Huff by Cliff Cardinal
Calendar, March 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Huff

Thursday 22- 24 March @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, written and performed by Cliff Cardinal and directed by Karin Randoja  ·

Nominated for Quebec’s 2016 Critic’s Awards, HUFF is the wrenching, yet darkly comic tale of Wind and his brothers, caught in torrent of solvent abuse and struggling to cope with the death of their mother. Wind’s fantastic dream world bleeds into his haunting reality, as he’s preyed on by the Trickster through the hallways at school, the abandoned motel he loves more than home, and his fragile psyche. With his signature biting humour and raw, vivid imagery, Cardinal expertly portrays over dozen characters in his captivating solo performance.

Winner of the 2015 RBC Tarragon emerging Playwright Prize; Winner of 2012 Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk & Innovation.

“Cardinal writes graphically yet with economy and haunting realism. the characters he creates he inhabits skillfully, moving from one to another with fluid clarity and lithe delineation.” Stage whispers

More info: OR
Email: [email protected]

Pictured top: A scene from Huff, taken at the 2017 Sydney Festival (photo by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival).

August 18, Calendar, Performing arts, September 18, Theatre

Theatre: Skylab


16 August – 2 September @ State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company ·

by Melodie Reynolds-Diarra
16 AUG to 02 SEP

The launch of a science laboratory into Earth’s outer orbit was hailed as a miracle of the modern age. But what was really going on up there? The nature of the experiments conducted was kept top secret…

It’s July 1979. NASA’s Skylab is hurtling towards Earth, about to crash land near Esperance in remote Western Australia. Nev, Jem and the kids have no idea that their world is about to change: reality shifts, conspiracy theories abound and a pink horse appears out of nowhere. The town’s white fellas start behaving strangely too, with apologies for taking black fellas’ land and handing over all money owed.
Dreamtime meets Monkey Magic in this fantastical comedy where things that were once considered impossible, become not only possible, but real.

Based on a true story – only the facts have been changed to protect the innocent!

For the first time, Black Swan is collaborating with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company to present this world premiere of a new Western Australian sci-fi comedy.

DIRECTOR Kyle J Morrison
WARNING Some strong language.

Originally developed by Ilbijerri’s Black Writers Lab; Moogahlin’s Yellamundie National First Peoples Playwriting Festival, Playwriting Australia’s National Play Festival with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company.
A Rio Tinto WA Stories Project.

Black Swan State Theatre Company and Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company present
SKYLAB by Melodie Reynolds-Diarra
DATES: 16 AUG – 02 SEP 2018
VENUE: Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
WARNING: Some strong language.

Prices: $35.00 to $55.00

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The Events
Calendar, July 18, June 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Events

21 June – 8 July @ State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by: Black Swan State Theatre Company ·

by David Greig
21 JUN to 08 JUL

The Events was the sleeper hit of the 2013 Edinburgh Festival and Clare Watson was instrumental in bringing this mesmerising theatre work to Australia in 2016, to direct its premiere for the Sydney Festival. After successful seasons in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, this acclaimed production is set to have its Perth premiere.

One of Australia’s most powerful actors, Catherine McClements (Water Rats, Rush), plays Claire, a vicar and leader of a community choir that regularly meet in a local town hall. When a young man enters the hall and opens fire, her beloved community – and the ideals that sustain it – is blown apart.

Set in the wake of the tragedy, a conversation unfolds between Claire and the young man. She is unpacking her rage, her fears and ultimately, her forgiveness. The young man is something else: the voice of the alienated, an enemy within and a lost generation. In an era of uncertainty and inexplicable events, questions are asked and resolutions sought. Could he have been stopped?

David Greig (Midsummer: A Play with Songs) has written a beautiful story of hope and healing. The Events will be performed with a different Perth community choir at each performance. It is an extraordinary blend of theatre and music.

“[the] community chorus—the ‘one big crazy tribe’— lifted the show…finding a beautiful harmony we so desperately need.” Daily Review

DIRECTOR Clare Watson
COMPOSER John Browne
CAST INCLUDES Johnny Carr, Catherine McClements, Perth community choirs
WARNING Adult themes, strong language.

A Belvoir, Malthouse and State Theatre Company of South Australia production, presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company

Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
THE EVENTS by David Greig
DATES: 21 JUN to 08 JUL 2018
VENUE: Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
WARNING: Adult themes, strong language.

Prices: $35.00 to $55.00

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Calendar, July 18, June 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Assassins

16 June – 1 July @ State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company ·

MUSIC & LYRICS BY Stephen Sondheim
BOOK BY John Weidman
ASSASSINS is based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr.

16 JUN to 01 JUL

Building on Black Swan’s success in presenting contemporary musical works (Next to Normal, Clinton: The Musical), comes the multiple Tony Award-winning theatrical tour-de-force, Assassins.

In a fairground, a rogue’s gallery of nine misfits gather. The Proprietor of the game entices them to play, promising that their problems will be solved by killing a President of the United States, with the song “Everybody’s Got the Right”. A revue-style portrayal follows the many and varied ways that each of the men and women have committed (or attempted to commit) the ultimate crime. It is a highly entertaining diorama of America’s cult of celebrity through the ages and the means that some have used to obtain it.

Sondheim (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd) is considered a ‘titan of musical theatre’. This work personifies his signature blend of intelligently stunning lyrics and beautiful music, embracing a range of American musical traditions from the 1860s to the 1980s, from marches to spirituals, to folk and rock. Bold, original and alarmingly funny, Assassins is a timely reminder that those in power ignore the marginalised in society at their peril.

“… begins with an invitation to “C’mon and shoot a president” and then goes considerably further.” New York Times

DIRECTOR Roger Hodgman
CAST INCLUDES Mackenzie Dunn, Brendan Hanson, Geoff Kelso
WARNING Adult themes, coarse language, simulated executions and gun violence.

Playwrights Horizons, Inc. – New York City produced ASSASSINS Off-Broadway in 1990. Licensed exclusively by Music Theatre International (Australasia). All performance materials supplied by Hal Leonard Australia.
Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
ASSASSINS Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim | Book by John Weidman
DATES: 16 JUN – 01 JUL 2018
VENUE: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
WARNING: Adult themes, coarse language, simulated executions and gun violence.

Prices: $35.00 to $88.00

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The Talk
April 18, Calendar, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Talk

11 – 21 April @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by The Last Great Hunt ·

More than just the birds and the bees.

Think back to when you had ‘The Talk’ (you’ve probably tried to forget it). Maybe your mother told you to “be careful”. Maybe your teacher told you to “abstain”. You felt prepared, right?

Eva is 15 and all she wants is answers. No more condom demonstrations or close-up slides of chlamydia. She needs honesty, and she’s not afraid to get it.

One petition, one riot and one school suspension later, Eva sets out on her own quest to discover just what it is that everyone is hiding.

Written by Gita Bezard (The Advisors, Girl Shut Your Mouth) this hilarious and pointed new show from The Last Great Hunt holds up the fears of the adults against the questions of the teenagers. This is: The Talk.

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Second Woman
News, Performance art, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Brave, intense, strange

Perth Festival review: The Second Woman by Nat Randall and Anna Breckon ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, 3 March ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

How many ways can you say the words: I love you?

In sarcasm; anger; desperation; with nonchalance; with love.

Nat Randall’s revelatory performance at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art was a study in the nuances of language and in epic theatre.  Randall began the show at 3pm on Saturday and performed the same, fairly short scene with 100 different men over a period of 24 hours.  24 hours!  Is she mad?  Maybe.  But wow, it was good.

The scene is inspired by a very similar one from the John Cassavete classic, Opening Night.  In her version, Randall is a woman alone in what appears to be a hotel room.  She is visited by a man (well, 100 men), her partner.  They exchange about ten minutes of sparse dialogue, parsing some of the details of their relationship.  They dance, they drink, the man leaves.  This short exchange was performed over and over and over, separated by intervals of ten minutes during which the packed audience could leave, chat, or stay.  Most chose to stay, many for an hour.  Some stoic souls stayed for the whole fraught adventure.

Randall is a Sydney-based performance artist and a core member of the collectives Hissy Fit and Team MESS.  She’s no stranger to Perth audiences, having performed most recently in last year’s Proximity Festival.  She performed The Second Woman in Hobart’s famed Dark Mofo last year and in the Next Wave Festival in 2016 for which the piece was created.

Randall is incredible to watch.  Taking her cues from each new sparring partner, she changes the tone of the same piece as easily as you or I might change underwear.  The first iteration I saw was bursting with humour – the audience breaking into laughs at every second line.  The second was heartfelt, intimate.  It felt like we shouldn’t be there, hanging on each word.  Another was a scene of fatigued sadness, of love gone old and stale.  In each scene of course, the dialogue was almost identical.  The dramatic tension of the work arises from the chemistry between the players, and the audience’s concern (or investment) in the welfare of Randall.  (When) will she falter?  When will she get to go the toilet?  Is she wearing special senior’s knickers?  (Answer: she has a 15 minute break every two hours)

The male players were chosen from a general call-out made through the Festival’s publicity channels.  They called for men of diverse ages and backgrounds with non-performers specifically encouraged to apply.  Of course, some of those who were featured were certainly actors, but many (most?) were not.  They were blokes who might otherwise be in the audience…in some cases wonderfully unwitting of the thrills of live performance.  In preparation, each was given a script with the barest of stage directions.  They knew where to move, what to say and do, but the open question was how.  And therein lies the power of the piece.  I love you.  I love youI love you.  It was genuinely surprisingly to see how ten minutes of dialogue could be interpreted in such radically different ways.  How a tone can change an outcome.

The set, designed by Future Method Studio is a thing of great beauty.  A boxed room, red and lushly lit with the fourth wall sheared off for our viewing pleasure.  It feels a little Lynchian, as does Randall in her red fitted frock and tragically blonde wig.  This room dominates only half the stage with the other half of PICA’s black box taken up with a large screen – each scene is filmed in real time by two camera operators who hover just outside the room.  Randall’s collaborator for this project is Anna Breckon, a film writer and director who is the co-creator of The Second Woman.  It’s Breckon directing the footage as it gets projected onto the adjacent screen, resulting in a very unusual cinematic experience that is almost as compelling as the live action happening next door.

Audience members came and went.  And the line to get in grew ever larger (though I’m betting there was no line at 3am).  I wanted to get in for a third viewing – but alas, by that time, word had well and truly spread and the line snaked outside PICA.  A small band of brave ones (mostly artists themselves as I understand it) stayed for the full experience.  I wish I had.

Brave, intense, strange.  These are a few of my favourite things.

Photo: Perth Festival

Drive smoke
Calendar, March 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Drive & Smoke

March 22, 23 and 24, 7pm @ Studio 411, Murdoch University ·
Presented by Hand in Hand Theatre Company ·

Opening Hand in Hand Theatre’s 2018 Season and performed as a double-bill, ‘DRIVE’ (Written and Directed by Clare Talbot) and ‘SMOKE’, (written and directed by Jordan Holloway), invites audiences to experience love, life and trauma as they tangle their way into the lives of these characters.

Promising to be both punchy and provocative, join us as we present these two original works for three nights only!

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Email: [email protected]

Banner design: Deirdre Khoo

The Far Side of the Moon_Cr. Toni Wilkinson, Perth Festival 2018_03
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

The far side of expectations

Perth Festival Review: The Far Side of the Moon, Robert Lepage ·
State Theatre Centre, 24 February ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

Occasionally you’ll see a performance that is so captivating, it changes the way you view almost everything in its wake.  When I saw Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the Perth Festival back in 1998, it was a transformative experience.  I’ve tried to describe that show to countless people since but because it’s a seven-hour theatrical experience, I always come off sounding insane.  Seven hours?!  On the strength of that show, I’ve always been keen to see everything Lepage has created since.  Which is why I was so excited to The Far Side of the Moon programmed as part of this year’s festival.  

Expectations huh?  I tried to rein them in, honest I did.

The Far Side of the Moon tells a story based loosely around humankind’s first exploration of the moon.  Lepage’s work usually incorporates major world events, cultural or geopolitical and then frames them within the microcosm of human experience. In Seven Streams it was Hiroshima; in Quills it was Napoleonic France; in The Dragon’s Trilogy it was the Chinese diaspora.  Lepage has enjoyed global acclaim for his work – his back-catalogue is littered with awards.  There are a couple of main reasons for this success – stagecraft and narrative drive.  Far Side has all the gorgeous stagecraft of any Lepage show, but it’s the narrative that meanders, resulting in a concept that seems to be searching for a story.

The show opens with a glaring bank of fluorescent lights, pointed at the audience.  The lights then rise and invert, revealing a panel of mirrors.  The show’s only actor, Yves Jacques, steps into view and explains the premise of the show.  Perhaps alarm bells should have sounded then – what show worth its narrative salt requires an explanatory prologue?  Jacques recedes and projected production credits replace him.  Lepage’s work is often filmic in quality – his other main medium is film.  Far Side was made into a film in 2003 and the Quebecois artist has either directed or acted in many others.  

Incorporating archival footage of the Soviet and American space landings, Far Side is part homage to Soviet space exploration (as a Quebecois Canadian, no love is lost for the victorious Americans here); part exploration of two brothers’ fractious relationship.  One is a flamboyant weatherman, the other a failing PhD student.  Their mother has just died and these two very different brothers need to come together to distribute her meagre last possessions.  The topic of the PhD student’s thesis is a Russian artist/cosmonaut – therein lies the loose narrative thread that binds the two parts of the story together.  But neither of these two disparate tales are fully told and their interweaving feels both awkward and strangely superficial. Unlike the other Lepage works I’ve seen, the emotional core of Far Side feels unrealised.  The weatherman brother verges on caricature, and the other, while a far more nuanced role, feels constrained by the script. We want to feel real grief with this character as he mourns his mother, but our attention is repeatedly diverted to the latest chapter of the space race.  

Better then, to focus on the spectacle.  The set is a chameleonic wonder, packed with sliding panels, light boxes, multi-media projections and hidden compartments.  Each new scene brings an ingenious re-imagining of each set piece – a circular port hole is re-assigned functions throughout, what was once a washing machine becomes a spacecraft becomes a fishbowl and so on.  It’s extraordinary.

In the end though, no amount of visual splendour can compensate for the lack of storyline punch.  Jaques, an accomplished and talented actor, does his level best to bring emotional resonance to the script, but it’s difficult to take the audience on a emotional journey when you keep being interrupted by bulletins from the final frontier.             

Pictured top: Yves Jacques in The Far Side of the Moon. Photo by Toni Wilkinson.

Lucy Peach
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

In praise of Peach

Fringe World review: Lucy Peach: My Greatest Period Ever – 13 February; How to Period Like a Unicorn – 22 February ·
De Parel Spiegeltent ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Self-identified ‘Period Preacher’ Lucy Peach welcomes us to her womb in My Greatest Period Ever and the all-ages spinoff How to Period Like a Unicorn.

Concerned with the conventional focus on the crap parts of periods, Peach has decided to ‘life-hack’ menstruation by rebranding the four stages of the menstrual cycle. Part folk pop performance, part Sex Ed TED talk, Peach’s shows propose that the hormonal changes of menstruation can be embraced and utilised productively.

In a laid-back lesson punctuated with heartfelt pop songs and casual banter, Peach advocates for menstruators to embrace this concept of a cyclical rather than linear lifestyle – in which the dreaded PMS can instead be re-conceptualised as your ‘creative phase’.

With a background in sexual health education and an amazing voice, Peach is well qualified to talk (and sing) on the topic, as she performs against a backdrop of live digital drawings performed by the ‘hardest working period illustrator around’, her husband Richard Berney.

Both her shows provide mindful and inspiring advice to help us understand, plan around, and love the menstrual cycle. Peach charmingly celebrates the stages of menstruation with audience volunteers throughout the shows, invoking a sense of menstrual community within the spiegeltent. How to Period Like a Unicorn offers the same fundamental content as the award-winning My Greatest Period Ever, albeit tailored to a younger crowd (there’s no swearing, but strangely also no mention of unicorns).

Whether you buy into Peach’s themed phases or not, the underlying message is still important; that we should pay attention to our bodies, accept them, and give them what they need. As long as menstruation remains such a taboo topic in the mainstream (as seen earlier this year when Facebook deemed Peach’s Fringe advertising ‘non-compliant’), opening up about the subject will remain a radical act.

Delightfully informative and empowering, Lucy Peach’s period performances make for inspiring viewing for previous, current and future menstruators (and their allies).

‘How to Period Like a Unicorn’ runs until 25 February 2018.

Pictured top: Rebranding the menstrual cycle: Lucy Peach in ‘How to Period Like a Unicorn’.

Madame Nightshade's Poison Garden
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Garden of satirical delights

Fringe World review: Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden, created and performed by Anna Thomson, directed by Sarah Ward ·
The Studio at the Blue Room Theatre, February 22 ·
Review: Suzanne Ingelbrecht ·

This is such a clever multi-layered show. Its creator/solo performer, Anna Thomson, emerges fully formed as a Biggles hybrid from the cocoon of a black plastic bag. She’s oh-so-happy to be in a lovely garden but annoyed at that pesky fly buzzing around her face, moving swiftly to despatch it to fly heaven. After all, there are so many more wonders to enjoy in this Garden of Eden: a beautiful white dress, pretty shoes, a pink beehive wig – what more could a gal want? But to dress up and become Snow White, of course, who joyfully sings along with the animals, only to kick ass the birds, even a horse, to kingdom come. What’s a gal to do except feel happy, when nature succumbs to her every destructive whim?

As audience we’re in on the laughs but some of us can decipher the deeper significance of Thomson’s sleight of hand here. Gender fluidity, the beauty industry, warfare, consumerism and mountains of plastic. They’re all up for Thomson’s particular brand of performance intelligence.

Before I came into the Blue Room Studio space, I’d been listening to radio reports of Australian tourists complaining about the pervasive and disgusting sight of garbage on Bali beaches, completely unreflecting on their own parts as players, on all of us as the problem. We create and use the plastic that’s destroying the ‘good woman’, our mother, our Earth. Thomson the clown showed the plastic in all its myriad guises – even as plastic ball (‘drop it and you’re fucked’). When she demonically pierced it, the ball became yet another plastic bag to be dumped with her Twisties bags and Mars bar packets all over the beautiful pristine beach.

Drop it and we’re all fucked…

Thomson is beguiling and sharp as a pin. Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden is wonderful satire for those who get the point that we are all trashing our planet in our own shit just as quickly as ever we can.

‘Madame Nighshade’s Poison Garden’ plays until February 24.

Top: Thomson is beguiling and sharp as a pin. Photo: Ranson Media.

Madame Nightshade's Poison Garden
What’s a gal to do except feel happy, when nature succumbs to her every destructive whim?Photo: Ranson Media