Originally published August 12, 2010.
A disclaimer: I serve on the Board of Empire Theatres Pty Ltd. My opinions are entirely my own and should be understood as distinct from any affiliation I hold with this or any other business or arts organisation. The only barrow I push is that of theatre per se.At the Ekka last week, and quite by chance, I came upon a sign with an arrow pointing up some stairs. It said something like 'Queensland Quilters' Association.' My sister, who knows about such things, insisted we investigate, so I dutifully trotted up the stairs to find a quite superb exhibition of quilts large and small. Now, I know only a bit about quilting: it's traditionally a woman's craft, and that quilts can tell a story - they can be in honour of a cause or a special event like a birth or wedding. Quilts are often worked in a communal setting, are usually composed of patches drawn from various sources, and each one is done with extraordinary care. One of the most beautiful pieces in this particular exhibition was done by a woman during the time that her husband was being treated for terminal cancer. She embroidered his favourite rose on each square of the quilt. I imagine this unknown woman stitching piece after piece, keeping busy, staying focussed on something apart from awful reality - at least for a time. It now remains as a chronicle of a life event and will endure as a testament of her love. As a piece of art and in form and intention, David Burton's play April's Fool reminds me of nothing so much as a quilt - one created out of pieces of grief, regret, anger, guilt and love. The scraps and fragments are drawn from interviews with friends and family, as well as extracts from David Terauds' diary, kept as his son lay dying in hospital in the first week of April 2009. Using the diary's timeline as the thread to bind the patchwork together, David Burton has skilfully assembled these pieces into a quilt that enfolds family, friends and, indeed, the entire community. For anyone who has wondered why or how this family could permit, even encourage the telling of events surrounding the death of their eldest child Kristjan from complications following prolonged and excessive drug use, there is, perhaps, the Greek word: katharsis. More directly, perhaps: The story that lets us laugh and cry begins our healing. April's Fool in its creation and, especially, its telling provides a healing. Continue reading Review: April’s Fool – Empire Theatre Projects Company at Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)
2010 is the year of the monologue and the 'EP' in Brisbane. When is the last play you went to that had an interval?Furious Angels by David Burton, directed by Travis Dowling, and currently playing at !Metro Arts Sue Benner theatre, is an EP but almost a Single - this one comes in at 60 minutes and not the more usual '90 minutes without an interval' type show we're getting used to. Sighs of relief often accompany the news that there won't be an interval - though the downside is no interval buzz, no chat about the show and, for management, no bar sales and fewer employment opportunities for casual staff - but I digress. Furious Angels has all the feeling to me of a sketch for a larger play out there, a short story, a chapter in a book or, perhaps, one part of a collage of one-person works - for Furious Angels provides the opportunity, as do all good monologues, for bravura acting. In this production, the play's first, it's for Daniel Mulvilhill who moves with ease from one character to another in Mr Burton's piece set in a decaying mental institution somewhere in the 1930s. The narrative structure of Furious Angels whilst overt - the narrator prefixes each episode as a 'Chapter' - is rather flimsy, though the theme is compelling. There are more than a few historical and literary hat-tips to, among other personages, Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare, and they work well. Mr Burton is one of our more promising writers: Lazarus Won't Get Out of Bed and April's Fool are two of his better known and more recent works. This one, an eerie fable about the bleakness and blackness of authoritarianism feels more like a dream or a mood piece than that 'well-made play' which, I am sure, it has no intentions of being, but it does signal a development in the direction of the writer's style from the more structured form of his earlier works. It's a big subject to tackle across 60 minutes, and Mr Burton has done well to encapsulate it in fragments via a teller of tales, a narrator (Dan) who brings the subject matter to life through a handful of the asylum's characters (Dizzy, Dr Aintel, nurse Lenore and Will). The delight in this kind of stage work is the marriage of text and actor's body with all its transformative power in what is a largely empty space. Travis Dowling's direction understands this, though I found some of the sound effects repetitious in their usage - grim moments are signalled again and again in the soundtrack. And speaking of current fads, do we always need soundscapes backing action? Just wondering ... The fine performance by Mr Mulvihill is what lingers in your mind after the show is down. I love watching actors at work, which is why I swatted aside my initial thought that Furious Angels could work just as well as a radio play. It's up close and personal - direct audience address, though some of the narrator's asides are a little self-conscious for my taste - and the running C-bomb gag is not so much undergrad as overdone. The built-in humour of Furious Angels text doesn't need such obviousness, and Mulvihill's charm and stage presence fill it out admirably. Kudos to the entire production and design team which includes collaboration on set and costume from David Burton, co-producer Carley Commens and Travis Dowling. Kylie Morris is on form as always with her sound design, and Ben Hughes' top-knotch lighting design provides a brilliantly-lit platform in which characters are born and die, emerge and retreat in this fragmented fairy-tale. It's being a good year for independent theatre in Brisbane and the regions. Furious Angels plays till Saturday 20th this week at !Metro Arts and at Empire Theatres (Toowoomba) on November 25-26.
Further details on company websitesOpening: April's Fool by David Burton Dir Lewis Jones for Empire Theatre Projects Company (Oakey Cultural Centre) Continuing: The Secret Love Life of Ophelia by Steven Berkoff Dir Brenna-Lee Cooney at !Metro Arts Boy Girl Wall for The Escapists, created and performed by Lucas Stibbard at !Metro Arts I Love You Bro’ by Adam J Cass Dir David Berthold for La Boite Theatre at the Roundhouse (closes Sunday)
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