Calendar, Literature, October 18

Literature: Lit Live with Sarah McNeill

20 October, 7:00pm-8:30pm @ Centre for Stories ·
Presented by Australian Short Story Festival ·

Join actor Sarah McNeill as she hosts the event where professional actors read a collection of short stories. This lively show will blow you away!

Spaces are limited so be sure to secure your spot!

This is an all ages event.

Book your ticket online: https://australianshortstoryfestival.oztix.com.au/

More info
W: australianshortstoryfestival.com
E: logan@australianshortstoryfestival.com

News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Perfectly pitched

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre: The Night Zoo ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 22 September ·
Review by Rosalind Appleby ·

High in an apartment block a lonely girl sits gazing at the stars. On the streets below traffic buzzes by and a stray dog wanders past.

The opening scene of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s latest children’s show is constructed from bits of wood, foam and fabric, and the cars are being pushed along by two actors. But the emotions are genuine and so is the response from the audience (mostly children under eight) who interject and laugh uproariously throughout the 60 minute show.

The Night Zoo is written and directed by Michael Barlow and follows the journey of Jamie, who isn’t allowed a pet in her apartment and instead dreams about making friends with zoo animals. It’s a more light-hearted production than last season’s The Farmer’s Daughter, chock-full of colourful puppets and snappy banter, perfectly pitched for kids.

Jamie’s visit to the zoo provides opportunity for plenty of creativity. Puppet-maker Iona McAuley’s work has stood the test of time (the show premiered back in 2009 and this is its fifth revival) and her collection of animals are wonderfully characterised by Lee Buddle’s pre-recorded Dixieland jazz score. A slinky, muted trumpet solo accompanies the thorny devils, a honking baritone saxophone heralds the waddling penguin and the shaggy orangutan struts around to four-bar blues.

A elephant puppet strutting the stage
The elephant required the puppeteer to wear a huge head and ears, operate the trunk with a pulley and stomp around in two enormous boots

The entire show – animals, narrators, Jamie’s character, set changes – was performed by the remarkably versatile Kylie Bywaters and Isaac Diamond, whose playful antics kept the audience enthralled.

Bywaters and Diamond transitioned smoothly from commentators to puppeteers and their dexterity made the animals seem so much more than just a mask or a toy on a pole. The elephant required the puppeteer to wear a huge head and ears, operate the trunk with a pulley and stomp around in two enormous boots. The elephant poo was the finishing touch, two hessian lumps deposited inelegantly as the elephant exited the stage. The children in the audience couldn’t be more delighted as the two narrators poked and tossed the lumps with great histrionics.

My children declared the dog to be their favourite. His mournful eyes and joyfully quivering tail stole their heart and Jamie’s when he bounded across the stage on the end of two sticks. We were all delighted when Jamie was allowed to take him home. It was a predictable ending but the beauty of this show is its touching simplicity and playful ingenuity. It’s a magic formula that could well inspire a holiday of dress-ups and box-collage splendour.

The Night Zoo  is 10am and 1pm daily until 6th October. Recommended for ages 5+ but 3+ would also enjoy this show.

Read a review of this show by one of Seesaw’s junior critics, Isabel (age 8), here.

Pictured top: Isaac Diamond and Kylie Bywaters transition smoothly from commentators to puppeteers.

A man reclining and blowing confetti
Cabaret, News, Performing arts, Reviews

As good as it gets

Review: John O’Hara accompanied by Andrew Kroenert, #Val: A Glitery Ode to Queer Men and their Mums ·
Downstairs at the Maj, 13 September ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

John O’Hara. What a guy!

Raised on the Canning Highway Avenue of the Stars (Dave Faulkner at the Manning end, Dave Warner at the Bicton end), O’Hara schooled at Melville Primary and John Curtin College of the Arts, studied at WAAPA and has gone on to star on stage (Cats, Rocky Horror, Wicked, Priscilla) and cabaret, all over the place.

He’s back home, in more ways than one, with #Val: A Glittery Ode to Queer Men and their Mums, the story of his growing up, his coming out and the songs that helped him do both.

Those who’ve seen him on the Maj’s basement stage before, in Dedications (2015) or last year’s A Very Merry Christmas (there were plenty of comebackers in the audience – always a good sign) would have known they were in for a fine time in the company of a dead snappy performer.

I think they’d have also known they were in for more than that – because O’Hara’s cabarets are rare commodity in that glittery world. They are about things.

A fair swag of the songs of #Val are, in a sense, predictable. Gaga’s “Born This Way”, Scissor Sisters’ “Let’s have a Kiki”, an all-time gay anthemfest (“I Will Survive”, “Raining Men”, “Vogue”, “Dance With Somebody”…), George Michael’s “Freedom”, even the Barbie theme song, “Get Your Sparkle On” (we did).

But it’s the songs we don’t expect, and the way he gets inside them that we’ve never heard before, that makes O’Hara such a compelling performer. Who’s gunna to do the little tearjerker “Baby of Mine” from Disney’s Dumbo, Cher’s gun-totin’ “Turn Back Time”, or, of all things, Farnsy’s “You’re the Voice”?

But he does, and owns them all big time.

And when everything he’s trying to do and say comes completely together (much credit due here to his accompanist – well they’re a duo, really, Andrew Kroenert), in heartbreaking, revelatory versions of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and Sia’s “Titanium”, it’s like you’ve never really known what they’re about until now.

That’s the strength, but also the one weakness, of #Val. The story of a gay boy growing up and into is skin, his relationships (with his fabulous mother, of course, his straight brother, his absent father) is funny, sweet and makes all the points it needs to.

The extrapolation into the history of the LGBTIQ struggle way back to the Stonewall Uprising and the death of Marsha P Jackson is understandable and legitimate, but it confuses O’Hara’s narrative and dangles him on the crumbly edge of polemic.

But what the hey. That’s just me. John O’Hara, “Australia’s John O’Hara”, gives as good an hour as you’ll get to spend on this side of the footlights.

Pictured top: John O’Hara.

An elephant puppet and a girl puppet being operated by a person.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A magical menagerie

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, The Night Zoo ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 19 September ·
Review by Isabel Greentree, age 8 ·

The show was called The Night Zoo by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, directed by Michael Barlow. It was about a girl called Jamie who desperately wanted a pet as a friend but she lived in a busy city in a tall apartment block. Her dreams bring her to the zoo where she meets all sorts of friendly animals.

All sorts of friendly animals: Jamie and the orangutan.

There were meerkats, water birds, thorny devil lizards, a giraffe, an emperor penguin, an orangutan and an elephant. At first the animals completely ignore her, but later the animals come back and try to play with her. When they come back, the emperor penguin does some ridiculous dance moves with his flippers to try and wake Jamie up. When Jamie finally wakes up at the park, the animals each give her a ride or they dance with her.

At the start, the performers (Kylie Bywaters and Isaac Diamond) goofed around on the stage and teased each other. The puppets were amazing and funny. The performers moved with the puppets and they made them look so realistic. I loved how the setting always changed and the building could swing around and become a tree. The animations projected at the top of the stage showed the animals going through the trees after they had walked off the stage.

The music was very entertaining and quite loud. It made me feel like dancing with the animals too.

It was hard to choose my favourite part of the play because it was all so good. Some of the best bits were the meerkats fighting over a treat, the water bird showing off, the penguin trying to wake Jamie, the graceful giraffe, the goofy orangutan and the ginormous elephant. In the end, Jamie finds a true friend to stay with her.

This was a spectacular play which all children will enjoy. Go and see it while you can!

The Night Zoo plays Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle until October 6.

Pictured top: Jamie (operated by performer Kylie Bywaters) and the ginormous elephant (Isaac Diamond) in “The Night Zoo”. Below: The goofy orangutan.

A dancing gorilla puppet

Painting by Jo Darbyshire in deep purples, reds and blues
News, Reviews, Visual arts

A moving reflection

Review: Various artists, “NO SECOND THOUGHTS: Reflections on the ARTEMIS Women’s Art Forum” ·
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

“NO SECOND THOUGHTS: Reflections on the ARTEMIS Women’s Art Forum” is a reminder of where we came from. ARTEMIS Women’s Art Forum was formed in 1985 in Perth, and aimed to advocate for women in the arts, through education, free childcare, workshops, meetings and forums, as well as an exhibition space in the Perth Cultural Centre. In this exhibition at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, artworks (both old and recent) and archival materials from the group and its members are juxtaposed alongside the works of younger Perth artists, whose work engages and responds broadly to feminism, gender, labour and the ongoing project of creating meaningful institutional change.

It’s an exciting project, and as I wandered through the two galleries I felt quite emotional. So much of the work that we do as feminists, as artists and arts workers, can feel like an endless act of digging, of turning the earth over and finding meaning that has already been sowed years previously, rehashing the old and learning what has already been learned. It’s a double-edged sword; knowing that there are people who have done the work before you can be comforting at times, but at other times it can be wearying to know that the work continues on regardless.

Detail of wall hanging by Teelah George
Luminously glowing: detail from Teelah George’s ‘Wall Piece’.

The exhibition’s work of intergenerational exchange, however, provides sparks of hope, recognition and comfort. And it is work, as questions of invisible labour, institutional oppression and organisational structures loom large throughout the exhibition. Teelah George’s Wall Piece (2017-18) hangs prominently in the Westpac Gallery, luminously glowing. The weight of the material hangs heavy with the knowledge of the time taken for the artist to make the work – 7.5 hours a day for several months – and it is a reminder of the kind of invisible, unpaid domestic labour that women have been doing for centuries without acknowledgment. Similarly, Taylor Reudavey’s work is presented here as documentation of a performance in which she marries her own art practice, complete with white dress and wedding ring. It’s a humorous yet pointed act of recognising the ways in which labour such as art-making is undervalued and misrepresented as romantic whimsy.

The work of these younger, emerging artists sits alongside old, as well as more recent, work by original members of ARTEMIS, Penny Bovell and Jo Darbyshire. The inclusion of both newer and older works by these artists provides the opportunity to see how their work has changed over the years, whilst also cleverly resisting any kind of lazy historicisation that places their practices in the “past” (as older women and established artists), compared to the “present” works of younger artists Reudavey and George. In this way, the timelines overlap, forming not one straight line of progression, but a convergence of works that are ongoing.

This feeling continues into the Sheila Cruthers Gallery, which displays archival documents from the State Library archives – meeting minutes, exhibition catalogues, artworks, newspaper articles, drafted conflict resolution policies in colourful texta. Whilst obviously historical, again the texts and images still seem relevant and urgent. ARTEMIS Women’s Forum is, of course, only one aspect of this cause, and the discussions occurring today have evolved, expanded, shifted into different specificities. Nonetheless, collaboration, how best to communicate and resolve disputes, how to gain recognition for your work, and how to overcome structural barriers to equal representation – these are the fights that are still ongoing.

“NO SECOND THOUGHTS: Reflections on the ARTEMIS Women’s Art Forum” is at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery until December 8.

Pictured top: Detail from “The Glorious Decline” by Jo Darbyshire.

A painting by Julie Dowling of two women wearing yellow aprons over red t-shirts. Both wear glasses.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

Disrupting Duchamp

Review: Various artists, “HERE&NOW18” ·
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

“HERE&NOW: Besides, it is always the others who die” responds to the legacy of Marcel Duchamp on the 50th anniversary of both the artist’s death and the exhibition “Duchamp: the Mary Sisler Collection”, which toured Australia, including the Art Gallery of Western Australia. The WA artists featured in “HERE&NOW” showcase newly commissioned works, all of which engage with Duchamp’s complicated legacy, whether it be to sustain, complicate or disrupt.

Deftly and unexpectedly combining works by WA artists Julie Dowling, Carly Lynch, Peter & Molly (Peter Cheng and Molly Biddle), Perdita Phillips, Bjoern Rainer-Adamson, and Alex Spremberg, curator Anna Louise Richardson invites these artists to toy with the archival remains of Duchamp’s Australian exhibition, as well as his unavoidable influence on contemporary art into the present.

Responding to Duchamp’s presence (and absence), Phillips and Rainer-Adamson’s work sits in glass cases opposite the archives, with three works that play with questions of trickery, information retention, codes and secrecy. Clues and explanations for artworks sit inside sealed containers next to those same artworks, and special editions of the show catalogue are tucked away inside glass. In these cabinets, deflections abound.

Work by Carly Lynch. An armchair is surrounded by strips of torn cloth.
Carly Lynch strips and redresses a French armchair to consider representations of bodies that are fluid, material and malleable.

The idea of bodies runs throughout the exhibition as a thread tying many of the works together. In particular, the female body, used as provocation and appropriation by Duchamp in many of his works, is reclaimed and interrogated – a digital model of a clitoris is present in the pages of the catalogue, and Carly Lynch strips and redresses a French armchair to consider representations of bodies that are fluid, material and malleable, rather than encased in glass and stripped of agency. In her work, Lynch imagines a different kind of stripping as her fabric takes its own shapes on the wall, sometimes an image of a restrictive corset, but also resembling seaweed or other watery flotsam, unruly fabric oozing from the wall, refusing to be contained in utilitarian shapes. More broadly, Phillips’s installation Between a shipwreck and an anthill (2018) is itself a body of readymades and archival material, subverting Duchamp’s masculinist attitude towards survival in hostile environments. Rather than “every man for himself”, the work hinges on ideas of relationality and collective memory.

Peter & Molly’s work uses Duchampian readymades to interrogate the shame around bodies that are also coded as non-normative, or not conforming to the gender binary, nodding to the famous Fountain (1917) work as a symbol of male aggression in one sense (because men can piss anywhere without shame) whilst simultaneously questioning the binary logic of the urinal/uterus shapes contained within Fountain. This theme of non-normative, othered bodies and subject positions resonates through Julie Dowling’s portrait, her luminous twinned selves reflecting the multiple subject positions and code-switching required to walk through white colonialist worlds as an Indigenous woman.

Ultimately, the exhibition touches on aspects of Duchamp’s work whilst considering the multiple subject positions and environments the artists occupy in their own specific histories and experiences. Like Duchamp, the exhibition is not afraid to be cerebral, but it’s also not afraid to be critical; to complicate, disrupt and interrogate systems of power within and outside the art world.

“HERE&NOW” is at Lawrence Wilson Gallery until December 8.

Pictured top: Detail from Julie Dowling’s “Self Portrait, Code Switch Miribaya (Changing Skin)”.

tennis court with three "players"
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Game, set and match

Review: Fugue, Court My Crotch ·
Blue Room Theatre ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The young – and I suspect fast rising – writer and director James McMillan’s Court My Crotch is wild, savage, and will take some beating as the most memorable production of the Blue Room’s 2018 seasons.

The court of the title is of the tennis variety, the crotches are unambiguous, and the action, appropriately enough, is staged inside a green-floored, marked-up chain-link box. (Sadly, no set designer is credited, but its impressive construction was undertaken by the well-known dinosaur actor and T-shirt deviser Paul Grabovac.)

The action is as fast, furious, sweaty and grunty as any Grand Slam final, and what emerges from it is a wide-ranging look at sport, society and sexuality of surprising accuracy and topicality.

Woman striking a pose in white top and wide legged pants, on a tennis court
Morgan Owen is outstandingly arch… and she can hold a tune. Photo: Marshall Stay.

There’s lots of reasons why Court My Crotch might fail; it’s quite long (at 85 minutes, with no interval, it’s a marathon by Blue Room standards) and looks and plays like a skit, so the danger of it running out of narrative puff is very real.

But, while it’s fair to say that it doesn’t all work (how could it?), the show moves so fast and so far that its flaws are trampled underfoot.

Part of its charm is that, for all its Twenty-Teens gloss, Court My Crotch often feels surprisingly old-fashioned, very like a 1970’s uni revue in its uninhibited energy and earnest allegorism. Not, I hasten to add, that there’s anything wrong with that.

There’s great strength in its staging. McMillan does a fine job keeping its pace and intensity in lockstep with the narrative, and George Ashforth’s lighting and, especially, Alex + Yell’s (Aleksandra and Jelena Rnjak’s) sound design is high impact and high quality.

It’s a great platform for the cast, and they are outstanding. David Mitchell (not the David Mitchell) is lithe, athletic and distinct as the sportsman in this battle of sex and love.

His lover and opponent, the drag queen Ash Straylia, is a powerful presence, whether she is upbraiding audience members (including a suitable chastened reviewer) or showing off her moves and moods.

Mitchell and Straylia work impeccably together and against each other, verbally and physically (much credit to “Assistant” Movement Director Nicole Harvey).

Between them, on the umpire’s chair, Morgan Owen is outstandingly arch, cajoling her players and delivering judgement on their performance. Owen is blessed with a geometric mouth she can shape into rectangles, oblongs and circles and a voice to match. She’s hard to ignore, and a lot of laughs

She can also hold a tune. Her take on Patti Smith’s magnum opus “Birdland” (abridged but, happily, not truncated) stops this runaway train of a show dead in its tracks for a good six minutes.

And that’s an impressive achievement, in a production that has many of them.

Court my Crotch plays the Blue Room Theatre until October 6.

Pictured top: David Mitchell, Ash Straylia and Morgan Owen, the outstanding cast of “Court my Crotch”. Photo: Marshall Stay.

Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

From the intimate to the comic

MoveMe Festival review: The Farm, Cockfight; Kynan Hughes, Love/Less & STRUT Dance, “Next” ·
State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

The theme of toxic masculinity is getting a lot of (long overdue) play in the Australian cultural landscape of late. With the possible exception of those packs of lycra-clad bicycling dudes, nowhere is this societal trope more evident than in the corporate workspace. It’s this setting that Queensland dance theatre ensemble The Farm has selected for their new work, the aptly named Cockfight. But if you’re worried about being bludgeoned by some unsubtle political posturing, fear not! Cockfight is 90 minutes of hilarious absurdity, wrapped in dance. I have not heard a dance audience laugh this long or this hard in a very long time.

The work opens with a deskbound Gavin Webber, playing with those corporate fidget toys – you know, the prototypes of the ones we now give to kids with ADHD? He’s nervously awaiting the arrival of young upstart, Joshua Thomson. Thomson is the new guard, the successor of the empire Webber built and Webber is none too keen on giving up the swivel chair. What ensues is an epic battle of the male ego – youth vs age; strength vs wit; innovation vs experience. Utilising all the accoutrements of your bog standard office, Webber attempts to intimidate and overshadow his nemesis. Filing cabinets are ravaged, chairs are thrown, desks are repurposed as dancing platforms. There are reams of paper, flung aloft or folded deftly into airborne missiles – one particularly memorable scene sees Thomson catch such a missile neatly in his mouth. Webber congratulates him with that most masculine of accolades – the hearty handshake, which steadily metamorphosises into a full-body, limb-swinging assault.

In another phrase, Thomson finds himself atop the filing cabinet. The next thing we know the two men are whooping around the office, knuckles dragging, chests beating. For a dance work tackling male ego and power, this is perhaps an obvious choice, but the beauty is – I never saw it coming. In a similar twist, the chairs the men are fighting with become antlers as the two bucks battle it out. Again, not surprising but somehow gleefully unanticipated.

It’s impossible to stop watching the charismatic Webber. Now silver-haired, he still has the grace of someone half his age and watchability that must be the envy of any dancer in the country. Thomson is a wonderful foil and with his (dare I say it?) youthful vigour, the better dancer. Together, whether they’re discussing the migration patterns of the Sooty Shearwater or hurling each other through the air, their chemistry bristles.

This is slapstick on the desktop. The gags – and the laughs – are relentless. By the time it was over, it was almost unclear what we had witnessed – was it dance, theatre or comedy? No matter – whatever it was, it was marvellous.

A male dancer holding a female dancer by her arm and leg
Ambitiously physical: Marlo Benjamin & Alexander Perrozzi in Kynan Hughes’s ‘Love/Less’. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Independent local choreographer Kynan Hughes and that invaluable hub of contemporary dance in WA – STRUT dance – have produced a showcase of fine offerings as part of the MoveMe Festival. The program includes a full-length piece, produced and choreographed by Hughes, alongside two short works presented by STRUT (performed on alternate nights) – #thatwomanjulia by Natalie Allen and Sally Richardson and the one I saw, Blushed by Yilin Kong. The latter is an unashamedly sensual exploration of femininity performed by Kong in three sections. Kong’s movement is exquisite and the 20-minute work, while erring on the side of repetitive, is beautiful to watch.

Love/Less is the second full-length work from local choreographer Kynan Hughes. While the first, 2017’s Valentine, received mixed reviews, this new offering demonstrates that Hughes is coming into his own.

Inspired by the death of Hughes’ father, Love/Less has actually been in development for five years. In the program notes, the choreography is credited as a joint effort between Hughes and his dancers – Rachel Arianne Ogle, Marlo Benjamin and Alexander Perrozzi. It’s an ambitiously physical work, demanding great athleticism of the performers, all of whom rise admirably to the task. While there is not a strong narrative thread, the work’s movement and its flawless execution by the dancers easily holds the audience’s interest. Ogle is always extraordinary to watch and she is in peak form here. I’m sure she doesn’t mean to do it, but her onstage magnetism is so strong at times it tends to overshadow anyone performing alongside her. That was not the case on this occasion – when Benjamin (who I had not had the pleasure of seeing before) started in on her solo, I was gobsmacked. Like some sort of hypermobile elf, Benjamin’s control of her vessel is so impressive, her economy of movement so incredible, I could have watched her all day.

Aided by an evocative soundtrack by Sascha Budimski and gorgeous lighting from Joe Lui, Love/Less is a truly remarkable feat of dance. Dance for dance’s sake, if you will.

You can catch both these programs at the State Theatre Centre of WA until September 22. 

Pictured top: Hilarious absurdity, wrapped in dance: Gavin Webber and Joshua Thomson in ‘Cockfight’. Photo: Darcy Grant.

a girl in a crouched, swirling position
Rachel Arianne Ogle is extraordinary to watch. Photo: Emma Fishwick.
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A tender dance

Review: Anything is Valid Dance Theatre, Dust on the Shortbread ·
MoveMe Festival, 14 September ·
Review by Jo Pollitt ·

Created by Serena Chalker and Quindell Orton of Anything is Valid Dance Theatre (AIVDT), Dust on the Shortbread is a work brought alive by two of Australia’s most vital, articulate and embodied performers, George Shevtsov and Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM. With meticulously detailed and beautifully understated direction by Chalker and Orton, their performances were equally robust and vulnerable, subtle and unbridled.

An elderly woman shouting over afternoon tea
The pace, rhythm and energy rises together in unison, or perhaps collision. Elizabeth Cameron Dalman in ‘Dust of the Shortbread’.

As a small group (audiences are limited to 15 per show) we gather on the front porch of an old North Perth home before being invited in to hang up our coats as we walk through the hall to the living room. Beautifully lit with a soft glow from multiple domestic ports, the elderly duo move purposefully through the house in separate journeys, clearly at home in the shared space.

Surpassing cliché, the complexity of dementia is foregrounded through weaving disparate stories, the responsive liveness of the performers, the intimacy of familial dynamic and the dense layering of sound. At times, recorded voices take over from the live, creating a sense of worlds within worlds to accentuate the interior monologue in a sensorial soundscape by Tristan Parr. These overlapping worlds conjure concepts of memory and forgetting, the ease and still surprise of long time love, and the curious absorption of time over years and even seconds.

The couple remain completely contained in character while being unsurprised to see strangers in their living room, at one point whispering conspiratorially with an audience member; at another, completely unaware of our presence – eerily fitting of the ways in which dementia presents to loved ones. The reliving and retelling of lived experience arose differently with each glance, each exchange of weight, each fumble, each turn of the tablecloth and pouring of tea.

They tell dual stories in a single shared conversation, the climax of each finale arriving in shared hilarity, different worlds. The pace, rhythm and energy rises together in unison, or perhaps collision. At one point in the repeated cycle, Shevtsov selects the teaspoons, this time to let them clatter on the reverberating floor in echoes of a lifetime of spoons. The incongruity of his slow demise amid evidence of his sharp wit and childish rock star charm is desperately sad.

An elderly man, dancing
The incongruity of his slow demise amid evidence of his sharp wit and childish rock star charm is desperately sad. George Shevstov in ‘Dust on the Shortbread’.

A stunning duet at the far end of the hallway saw the audience move to glimpse a private vignette and tender dance. A solo from Shevtsov breathes into a story of childhood bonfires, told with increasing urgency as he upturns the furniture with long and determined arms. She tunes the radio, he ignites the record player. Both return to the beginning of the work again amid a status quo of strange transience. Without fanfare the front door is opened and we reluctantly leave the couple in their continuing journey. Their presence is difficult to leave. We convene on the porch again, the quality of the gathering deepened and alive.

This is a quiet work that makes visible the unseen in tableaus of lucid sadness and sophisticated joy. Get a ticket if you can.

Dust on the Shortbread plays until September 22.

Read more about AIVDT.

September is Dementia Awareness Month. The National Dementia Helpline is 1800100500. Alzheimer’s WA is 1300667788.

Pictured top: A tender dance: George Shevtsov and Elizabeth Cameron Dalman in ‘Dust on the Shortbread’.

A man and a woman with a microphone
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A dynamic showcase

Review: Co3 Australia, ‘The WA Dance Makers Project’ ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 13 September ·
Review by Jo Pickup ·

Co3 Australia’s “WA Dance Makers Project” opened the 2018 MoveMe Festival of contemporary dance with a triple bill of new works. As the name suggests, the season has been specially designed to showcase the choreographic talent here in Western Australia – and with the wealth of dance talent on offer in this state, one might imagine curating such a season to be an unenviable task.

Co3 Artistic Director Raewyn Hill relished the opportunity, however, describing her curatorial choices as a chance to bring together “unique and dynamic women” to “celebrate a powerhouse of WA female choreographic talent.” From the creepy to the comedic, her favoured works presented a diverse array of contemporary dance, providing a powerhouse experience for viewers.

The curtain-raiser was a piece by celebrated contemporary dancer Richard Cilli who, though WA-born-and-trained, was obviously an exception to Hill’s female-focused vision for the season. For his “WA Dance Makers” piece, entitled This Is Now, he worked with dancers from WAAPA’s student company, LINK.

From this work’s beginning, the audience is drawn into a dark environment pulsing with fiery heat. Fourteen dancers appear out of the dim, dressed in red and black, to take their place on stage armed with determined, steely glares.

It is, therefore, an interesting twist to see them erupt into a strange melodic word-song – repeating the word “pom” at various pitches and intervals, creating a whimsical barbershop choir. This bouncing melody segues into equally unexpected movement sequences; the dancers are revealed to be sassy, pom-pom toting cheerleaders.

Yet this is no ordinary half-time fan-squad display. This team of high-kickers stabs and thrusts its red accoutrements into the air with a gusto that borders on maniacal. There is certainly a dark underbelly to the group’s glossy, swishing veneer.

Highlights of this work were the quintessential team-USA style routines, replete with disciplined formations and breakaways, performed by the LINKers with a nice mix of splendour and spirit.

A man embracing a woman from behind
The air is filled with a spooky, unnerving tension: David Mack and Tanya Brown in Chrissie Parrott’s ‘In-Lore Act II’. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

After a short blackout, it was time to see veteran WA choreographer Chrissie Parrott’s latest creation – In-Lore Act II, another work with a strangely dark atmosphere.

As the stage lights go up, we see a small “family” of characters clad in dusty, old-fashioned Scottish garb, sitting around a large wooden dining table. Their house is stuffy (perhaps haunted?) and the air is filled with a spooky, unnerving tension.

The opening solo (danced by Tanya Brown) presents a tortured spirit-figure in a cream silk-satin nightdress. Under the spotlight, her moves are a mix of the beastly and the beautiful. Flinching and flowing, she appears to be suffering under the weight of something colossal, as if there is something terrible repressed deep inside her.

The piece continues in this eerie vein as six dancers (Ella-Rose Trew, Andrew Searle, Katherine Gurr, Zoe Wozniak, Tanya Brown and David Mack), play out narratives of various strained relationships (between family? lovers? It’s never quite clear). The soundscape, composed by Eden Mulholland, is full of shrill cello strings countered by low- electronic rumblings. These sounds coat the auditorium in a mist of music reminiscent of Wuthering Heights.

Overall, this piece is a rather slow-moving mystery, peppered with occasional thrilling moments when dancers are grouped in trios or duets that allow them to wholeheartedly embrace their characters within the overarching old-lore tale. In this regard, Zoe Wozniak was a stand-out on the night.

The final work, performed after the show’s short interval, was You Do Ewe by Unkempt Dance, a crowd favourite that was a much-needed emotional upswing after the intensity of the first half.

Unkempt Dance is a collective of three female WA choreographers: Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis and Amy Wiseman, and their combined forces consistently produce dance theatre work that is witty, cheerful, and so damn clever! In You Do Ewe they take the audience on a hilarious romp through their Co3 cast members’ inner-psyches, using a single microphone; a series of playful puns, and a bunch of sheeny-shiny acrylic wigs.

The performances by cast members Ella-Rose Trew, Andrew Searle, Katherine Gurr, Zoe Wozniak, Tanya Brown and Mitch Harvey were a delight. Each performer brought a unique flavour to their various roles – which swung from playing effusive, overblown game-show hosts, to being raw, vulnerable versions of themselves.

All in all, it’s a work that proved highly entertaining and wonderfully thought-provoking.

So here’s to more opportunities to showcase the work of WA dance makers in future. This “WA Dance Makers” triple bill was a reminder that our state’s dance artists have so many dynamic ideas to share, not just at MoveMe festival time, but all year round.

“WA Dance Makers Project” closes September 16. The MoveMe Festival continues until September 22.

Pictured top are Andrew Searle and Zoe Wozniak in “You do Ewe” by Unkempt Dance. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.