Brief Encounters – Homegrown at Empire Theatre Studio

Image: Kate Foy; Sand Drawing: Damien Kamholtz

Last night’s theatre excursion was closer to home than many in the last few weeks have been for me. It was to Brief Encounters at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre Studio – and what a lovely little performance space this is.

Brief Encounters is the latest of the theatre’s Homegrown Studio series which sees local artists – established, emerging and embryonic – working together on the kinds of new work which so often never get to see stage lights shine on them. It’s vital, generative activity and the fact that it is being sponsored and supported by local business and the local council gives me great heart and delight that I live outside the capital city in a community that values such work. Regional artists don’t get to say that often but then, Toowoomba has always valued its art and, well, credit where credit is due. Now, it seems, there is also a place for that most arcane or, at least, often misunderstood of art forms – performance art.

artistic blind date meets creation under-the-gun. (Katy Harris-McLeod: the Tomorrow Collective)

Not all of this kind of work is what might be called successful in terms of being finished ‘product.’ That’s not the point; incompleteness, rawness, and even a bit of self-indulgence are expected in the service of creative experimentation – although several of the encounters were delightfully complete in themselves and quite free of any self-consciousness. With its time constraints Brief Encounters almost works against the pressure most artists feel to put something together that is worthy of sharing in terms of polish and finesse or completeness. Continue reading “Brief Encounters – Homegrown at Empire Theatre Studio”

Review: Tequila Mockingbird – shake & stir theatre company and QPAC at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

Photo credit: Dylan Evans

We’ve written before about the work produced by the people involved with shake & stir theatre company, surely one of the most impressive and successful arts companies currently in operation in Queensland and, indeed, around Australia. (Type ‘shake and stir’  into the Search box to see what we’ve had to say over the years.)

Like many, I suspect, I had assumed we’d see the company’s signature physical story-telling at work on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee in much the same way they’d crafted George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, although the poster image of a very sultry Nelle Lee had me puzzled. Tequila Mockingbird breaks some exciting new ground for shake & stir who have  labelled this work, ‘a new Australian play created by shake & stir theatre co,’ and that it certainly is folks. Continue reading “Review: Tequila Mockingbird – shake & stir theatre company and QPAC at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC”

Review: Other Desert Cities – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse

Image: Rebecca Davis, Robert Coleby, Janet Andrewartha

As much as I love the vivid experimentation – the sheer theatricalism – of some of the recent plays I’ve seen on Brisbane stages, I must confess to being a sucker for an unadorned production of a good piece of American realism. QTC’s latest offering is Jon Robin Baitz‘s Other Desert Cities, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony award-winner after its transfer from an off-Broadway start in 2011.

Mr Baitz’s play is finely wrought; the threads he spins in act one are woven tightly in act two and deliver some surprises of their own – a nice touch in a tale about family secrets and lies – a recurring motif in modern American drama. The coda at the play’s end is a little overly sentimental for my taste but probably essential given the narrative set up that’s gone before. The author creates his plot with great characters, by the way. The five roles are juicy, naturalistic and beg for bravura turns coupled with the finesse of ensemble playing.

Other Desert Cities is classically old-fashioned in so many ways; it even sticks to the unities for heaven’s sake!  In this co-production with Black Swan State Theatre Company and QTC, director Kate Cherry casts well and delivers a finely-observed, well-orchestrated, conservative production true to the play’s aesthetic values. Continue reading “Review: Other Desert Cities – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse”

Review: The Glass Menagerie – La Boite Theatre Company at The Roundhouse

Image: Kathryn Marquet and Julian Curtis | Photography: Dylan Evans

We believe in theatre not just plays. (La Boite: About Us – programme THE GLASS MENAGERIE)

So it comes as no surprise that David Berthold‘s production of Tennessee Williams‘ classic play THE GLASS MENAGERIE (1944) is nothing if not theatrical. Perhaps only radio drama can do it better than the stage – you know, the old line about the pictures in radio being better – but this production takes Williams’ poetic play about memory, loss, and especially illusion and recontextualises it beautifully to give us a boldly fresh take on an old classic. Continue reading “Review: The Glass Menagerie – La Boite Theatre Company at The Roundhouse”

Asides: On Writers and Writing and Sanctuaries for Ideas

David Burton

When I was in year seven, I went to the Brisbane Writers Festival to meet John Marsden. I had never heard of a writers’ festival before, but I was instantly bewitched. It was its own perfect type of theatre. The bounds between audience and artist are a pre-packaged intimacy, having already spent hours together alone, with the writer whispering to the reader in their own private tongue. It’s a special, introverted community, a sanctuary for intellectualism and ideas.

As you may be able to tell, I was rather taken with it all.

Many years on, I’m working behind the scenes, as BWF’s Associate Producer. This means I’m part of the programming team, producing hundreds of events that happen in the hot spot (the 4th to the 8th of September), and all year round.

I’m one of dozens of cultural artists who are in a gap. My background is in playwrighting. I’ve grown up from ‘emerging’ and am some way from ‘full-time established’ and am in the ‘weird in-betweeny bit’ (some industry jargon for you there). Many artists venture into a programming or cultural producer role during this time. It’s rich with its own rewards. Continue reading “Asides: On Writers and Writing and Sanctuaries for Ideas”