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

Steven Mitchell Wright (Interview 31)

Photography: Morgan Roberts

This week marks the second time I’ve spoken with Steven Mitchell Wright for Greenroom. The first was in June last year for the Free Range Project – Interview 21 – 10 interviews ago as it turns out. Steven is the AD of The Danger Ensemble which has also featured here on Greenroom via last August’s Hamlet Apocalypse. This work, another of Steven’s creations, appeared in La Boite’s 2011 Indie season. It was one of the more dangerous, ‘in yer face and be damned if you don’t like it’ productions I’d seen in ages. But it was more than just dangerous for its own sake; it was risky, sure but courageous, thrilling and accomplished – and it got my heart racing. That doesn’t happen to me very often in the theatre. The ideas and their theatricalisation did it for me with Hamlet Apocalypse. You can read the review here. This time around we talked about the latest work Loco Maricon Amor (‘Crazy Queer Love’ trans in case you wondered) which opens its world premiere season this week at Metro Arts in Edward Street Brisbane.

You’ve probably already seen this wildly coloured, staring figure – the production image for Loco Maricon Amor. It’s Salvador Dali, of course – the crazy, trademark moustache gives it away. The image, one of the more successful theatre posters I’ve seen for ages, hints at and suggests so much, teasing the viewer to engage with the real eyes in a painted face set against an exploding universe. It’s a new work but I’m actually less interested in what the play is about – the plot to be terribly old-fashioned – than in the realisation of the work. I’ve already read in the media release that ‘Loco Maricon Amor isn’t about any one thing. But it is about love and death and their interconnectedness.’ Big call.

To that end I steer the conversation around to how Steven and the Danger Ensemble work. I want to know where these ideas come from and how they do it – the nuts and bolts of their working process. How did Loco Maricon Amor take shape, for example? I know before I ask that it’s not going to be a simple response, and that’s the way it turns out.

The form of a work becomes its delivery method.

As Steven puts it, ‘Each project is different, and I’m adamant that each work has to find its own process.’ Another side to the good design axiom of form following function. ‘Finding this is important to me. But, at the start, the story has to be important. Why would you invest so much time and energy without a sense of its being important? And I need a sense of the “heart” of a work.’ So, that’s the way our discussion proceeds – about how this play found its authentic heart and external shape.

Continue reading Steven Mitchell Wright (Interview 31)

Review: X by Sunny Drake – Metro Arts The Independents 2012 at the Sue Benner Theatre

It was a supportive and packed audience for the opening night of X the latest in the Metro Arts Independents 2012 seasonEach of us was holding an obligatory drink as we entered the theatre but, long before the lights went down, aspects of the show, written, created, and performed by Sunny Drake had already begun.

We’d been asked to write a judgmental thought about alcoholics on our way in. Upon arrival at the door, we were given someone else’s judgmental ‘thought’ in return; they’re used during the show. Mr Drake begins the show saying it’s not at all about him and, by the end of the night the message is searingly clear: this show is about us. It’s about our addictions and our judgements, particularly around alcohol.  In X, the fourth wall is well and truly down.

This one-man show, directed by Therese Collie, doesn’t feel like a one  man show at all

There’s astounding multimedia and projection design, along with a cast of puppets, and it’s the animation and multimedia that steal the show. There are theatrical moments that represent vibrant and imaginative independent theatre at its absolute best.

The puppet characters regularly escape into a blissful, green-tinged, alcoholic world but, as the show goes on, the blissful and the real worlds collide with staggering consequences. Ingrid K Brooker helped along by Georgie Hauff, Taylor Wilson and Jordan Higgins has designed beautiful and enchanting stop-motion animation. Penny Everingham’s puppets are delightful and inventive creatures, although Drake occasionally struggles with his performance of them.

I’d love to tell you more about the plot, but I had extreme difficulty understanding it. There are two central characters: Jamie and Caitlin, although they take a leave of absence in the show’s middle as we focus on ‘Mr. Fancy’. There are also other characters who may or may not have been somehow connected with Jamie and Caitlin. The puppets are initially introduced and performed by Caitlin, but she quickly disappears, and how they’re connected to the real world remains a mystery.

The blurring of the puppet and the real world is at times a deliberate choice, but is also frequently confusing. The central tension of the play is set around a state-wide crackdown on alcohol, but this gets buried and lost, which means the plot’s momentum occasionally slows down. The play’s final five minutes of meta-theatricality become too declamatory to be truly powerful as the character’s we’ve been introduced to are deserted by Sunny for another purpose altogether.

Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of true wit and satirical mirth here that are fantastic. I haven’t been exposed to Sunny’s work before, and there’s a lot here to like. In so many ways though, X feels like a warm-up to something greater. Mr Drake is an intelligent performer in the making, with plenty of ambition and vision, but he occasionally struggles with the pressures of a one-man show. Ms Collie’s staging has moments of sheer delight and beauty, and the numerous theatrical tricks employed throughout the show are worth the ticket price alone.

Georgina Greenhill’s set, a discombobulated body that is sprawled across the stage, is inventive and detailed. Ms Greenhill manages to mix beauty and surprise into her design, and provides a fertile playground for Sunny. Brett Collery’s soundscape and composition present him at his atmospheric best. whilst the lighting design by Andrew Meadows is incredibly clever and beautiful. Indeed, Greenhill, Collery and Meadows create a production with technical cohesion that is rarely seen on the Brisbane Independent stage.

Greenhill, Collery and Meadows create a production with technical cohesion that is rarely seen on the Brisbane independent stage

As the audience left the theatre, everyone’s glasses were empty, our judgement purged, and our creative brains tickled.  X is a show of invention and imagination, and will give you plenty of moments of delight.

X  plays at Metro Arts from Wed-Sat until 28th April as part of their The Independents 2012 season ahead of its North American tour to the USA National Queer Arts Festival.
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Duration: 60 – 65 minutes