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

This Week in Queensland Theatre: Aug 30-Sep 5 2010

Check Company websites for show times and further details
A week to check the programme, make your picks, and draw breath before the Brisbane Festival hits town. Stand by for a huge month of fringe, mainstage, street, and anywhere you can find it entertainment in Brisbane city and the suburbs. Chookas to Noel Staunton, director of the Festival and to the whole team! Opening: My Sublime Shadow Dir. Lynne Bradley: Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building (Wednesday) Continuing: A Catch of the Breath by Robert Thwaites: !MetroArts Independents Engine by Janis Balodis Dir. Julian Louis: La Boite Theatre at the Roundhouse Other: Greenroom is one year old on Wednesday. Happy Birthday to us ... notice the cupcake?

My Sublime Shadow: Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building, Bowen Hills

Further details from company website

My Sublime Shadow is a risqué new work that fuses the decadent German Weimar Republic Cabaret with Zen Zen Zo’s infamous dance-theatre style. This IN THE RAW Studio Season production will give Brisbane audiences the chance for a very limited release sneak-peak of a show that is set to take the touring circuit by storm. It is directed by Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre’s artistic director Lynne Bradley (director of the 2009 Matilda Award-winning production of The Tempest and sell-out seasons of Zeitgeist in Brisbane, Edinburgh and Adelaide) and combines the talents of Zen Zen Zo senior company members Dale Thorburn (2009 Matilda award nominee for Caliban, The Tempest) and Jillian Geurts (Miranda, The Tempest) with long-term collaborators, renowned singer/songwriters Emma Dean (Ariel, The Tempest; Women in Voice 15; 2006 & 2009 Finalist in QSong Awards) and Jacob Diefenbach (2010 Green Room Award winner; 2009 Melbourne Fringe Festival Best Cabaret Award). The production investigates the Jungian archetype of the Shadow - our darker sides and our chaotic wild selves, our demons and our fears. The Shadow comes out to play in dreams, fantasies and nightmares... Jung insists that the only path forward is to meet our Shadows, to confront them, to "devour" them. My Sublime Shadow will be a naughty night of cabaret and dance-theatre featuring both famous and original songs sung by Emma Dean and Jacob Diefenbach, as they journey inexorably towards meeting and "devouring" their shadows... Tues-Thurs 8.00pm; Fri 9.00pm; Sat 8.00pm & 10.30pm

This week in Queensland Theatre: 3-9 May 2010

Zen Zen Zo supporting Amanda Palmer
Image by chrisdonia via Flickr

Check Company websites for show times and further details

Opening: The Timely Death of Victor Blott at !Metro Arts King Lear: Bell Shakespeare for Queensland Theatre Company at Playhouse, QPAC Dante's Inferno: Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building Continuing: Let the Sunshine: Queensland Theatre Company at Cremorne, QPAC Waiting for Godot: Queensland Theatre Company at Bille Brown Studio Stockholm: STC for La Boite Theatre at the Roundhouse Greenroom Reviews: Waiting for Godot (Dave Burton) Stockholm (Kate Foy)