Brisbane Powerhouse

Puppets – they’ve come a long way since Punch and Judy. In fact, I would go so far as to say the ‘puppet renaissance’ has been busily playing itself out for a few years now, with local Brisbane theatre company the Dead Puppet Society at its helm.

Always hard at work creating new and wonderful ways for humans to help their puppets tell a story, the latest offering from the Dead Puppets is the delightfully magical Argus, a 45 minute children’s piece, playing as part of the Powerkids festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse this June. Continue reading Review: Argus – Dead Puppet Society at Powerkids Festival @ Brisbane Powerhouse

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

World Theatre Festival: the first of the year for Brisbane


Brisbane’s World Theatre Festival is 3 years old this year. It’s back bigger than ever at the city’s (arguably) coolest arts venue, the Brisbane Powerhouse on the river at New Farm.

The earlier, cheekier acronym WTF! has gone, but the change of name is probably a good thing. The Festival has a different feel this year. It’s bigger – due to an injection in 2011 of support from the Grahame Wood Foundation and the Queensland Government (Arts Queensland and Events Queensland). The program is also more diverse and even more interesting in our opinion. If Artistic Director Andrew Ross has his way, then the bringing together of international and Australian artists in Brisbane will make for a terrific celebration. It will also kick off the 2012 theatre season in Brisbane.

Mr Ross told me he hopes that local artists will gain something that he gained in Perth in his formative years, ” … a sense of what is possible here and an occasional moment of recognition of our own uniqueness.”  The Festival organisers believe it’s going to be a chance for the city to get involved in theatre and to see the world from a different angle.

Coming from Perth I saw and experienced the way the regular exposure to International theatre through the Perth Festival stimulated and influenced local theatre practice.

I hope World Theatre Festival draws from both of those personal experiences and creates a theatre festival that is right for the here and now.”

Between 16-26 February Brisbane will be able to take in some of the best independent theatre hand-picked by Ross and colleagues from Italy, Belarus, India, the US, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, and join in forums and masterclasses. There’s also a new Festival Lounge with free live music and – wait for it – Wi Fi. Expect lots of social media comment. Twitter hashtag? #wtf2012 maybe?

I asked Andrew whether there was a binding theme to this year’s Festival. “I hope that the diversity of authentic voices amounts to a loose unity with diversity. This year, a level of social political engagement seems to pervade many of the works.”

And how does he choose what appears? How do you program a world theatre festival?

“Along with my colleagues I travel both within and outside of Australia. I am on the internet every day monitoring theatre in many parts of the world and constantly in discussions with other theatre producers. I then endeavour to choose work which represents many strands of contemporary practice. It is not a festival about any preferred theatre form or genre. I look at work and I listen for authentic voices and try to eschew work that is manufactured with the international market in mind.”

Now, that’s a job I’d like!

He goes on:

“I think one thing this year’s festival does well is provide everyone with something to suit their interests. Technology enthusiasts will love Il Pixel Rosso’s And the Birds Fell from the Sky – where two audience members wear video goggles and MP3 players and experience a completely different universe.

“Where We Once Belonged, a Samoan coming-of-age story told by New Zealand’s Pacific Institute of Performing Arts graduates will have musical theatre fans enthralled with its authentic Pacific singing and dancing entwined with serious drama.

“Drama enthusiasts will love Ibsen’s The Lady from The Sea, reimagined with spectacular visuals by India’s Abhinaya Theatre Company in a new collaboration with Brisbane band Topology.

“And anyone who saw Belarus Free Theatre’s visit in 2009 will need to see their new show Discover Love – a beautiful love story and a hard look at political ‘disappearances’ around the world.”

Also heading to Brisbane are Italy’s Motus Theatre with their stripped back version of Sophocles Antigone in Too Late! (Antigone) Contest #2 and the Rude Mechanics from Texas, US. who bring the most dangerous approach to acting back from the 70s in The Method Gun.

Australia is represented by Brisbane Indie champions The Escapists with Elephant Gun – an inventive and clever play using puppets, dance and projections. Team Mess blurs the line between reality and fantasy in This Is It! , a show where the audience take on the role as the press at a movie launch – complete with probing questions on how the movie This Is It! was made.

In addition to these shows World Theatre Festival 2012 presents Scratch – six new works in development by Australian artists where audiences can see how theatre comes to life.

Audiences are also encouraged to take part in industry masterclasses, have their opinions heard during the In Conversation discussion series and relax in the Festival Lounge. It will be open all hours with free live music, and will be the perfect place to relax between shows, discuss what you’ve just seen or meet with friends during the festival.

And, if you’ve read this far (and we thank you for it) watch out for a Greenroom give away in the next few days courtesy of the Powerhouse and the World Theatre Festival. It’s a free day-long, masterclass with the Rude Mechanics from Texas. You’d like that, right? You need to be available on Saturday 25th February.

To find out more you need to follow us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re social that way.

 

 

Review: Faustus – Queensland Theatre Company & Bell Shakespeare @ Brisbane Powerhouse

Michael Gow has not so much adapted Marlowe’s and Goethe’s pre-existing Faustus texts as editorialised them with a whole range of other western cultural materials – poetry, drama, music, song and film. He’s woven them together with his own words into a contemporary take on the man who bargains his soul away to the devil in exchange for power and youth.

Gow directs this new play in a highly theatrical realisation that calls upon all the traditions of story-telling: mask, puppetry, song, and multiple role-playing by the ensemble. It’s absolutely 21st century theatre, but this production retains the earthy flavour and naiveté of the medieval theatre’s Morality plays and their lively playing out of the forces of good and evil in the world.

Apparently the devils, imps and vice figures were hugely popular in these early pieces, and so it is here. From the outset we know it’s not going to be a good ending for Faustus (Ben Winspear) but rather his sparring with Mephistophilis (John Bell) and the journey along the way to Hell’s Mouth that will provide the thrills for an audience.

With design by Jonathon Oxlade and lighting by Jason Glenwright the playing space fills the main stage of the Brisbane Powerhouse. Production design supports a range of theatrical delights which include Phil Slade‘s musical composition and Chris More‘s video designs. Continue reading Review: Faustus – Queensland Theatre Company & Bell Shakespeare @ Brisbane Powerhouse

WTF! It’s another theatre festival!!

GUEST POST: Lucas Stibbard makes theatre, sometimes as an actor, sometimes as a director/facilitator, sometimes as a teacher and, memorably, once as a stage-manager. He has done so for himself as well as for companies such as Bell Shakespeare, Queensland Theatre Company, State Theatre Company of South Australia, La Boite, Metro Arts, DeBase Productions, Hothouse Theatre, Kite, Queensland University of Technology, the Aboriginal Center for the Performing Arts, the Queensland Arts Council and Windmill Theatre Company. Lucas is one-quarter of the Escapists whose shows include Attack of the Attacking Attackers!, boy girl wall, and the in-development Revenge of the Revenging Revengers!. Lucas studied at USQ. For context, some of his favourite shows have been – Gatz (Elevator Repair Service), Anna Karenina (Shared Experience), C-90 (Daniel Kitson), Roadkill (Splintergroup) and 11&12 (Theatre des Bouffes du Nord) – so if you didn’t enjoy those you probably shouldn’t trust his (highly subjective) reviews. He is partial to cardigans, gin and his wife.  Follow him on Twitter @LucasStibbard

WORLD THEATRE FESTIVAL at Brisbane’s The Powerhouse

Is there anything the Powerhouse doesn’t want to take a crack at? Comedy Festival? Check. Queer Film Festival? Check. Jazz Festival? Check. Cabaret Festival? Well they did put on something that looked suspiciously like one when the real Cabaret fest moved … anyway point is, adding to the litany of cultural extravaganzas offered by the Brisbane Powerhouse we have the World Theatre Festival, or WTF if you want to look edgy and impress the kids (it’s almost swearing ooooohhhh!).

Starting last week and continuing its programming till Sunday, the Powerhouse is playing host to a number of exciting acts from around the country (ok here and Melbourne) and around the world (well, the UK).  So I guess you could call it the “Theatre from here, Melbourne and the UK festival,” but it doesn’t have the same edgy-ness, does it? Continue reading WTF! It’s another theatre festival!!