Review: Landscapes – Velocity Dance at Empire Theatre Studio

Images: Empire Theatre

It’s been a week of theatre as dance and dance as theatre for me – Tender Napalm at La Boite in Brisbane and, in its first public showing by the group, Landscapes, which is billed as a program of developmental dance in Toowoomba.

Under the direction of Alison Vallette (Velocity Studio’s Director and Creative Producer) Landscapes is a delightful confection of individually choreographed pieces: Vacancies of the Heart (Jen Murray), Common Ground (Gabriel Comerford in collaboration with Caitlin MacKenzie) and Unity (Frank Monsembula) all of which are performed by Toowoomba dancers.  This is part of the ongoing, year-long Homegrown season from the Empire Theatre, and one of the more exciting innovations to have emerged from Australia’s largest and arguably best regional theatre. This season has attracted new audiences to small-scale theatre, music and now dance productions at the Empire’s great studio/rehearsal space located backstage of the auditorium.

Landscapes may be developmental in its newness or in that it has provided the opportunity for young dancers to work with more experienced colleagues, but its innovative blending of various dance genres to explore local issues – being an outsider, or fitting in, or the floods that unsettled and continue to affect those who live here – is a real step up for dance in the city. Continue reading “Review: Landscapes – Velocity Dance at Empire Theatre Studio”

Review: Tender Napalm – La Boite Theatre Company at The Roundhouse

What to say – what further words to add to the experience that is Tender Napalm by Philip Ridley, directed by David Berthold, choreographed by Garry Stewart and currently playing as part of the Brisbane Festival?

The built-in shock factor in this extraordinary piece of cerebral and visceral theatre lies in the words and in the way they are re-imagined and configured in tandem with the body at rest and in extraordinary motion. Sounds and energies are articulated, spun and reshaped to create the most wonderful and terrifying stories, the kind that are the stuff of a child’s daydreams and nightmares.

A reading reveals Ridley’s shocking poetical fantasies and that, in itself, is a rich experience. His writing for young people is evident in the text not just in his monsters and monkeys and battles that pepper the dialogue but also in the way the characters engage with their fantasies – improvising and blocking one another, weaving plots on the fly – playing. You can hear this approach at work in school playgrounds and backyards. It is only in performance – at play – that this text’s emotional depths and theatrical sophistication are realised.

This is a bold, energetic production that doesn’t let you slip away for a second and, as I watched, at times holding my breath, I was reminded of Jerzy Grotowski‘s words “The actor will do, in public, what is considered impossible.” That’s part of the thrill of this work. Continue reading “Review: Tender Napalm – La Boite Theatre Company at The Roundhouse”

David Berthold (Interview 32)

Image of David Berthold by Justine Walpole

A couple of weeks ago, David Berthold and I find ourselves seated on a very lumpy couch outside Room 60 down the hill from La Boite Theatre’s Roundhouse precinct at Kelvin Grove. We have taken refuge outside because it’s movie night and, apparently, one of the worst movies ever made is screening inside for the afficionados of such things. We take our two (very nice) glasses of Pinot Grigio outside to enjoy the early Spring weather. It is, I think, a rather nice way to conduct an interview. A couple of hours later we head off after a chat that revolved around Tender Napalm, the play by Philip Ridley which David is currently directing for La Boite. We actually spun out over lots of things from opera to Berlin to arts funding and the kinds of audiences that La Boite has attracted during his tenure – he became Artistic Director in 2008. It was a good chat, all in all. Here’s what I remember of it; the notes helped.

I’ve known David for years, ever since he was Artistic Associate at Queensland Theatre Company way back – well, in the early 90s anyway. I’ve worked with him (for the first time earlier this year in As You Like It) and we’ve chatted on many occasions, but I hadn’t known till now that he is a baritone and an opera buff and that once upon a time, he wanted to be an opera singer. He confesses that his dream is still to sing Schubert’s Winterreise with all its ‘infinite meanings’ in German – but more of that later. Continue reading “David Berthold (Interview 32)”

Review: Life Etc.: All Together Now at Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)

Image: Empire Theatre

And so, tonight to the theatre again – this time to Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre Studio and part of a full house for David Burton’s new play Life Etc. part of the theatre’s Home Grown Series of new worksIt’s also the first work from the collective All Together Now who ‘aim to create more “gutsy and juicy” roles for women within the theatre industry in Queensland and strongly believe in supporting women in theatre.’ (programme note)

It’s always exciting to be seeing a new work: no preconceptions, just an open road to travel for (in this case) 75 or so minutes with the two protagonists Tash (Emily Curtin) and Karen (Kate Murphy).  

Tash has screwed up in her job at Centrelink. Her boss Karen has to fire her but not before they spend an evening fixing up reams of paperwork – coloured papers which are sifted and sorted. Tash and Karen work surrounded by piles and piles of cardboard boxes – a clever (if uncredited) set design which contains various prop pieces brought out into the action.

As the papers are sorted Tash brings out the brownies and Karen a bottle of wine. They eat, drink and share some often uncomfortable personal facts with each other. Their interaction is, by turn, light and sombre although, in the opening minutes, there are a couple of bits of juvenilia and clowning about that make the play appear a tad insecure about itself. However, the old farting jokes had the audience rollicking, and an otherwise apparently mature man besides me fell apart at the mention of the word, ‘poo.’ But it’s not all light sitcom or  girly D&M stuff; the play itself gets far more interesting as a piece of theatre when it goes beyond Tash and Karen’s after-hours shift at Centrelink. Continue reading “Review: Life Etc.: All Together Now at Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)”