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: 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: Loco Maricon Amor – The Danger Ensemble at Metro Arts

Loco Maricon Amor is a tragic love story. But it’s also mind-bending, funny, shocking, colorful, brutal and undeniably surreal. We meet Salvador Dali: famed Surrealist painter and respected God of the visual arts (Chris Beckey), who is married to the beautifully glamorous Gala (Caroline Dunphy). But when Dali crosses paths with Federico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish poet and theatrical artist (Thomas Hutchins), the two fall rapidly and passionately in love. A doomed love triangle ensues. Think you’ve seen it before? Trust me, you haven’t.

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but Loco Maricon Amor demands respect. It’s a 100-minute marathon of song, dance and theatre and it’s beautifully energetic.

Loco Maricon Amor deserves respect. It’s a 100-minute marathon of song, dance and theatre and it’s beautifully energetic.

Director and designer Steven Mitchell Wright has led his troupe of performers and co-devisers to an astonishing destination. I’m having trouble thinking of another piece of theatre that has made me feel quite the same way. Continue reading Review: Loco Maricon Amor – The Danger Ensemble at Metro Arts

Review: Vikram and the Vampire – Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building

I need to start this off with the confession of a cardinal sin of Brisbane theatre. I haven’t seen a Zen Zen Zo show in a very, very long time. My omission hasn’t been deliberate. Nevertheless, the years have slipped by without visiting this Queensland cultural institution. In truth, it was my assumptions about a ‘physical theatre company’ that kept me away. These were fairly predictable. While displaying admirable and impressive physical skills, these productions too often leave narrative far behind, creating works that are inaccessible. I’m very pleased to say that this is not at all the case for Vikram and the Vampire, the first production overseen by the company’s new Artistic Directors, Michael Futcher and Helen Howard.

Indeed Vikram and the Vampire is all about narrative. The show’s essence is from The Twenty Five Tales of a Baital, a collection of ancient Sanskrit tales from India. The company did a version of this back in 1995, called The King and the Corpse.

Re-imagined by director Michael Futcher and a large ensemble, Vikram and the Vampire is a nod to story telling at its bed-time best.

These are fantastic fairytales largely unknown to Australians, and are an absolute joy to visit.

The story opens on King Vikram (Sandro Colarelli), who longs for power over all the earth. He is visited by a monk, Shantil (Chris Beckey), who promises to grant his wish. But first, the king is instructed to collect a corpse, and walk it back to the burning grounds that Shantil inhabits. The corpse is inhabited by the mischievous spirit Vetal (Lizzie Ballinger). With Vetal strapped to his back, King Vikram begins the lengthy journey back to the burning grounds. Vetal makes a wager with the king. If he should speak, then Vetal will return to where Vikram found her and he will have to begin the journey all over again. And so Vetal distracts the King with stories, played out to us in full colour and spectacle, inevitably provoking a response from King Vikram, who seems unlikely to ever reach his goal.

There are a lot of things this production does right, and the treatment of the narrative here is a big accomplishment. Michael Futcher and Helen Howard are credited as the writers and adapters, with additional credit given to Danny Murphy for material that survived from the 1995 production.

The show manages to straddle both a linear and episodic structure simultaneously, and it works. At an hour and forty-five minutes, the show is a little long, with the first ten minutes seeming to be slightly extraneous. But the magic and beauty of what follows makes this slight indulgence easily forgiven. Continue reading Review: Vikram and the Vampire – Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building

Theatre conference? You want to be in Cats or something?

This post was contributed by Xanthe Coward, a COE09 conference delegate. Many thanks also to Xanthe for her live-tweeting during the sessions. You can catchup with all the hashtagged contributions to the Twitter stream by searching for #coe09

Why are doing a theatre  conference? Why are you doing theatre? Do you want to be in Cats or  something?!

Last weekend Brisbane’s !Metro Arts played host to 100 independent theatre practitioners, including professional and emerging  playwrights, performers, directors, producers and promoters from all over Australia.  In what turned out to be a particularly conversational 3 day program !Metro Arts, in cooperation with Jute and Playlab, set about challenging the definition of what it is to be an artist in the independent theatre sector in Australia, and asked, “How will it – and you – survive?”  The question in the block-quote above was put to one of the delegates by a friend, and it seems to sum up the attitude of many of the broader population who aren’t aware of theatre – apart from the blockbuster musical –  or who don’t really understand how and where else this thing called theatre gets made.  Last weekend, however, pedestrians on Brisbane city’s Edward Street, as well as visitors to New Farm’s Powerhouse might have noticed that theatre is something that attracts an extremely eclectic crowd. Continue reading Theatre conference? You want to be in Cats or something?