Witness Relocation and Me

David Burton

I asked David Burton if he would write a piece for Greenroom on the recent experience he had with the Witness Relocation workshop held as part of QTC’s Greenhouse Program. Dave very generously agreed to do this and to share his thoughts on the writing process involved with the NY dance drama company.

On day four of a two week workshop experience I was getting itchy. I’d been brought in to write – but write what? Dan Safer, the artistic director of New York dance theatre company Witness Relocation, was anything but itchy. He was relaxed, at home and full of humour. But by the end of next week, we had to make something out of this group of fifteen strangers. I was the ‘writer’, Dan was the ‘director’, Kaz (also from the company) was in charge of tech design, and everyone else were ‘performers’. These labels were immensely slippery. It was really more like a messy pile of creativity, with Dan at the top, poking his head out and looking around. Continue reading Witness Relocation and Me

Review: Romeo and Juliet – Queensland Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC

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

Season(s) 2012: the new and the independent ftw

Last night La Boite Theatre announced its 2012 or ‘twenty twelve’ season on their fresh look website complete with a maroon coloured (Queensland?) splattered torso – not quite sure what that’s about but, as with the new-look QTC logo (below) your guess as to meaning – if you need that kind of thing – is as good as mine.

The other big house in town, Queensland Theatre Company announced its 2012 season a few weekends ago. Artistic Director Wesley Enoch launched 2012’s mainstage productions along with new logo and website. I was at QTC’s launch but couldn’t make it to La Boite’s despite their generosity of an invitation which, I understood, was a pretty hot ticket – as was QTC’s for their launch. Theatre goers in town are clearly keen to see what the two ADs have in mind. Continue reading Season(s) 2012: the new and the independent ftw

Review: I Feel Awful – Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm at Bille Brown Studio

What a hoot this show is – a refreshingly anarchic romp that takes the piss out of theatre and itself; I think this lack of pretension in I Feel Awful is one of the things I liked most about it.

Whilst it is dedicated to the ‘late’ Michael Gow (he is no such thing – MG has never been late to anything in his life) it is one of the experiments that QTC’s last Artistic Director programmed into his final season for the Company. Black Lung were commissioned to create something and began with a creative development in late 2010. What eventually emerged as I Feel Awful has now popped up in 2011 Brisbane Festival time, and right good festival fare it is too; you can see it at 7pm or later at 9pm on some evenings during the Festival. Check the times on the Company site for the show. By the way, when not happily engaged in writing plays, Michael Gow is equally happily engaged (right now) directing the Company’s next production No Man’s Land by the late, great Harold Pinter somewhere else in the building, one assumes.

Part of the sleight of hand of the Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm (their name is the only grandiose thing about this group of wonderfully smart and funny Melbourne thesps) is to set up the premise that the former Artistic Director of the Company has requested their presence to show Brisbane how theatre is made – first cringe button pressed. To do so they have engaged a group of young Brisbane actors as their ‘interns’ (that word again) and attempt to imprint their own brand of theatre making on our best and brightest. The result is splendidly contrived mayhem and 70 minutes of high-energy, dada-esque delight. The benign features of Michael Gow oversee the general irreverence and trashing of some theatrical sacred cows including his own plays, some of which are splendidly ‘re-imagined’ in a delicious gender inversion. I couldn’t help but feel he would be delighted by what he was seeing unfold in the Bille Brown Studio.

I Feel Awful is cleverly constructed – and then torn apart – terrifically performed, and will appeal to anyone who loves the idea of theatre.

Speaking of trashing, I Feel Awful is a messy hoot as well. Here’s another production that sets about destroying and remaking just about everything in as comprehensive a way as is possible. I do feel for the stage management teams on shows like this – a special shout out to the heroic Shaun O’Rourke on this one. Nice to see him get the last word!

I’ve pondered (and written) about the trashing tendency in a lot of contemporary theatre before. I am sure there’s a dissertation or two or, at least, a learned paper on why this is so. Maybe it’s the most obvious way for some theatre-makers to demonstrate their perennial desire to overturn the status quo. On a deeper level it’s about the theatre’s ability to demonstrate the impermanence of anything – from artistic directors and their aesthetics to politics and beyond, as well as the flux and evolution of culture and the insecurity of our times.

I Feel Awful plays at QTC’s Bille Brown Studio at 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane until 10th September. You’ll need to get in fast.

Writer and Director: Thomas M Wright; Designer: Thomas M Wright; Design Consultant: Simone Romaniuk; Lighting Designer: Govin Ruben;
Stage Manager: Shaun O’Rourke; ASM: Daniel Sinclair
The Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm: Liam Barton, Gareth Davies, Aaron Orzech, Vaczadenjo Wharton-Thomas, Thomas M Wright
With: Courtney Ammenhauser, Finn Gilfedder, Will Horan, Tiarnee Kim, Mary Neary, Essie O’Shaughnessy, Charlie Schache, Nathan Sibthorpe, Stephanie Tandy

 

 

Wesley Enoch (Interview 28 )

I’m interviewing Wesley Enoch in his inner-city apartment in Brisbane – 5 minutes on foot to Queensland Theatre Company headquarters on South Bank where he is Artistic Director, and 7 minutes to the Airtrain connection at South Brisbane station – important when you do as much travel as he does. He loves walking to relax although he confesses he doesn’t do as much as he should. ‘I’ll get back to it now the warmer weather is coming in.’ Whilst Wesley doesn’t own a car, he does have some wonderful pieces of art. We’re surrounded by prints, paintings, photographs, ceramics – all Australian and many by indigenous artists – on walls and shelves. Each of them has a story and, when I first arrived, he took me through them one by one.

He’s been on the job now just over a year – he took up his appointment on 19th of July 2010, although it’s been in a full-time capacity since the beginning of this year only. I’m keen to learn more about how it’s going, to hear Wesley’s thoughts on the business of being an Artistic Director today, and what it’s like being back home after all these years.

He’s a Stradbroke Island man, educated and raised in Brisbane and a graduate of QUT with a BA in Drama Majoring in Dance. Wesley then went on to do an Honours year at QUT – and his dissertation topic? Establishing a context for the understanding of contemporary aboriginal arts.

Wesley was the first indigenous Australian appointed as Artistic Director of a major theatre company. I ask how important it was to him. He responds, ‘It really hadn’t occurred to me until Neil (Armfield) rang and congratulated me. I was more focussed on a personal ambition to engage with a wider audience.’ He shrugs, relaxed about it, ‘people had been waiting for it to happen, and it did. One of the outcomes has been that more of the discussion about establishing a national indigenous theatre company now seems to be flowing towards QTC.’ He adds, ‘I was talking to students recently and saying that when you are in your 20s you’re radical and revolutionary but in your 40s you’re more evolutionary. The radicalism of my 20s is now the evolutionism of my 40s. I’m thinking now of how we work on the aesthetics and not just the politics. The 20 year old has achieved the goals.’ Continue reading Wesley Enoch (Interview 28 )

Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse

So evocative are Ben Collins’ sound and David Murray‘s lighting designs for Kate Cherry‘s excellent production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  that you can almost hear the skeeters hummin’ on the honeysuckle vine, feel the cooling breeze off the Delta, and smell the coming storm’s electricity in the oppressive air. The crackle of electricity within the Pollitt family home and the  heady odour of lies and falsehood  that lie at the thematic heart of this masterpiece of modern drama – the ‘smell of mendacity’ – are also wonderfully captured in the action played out with gusto in QTC’s co-production with Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company.

Other reviewers of this production have referred to or compared it with the heavily adapted 1958 film version which starred Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives. The movie seems to have left an almost-indelible mark on the work despite the screenplay’s being openly scorned by Williams. References to the repressed homosexuality of the former footballer Brick were largely omitted from the screenplay which also included a heavily reworked third act reconciliation between father and son. The play was first directed for the Broadway stage by Elia Kazan in 1955, and went on to take out the Pulitzer Prize for drama in that year. However, and at Kazan’s urging, Williams substantially revised the work for a revival in 1974, and this is the version which has usually been produced since that time. This production may nod towards the film in its look but, make no mistake, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a great play of classic proportions and classic themes; it almost needs the stage’s size and accommodation for its playing out. Continue reading Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse