Review: Ink and the Unknowns – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Mina Parade Warehouse

A note from the Editor: I've always wanted to see a children's show through the eyes of a young person. When Greenroom was invited to Ink and the Unknowns, I approached one of our reviewers, Sita Borhani, and asked whether her regular theatre-buddy (her 7 year old daughter Layla) would care to write about the experience for us. I was delighted when both Layla and Layla's mother said, 'Yes.' So, here it is from Greenroom's latest reviewer. Thank you, Layla and thank you Sita for transcribing her verbatim response to the show.

The Night I Went to See Ink and the Unknowns by Layla Borhani. The night I went to see Ink and the Unknowns was a Friday. When we walked into the theatre, it was kind of freaky because it was really dark and there were frozen people. It made me feel scared because the lights were all the same colour - blue, and the people were camouflaged. When we sat down the set looked black and grey and I could hardly see anything that was on it, but when the show started and more lights came on, I could see shelves with little boxes, and all sorts of things, and also where the people were hiding.  It looked like a mysterious place where I’ve never been before, a really old place, everything was torn to rags. It was pretty cool when the Unknowns found Ink, because no one in the audience noticed that he was under the cloth - he was really camouflaged!! Ink was really funny because he kept putting all these weird faces on, that made me laugh. He was my favourite character! The Unknowns were funny and scary at the same time, their costumes were black and dark purple and grey and they suited the set.  Ex was my favourite unknown because she could do magic with string. I think Ink was confused to meet the Unknowns, because he’d been in another world and he didn’t really know where he was. He was starting to enjoy himself in the new world, but some of the Unknowns didn’t like Ink, because he was causing a big difference in their world. There was a lot of dancing in the show. I liked the part where the machine kept telling the characters what type of dance to do. When it said “Bush Dance” they all danced with a bush! And when it said “Hula” they all danced with a hula hoop! It was funny. The dancing was cool, because they did really amazing arm tricks, and hip-hop, and it wasn’t boring. The music really matched the dancing, and the set and costumes. It was awesome when they took light from Ink’s lightbulb and threw it at all the places that didn’t have light, to make them light up. I think the Unknowns had never discovered that light before and they needed Ink to light up their home. There was a fight over Ink’s light, and they dropped it and it smashed. I didn’t understand why Ink died. I didn’t like how they didn’t talk, I would have understood it more if they talked. When they made sounds I kept getting excited that they were going to say something, but they never did. Next time they do the show maybe they could talk. Also, it was hot it the theatre, and I couldn’t see very well. I think if there were cushions to sit on, that would be better for short people. But I still had a good time. The End.

A Mother’s note: The show was fabulous. Original, winning work from composer Maitlohn Drew and choreographer Callum Mansfield, who is, in my opinion, Harvest Rain’s greatest asset. Dancers Cameron Whitten (Ink), Maureen Bowra (Ex), Hannah Crowther (Why), Lauren Heidecker (Dubble) and Tom Markiewicz (Zed) were all incredibly accomplished and engaging within the post-apocalyptic setting. Funny, captivating and a show for all, Ink and the Unknowns had an all too short season from 27 Feb - 2 March.

About the Reviewer: At the ripe old age of 7, Layla is already quite the theatre buff. When she’s not taking in a show or fending off two younger brothers, Layla likes rap music, wearing boys’ clothes, reading books, and playing the drums. Although never shy of voicing an opinion, this is her first written review.  

Review: Hairspray – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC

Musical theatre - what some believe to be America's great gift to the theatre - is as Ronald Harwood puts it, a meeting of realism and razzmatazz. Traditionally musicals have taken social issues and reworked them into a confection of story, song and dance. The musical Hairspray follows in this tradition. With book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Mark Shaiman with lyrics by Scott Whittman and Mark Shaiman, Hairspray is as sweet and light as a root-beer float, and positively dripping in nostalgia for a time that was, perhaps, not as carefree and breezy as the play might suggest. We're in 1962 Baltimore, MA. JFK's the President - for another year or so, anyway - and the Civil Rights movement is gathering momentum. There are pockets of ignorant, outmoded white resistance to what will be a bright, new, integrated tomorrow in the USA. Kids who don't fit - here black or 'pleasantly plump'/fat - are figures of fun, bullied by various grotesque authority figures, and excluded by their peers. They long for acceptance, and dream of being part of the great American success story. But never fear, this is musical land and, by the play's end, all's right with the world. No wonder Hairspray has been such a hit on screen (1988; 2007) and stage, (8 Tony Awards on Broadway) and why it's currently the pinup musical for pro-am companies all over the country. It's bright and colourful, the music is sweetly nostalgic, the sentiment uplifting and hopeful. It's no Showboat or South Pacific or Rent any of the other great musicals that took burning social issues and thrust them in the audience's face, but then, Hairspray doesn't set out to. What we get is a larger than life - the words 'fabulous' and 'fantastic' spring to mind - technicolor rendition of a time we wish there might have been. Continue reading Review: Hairspray – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC

Review: The NeverEnding Story – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Tim O’Connor writes wonderfully lucid Director's Notes, and a good thing too, because I have always found The Neverending Story utterly confusing. My memories of the 1984 film are of a leather-bound book, a rock-eating mountain and a flying dog (sorry, luck dragon). There may also have been a mulleted David Bowie singing in a maze … or was that Labyrinth? It’s fair to say I’m not a die-hard fan. So as my little girl and I sat in the foyer on opening night, flicking through the programme of Tim O’Connor’s re-envisioning of Michael Ende’s fantasy novel, The Neverending Story (1979), I read her the story blurb slowly (nothing wrong with being prepared I thought) and, as we walked into the wonderfully intimate Cremorne Theatre, I was confident she would know what was going on. After all, she’s infinitely smarter than I was at six, and loves a good yarn. Well, by half way through it became clear that the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree; she didn’t have a clue. This is not the type of show where you can break your concentration to unwrap your lollipop. I’m still answering questions two days later - having to explain both the plot and the higher order concepts at work. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lovely, lovely idea that a child’s imagination can save an entire world from being eaten up by despair. It’s just that, in the telling of it, you meet so many fantastical characters (whose names you can’t pronounce) and your quest takes so many strange twists and turns as you traverse the vast Fantasia, that it can be easy to get a little bit lost. Especially if you’re six. Or thirty. That’s not to say she didn’t have a marvellous time. It was, after all, a feast for the eyes and the ears. Continue reading Review: The NeverEnding Story – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Where’s a young triple-threat to go?

A few weeks back I found myself in front of a lot of the Harvest Rain interns at one of their regular Friday Behind the Red Curtain seminar sessions. On the panel (chaired by Artistic Director of HR, Tim O’Connor) were three other actors: Steven Tandy, Bryan Probets, and Cameron Hurry.  As you’d expect, the students’ questions and subsequent discussion revolved around the business of acting. One of the questions put to us was whether, after training, taking work in an amateur theatre production would mean an actor would not be ‘taken seriously.‘  Was there, in fact, a stigma attached to doing amateur theatre? The response to the query was an emphatic ‘No,’ from all of us - with the caveat that an actor needs to seek out work with the best people - especially when getting started. This is what we actually said:
By the way, the Harvest Rain Behind the Red Curtain sessions are good value! Check out the others on their site. But, back to the question ... Each of the actor-panellists at the session had either begun their stage careers in amateur theatre or have returned there from time to time - for various reasons. Bryan speaks most eloquently in the video above about his experience, as do Steven and Cameron. As far as I was concerned, there was no local training when I left school, and the newly-created NIDA was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. I worked with Brisbane Arts Theatre for a few years before going on to train in London. The time I spent at BAT was invaluable to me; watching other, more experienced actors at work focussed my thinking, whilst spending hours and hours travelling by bus and tram to and from Petrie Terrace to Sandgate during the week and at weekends taught me how demanding the work could be. It also hardened my determination to go on. Continue reading Where’s a young triple-threat to go?

Review: James and the Giant Peach – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Southbank was teeming with littlies yesterday. Of course, it’s summer time and school holidays so, apart from swimming and eating icecream on a hot Brisbane Saturday afternoon, there were lots of things to do - singing, mask-making, theatre-going and story-telling among them. I had lunch while a bunch of what looked like under-5s were jumping and rolling around on the QPAC Green. They were learning all about Iggy the Iguanadon via a song - we have the Queensland Museum to thank for this, I suspect. I wished I had a small person with me; it looked so much fun and I wanted to share it with them. There were also a whole lot of families getting stuck into creative activities in the Playzone. Upstairs Mary Poppins was about to take off while, just down the road at the Cremorne Theatre, kids and their adults could go to a matinée performance of Harvest Rain’s latest production James and the Giant Peach, adapted by David Wood from the story by Roal Dahl. That’s where I was headed. I remember this particular book from years ago. My kids loved being read to and then to read Dahl's books as they got older; he remained a favourite into young adulthood. They switched their imaginations on and escaped into other worlds via books - at first picture books and then the word-dense stories like James and the Giant Peach. It’s a lovely fable about the capacity of imagination to transform lives. Continue reading Review: James and the Giant Peach – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

2010 Groundling Awards: and the winners are …

If you landed here, you may have clicked the Nominate Now button on Greenroom's front page. You have jumped the gun a bit! Nominations open for the 2011 Groundlings Awards at one minute past midnight on 1st January. Click on the Nominate Button then or at any time after that until midnight on 31st January and you will find the Nomination Form here ... promise! While you are here, though, check out the 2012 Groundling Awards winners.

Congratulations to the winners of the inaugural 2010 Groundling Awards, the people's award for achievement in theatre in Queensland. The winners in each category are highlighted in green below with the other nominees. Whilst we were forced to close balloting some 28 hours or so before we'd planned, nearly 600 individuals had already cast their votes and there were finally  3 565 valid votes to count and collate. The category which drew the most votes was that for Outstanding Contribution by a Director. Suffice it to say the Greenroom elves are exhausted, and have retired to the back room to rest. They may not be seen for some time. We wish we had shiny trophies or cash or something to give all of our winners to mark the occasion. For now, they are just going to have to bask in the support of their fans and we in the memories of their fine work throughout 2010. Well done to them and to all Groundling nominees.

Outstanding Contribution by an Actor

  • Julia Billington in My Name Is Rachel Corrie (La Boite Indie)
  • Jason Klarwein in Thom Pain (Queensland Theatre Company)
  • Lucas Stibbard in Boy Girl Wall (The Escapists for !Metro Arts Independents)

Outstanding Contribution by a Director

  • Michael Futcher for Grimm Tales (Queensland Theatre Company)
  • Steven Mitchell Wright for In God We Trust (Queensland Academy of Creative Industries)
  • Tim O'Connor for Jesus Christ Superstar (Harvest Rain Theatre Company)

Outstanding Contribution to Set Design

  • Greg Clarke (Grimm Tales for Queensland Theatre Company)
  • Lucas Stibbard and The Escapists (Boy Girl Wall for !Metro Arts Independents)
  • Josh McIntosh (Jesus Christ Superstar for Harvest Rain Theatre Company)

Outstanding Contribution to Costume Design

  • Greg Clarke (Grimm Tales for Queensland Theatre Company)
  • Noni Harrison (The Timely Death of Victor Blott for Dead Puppet Society & !Metro Arts Independents)
  • Josh McIntosh (The Secret Story of Cinderella and her Fabulously Fashionable Footwear for Harvest Rain Theatre Company)

Outstanding Contribution to Lighting Design

  • Jason Glenwright (Jesus Christ Superstar for Harvest Rain Theatre Company)
  • Ben Hughes (Furious Angels for !Metro Arts Independents)
  • David Walters - body of work in 2010 including Grimm Tales and Hamlet

Outstanding Contribution to Sound Design

  • Tony Brumpton (The Timely Death of Victor Blott for Dead Puppet Society & !Metro Arts Independents)
  • Phil Slade (Grimm Tales for Queensland Theatre Company)
  • Steve Toulmin (Hamlet for La Boite Theatre Company)

Best New Play in an Inaugural Queensland Season

  • Boy Girl Wall by Lucas Stibbard and Matt Ryan
  • In God We Trust by Chris Beckey
  • The Bitterling by Sven Swenson

Best Production by a Queensland Independent or Subsidised Company

  • Boy Girl Wall: The Escapists and !Metro Arts Independents
  • Grimm Tales: Queensland Theatre Company
  • Jesus Christ Superstar: Harvest Rain Theatre Company
  • The Secret Love Life of Ophelia: Fractal Theatre

Best Co-Production

  • The Clean House (Queensland Theatre Company and Black Swan Theatre Company)
  • King Lear (Queensland Theatre Company and Bell Shakespeare)
  • (Body of Work) !Metro Arts with all of their independent company production partners throughout 2010

Best Community Outreach Program by any Company or Group

  • ACE (Arts in Community Enhancement) Project at Borallon Correctional Centre: Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
  • Empire Theatre Projects Company's production and school workshops:  April's Fool
  • 2high Festival: Backbone Youth Arts

Best Use of Social Media by any theatre or group

  • Harvest Rain Theatre Company for its integration of social media in marketing (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, website, e-letters)
  • La Boite Theatre Company for its integration of social media in marketing (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, website, e-letters)
  • I Love You Bro: La Boite Theatre Company for its innovative use of social media in marketing and audience engagement

Outstanding Contribution to the Independent Theatre Sector

  • !Metro Arts for their continuing, tireless support for independent production of new work, and for providing professional development opportunities for developing talent
  • Harvest Rain Theatre Company for their continued contribution to musical theatre development and performance in Brisbane
  • Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts for their Talking Shop and Fresh Ground programs