Images: Kate O'SullivanEverything you’ve heard about The Truth About Kookaburras is true. Yes, the cast is over twenty in number. Yes, most of these are men. Yes, almost all of these men appear naked in the first twenty minutes of the show - unashamedly, fully naked. In short, (seriously no pun intended) you get a wrestling wall of penis. And it’s not fleeting. They are touched, fondled, squashed, flicked, twirled and shoved into faces. It’s good fun. It would be unsettling or slightly weird if perceptions of masculinity weren’t at the absolute core of Sven Swenson’s play. Which they are. Swenson has written, directed (and even features in) this memorable play, which had its first outing back in 2009 at Metro Arts Independents. The Kookbaurras are a fictional Gold Coast footy team, who come under fire when one of the members is killed in their locker room on the evening of a buck’s party. Most of the play unfolds in parallel timelines: the investigation of the murder, and the night it happened. This has some of the structure of a classic whodunnit, but there’s a lot more going on here. Continue reading Review: The Truth About Kookaburras – Pentimento Productions & La Boite Indie at The Round House Theatre
This is a big, elemental production. It is austere and physical, stripped back to the essentials. There is no blood, little adornment, no shoes even. The focus is on the actor's body - its material and vocal expressiveness in service of the text. In so many ways it reminded me of Poor Theatre's stripping back to the fundamentals of performance in, as Grotowski attempted to describe it, a '... discarding of masks, the revealing of the real substance: a totality of physical and mental reactions.' Director Jennifer Flowers has produced a Romeo and Juliet that will appeal to those who like their Shakespeare and their acting unvarnished and quick. Certainly, this production is all of that. Playing time is under 2 and a half hours with no interval. The cast of twelve (8 men and 4 women) inhabit a world that is indeterminate; their unadorned costumes are of another time and place although in setting - elemental stone and water - designer Bill Haycock (with lighting by David Walters) has beautifully referenced the coldness of a classical citadel rather than the usual richness and warmth of Verona's Renaissance city. It fits the rest of the production and provides a new viewing of a play whose story is so well known in our culture that even those who have never experienced it on page, stage or screen feel that they 'know' it. Ms Flowers' production is a bold revisioning, and one that may take people by surprise. That's no bad thing at all. Continue reading Review: Romeo and Juliet – Queensland Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC
Images: Al Caeiro The first of the La Boite 2011 Indie season productions, Colder by Lachlan Philpott, opened at Brisbane's Roundhouse Theatre last week. Directed by Michelle Miall and performed by a cast of six actors, this play is a tonal poem of melancholy. Like slow, sad rain falling on the heart, Colder washes its audience in a threnody of loss. You've got to love the range and confidence of independent theatre in Brisbane right now. Sure, there are hits and misses - as there must be - but, as someone said a while back, it's indie work with its daring and devilry that's the life-blood of the wider theatre culture in this country. The indie voice heard in productions around town can be raucous and potty-mouthed, silly or serious. Sometimes the voice is delicate and challenging - as it is in this one. I'm a sucker for poetic theatre - the theatre of poetry - whatever you want to call it. I fell for the poetry - the beauty and un-selfconscious lyricism - of Philpott's text in Colder. Having said that and, despite the buzz of the play's language, the work feels too long in the playing - is this the production's pacing or the length and structure - even the nature - of the text itself? I wondered at the number of characters in the work and the inclusion of incidental interludes and monologues. Was it these which seemed to be holding up the core narrative? The play revolves around David (Chris Vernon) the enigmatic central character who disappeared first (and for a few hours) as a child on a visit to Disneyland, and then, never to return, as an adult in Sydney. The play's action is contextualised within the gay community of Sydney, and was inspired by one of the writer's friends who went missing some years ago. The cause of David's disappearances comes late in Colder. In direct audience address he speaks of being haunted throughout his life in pursuit of the figures of a man and a boy - the father he knew only briefly and the confident boy he could never be. It only hints - but that is enough - at how and why David remains missing. In any case, Colder is less of a mystery than a psychological exploration of the effect David's disappearances have had upon his friends and acquaintances (Kevin Spink and Kerith Atkinson in multiple roles), his lover Ed (Tony Brockman) - but especially upon his mother, Robyn, who is played by Alison McGirr and Helen Howard in younger and older versions of the same character. We walk in their shoes wondering why and how for much of the play. The ensemble of six are in fine form and, under Myall's direction, handle Philpott's lovely text very well indeed. Colder is a play that may have some asking how a text which relies more on voice than on embodiment can be improved by staging. Is it better suited for the vocal orchestration of radio where 'the pictures are better' for example? Michelle Miall's production is far from static, but characters give witness, they narrate, and they describe more often than they interact. The play is not particularly dramatic but that's no burden. This is the nature of Lachlan Philpott's script, of course and, anyway, hoorah for poetic theatre. What is gained in its staging - in breathing the same air together in the same room - is the embodied experience of grief and its effects which are as uneasy to watch as any forensic investigation must be. This is what the actors' physical presence adds. Design by Amanda Karo, lighting by Daniel Anderson and composition and sound design by Phil Slade mesh beautifully, as they should, for Michelle Miall's most satisfying production of the difficult and cold road of the grief-stricken. Colder plays at The Roundhouse Theatre as part of La Boite's Indie 2011 season until 9 July. Check the La Boite website for session times and booking details.
- Michelle Miall (Interview) (actorsgreenroom.net)