Chris Beckey (Interview 44)

Image: Morgan Roberts

I met with Chris Beckey in July for coffee and a chat at The Three Monkeys in West End. Chris was then appearing in CALIGULA for The Danger Ensemble. As I edit this long-overdue post, he is preparing for the Brisbane Festival’s production of Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE in an adaptation by Lally Katz. Once again, he is working under the direction of long-time creative collaborator Steven Mitchell Wright.

That afternoon I asked Chris, as I do all artists I interview, what had brought them to where they are now. We end up talking about process as the afternoon ticked away. Continue reading Chris Beckey (Interview 44)

Review: The Wizard of Oz – La Boite, The Danger Ensemble and Brisbane Festival at The Roundhouse

Images: Morgan Roberts

Carrying the burden of  iconic stardom has crippled and destroyed many – like Judy Garland. She gets resurrected from time to time in shows that reconstruct or deconstruct the legend of the woman known simply as Garland or Judy. This year alone we’ve had End of the Rainbow from Queensland Theatre Company and, a week or so ago at Toowoomba’s Arts Theatre, the first performance of a one-woman play, Bernadette Meenach‘s Miss Garland at Twilight as part of the USQ Twilight Series.

Judy Garland’s life, film and stage career have been picked over and over, like soothsayers of old delving into the entrails of sacrifices. What are they looking for? We’re less interested in what made her the extraordinarily gifted artist she undoubtedly was. It seems the appetite is for the tragic morsels her life produced.  Some would say Judy Garland (the artist formerly known as Frances Ethel Gumm) became a sacrifice to the insatiable appetite of the crowds who created her as a star and then dined off the many disasters and breakdowns that dogged her life.

Judy Garland’s role as Dorothy from the 1939 MGM classic movie The Wizard of Oz shot her into an orbit that she (and the studios who owned her) fought to control for the rest of her life. The movie was based on one of L Frank Baum‘s popular children’s stories The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first published in 1900. American culture owes Mr Baum much. He went on to write other tales about the people in the Land of Oz, then came the movie and, of course, Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the west the huge musical which owes, in turn, its genesis to Gregory Maguire‘s 1995 novel of the same name. Mr Maguire mined Oz for four more books in his Oz series, and so it goes.

wizardnarrow-300x0Now Maxine Mellor (as Principal Writer), The Danger Ensemble and La Boite have a go in their The Wizard of Oz currently playing at The Roundhouse as part of the Brisbane Festival program.  In Director Steven Mitchell Wright‘s production we meet the old familiar figures: Dorothy (Caroline Dunphy in great form) and her little black dog Toto, the munchkins (Lucy-Ann LangkildeThomas Hutchins and Thomas Larkin) who also play the lion, tin man and scarecrow respectively – and scarily. Of course, there is a beautiful witch (Polly Sara) and Oz himself (Chris Beckey a spectacle in emerald green). Ms Mellor’s tale reframes the original into a contemporary, local setting in order to examine the burden of lost hopes and aspirations so, of course, the Garland persona will get an airing. Continue reading Review: The Wizard of Oz – La Boite, The Danger Ensemble and Brisbane Festival at The Roundhouse

Review: Children of War, La Boite indie and The Danger Ensemble in association with the Vanguard Youth Theatre

Image: Courtesy La Boite Theatre

I like the concept. Take a group of young characters pulled out of the myths surrounding the Trojan War and make them the seniors of 2012, complete with impending formal. Writer Chris Beckey and director/designer Steven Mitchell Wright have offered up a media-infused collision of old and new that seeks to highlight that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating itself when it comes to growing up in a war zone. The Danger Ensemble collaborated with the Vanguard Youth Theatre to develop and perform the work, and the cast of eight young actors grab the show with both hands (and at times their bared teeth) and run with it. Continue reading Review: Children of War, La Boite indie and The Danger Ensemble in association with the Vanguard Youth Theatre

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: The Hamlet Apocalypse – The Danger Ensemble and La Boite Indie at The Roundhouse

Back to the theatre last evening for the first performance of the final production in La Boite’s 2011 Indie program. It’s The Danger Ensemble’s The Hamlet Apocalypse directed and designed by Steven Mitchell Wright. It’s had previous seasons in Melbourne and Adelaide, and it’s now back home. Last night was the first time I’ve caught a piece from The Danger Ensemble and I’m very glad I did. Its intelligent, gutsy theatricality and complexity will please some and, just possibly, repel others. Whatever you do, leave your preconceptions in the foyer. As the website has it

The Hamlet Apocalypse is a dsytopia of the now generation, a silent party, a desperate plea, a rambunctious prayer… Seven actors stage Hamlet on the eve of the apocalypse. As the line between fiction and reality blurs; the actors, their characters and their worlds collide and are distilled into the simplest of human states. It’s about the power of death and the value of life.

The sheer energy of the ensemble at work and of the production itself is mightily affecting. Certainly, you cannot hide in the usual safety of the dark auditorium. Dane Alexander‘s sound and Ben Hughes‘ lighting are terrific and cruel!  From the moment you enter you are caught in the spotlight – literally. The show gets its claws into you and, from this point until the final blackout, you are jumping in your seat.  For 75 minutes there is no exit, no retreat for audience or performers … Continue reading Review: The Hamlet Apocalypse – The Danger Ensemble and La Boite Indie at The Roundhouse