When he gets that way
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A restrained battle of wit

Review: Susie Conte, When He Gets That Way ·
Subiaco Arts Cenre, 15 June ·
Review by Claire Trolio ·

Directed by Susie Conte, When He Gets That Way is one of seven performances by Western Australian theatre makers being presented this month as part of the Subiaco Theatre Festival. An unspecified period drama, the play pits a Downton Abbey-style upper-class mistress against her new handmaiden; the pair cleverly competing in a restrained battle of wit.

Lady Annabelle desperately seeks a life beyond her vacuous existence, craving a tryst and striving for the romantic connection that is alive in her mind. Socially upward scullery-turned-handmaid Christiane (whose peasant upbringing “wasn’t all peaches and creme”, she’ll have you know) seeks to move above mediocrity and has the charm to do so.

The dialogue between the two characters is packed with simile that gets increasingly preposterous (and hilarious) as the show unfolds. Using their diaries as weapons, the two women set creative entries against one another in an absurdist comedy where each yearns to be relevant in a society that doesn’t offer much agency to women of either class.

A private diary has long been a place where women are allowed to be themselves, to exercise freedom and voice desires, and the characters in When He Gets That Way use this tool to break free of patriarchal constraints, if only for a little while.

Both actors give fantastic performances. Lady Annabelle (director Lisa Louttit) embodies the excess that her upper class character oozes. Appearing with a comically oversized skirt, complete with tulle tendrils, Louttit’s shrill character teeters on the edge of overplay, but her experience on the stage shines through; she doles out as much ridiculousness as can be handled in a 75 minute show and no more.

WAAPA Music Theatre graduate Tarryn Ryan, playing Christiane, is a revelation. She allows her character to feign innocence and servitude whilst cleverly manipulating dialogue to convince the audience that there is more to this peasant girl than meets the eye.

While the sharp script delivered by two expressive actors kept me engaged, I spent the latter half of the performance waiting for another piece of the puzzle. When it didn’t come, I couldn’t help but feel that I had been left out of a private joke. I exited the theatre wishing I’d been in on it, just like Lady Annabelle listening to some salacious gossip.

Although When He Gets That Way has finished its short season, you can catch other works on the Subiaco Theatre Festival program before it finishes at the end of June. Check out Seesaw’s interviews with Andrew Baker, producer/performer of/in Gutenberg! The Musical, and with Timothy Green and Samantha Nerida, directors of Tissue.

Pictured top: Tarryn Ryan and Lisa Loutitt in ‘When He Gets That Way’.

Carousel
Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

The roundabout course of love

Review: Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Carousel ·
Regal Theatre, 16 June ·
Review by Leon Levy ·

In 1909 Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnár’s play Liliom was withdrawn after a short run in Budapest. In 1943 Rogers and Hammerstein, in their first collaboration, wrote the musical Oklahoma! to unprecedented acclaim. Such is some of the unlikely background to the composition of Carousel: on the one hand a seemingly-failed Hungarian play with its uncongenial social and political background and gloomy storyline, and the refusal of the playwright to allow even Puccini to set it for the operatic stage; and, on the other hand, the unlikelihood that the American partnership of composer and lyricist could possibly find in this joyless play a successor to the widely acclaimed Oklahoma!. Indeed, Samuel Goldwyn advised that Rogers simply shoot himself in order to avoid the inevitable humiliating failure.

But fate took an altogether unexpected course: after World War I, Liliom was successfully remounted in Budapest and later New York. Then in 1943, searching for material for a follow-up to Oklahoma!, Liliom was suggested to a sceptical Rogers and Hammerstein. Meantime Molnár had moved to the US and was so taken with their sympathetic adaptation of the play Green Grow the Lilacs into Oklahoma! that he capitulated, attended Carousel rehearsals enthusiastically and permitted certain modifications to avoid a totally bleak ending.

In this production of Carousel – performed by WAAPA’s second and third year musical theatre students accompanied by the WAAPA orchestra under David King – Sydney-based director John Langley has most effectively repositioned the action in the Vietnam War era and thus side-stepped any unhelpful cutesiness. Even the prologue, with its carnival scene and “The Carousel Waltz”, suggests the joylessness that is to follow and that makes for a satisfyingly consistent prevailing atmosphere.

Carousel
Jason Langley and his large team bring this challenging work to vivid life. Photo: Jon Green.

The main protagonists appear without delay: the loving and trusting Julie Jordan (Amy Fortnum), flattered by the attentions of handsome barker Billy Bigelow (Andrew Coshan), friend Carrie Pipperidge (Jessica Clancy) and jealous carousel owner, the widow Mrs Mullin (Stacey Tomsett) immediately establish themselves, as does the electricity between Julie and Billy. Confident anticipation (Carrie’s “When I Marry Mr Snow”) and uncertainty (Julie’s “If I Loved You”) are beautifully projected by Clancy and Fortnum respectively, and confirm the integration of the vocal and dramatic qualities that reflect and advance the drama throughout the evening. Coshan’s rendition of Billy’s “Soliloquy” on learning that he is to become a father, is another one of many fine moments. As Enoch Snow, Kurt Russo is all moral certainty combined with 1950’s country-boy naivety, making a satisfying contrast to the more conflicted folk around him: later this re-emerges most deliciously when he chances upon his wife describing what was effectively a drag-show that they had, in innocence, attended in New York.

Carousel
Amy Fortnum as Julie Jordan and Andrew Coshan as Billy Bigelow. Photo: Jon Green.

The rare carefree scenes that end Act I and begin Act II (the ensemble in cracking form in “This Was a Real Nice Clambake”) lead to Billy’s descent into disaster, led by the cynical low life, Jigger (Todd Peydo). Act II is marked by tragedy and by Molnár’s potentially unconvincing device of having Billy observe his now teenaged daughter Louise (Alexandra Cornish) from his detention in a heavenly police court and during a brief earthly return. This must have been an unsympathetic development for both composer and lyricist and, indeed,  poses a challenge for cast and audience in 2018. But the WAAPA team bring dramatic strength to these moments, with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – sung by Elise Muley as Nettie, Julie’s protector – consolidating the prospects for a more hopeful future for Louise.

Working from the narrow confines of the Regal stage, Jason Langley and his large team – cast, choreographer, lighting, set, costume and sound designers, musical director and orchestra – bring this challenging work to vivid life. This is a compelling production in which the spectre of domestic violence is ever-present and where there are all-too-few moments of unalloyed happiness. But it will, without doubt, come to be seen as one of the theatrical highlights of 2018.

Carousel plays the Regal Theatre until June 23.

Pictured top: Alexandra Cornish as Louise Bigelow. Photo: Jon Green.

Carousel
A compelling production. Photo: Jon Green 2018
Georgina Cramond
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Through the lens of anxiety

Review: Ribs, Interrupting a Crisis ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 13 June ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Written and performed by Georgina Cramond, who sings under the stage name Ribs, Interrupting a Crisis is an engaging and earnest one-woman show, pairing heartfelt folk-pop songs with unflinching personal stories about managing mental health. Directed by Finn O’Branagáin, Interrupting a Crisis was first presented as part of the Blue Room Theatre’s development season last year, and saw Cramond win the 2017 Performing Arts WA “Best Newcomer” award.

In a deeply honest performance, Cramond explores her musical career as an emerging singer-songwriter through the lens of her struggles with anxiety. She starts at the very beginning – her first panic attack and, later, the first song she ever wrote.

Cramond is brave in her autobiographical openness, sharing the thoughts that appear in her moments of spiralling panic and the phrases (both damaging and reaffirming) that repeat in her head. She re-enacts moments of vulnerability with humour and sincerity, performing as herself hunched over a bathroom sink, giving fake thumbs up to her co-workers, and trying to explain her newfound anxiety to her mother.

Georgina Cramond
Since it’s estimated that three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression, Cramond’s experiences will feel all too familiar for many. Photo: David Cox.

There is an admirable frankness to her storytelling, and since it’s estimated that three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression, her experiences will feel all too familiar for many.

Alongside her stories of mental health hardship, Cramond takes us on a simultaneous journey through her progress as a musical performer. Prompted by her first therapy session, she returns to her childhood love of singing, experimenting with an old keyboard before taking a songwriting class and eventually performing in public. She punctuates her monologues with catchy original songs, which are sung live on stage with conviction (and are also available on Bandcamp).

This confessional show is a testament to the cathartic potential of songwriting, which Cramond has used to gain a sense of purpose and power over her fears. Importantly, she also reminds us that recovery is not linear, and that mental health issues don’t necessarily originate from a traumatic past. Presenting her story with unwavering honesty, Cramond’s Interrupting a Crisis plays a role in de-stigmatising mental health struggles, and will hopefully inspire others to talk (if not sing).

Interrupting a Crisis runs until 16 June 2018.

Pictured top is Georgina Cramond in ‘Interrupting a Crisis’. Photo: David Cox.

Georgina Cramond
Interrupting a Crisis is an engaging and earnest show, pairing heartfelt folk-pop songs with unflinching personal stories about managing mental health. Photo: David Cox.
Music, News, Opera, Performing arts, Reviews

Extreme makeover for opera

Review: Freeze Frame Opera, Pagliacci ·
Camelot Theatre, Mosman Park, 9 June ·
Reviewed by Tiffany Ha ·

There’s been a steadily growing buzz around Freeze Frame Opera since its launch in 2016. According to its website bio, the small, cutting-edge company is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to showcase the traditional genre in new and exciting ways, to make opera “accessible, affordable and appealing”.

I am in full support of this endeavour. Throughout my many years of music study – and well into my twenties – I never connected with opera. It felt alienating. I was bewildered by the female characters, whose on-stage activities were limited to pining, seducing, being captured, or being punished*. This, combined with the substantial investments required just to attend the darn thing (time, money, clothes that aren’t jeans), gave me the belief that opera is not for me.

On Saturday night, however, Freeze Frame Opera (FFO) made me reconsider my stance on traditional opera, with its gritty and boldly-stylised interpretation of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The tragicomic opera premiered in Milan in 1892; today it is one of the most-performed operas in the repertory. The story centres on a troupe of travelling clowns who, in FFO’s production, are characterised as general actors and performers – there is not a clown-suit in sight.

Pagliacci
Far removed from traditional opera: Paul O’Neill as Canio, Jun Zhang as Beppe and members of the chorus in Freeze Frame Opera’s Pagliacci. Photo: Robbie Harrold.

In fact, all the visual elements of the production – the set, costuming, props, the overall colour-scheme – are far removed from what you’d expect from traditional opera. Instead of a nineteenth-century Italian village, we find ourselves in Boganville, Australia, 1974, in a groovy caravan park complete with astroturf and garish portable outdoor furniture. In the opening scene we see two families (Canio’s and Beppe’s) enjoying a summer holiday together: one of the boys saunters in with his billy and camping swag; some teenagers trickle in, wearing bathers and boardies, hair still damp from the beach; the dads are manning the Weber, handing out sausages wrapped in white bread; the kids are running and playing; the women are dressed in bright paisley frocks, reading magazines and smoking cigarettes.

The realism of FFO’s Pagliacci was delectable. And it never felt forced or ad-hoc, because Leoncavallo wrote the opera in the verismo style – a post-Romantic operatic tradition that focuses on the experiences of ordinary human beings, as opposed to those of gods, kings and the aristocracy. At times, the performance felt less like opera, and more like soap opera.

That’s by no means a criticism of the cast’s acting and singing, though. The performers could just as easily have been on larger stages in fancier opera houses. Michael Lewis added thoughtfulness and depth to the character of Tonio – a creepy old janitor who meddles in everyone else’s affairs, grumbling in baritone asides. Tenor Paul O’Neill was powerfully convincing as Canio (the hero, and “prince of clowns”); I nearly cried during his aria about the pain of being betrayed by his wife, and the further pain of having to hide it in order to perform and make others happy.

Pagliacci
Tenor Paul O’Neill was powerfully convincing as Canio. Photo: Robbie Harrold.

Soprano Harriet O’Shannessy (who played Nedda, Canio’s wife) was the true star of the show, however. I imagine the take-away from Leoncavallo’s original Pagliacci was that Nedda got what was coming to her. But in FFO’s production, the character is charming, likeable, multi-dimensional and real. O’Shannessy’s Nedda ranged from charming, sassy and gutsy to irreverent, fearful and sullen – impressive ground to cover in such a short performance. We could see why Nedda had many admirers, including her secret lover, Silvia**, who was so well-played by mezzo-soprano Caitlin Cassidy that there was never any hint that her role had originally been written for a man.

Staging operas in smaller venues and with tighter budgets means there’s often no room for an orchestra. Fortunately, FFO’s musical director, Tommaso Pollio, is an accomplished pianist. He played the orchestral reduction of the original score on a grand piano, in front of the stage and off to the side. At times, the piano accompaniment set an intimate, heady mood, as if we were in a late-night cabaret show at Fringe World. Other times, the piano was massive and exclamatory, filling up the space and underscoring the drama as well as an entire orchestra could. It was also nice to be able to see Pollio; traditionally the orchestra is unseen, relegated to the pit underneath the stage.

FFO’s Pagliacci is showing at the Camelot Theatre until this Sunday, but – unfortunately for those who don’t have tickets – it’s completely sold out. Instead, you can keep up to date with future Freeze Frame Opera events by visiting their website. And yes, you can wear jeans; you can even drink beer.

*This applies only to the important female characters. The unimportant ones are relegated to prancing, gossipping, admonishing, and general chorus-commentary. I still hold hope that there’s something in the opera canon that might pass the Bechdel test; if you know of one, please comment below!

**Is it just me, or is 2018 the year of #lesbiansinopera?

Pictured top: Jun Zhang as Beppe and Harriet O’Shannessy as Nedda. Photo: Robbie Harrold.

'Burrbgaja Yalirra - Three Short Works' - Marrugeku Production 2018 - PICA - 6th June 2018 / Photography © Jon Green 2018 - All Rights Reserved
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Not damnation but hope

Review: Marrugeku, “Burrbgaja Yalirra” (Dancing Forwards) ·
PICA Performance Space, 9 June ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

How can we look to the past to change the future?

That’s a question that Marrugeku’s triple bill, “Burrbgaja Yalirra” (Dancing Forwards) seems to be asking. All three of the short, solo dance theatre works programmed refer to stories of the past; stories of contact between humans and spirits, between Aboriginal people and invaders. As the title suggests, however, the gaze of the program is firmly forwards, learning from what has been and looking at what is to come.

Broome/Sydney based dance theatre company Marrugeku has a tradition of collaboration on numerous levels, bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, contemporary and traditional dance, urban and remote dance communities, and various artistic disciplines. “Burrbgaja Yalirra” is no exception and the program includes an intricate web of creative co-credits, headed up by the company’s co-directors Dalisa Pigram (seen in the critically-acclaimed Gudirr Gudirr at the Studio Underground back in 2015) and Rachael Swain.

All three works share one set, a series of three concrete flats, designed by Stephen Curtis. Simple but effective, the industrial-looking slabs are softened by cracks that bring to mind meandering creek beds. Those flats leap into life, seething with colour, in the first work on the program, Ngarlimbah. Conceived, written and performed by Kimberley-based Aboriginal dancer, poet and painter Edwin Lee Mulligan and co-directed by Pigram and Swain, the work is a rich tapestry of dance, paintings, text and music. Mulligan’s paintings, animated by Sohan Ariel Hayes, depict traditional stories and Mulligan’s own dreams. In combination with his poetic narration and deft movement, and layers of music by Sam Serruys and Dazastah, the images plunge us into a Dreamtime and dream-like world.

miranda wheen
Intense, charismatic and precise: Miranda Wheen in ‘Miranda’. Photo: © Jon Green.

Like Ngarlimbah, Miranda, conceived and performed by Miranda Wheen and co-choreographed by Wheen and Belgian-based dancer/choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly, draws on both personal and shared stories, including that of Wheen’s namesake character in Picnic at Hanging Rock. It then takes a somewhat tangential turn (although the logic is explained in the notes) to explore the challenge that white Australia faces in moving forward from its past.

While Miranda feels somewhat disjointed because of the tenuous links between its key concepts, Wheen’s performance is highly engaging; intense, charismatic and precise. Now she struggles, arms and legs akimbo, like a rock climber. Now she moves robotically, popping and locking her way across the stage. Now she bourees, a balletic ghost. Now she shouts at us with increasing hysteria, to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land. Now she gestures obscenely, her face comically grotesque. Throughout, Matthew Cox’s lighting casts appropriately spooky beams and shadows, while Sam Serruys’s composition builds and diminishes tension.

Eric Avery jumping
A joy to watch: Eric Avery in ‘Dancing with Strangers’. Photo: Jon Green.

The final work on the bill, Dancing with Strangers, was also the longest, and my favourite. Conceived, written and performed by Aboriginal dancer and musician Eric Avery, directed and co-choreographed by Avery with Belgian choreographer Koen Augustijnen and co-composed by Avery with Serruys, Dancing with Strangers has at its centre the story of Avery’s great, great, great, great grandfather seeing the first fleet as it sailed past Yuin country on the south coast of NSW. Avery’s description of the “whales ridden by white ghosts”, initially mistaken as “returned ancestors” is gut-wrenching.

Like the previous works, Dancing with Strangers deftly weaves together dance, theatre and music, with the added layer of Avery’s live violin. There is something dancerly in the movement of any musician playing an instrument, but Avery transforms the violin and bow into instruments of dance in their own right; the bow whipping, the violin twisting. A swift and powerful mover, Avery is a joy to watch.

While Dancing with Strangers explores the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal people, its final message is not one of damnation but of hope; its spoken word finish talks about what could have been but also what might still be.

“Burrbgaja Yalirra” is a moving and uplifting triple bill. Catch it at the PICA Performance Space until June 16.

Pictured top: Edwin Lee Mulligan in ‘Ngarlimbah’ Photo: Jon Green.

Matt Penny in Find the Lady
Magic, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

So much more than magic

Review: Matt Penny, Find the Lady ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 6 June ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Find the Lady is a one-man show that weaves stage magic into the bittersweet monologues of a grifter who is propelled to fame, fortune, and ultimately, betrayal. Multi-talented local magician and theatre-maker Matt Penny stars as a small time con artist who stumbles into a career as a world class magician.

Opening with an explanation of the “three-card monte” scam (aka “find the lady”), and revealing his trick deck of cards, Penny’s hustler character first warms up the crowd with some classic playing card stunts. We then follow the swindler to a strange encounter that greatly enhances the scope of his illusionist skills. As his abilities advance, he becomes a prize-winning practitioner of magic – and the mark for someone else’s long con.

Fast talking and funny, Penny is an amiable storyteller who shares his tale as if over a pint at the pub. His casual banter is paired with nimble-fingered piano playing, nifty card tricks and simply eerie mind reading (a warning for the anxious – there is some audience participation involved!)

The winner of the 2018 Fringe World “Blaz Award”, presented to the best writing for performance by a WA writer, Find the Lady is charming and clever. With the magic tricks integrated into a narrative that transitions from cheeky to melancholy, it’s much more engaging than a traditional stage magic show. The combination of storytelling and apparent telepathy also makes this magic more unbelievable, as attested by the audible swearing of disbelief heard from an audience member on opening night.

This production is worth braving the winter weather to catch, and marks the start of what looks to be a strong Subiaco Theatre Festival season. Don’t let the rain tempt you to stay indoors this week – you’ll leave Find the Lady with a smile on your face and one question:

“How did he do that?”

Find the Lady runs until 9 June 2018.

Read an interview with Matt Penny.

Pictured top: An amiable story teller: Matt Penny in ‘Find the Lady’.

 

3.3 is about an emerging young Indigenous dancer, on the brink of an international career, thrown into a holding cell because of his skin colour and torn between two cultures. Ian Wilkes dances the young man. His mentor and choreographer Indigenous dance legend Michael Leslie Challenges him in this new adaptation of a new work by Michael. Ultimately, he just wants to dance. The young man is caught in the middle. The terrible legacy of this dilemma is that the young black fella believes gaol is also a rite of passage for young men in his community. Aboriginal people represent 3.3% of the total population, yet more than 28% of Australiaís prison population. Don't miss this dynamic and powerful dance conversation between this dance mentor and the next generation dance legend As a commitment by Ochre to the support of West Australian dancers and choreographers, we will be presenting ëBeyondí the work of internationally acclaimed choreographer Chrissie Parrot and dancer Floeur Alder. Chrissie has been commissioned by original Ochre member Floeur Alder to make a solo to commemorate the dancerís 40th birthday and a professional relationship spanning almost 30 of those years. A transformative solo that is mesmeric enigmatic and virtuosic taking dancer and audience on a transformative journey traversing an imaginary landscape.
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Extraordinary dance from Ochre

Review: Ochre Contemporary Dance Company, 3.3 and Beyond ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 29 May ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

Shadows on shadows, a body slowly makes its way onto a dark stage. Is it male or female? Does it matter? In the cramped confines off the mainstage of Subiaco Arts Centre, the audience is confronted with questions, most of which remain unanswered. Opening this triple bill by Ochre Contemporary Dance Company, Chrissie Parrott’s latest work is, in many ways, the antithesis of her more famous choreographies. Beyond is unadorned minimalism – a single performer (the extraordinary Floeur Alder); no props; none of the detailed staging that characterises many of Parrott’s works. Here, we’re presented with the human form – as canvas and tool – and the end result is as compelling as it is opaque.

For more than a decade Parrott has been creating works that make effective use of multimedia technologies. With each successive work, her skills in this brave new world are finessed. For Beyond, Alder’s body is used as a screen onto which animations are projected. Colourfully obscure, it’s never entirely clear what the images are or what they signify but visually, the effect is stunning. In other phrases, Alder whips through the air, a frenzy of muscular movement.

Floeur Alder in Beyond
A frenzy of muscular movement: Floeur Alder in ‘Beyond’. Photo: Maree Laffan.

Alder’s years of training are evident in her control of her vessel – her limbs a perfect embodiment of the taut rhythms of the music providing the sonic backdrop to the work. Music is always upfront in a Parrott production (although interestingly here, her musician partner Jonathan Mustard is responsible only for animation) and Beyond is no exception. The soundscape is dense, driving, a cloud of sound that at times reminded me of This Mortal Coil, though it turned out to be something more obscure. As a visual spectacle, Beyond exceeds expectations – just don’t ask me what it was about.

Following this was a sensory feast of another kind – this time on film. Kwongkan (Sand) is directed by Ochre Contemporary Dance Company’s artistic director, Mark Howett. The film opens with four dancers emerging from calm, palm-fringed waters; their bodies conducting the rivulets dripping from their bodies…is it Arnhem Land, far North Queensland? Wrong – Trivandrum, India. Shifting from sea to land, from water to earth to fire, Kwongkan is a meditation on the natural elements. The team created the film while working on a dance work to be included in next year’s Perth Festival…a sequel of sorts to the wonderful Kaya, performed in 2016 by Ochre Contemporary Dance Company. Evocative, sensual, sumptuous…assuming this film is a sort of teaser for the full work, we’re in for a treat next year.

The main event of the evening was Michael Leslie’s 3.3, also directed by Howett. Tackling Indigenous incarceration – one of the most significant moral questions of contemporary Australia – is no small feat, but somehow Leslie and co. manage to present a work that is as fearless as it is necessary.

From the opening moments, we are slammed with reality. Ian Wilkes is exceptional as a man, an artist, incarcerated. I’m not sure how he’s going to last the season – he is unflinchingly physical for almost every minute he’s onstage. Whether crushing his body against the bars of his cell, scaling the walls or smashing his face into the Perspex window, Wilkes’ onslaught sweats with tension, bristles with fury. But then, just as you’re overwhelmed, there’s a sudden tonal shift – a gorgeous wash of classical music replaces the industrial soundscape and Wilkes is dancing, released within.

The ferocity returns, another wave of injustice served and Wilkes is back to slamming his body against his constraints. Leslie comes to visit the prisoner. The two engage in a sparring match that pits pragmatism against emotion. Wilkes is enraged – at his situation, at the persecution of his people, at the rank violence of his nation’s history. Leslie acknowledges the injustices with a kind of acceptance that is deeply sad but also grimly realistic. He wants Wilkes to move forward, to seek his own victories in odds so steeply stacked against him. Leslie’s not excusing the system or the history – one gets the sense he’s just over it. On one level, it’s deeply depressing to witness; on another, strangely hopeful. Wilkes agrees to rehearse the steps for a dance – they go through the routine together, one man outside instructing, the other still in his cell. It’s uplifting and fierce and devastating all at once.

3.3 is based on Leslie’s Master’s thesis – a work investigating black history, neo-colonialism and incarceration. Transforming it into dance that is this transfixing is nothing less than extraordinary, cementing Leslie’s place as one of Australia’s foremost dance artists.

3.3 and Beyond” plays Subiaco Arts Centre until 3 June.

Read Seesaw’s interview with Michael Leslie and Mark Howett.

Pictured top: Unflinchingly physical: Ian Wilkes in ‘3.3’. Photo: Martine Perret.

Opening night of Hatched 2018.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

A snapshot of the future

Review: “Hatched National Graduate Show” 2018 ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Now in its 27th year and promoted as an “institution within an institution”, PICA’s 2018 “Hatched National Graduate Show” presents an interesting snapshot of contemporary art by emerging Australian practitioners.

The annual “Hatched” exhibition is a survey of works by recent art school graduates from tertiary institutions around the country. Curated by PICA’s Eugenio Viola, this year’s exhibition showcases 30 artists who were chosen from over 90 nominated graduates nationwide, by a selection panel that included artist Agatha Gothe-Snape, Annika Kristensen (senior curator, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art), and Fang-Wei Chang (senior curator, Taipei Fine Arts Museum).

Entering the ground floor galleries, visitors to “Hatched 2018” are first greeted by the evocative swathes of steel wool in Mandy Quadrio’s Holes in History. Densely draped and tangled into large nest-like forms, the steel wool seems both soft and sinewy. Closer inspection reveals shells and found objects half-submerged within the suspended shapes, which reference colonialism and resistance from the perspective of the artist as a palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) woman.

An installation by Cath Robinson functions as the soundtrack to the ground floor galleries, with the voices of sixteen singers from the Southern Gospel Choir ringing out from a circle of suspended speakers in Wave/wave form choir, accompanied by tide marks of salt spread across the floor.

Hanging nearby is Obey A Widow’s Son by Dean Cross, another work investigating contemporary life in Australia as a First Nations artist. Cross has created a striking photograph that re-contextualises the iconic Ned Kelly of Sidney Nolan’s famous paintings, and is paired with a repurposed Australian Army ghillie suit.

Many other references to famous artworks can be spotted throughout the exhibition, indicating that these newly graduated artists are acutely aware of the art that precedes their practices. These visual references engage both playfully and critically with the discipline of art history, as seen in Jackson Farley’s crude doodles over classical sculptures, and Joe Wilson’s packed canvas featuring a famous shade of blue.

Much of the art in this year’s “Hatched” has a playful tone; from Siân Davies’s stool-like objects dotted throughout the building, to Claire Gillam’s charming ensemble of seemingly plant-based musicians, and the remains of a business conference performance by Yuval Rosinger (which will make you kick yourself for not attending the opening night).

The six strong WA representatives include Benjamin Bannan (Curtin University), whose work investigates the queer history of a decommissioned toilet block at Lake Monger, and Elham Eshraghian (University of Western Australia), the winner of the life-changing $40,000 Schenberg Art Fellowship for her two-channel digital video Bohrân.

While some works invariably seem more resolved than others, the sustained commitment of each artist to their studio practice can be clearly felt. The diverse selection of works within “Hatched 2018”, many of which were produced by multidisciplinary artists, has been strongly curated to produce an all-round inspiring show.

“Hatched 2018” is an engaging survey illustrating the breadth of works by emerging artists nation-wide.

“Hatched” runs until 15 July.

Pictured top: Opening night of “Hatched 2018”. Photo: Giovanni Costa.

Link dancers performing in Ori Flomin's Mangoes, earrings and a glimpse of hope.
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Welcome to the breeding ground

Review: Link Dance Company, “Differently Equal” ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 23 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

I’m always excited to see LINK Dance Company’s May season because it’s the first opportunity to check out the latest crop of dancers selected to be part of the WAAPA Dance Department’s one-year pre-professional program. As the name suggests, LINK is designed to bridge the gap between tertiary training and the world of professional dance. A glance through LINK’s archives  reveals that it’s been a springboard for many of WA’s current dancers and choreographers, including Co3’s Tanya Brown, Talitha Maslin, Antonio Rinaldi, Ella-Rose Trew and Zoe Wozniak, and independent dance artists Laura Boynes, Bernadette Lewis, Emma Fishwick and Isabella Stone, as well as the three members of Unkempt Dance (Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis, Amy Wiseman), just to name a handful.

Welcome to the breeding ground.

This year’s cohort of 15 emerging dance artists includes graduates from Adelaide College of the Arts (AC Arts), Queensland University of Technology and WAAPA, so it’s fitting that the first item on the “Differently Equal” programme, The Wedding, is a new work by 2009 AC Arts graduate Tobiah Booth-Remmers. A somewhat surreal experience, the work opens with a wedding scene that quickly morphs into chaos, as the guests collapse like dominoes, rolling across the stage as though caught in an invisible tsunami. Against Azariah Felton’s beat driven soundscape, pairs of dancers rail against one another.

Link dance company performing Tobiah Booth-Remmer's The Wedding
As layers of costume are peeled off one by one, the dancers’ movements become increasingly unrestrained, as though the layers of polite behaviour are being removed: Link Dance Company performing Tobiah Booth-Remmer’s ‘The Wedding’. Photo: Christophe Canato.

As layers of costume are peeled off one by one – under long sombre-coloured coats are feather embellished black garments, and under those, black underwear – the dancers’ movements become increasingly unrestrained, as though the veneer of social niceties is being removed. The work was performed with wild abandon by the company members.

After interval came The Wall – Several Illusions of the Wall by Chinese choreographer Xiao Xiang Rong, performed by 12 visiting students (unusually, with seven men to five women) from Beijing Normal University (BNU). The “Wall” in this work takes various formats. An actual wall houses a dancer, lodged amongst foam bricks. The dancers make walls of their bodies, their curved arms and legs mimicking the spaces of the now-collapsed foam brick wall. Dancers standing shoulder to shoulder become a human barricade against a powerless individual.

BNU students performing The Wall
In muted blues and greens, the 12 young performers from BNU were lithe and athletic, frequently moving as a well-rehearsed whole. Photo: Christophe Canato.

In muted blues and greens, the 12 young performers were lithe and athletic, frequently moving as a well-rehearsed whole through turns with arms held as if in surrender, or deep hinges with legs akimbo. The final scene has a strange and mournful beauty as dancers’ hands emerge, plant-like, through the crevices of the foam bricks, to contemporary, almost ghostly, strings and vocals.

The LINK dancers returned to the stage for the final work, Mangos, earrings and a glimpse of hope, by New York-based, Israeli choreographer Ori Flomin. Created for this season, it’s whimsical piece with an eye-catching opening. A carefully placed strip of light adds both drama and humour to the first scene as the supine dancers’ body parts poke, often comically, into the luminous light-shaft.

Flomin ups the silliness factor in the next scenes. With the dancers changed from cream coloured onesies into street clothes with a zany edge (think outsize sunglasses, shiny fabrics, pops of colour), the next section sees ballet, tap, jazz, character crammed together what seems like a playful montage/homage to the suburban dance school (if you see the show, keep an eye out for the flamboyant Jessie Camilleri Seeber here). Finally, it’s every dancer for themselves, in a kind of fruit-themed therapy session.

“Differently Equal” provides an engaging introduction to the new LINKers, and their guests from BNU. Kudos, too, to composer Azariah Felton, lighting designer Matthew Marshall and set and costume designer Rozina Suliman, whose creations for the two LINK works mark them as emerging talents in their respective fields.

“Differently Equal” plays the Geoff Gibbs Theatre until 25 May.

Pictured top: A playful montage/homage to the suburban dance school: LINK Dance Company performing Ori Flomin’s “Mangos, earrings and a glimpse of hope”. Photo: Christophe Canato.

Claire Voss and Oscar Valdes in La Sylphide. Photo by Emma Fishwick
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

An enchanting escape

Review: West Australian Ballet, La Sylphide ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 18 May ·
Review by Amy Wiseman ·

Attending the ballet on Friday, I was struck by the simple joy and nostalgia of being at the theatre; the bustling “excuse-me” dance into your seat, the allure of the house curtain, the sound of a buzzing opening night crowd (many dressed in white for the occasion) and the recurring memories of countless dimming lights and opening overtures past.

Perhaps I was particularly defenceless because La Sylphide holds such weight and history for classical ballet, as one of the oldest surviving choreographies, set by August Bournonville in 1836 and passed down virtually unchanged from dancer to dancer. Marking the beginning of the Romantic era of ballet, where stories explored the supernatural, Bournonville’s style takes us back to a time of tragedy, mystical forces and temptation. La Sylphide is significant for me, personally, too – I danced in Act II in my graduation season at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

A lengthy overture, masterfully played  by West Australian Symphony Orchestra, sets the tone for La Sylphide, with rich and enticing melodies. Acting as a TARDIS, this gives us time to settle and be transported by the music, in darkness, anticipating the tale about to unfold. The curtain rises to reveal Richard Roberts’s sumptuous set, featuring an ornate chandelier, large fireplace and grand staircase. James (Gakuro Matsui) sleeps in his armchair by the fire, on the eve of his wedding to Effy (Sarah Hepburn), before being awoken by the ethereal winged Sylph (Chihiro Nomura) kneeling gracefully at his side. Transfixed, James attempts to follow her, but the elusive Sylph magically disappears.

On opening night, Bournonville’s traditional fast footwork and light ballon was wonderfully executed by the lithe Nomura, whose gorgeous arabesques and delicate port de bras channelled the era effortlessly. Her grace was matched by Matsui’s bravura, his elevation and expansive use of the space sparking cheers of enthusiasm from the audience.

Act I is fast-paced and character-driven, weaving together sweet, forbidden meetings between James and the Sylph, and lively Scottish reels that were danced with effervescence here by soloists and the corps de ballet. Christian Luck was deliciously wicked as fortune-teller Madge, who conspires to ruin everything by predicting that James’s rival Gurn (Adam Alzaim) will steal Effy’s heart. Hepburn’s Effy was at first high-spirited, accomplished and charming, but switched skilfully to convincing despair upon realising James has left her and fled to the forest; Alzaim’s innocence and crisp footwork were impressive.

Lexi De Silva’s beautiful white tulle costumes accentuate Act II. Set in a dappled forest glade, the sister sylphs gather to dance, contrasting the energy of the first half with a controlled, serene harmony. Polly Hilton as Lead Sylph had a restrained and appealing regal quality, while Carina Roberts, in the corps, was also notable for her purity of line and poise. An unintentional and tragic end sees James the victim of his own demise.

La Sylphide has a clear narrative arc and, despite its setting in the 1830s and the reliance on detailed, very particular mime, the story is remarkably accessible, with themes of desire and temptation still relevant to today’s world. Staged by noted Danish repetiteur Dinna Bjorn, the whole performance was exquisitely polished and full of charm.

With only two short acts, this is a compact, compelling production that serves as a delightful introduction to the world of ballet, or in my case, a memorable return to the form.

“La Sylphide” plays His Majesty’s Theatre until 2 June.

Pictured top: Claire Voss as the Sylph and Oscar Valdés as James in Saturday night’s performance of ‘La Sylphide’ (not the cast reviewed). Photo: Emma Fishwick.