Review: Some Dumb Play – Metro Arts Allies

I still recall my first Choose Your Own Adventure book. Remember those? You read a chapter and then you’re faced with a choice – do the characters take the river or head through the dunes? Stick the knife in, or show mercy? Drink the potion or storm the castle? Ok, Head to page 26. It was GREAT fun, especially for a child, who is never the boss of anything – not so much the hobby for the compulsively indecisive, but a little bit of a thrill.

Stepping into the buzzing Sue Benner Theatre to take in the digitally experimental Some Dumb Play, that familiar feeling of spine tingling excitement began to brew. For the folks at home, this is how it works: You take along your smart phone; find your wifi settings and connect to ‘some dumb play’; open your browser and type www.somedumbplay.com, and your voting screen pops up.

To get in a bit of practice before the curtain goes up, you can vote for the pre-show music – the punters loved this. I could hear husbands and wives trashing each other’s choice and mates cheering their approval as their song was played. My girlfriend and I had an altercation over whether it was a moral duty to vote against the Backstreet Boys. It certainly got the party started. Continue reading Review: Some Dumb Play – Metro Arts Allies

Liesel Zink (Interview 25)

Liesel Zink is in rehearsal right now for a new work coming to Metro Arts Allies; she has created, choreographed, and is performing in A Collection of Various Selves, an appropriate title, perhaps, for this multi-faceted artist.

I ask Liesel whether she thinks of herself predominantly as one or other of these roles?  It’s flexible. ‘I have done a few movement rather than dance projects,’ there is a difference, ‘and I am now working more with actors as choreographer and beside them as performer.’ She continues, ‘I really enjoy shaping natural movement with actors, and I’m starting to combine the two in my own practice more and more.’ What also emerges as we chat for about an hour is her interest in psychology, research, body language, and the minutiae of daily human exchange as feeders for her own creativity.

A QUT graduate in Fine Arts (Dance), Liesel’s Honours research delved into body language. As she developed as a dancer she started to become interested in how we communicate in everyday ways through gesture and body-language. As far as story-telling is concerned, she examined the ways these are told through movement rather than words, and at how we abstract natural movement and the move from pedestrian into dance and heightened states. ‘It seemed quite natural to move into theatre – not high end virtuosic dance but messages through physical story-telling.’

Liesel grew up in Bowral in NSW where she learned ballet and thrived on its demands and the strict training regime. ‘I loved the challenge of ballet, never to be perfect, to stretch a bit more, try a bit harder. But I also enjoyed academic studies, and am fascinated by the body and psychology.’ She began contemporary dance training in second year at QUT and also branched out into choreography, which she likens to ‘a maths equation. Choreography engaged with my intellect in a different way and, all of a sudden, I was trying to find a balance between spatial patterns, shapes, spaces, and dynamics. That engaged me in a different, analytical way.’ She likes examining simple human behaviours, ‘how we organise our spaces, how we relate as human beings. When I procrastinate, for example, I clean.’ She confesses to loving studying the psychology and what she calls ‘the weight’ behind very simple situations. Continue reading Liesel Zink (Interview 25)

Review: Rabbit – The Good Room at !Metro Arts Theatre

Bella is entering her 30th year – a dangerous age we used to be told. For the members of Gen-Y (look it up) portrayed in British writer Nina Raine‘s realistic comedy of manners Rabbit (2006), Time’s wingéd chariot is rumbling along all too loudly on the bumpy road. It’s time to take stock, socialise the hell out of the opportunity and, inevitably, get really ugly with your friends. It’s mostly uncomfortable veritas that emerges as the vino flows and vodka and reputations get slammed in what turns out to be a BLOCK CAPS WITH LOTS OF !!!! kind of party for those who turn up.

Bella’s joined by a handful of friends at her small though positively exuberant 29th birthday celebration in a hotel bar somewhere in Brisbane. Director Daniel Evans has relocated the play to the city, and it works well. Guests include Bella’s good friend Emily, a doctor; former lover #1 Richard, a barrister but wannabe writer; former lover #2 Tom, who works in the city – in Brit parlance a stockbroker or banker; and Sandy, a writer.

On the night of the party Bella’s father, played with intelligence and subtlety by Norman Doyle, is hospitalised and dying from a tumor that is gradually wiping away his seat of emotions and memories; he has refused treatment. Bella is angry with her father for his decision, and guilty for not being at his bedside. We learn it’s been a rocky relationship in a series of flashbacks – heartfelt duets between father and daughter.

Designed by Tara Hobbs, with lighting design by Daniel Anderson and sound design from Anthony Ack KinmouthDaniel Evans‘ production of Rabbit for the indie company The Good Room is a sharp, witty, fast-paced interpretation that draws terrific performances from the cast of six, who are just about perfect for their roles. They are as slick and excellent an ensemble as you could want.

The cast is headed by Amy Ingram as Bella, a successful publicist, in a performance that is as robust as it is gentle and nuanced. It’s also in perfect sync with Raine’s shrewd take on friendship and contemporary society. The performances by Sam Clark, Kevin Spink, Belinda Raisin, and Penny Harpham as Bella’s friends are individually and collectively proof of the depth and quality of acting talent we are experiencing right now in this country. Raine writes terrific characters in this – what was her first and an award-winning work for the stage – and the dialogue is hugely enjoyable; I bet the actors loved working on their roles.

Yes, Bella’s Friends are all a whiny, self-indulgent, privileged bunch and, at times, as nasty as they come; with cynical friends like these etc.  At times you want to slap them all in turn and, sometimes, all at once. I went for an interval drink (YES!! THERE IS AN INTERVAL!! AMAZE!!) loathing the lot of them but, as Raine develops the play throughout the second act, we experience its real strength – the development of characters whose directness and brutal honesty are, perhaps, their saving grace. You actually do end up ‘caring’ for them – and I count this as one of the markers of a good play/production.

So, whilst opening night saw a lot of first-night adrenalin pumping on both sides of the fence – there were a lot of friends in the house – and there was probably a little too much SHOUTING AND LOUD, I have no doubt this fine company will continue developing and finessing across its season. The tiny Sue Benner Theatre will get full houses, so get in quick.

Rabbit by Nina Raine for the indie company The Good Room as part of !Metro Arts Allies program plays until July 28th. Get details from the website.

Like to read more Greenroom reviews? You can right here.

Anthea Patrick (Interview 24)

Anthea Patrick has taken some time off from a busy rehearsal week to chat about her current project, Andrew Bovell‘s Speaking In Tongues which opens soon for Antix as part of the Metro Arts Allies program. We start with the background stuff – Anthea is Brisbane-born, bred and educated, though new to the Brisbane indie scene – so I’m keen to find out more about one of the newest emerging artists in town.

Anthea’s parents were dancers, though she admits to being somewhat ‘uncoordinated,’ so she found herself going to drama classes as a kid. She remembers her teachers there and later with great fondness: ‘They encouraged us to be the leaders of our creative ideas and gave us confidence in pursuing the art form.’ As a teenager she went to youth theatre at the Villanova Players, where she got the chance to devise, direct, and to be involved in as many different parts of theatre as we wanted. ‘The older kids were leaders for the younger ones.’ Later, at QUT, where she graduated in 2003 with a BCreative Industries, Anthea found the ‘golden nuggets’ she received from lecturers like Mark Radvan – with whom she studied directing – of enormous help. ‘I had done a couple of horrible productions for the youth theatre at Villanova earlier on; I struggled, just working on instinct but, as I got the opportunity to learn and do more, things started to go well.’ After graduation, Anthea founded herself directing mainstage productions back at Villanova Players. ‘It gave me the opportunity to direct a team.’ She notes that a major part of directing is ‘managing creative minds.’

Managing creative minds – what’s that about? ‘Really, it’s managing the huge amount of trust they give you and the burden of fulfilling that. It’s very easy to get tired and that is the moment when you can really confuse people. The thing I try to avoid is confusing people. Understanding characters and design is pretty complex. As a director I always feel nervous before rehearsals begin; it’s the responsibility.’

Anthea is the artistic director of Antix, a new company on the indie scene in Brisbane. ‘I created the name Antix when I had to come up with a name to get an ABN. Back then I had this little dream that I would make it a place where actors and creatives could develop and then present. Of course, I was too young,’ she adds, ‘and I didn’t know how to make a company happen.’ As the years passed, Anthea found herself coaching and teaching more and more. ‘The dream of producing and directing wasn’t happening. I got a bit lost there, so I gave myself a good slap in the face and said if I want to do something, I’d need to get moving. I wanted to learn more about directing.’ She did her research and found herself one of 11 international students at RADA in London doing their short, intensive directing course. ‘That experience really grounded me and opened up my thinking; I’ll be forever glad I had the opportunity.’ Continue reading Anthea Patrick (Interview 24)

Review: The Ugly One – 23rd Productions

 

Image: Sean Young

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the ugliest one of all?

I spent last night (Cheap Tuesday) in the theatre-company of lots of clever, good looking, thrifty people watching four other good-looking, artistic people playing Marius von Mayenburg‘s The Ugly One directed by Kat Henry. What a fun time we had watching other people watching us watching characters watching themselves – the production is set in one of !Metro Arts upstairs galleries, and the white seating around the thrust-configured playing area meant you could see every bit of the action up close – really up close – including certain … umm … thrust moments from the actors; some debate ensued post-show amongst the voyeurs in the audience as to who had the best or the worst view of said moments.

The Ugly One plays with notions of face value, and Jessica Ross cleverly exploits the play’s thematics as well as the challenges of the space in her design lit by Hamish CliftJeremy Neideck‘s sound composition of unseen, metallic, nerve-grinding operating room horrors complements the up-close and live wall-projections from the pov of  the patient while the bright, sterile-white performance area come forensic examination room creates the space and mood for a romp which, along the way, dissects society’s foibles and follies and hangs them out to dry.

With this show 23rd Productions has, once again, brought a gem of a play to Brisbane theatre. Thank the theatre gods for 23rd Productions, the little indie company that could and does. This was a canny choice for them. The Ugly One has been enormously successful in its native Germany, in the UK and elsewhere in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. The English translation by Maja Zade permits much freedom of stylistic interpretation – in Ms Henry’s case, a reading closer to the classic modern English Monty Python school of farce, where wit and physicality combine to produce marvellous grotesquerie. It’s a great choice, and she gives her cast full rein to explore Von Mayenburg’s existential, farcical fable. The four-part ensemble company of experienced actors (Kevin Spink, Kathryn Fray, Norman Doyle and Dirk Hoult) are all terrific – playing multiple characters or variations of themselves with skill, intelligence and obvious relish.

Lette (Mr Spink) a widget-maker is ugly – horribly, dreadfully ugly – but he’s a really nice guy. His wife persuades him to become beautiful with a face change. He does, and the results are spectacularly successful; he is no longer shunned, he becomes an object of desire and his face becomes the most wanted in the world – he is transformed in more ways than one. What ensues is a hilarious post-modern comedy of manners which dishes up all its favourite obsessions for our delectation and demolition: celebrity, sex, avarice, power, money, greed, exploitation  …

As Chaplin once famously noted, ‘Comedy is a very serious business.’ Von Mayenburg’s morality tale is absolutely clear in its satiric intent – make ’em laugh, but get ’em all.

And who’s the ugliest one of all? We all are.

 

The Ugly One
by Marius von Mayenburg
Translation by Maja Zade
Directed by Kat Henry
Featuring: Norman Doyle, Kathryn Fray, Dirk Hoult and Kevin Spink
Set Design: by Jessica Ross
Lighting Design: by Hamish Clift
Sound Composition: by Jeremy Neideck


Season:
Wednesday 6 to Saturday 23 April, 2011
Preview: Tuesday 5 April, 7:30pm
Opening: Wednesday 6 April, 7:30pm
Artist Talk: Wednesday 13 April – join the actors and crew for a drink and post show chat.
When: Tuesday to Thursday, 7:30pm
Friday to Saturday, 7pm and 9pm
Where: Metro Arts Galleries
Tickets: Adults $25/ Conc. $22/ Preview $15/ Group (10+) $15
Cheap Tuesdays: $15 (door sales only)

Bookings: (07) 3002 7100 or www.metroarts.com.au

 

Playing with monsters: Benjamin Shostakowski (Interview 17)

PHOTO: Benjamin Shostakowski

Hoorah, hoorah, I’ve found a kindred spirit – someone else who loves the ‘Master of the Vaguely Ominous’ – Edward Gorey (1925-2000), American illustrator and author of some of the oddest and funniest books around. His surname, once you get to know his work, seems wonderfully apt.

My Gorey antennae twitched when I saw that a company called ‘Monsters Appear’ was producing a new play called The Glorious Nosebleed. This is the title of one of Gorey’s more famous books, and the one that brilliantly illustrates what is meant by adverbs (!) … such as, ‘He ran down the hall maniacally,‘ with the accompanying picture of an Edwardian gentleman in night attire brandishing a large axe  – or this one

‘He looked out of the room hopelessly.’

Known for his darkly comic tales and brilliant draughtsmanship Edward St John Gorey was also a true eccentric. He loved cats and wearing fur coats, which made the lanky Yankee look like a huge and rather patrician cat himself. Gorey lived in New England and was also a ballet and theatre devotee. He illustrated posters and programmes for the NY City Ballet as well as for local community theatres. He was nominated for a Tony in 1977 for his costume and set designs for Dracula, and won for Best Costume Design. By the way, you can also buy a Gorey-designed Dracula Toy Theatre on Amazon and yes, I have a small collection of Gorey-ana and anyone who likes Gorey gets my vote.

So it was that I found myself interviewing Benjamin Shostakowski (a Gorey aficionadao) and one of the team of Monsters Appear who, with a name like that, clearly also get a kick out of scary things and the finely-drawn macabre-in-the-ordinary. This is how they see themselves

Monsters Appear is an emerging Brisbane independent theatre collective comprised of Benjamin Schostakowski, Athalia Foo and Nikki Taurau. The collective present new contemporary performance works that aim to provide a unique experience for their audiences. Their work melds together traditional theatrical devices and modern technologies. Monsters Appear employ visual stage images, illusion, projected images and minimal dialogue to play with space and time. With a zealous theatrical sensibility, they aim for the unexpected. (Media Release) Continue reading Playing with monsters: Benjamin Shostakowski (Interview 17)