Fully Sikh
Calendar, October 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Fully Sikh

10 – 27 October @ The State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company
and Barking Gecko Theatre Company ·

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa shot to fame in Australia and around the world
with her poetry on Australia’s Got Talent. But before she went viral,
Sukhjit was a brown, hairy Sikh girl growing up in the suburbs of Perth.
Fully Sikh is her story. The show is a hilarious and heartfelt poetic
procession through Sukhjit’s life, her family and her faith, all told
with her trademark lyrical flow. Fully Sikh will be a sensory feast for
audiences, full of music, dance, poetry and food. As the first Aussie
Sikh story to hit our stages, this is unique and unmissable.

Suitability: 12+

Book via www.bsstc.com.au

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Black is the New White
Calendar, Performing arts, September 19, Theatre

Theatre: Black is the New White

11 – 22 September @ The State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Black Swan presents A Sydney Theatre Company Production ·

Black is The New White by Nakkiah Lui

Prepare to be enthralled by a razor sharp romantic comedy that blends
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with Meet the Fockers. At the centre is
Charlotte Gibson, a lawyer with a brilliant career ahead of her. As her
father Ray says, she could be the next female Indigenous Waleed Aly.
But she has other ideas. First of all, it’s Christmas. Second of
all, she’s in love. The thing is, her fiancé, Francis Smith, is not
what her family expected – he’s unemployed, he’s an experimental composer
… and he’s white! Inviting him and his conservative parents to Christmas
is a bold move that has all sorts of unintended consequences.

Adult themes, nudity
Suitability: 16+

Book via www.bsstc.com.au 

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The Torrents
Calendar, June 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Torrents

15 – 30 June @ The State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company & Sydney Theatre Company ·

t’s the 1890s in the Goldfelds. J.G. Milford has hopped off the train
in the small town of Koolgalla to take on a job at the local paper.
She’s smart, she’s savvy, she’s incredibly qualified, but nobody knew
the J stood for Jenny! Oriel Gray’s The Torrents is a newsroom comedy
that rivals George Bernard Shaw. Jenny’s arrival coincides with a
trailblazing engineer’s outrageous idea to bring irrigation to the
community and debate rages about whether the town should give up
mining for a more sustainable economic future.

Adult themes: Suitability 12+

Book via www.bsstc.com.au

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Calendar, May 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Water

9 – 26 May @ State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company ·

Water by Jane Bodie begins in Western Australia in the
not-too-distant future, where we meet with a once powerful
politician about to celebrate his birthday at the family’s
island home – a retreat from the world that has clearly seen
better days. There’s no water in the taps, there are no birds
in the sky and to top it off, an unexpected guest arrives for dinner.

WARNING: Adult themes

Book via www.bsstc.com.au

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You Know We Belong Together
Calendar, March 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: You Know We Belong Together

20 – 31 March @ State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Black Swan Theatre, Perth Festival & DADAA ·

You Know We Belong Together by Julia Hales with Finn O’Branagáin
and Clare Watson

Following the sold-out success of the 2018 world premiere of
You Know We Belong Together, we are thrilled to present an encore
season of this joyful celebration of community spirit.

You Know We Belong Together is a story of love; that force of nature
that strikes like lightning into our hearts. Family, friends and
lovers are all part of Julia Hales’ deeply personal account of her
experiences as a daughter, actor, dreamer and person with Down syndrome.
She brings with her the voices and aspirations of a community rarely
seen on stage in an uplifting performance with video, dance and song.

Book via www.bsstc.com.au

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Three actors dressed in costume for The Gruffalo's Child
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Joyful storytelling in Gruffalo sequel

Review: CDP Theatre Producers, The Gruffalo’s Child ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, Heath Ledger Theatre, November 21 ·
Review: Robert Housley ·

Toddler tears in less than five minutes and pierced chambers of the inner ear from a crying baby could not douse the enjoyment of The Gruffalo’s Child, a slick production from accomplished touring company CDP Theatre Producers.

Nor could it dampen the enthusiasm of its wonderfully cohesive cast, comprising Jade Paskins, Madison Hegarty and Skyler Ellis.

It was just another day at the office for children’s theatre targeted at the 3+ age group, as it was for accompanying parents and grandparents.

Oh, for the afternoon sleep.

For the most part the whipper-snappers were just as fixated on this stage adaptation of the immensely popular eponymous children’s book as they have been on the book itself (and as they were on The Gruffalo, of which this book and production are sequels). My neighbouring grandmother and her four-year-old grandson even brought the hard copy sequel along for a quick read before the show.

The real joy of this production is in its story telling, with whip-smart direction from Olivia Jacobs (with associate director Liesel Badorrek) moving the action along at a pace to keep the youngsters engaged.

The cast also fill their roles perfectly. Paskin’s Child beautifully captures the essence of the Gruffalo’s inquisitive daughter on her plight to find the Big Bad Mouse in the Deep Dark Wood.

Hegarty deftly plays narrative guide, wafting through the play with sound effects and movement, and joining in the occasional ensemble songs (music and lyrics by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw; additional lyrics by Olivia Jacobs and Robin Price; choreographer Morag Cross; associate choreographer Luanna Priestman).

Ellis steals the show somewhat, in an actor’s dream role, playing multiple characters from the snoring Gruffalo to the salesman Fox. His radical change of voice for each character and the stunning companion costumes show both his considerable talent and that of designer Isla Shaw (puppet design by Yvonne Stone).

Like all of the best children’s theatre, the kids are encouraged to be part of the action in this production, and Wednesday’s audience spontaneously complied: clapping, singing and generally responding to invitations to get involved.

The simple set of truncated, leafless trees is seamlessly modified to accommodate the various scenes and disguise the numerous on-stage costume changes.

Lighting changes (design by James Whiteside) are kept to a minimum throughout so the kids can see all of the action all of the time while not making the Deep Dark Wood so deep or so dark.

Sleep, little one, sleep.

The Gruffalo’s Child is performed until December 2.

Junior review ·
Review by Isabel Greentree, age 9 ·

Many children may have read the story of The Gruffalo’s Child or seen the movie, but none are like this amazing stage performance. CDP Theatre Producers’ musical version of The Gruffalo’s Child, directed by Olivia Jacobs and performed by Madison Hegarty, Skyler Ellis and Jade Paskins, is a fun-filled hour of entertainment.

At the start, three children are playing in the snow and they begin to tell a scary story about the Gruffalo, but are interrupted by some loud snores. We meet the Gruffalo and his child when he is telling her a story about the Big Bad Mouse. He gives her the Stick Man to give her courage. When he is asleep, the Gruffalo’s Child tries to play hide and seek with the Stick Man but eventually gets bored and sets out on an adventure to find the Big Bad Mouse.

She meets several animals including the Snake (throwing a party), the Owl (giving flying lessons) and the Fox (trying to sell everything). Each meeting with an animal involves a song. In the end, the Gruffalo’s Child meets a mouse who tells her he is a friend of the Big Bad Mouse and manages to scare her away.

The set included spooky trees with branches shaped like long fingers. There was a wide yellow moon behind the trees, glowing gently. The costumes were clever and effective.

My favourite part was when the mouse nearly wakes up the Gruffalo with her squeaking. I also enjoyed the way the Gruffalo’s Child could never quite keep up with the dancing. There were lots of jokes and funny parts for adults and children alike. The very young children in the audience really enjoyed it too. I really liked the play and think it is suitable for all ages. Go and see it while you can!

The Gruffalo’s Child is performed until December 2.


Photo: Heidrun Lohr



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Jazz, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Jazz pianists battle it out

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival ⋅
Perth Cultural Centre/State Theatre Centre, November 10 ⋅
Review by Steve Baitz ⋅

It was a warm afternoon at the Perth Cultural Centre Wetlands and the area had new vibrancy with the advent of the Perth International Jazz Festival. The Gemma Farrell Quintet took the stage and the interest escalated among the people milling around. The band comprised Farrell on saxophone, Christopher Sealy on guitar, Kate Pass on bass, Ryan Daunt playing drums and the band’s newcomer Tom Salleo handling the trombone.

The music was tight, well-rehearsed and the band obviously comfortable with each other. Much of the music played was from Farrell’s new album Organised Chaos and revealed something of the composer’s character. Each number was dedicated to an important person or an event like the birth of her third child. As the music filtered through the air the audience grew with each captivated passer-by.

Gemma Farrell with her tenor, flanked by the attentive Chris Sealey on guitar and Tom Salleo on trombone
L-R Kate Pass,Gemma Farrell, Chris Sealey and Tom Salleo perform at the Wetlands stage. Photo Nathan Bullivant

The crowd was well rewarded with warm, easy on the ears sounds. Stand out numbers were Reflections and One for Fresh written in honour of what Farrell called ‘probably her best teacher’. Each of the band members handled very strong solo’s and newcomer Tom Salleo did not disappoint. All the music was original but kept that familiar feeling of belonging. A pleasure to hear.

Moving from the family-friendly ease of the Wetlands to the State Theatre Rehearsal Room was quite a transition. The Wetlands invites you to soak in the surrounding movement of people in the area; the Rehearsal Room demands your attention. The venue is intimate, moodily lit and with near perfect acoustics. Drapes hang across the walls and the grand piano in the far-left corner takes pride of place.  About to begin was ‘Solo Piano – Fujii, O’Halloran, Barry’.

Pianist Steve Barry leans towards the piano keyboard, his face is reflected in the piano lid.
Pianist Steve Barry. Photo Mohammad Hosseini

Time was limited with the three performers playing solo in turn and each could play only one or two of their original compositions. Sydney composer Steve Barry took the stage first and displayed masterful expertise, playing music from his recent solo album Hatch. His music was good evidence of his multi award winning talent. He started with a soft melodic number that transported me into a harmonious sense of peace. Then followed the cheeky insertion of a delightful interlude he described as ‘a little something’ followed by a tribute to Thelonious Monk. The tribute was more atonal but still not jarring on the ears, interrupted only by the sound of someone’s errant mobile giving walking instructions to the State Theatre. There’s always one in every crowd!

Pianist Tom OHalloran. Photo Mohammad Hosseini

Perth’s well-loved Tom O’Halloran took the second spot, transfixing the audience with two improvisations, one tonal and the second atonal, both exploring atmosphere and texture. His music was atmospheric and almost tactile, like a patchwork quilt with individual sections coalescing into what will soon become one of your favourite blankets.

The diminutive Satoko Fujii then took the stage, claiming rightly the pressure Steve Barry’s and Tom O’Halloran’s performances put on her solo. The Japanese pianist took immediate possession of the grand piano. The keyboard was not a sufficient interface for her and she almost climbed into the body of the piano converting it to a percussion instrument and a harp. She stretched the piano far beyond its normal playing method and I could imagine the blood draining out of the faces of piano tuners and agents responsible for the insurance of the instrument. The piano under her ministrations took on the guise of a full orchestra. Definitely avant-garde, Fujii produced an exciting harmony of both gentle and thumping sounds that I would never have considered belong together. How well it worked.

Festival artistic director Dr Mace Francis thanked the artists for their ‘expose of the human condition’. My only complaint is that the performance was only given once.

Pictured top: Satoko Fujii. Photo: Mohammad Hosseini

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Jazz, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Jazz takes over the city

Review: Perth International Jazz Festival ·
State Theatre Centre Courtyard, November 9 ·
Review by Rosalind Appleby ·

The Perth International Jazz Festival kicked off last night with the first of over 60 performances. For one weekend the city has turned into a jazz hotspot, with grooves spilling out of doorways and a good chance of bumping into Perth-born legends like Mat Jodrell and Sam Anning or the hottest young things from the US like singer Charenee Wade and Sara McDonald.

On Friday night the State Theatre Centre Courtyard was at capacity for Kate Ceberano and Carl Mackey’s tribute to the 1961 soul jazz album ‘Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderly’. Their clean, relaxed take on jazz standards like Happy Talk, A Sleepin Bee and Never Will I Marry eased festival goers into the weekend.

Ceberano channelled Nancy Wilson with luscious sliding phrases and dramatic storytelling. What really lit up the hour-long session was her megawatt smile and obvious delight at working with the musicians. And why not with saxophonist Carl Mackey leading an all-star quartet of Grant Windsor on piano, Sam Anning on bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums. For some reason the band was missing a cornet player (Nat Adderley on the original album) but still delivered a punchy, fun version of the instrumental number Teaneck with glimpses of Speedball in the clean groove and the unexpected tangents in Windsor’s piano solos.

Big smiles from the entire band as Kate Ceberano and Carl Mackey perform
Kate Ceberano and Carl Mackey light up the stage at the Perth International Jazz Festival. Photo Nathan Bullivant

A high point was the ballad The Masquerade is Over where Ceberano’s gift for storytelling had the crowd hanging on every note. Her voice was breathy, strong, scratchy and elastic all at once, cushioned by the wash of brushes on snare, sparse piano and restrained bass.

Wilson’s rhythmic inflections and sense of pacing in the fast tunes wasn’t Ceberano’s strong point (as she was the first to admit) but she nailed the soulful character of the album, crooning responses to Windsor’s tasteful piano solos and paying tribute to an album that had inspired her since the age of 16.

Later that night international guests the Melissa Aldana Quartet took to the stage with a set list of material from their yet-to-be-released album. The Chilean tenor saxophonist was the first female and first South American to win the Thelonious Monk competition in 2013. Her original compositions are built around predictable harmonies coloured with unpredictable melody lines and occasional sections of Latin groove. Aldana’s incredibly lyrical fluidity across the entire range of the tenor saxophone meant her sizzling fingerwork had velveteen smoothness. Her sinuous golden lines were the perfect foil to the fast dense activity of the trio: Sam Harris on piano, Rick Rosato on bass and Felix Lecaros on drums.

Melissa Aldana's focused energy as she plays tenor saxophone
Chilean saxophonist and composer Melissa Aldana. Photo Nathan Bullivant

The quartet performed four substantial works composed by Aldana. Two were movements from the suite Visions, inspired by the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Kahlo’s artwork is known for its magical realism, a brightly-coloured blend of fantasy and photographic realism. It was possible to hear the beauty of Kahlo’s work in Aldana’s clean saxophone lines inflected with moments of deep emotion expressed in particular through the mighty piano solos by Harris.

Aldana was self effacing, allowing her music to do the talking. Her playing revealed a thoughtful musician with an ear for beauty and originality. Aldana will perform with her quartet tonight at The Ellington and you can catch Carl Mackey, Grant Windsor and Sam Anning performing as part of Speedball tonight at the State Theatre Courtyard. There are also free concerts at the Perth Cultural Centre Wetlands Stage plus shows Downstairs at the Maj, open rehearsals and artists in conversation. Don’t miss out on the weekend when jazz takes over our city.

The Perth International Jazz Festival continues until Sunday November 11th.

Pictured top L-R: Kate Ceberano and Sam Anning. Photo Nathan Bullivant.

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Four women dressed as Adriana Xenides on Wheel of Fortune
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Behind the Wheel

Review: Black Swan State Theatre Company, Xenides ·
Studio Underground, 27 October ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

What does a biodrama need? An interesting subject. Revealing, fresh insights into the subject and their milieu. A dramatically satisfying narrative, or  a non-narrative alternative that leads us to a deeper understanding of the subject.

That’s the challenge for Clare Watson and her team of collaborators, creatives, cast and musicians in Xenides.

They’ve delivered a complex piece that is more about the theatre than the life it portrays; more about actors than the role they play.

It’s entertaining, clever and tightly staged. It’s also emotionless and shallow.

The problem is revealed by a quick dive into the reviewer’s little helper, Wikipedia.

For all her longevity as a television personality (she holds all sorts of records for her 18-year stand as the letter-spinner on Grundy’s afternoon hit Wheel of Fortune), the dislocations of her childhood and the lugubrious circumstances of her early death at 54, there’s really not much to tell about Adriana Xenides.

Neither is there any strong evidence (as far as I can tell anyway) of her standing for anything much, or, really, doing anything much else. And neither is there anything much in the text of Xenides that tells us things we wouldn’t know about her from that scant Wikipedia entry.

I mean her no disrespect. What she did so successfully for so long requires a genuine talent and determination, but I fail to see what it brings to the stage.

Four women dressed up as Adriana Xenides from Wheel of Fortune
Harriet Marshall, Laila Bano Rind, Katherine Tonkin and Adriane Daff play themselves playing Xenides… all striking the poses that come with the territory. Photo: Dana Weeks.

What Xenides does have, though, is a meta-theatrical romp that dissects what we are seeing and how we are going to see it. Four actors – Adriane Daff, Harriet Marshall, Laila Bano Rind and Katherine Tonkin – play themselves playing Xenides, or at least putting their case to play her, all dressed in variations of Adriana’s trademark red number, all striking the poses that come with the territory. It’s catty and sweet, often very funny and sometimes, though not often enough, sad.

Tonkin is an established stage and television star, and her CV, which she carries with her as a talisman, drives her self-characterisation. Bano Rind is an indigenous actor, also of Persian descent, who underlines the universality of the story of the Greek/Spanish Xenides, while Marshall is an opera singer – something Adriana was definitely not – who makes her stage debut here (and sings a lusty Vissi d’arte from Tosca, because that’s what she does).

Adriane Daff is a firecracker lit and thrown onto every stage she inhabits. She gives a curious, fidgety performance, combative and intensely self-aware, and is just about worth the price of the ticket on her own.

What seals the deal, though, is a half-dozen ripping songs by Xani Kolac, which she plays and sings expertly with bassist Djuna Lee and drummer Holly Norman and the cast. There are some wonderful, immediately accessible tunes here, and they lift the performances, which at times lacked a little vim.

The show is wittily choreographed (by Laura Boynes), well dressed (by set designer Zoe Atkinson and costume designer Sarah Duyvestyn) and wrangled (by Watson), but ultimately it couldn’t move or reveal enough to do what it needed to do.

A footnote: I despise the backslapping post-show speeches that infect opening nights these days. Nothing is more certain to subsume the experience of theatre to its corporate and social functions. Having said that, “Baby” John Burgess’s lovely remembrance of the woman he worked with on Wheel of Fortune for a dozen years, and his endorsement of the show named after her, was quiet (courtesy of incredible microphone technique learned over a half century behind them), sincere and deeply touching.

Xenides plays the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA until November 11.

Photo: Katherine Tonkin, Harriet Marshall, Adriane Daff and Laila Bano Rind. Photo: Dana Weeks.

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A woman sitting on a medical looking bed, talking to a man. The scene is Victorian.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Crackling with all sorts of electricity

Review: Black Swan State Theatre Company, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA, October 24 ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

OMG …Yes! This play hits the spot. It makes me shudder at how clueless we humans were, for so long, about women, intimacy and pleasure. It makes me groan at gender, class and racial prejudice in the Victorian era. It makes me gasp at the ridiculous number of layers under those beautiful 1890s gowns. And yes, there is a happy ending.

Written by Sarah Ruhl, the play ran on Broadway in 2009/10 and was nominated for three Tony Awards. Under Jeffrey Jay Fowler’s inspired direction, it skirts effortlessly between drama and farce. Its nuanced portrayal of loneliness and longing; desire, disappointment and disconnection touches us, deeply.

Rebecca Davis is thrilling to watch as Catherine Givings, the charming and spirited but long-suffering wife of Dr Givings (Stuart Halusz). The comically clinical doctor has pioneered an extraordinary new device – the vibrator – for treating “hysteria”. While his invention relieves and invigorates his loyal patients, his patronising and insensitive nature drives his wife to despair.

A Victorian woman lies on the bed. grasping the hand of a nurse while a doctor reaches up between her legs, his arm covered by a sheet. Her head is arched back and her mouth is open as though she is crying out.
Sabrina’s first ‘treatment’. Pictured are Jo Morris as Sabrina Daldry, Alison van Reeken As Annie and Stuart Halusz as Dr Givings. Photo: Philip Gostelow

Jo Morris is wonderful as the doctor’s new patient Sabrina Daldry. During their initial consultation, Mr Daldry (Kingsley Judd) speaks for her, describing how the rest cure had failed to cure all the weeping. Sabrina refers to her obsession with the green curtains and old ghosts in the dark. (The Yellow Wallpaper, anyone?)

Her first “treatment” had the audience in paroxysms of mirth. Sabrina grips the bed and arches neck back, while the good doctor checks his stop watch and chats about the weather. “Do you feel any calmer?” he inquires when it’s all over, before explaining about “pent up emotions in the womb”.

Her daily visits grow ever more interesting, especially after the electricity fails and the doctor’s assistant, Annie (Alison Van Reeken), administers “manual treatment” instead. And the plot thickens when Catherine’s curiosity is piqued by the evocative sounds coming from her husband’s operating theatre, the next room to her comfortable but lonely sitting room.

Alicia Clements’ set and costume design are key to play’s success. Through the large aperture that only the audience is privy to, we see the extraordinary and eccentric events play out above and behind the sterile sitting room.

Three women talking animatedly.
Tariro Mavondo shines in her Black Swan debut. Here she is centre, between Rebecca Davis (L),  and Jo Morris (R). Photo: Philip Gostelow.

Tom Stokes is a sparkling presence as Leo Irving, an artist crippled with grief after the end of a relationship. Dr Givings treats him for a rare case of “male hysteria”, unleashing “the most wild creative energies”.

Tariro Mavondo shines as Catherine’s wet nurse, Elizabeth, in her debut with Black Swan. Because of her race and class, Elizabeth is derided and exploited – and her grief for her deceased son callously overlooked. When she finally has opportunity to speak frankly to Catherine, I was awash with relief. It is a powerful speech, beautifully delivered.

The vibrator, used in the play as a device to explore the pain caused by repression, may be the play’s centrepiece. But for me, the fireworks came in the frisson between Annie and Sabrina sharing a piano stool, and in Leo capturing the electricity that flows between a woman and a baby at her breast. And the final, climactic scene, set in a garden as the snow falls, is nothing short of stunning.

In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play plays the State Theatre until November 4.

Pictured top are Jo Morris as Sabrina Daldry and Stuart Halusz as Dr Givings. Photo Philip Gostelow.

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