Review: Cribbie – 4MBS Classic Arts – Cremorne Theatre

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of going to the theatre and hearing stories told about your own folk and your own place and in the voices and the vernacular that belong to your own sense of belonging. I’m not a Cribbie (Cribb Islander) kid from the play of the same name by Michael and Margery Forde. I’m from Sandgate – one of the lot from another of the bayside suburbs – the furthest northerly on Brisbane’s Moreton Bay.

My place Sandgate survived – although I see it’s gone all gentrified in parts. The tidal mudflats in all their gooey, fragrant glory and the protection of Moreton island meant that it would never have the glamour of the surf beaches far to its north and south. Cribb Island, though, went under the tarmac at Brisbane Airport sacrificed, because of its proximity in the name of progress. Stories of the Cribbies and their life in the old, outrageous ruin that was Jackson’s Estate remain in the Forde’s gentle love-poem/play to its memory. Continue reading Review: Cribbie – 4MBS Classic Arts – Cremorne Theatre

Review: The Lady of the House of Love – Queensland Music Festival, Brisbane City Council and Metro Arts – Sue Benner Theatre

You go away for a bit and, when you get home, find out from friends just how many good shows you’ve missed. It’s inevitable, I suppose; Winter is the busiest time of the theatre year in SE Queensland. The indies are out in full force right now joining the main-house and touring productions at QPAC – harbingers for the coming Brisbane Festival and its accompanying fringe events in early spring.

It’s not hard to miss a show or two in Brisbane these days. The range and general quality is impressive. Greenroom has missed a couple or come to them late in their season – no bad thing of course, although it does mean you have rather missed the bus when it comes to getting a review out in the usual time frame for such things. As a side note, I managed to catch the marvellous Venus in Fur from Queensland Theatre Company before it closed last week. The reviews were universally glowing, and deservedly so for David Ives‘ intellectual hijinks superbly directed by Andrea Moor and magnificently played by Libby Munro and Todd Macdonald. People are still talking about it; I don’t think they knew what had hit them. Plays like this confirm why we love theatre. As do productions like The Lady of the House of Love an equally beautifully realised fantasy but in another theatrical key altogether. I also came late to this production and I am so glad I did not miss it. Continue reading Review: The Lady of the House of Love – Queensland Music Festival, Brisbane City Council and Metro Arts – Sue Benner Theatre

Review: Vikram and the Vampire – Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building

I need to start this off with the confession of a cardinal sin of Brisbane theatre. I haven’t seen a Zen Zen Zo show in a very, very long time. My omission hasn’t been deliberate. Nevertheless, the years have slipped by without visiting this Queensland cultural institution. In truth, it was my assumptions about a ‘physical theatre company’ that kept me away. These were fairly predictable. While displaying admirable and impressive physical skills, these productions too often leave narrative far behind, creating works that are inaccessible. I’m very pleased to say that this is not at all the case for Vikram and the Vampire, the first production overseen by the company’s new Artistic Directors, Michael Futcher and Helen Howard.

Indeed Vikram and the Vampire is all about narrative. The show’s essence is from The Twenty Five Tales of a Baital, a collection of ancient Sanskrit tales from India. The company did a version of this back in 1995, called The King and the Corpse.

Re-imagined by director Michael Futcher and a large ensemble, Vikram and the Vampire is a nod to story telling at its bed-time best.

These are fantastic fairytales largely unknown to Australians, and are an absolute joy to visit.

The story opens on King Vikram (Sandro Colarelli), who longs for power over all the earth. He is visited by a monk, Shantil (Chris Beckey), who promises to grant his wish. But first, the king is instructed to collect a corpse, and walk it back to the burning grounds that Shantil inhabits. The corpse is inhabited by the mischievous spirit Vetal (Lizzie Ballinger). With Vetal strapped to his back, King Vikram begins the lengthy journey back to the burning grounds. Vetal makes a wager with the king. If he should speak, then Vetal will return to where Vikram found her and he will have to begin the journey all over again. And so Vetal distracts the King with stories, played out to us in full colour and spectacle, inevitably provoking a response from King Vikram, who seems unlikely to ever reach his goal.

There are a lot of things this production does right, and the treatment of the narrative here is a big accomplishment. Michael Futcher and Helen Howard are credited as the writers and adapters, with additional credit given to Danny Murphy for material that survived from the 1995 production.

The show manages to straddle both a linear and episodic structure simultaneously, and it works. At an hour and forty-five minutes, the show is a little long, with the first ten minutes seeming to be slightly extraneous. But the magic and beauty of what follows makes this slight indulgence easily forgiven. Continue reading Review: Vikram and the Vampire – Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building

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