PAWA Awards 2017
Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Theatre

Best on the boards

As readers of Seesaw know, the WA performing arts sector punches well above its weight in terms of both the quality and quantity of work produced each year. On Monday 28 May, the industry’s top achievers will be honoured at the 2017 Performing Arts WA Awards ceremony and cocktail party. Nina Levy had a chat to Nick Maclaine, PAWA secretary and Awards committee member to find out more.

Nina Levy: Tell me all about the PAWA Awards…
Nick Maclaine: The PAWA Awards started life as the Equity Guild Awards, which were created in 2000 to recognise excellence and achievement in local professional theatre. The PAWA Awards have the same goal. It’s crucial for us here in WA to celebrate outstanding local work – and work by WA artists in particular, because we don’t always get the recognition we deserve nationally or interstate. We make incredible art and we produce first-class artists, and the PAWA Awards are one way of showing our pride.

The award categories are currently: newcomer, design, music, director, new work, independent production and mainstage production, as well as the traditional four acting categories – supporting actor (male and female) and leading actor (male and female). Next year, there will be a slightly different range of categories as we move to a new model.

NL: What will this new model look like?
NM: The new structure and judging process will bring the PAWA Awards in line with other states’ awards, being the Green Room Awards (Victoria), the Sydney Theatre Awards (NSW) and the Matilda Awards (Queensland). Our goal is to give our arts community the awards it expects and deserves.

We’re excited to be expanding the awards to encompass dance, and we would like to include more art forms in the future. The size of the judging panels will increase: we used to have three or four judges, but for 2018 there are 14 judges on our Theatre Panel and 10 on our Dance Panel. Each panel consists of a mix of professional artists, media, arts professionals and performers. The judges will still be guided by their discretion but we are asking them to consider some key principles – impact, craft/artistry and diversity – when assessing work. We will also be honouring the work of our design artists by instituting separate awards for lighting, stage and costume design, rather than bundling these into a single “Best Design” award.

NL: Why was the decision made to update the current PAWA Awards structure?
NM: To remain credible and relevant to our industry, and to reflect the diverse range of people who make art in WA, the PAWA Awards had to modernise. We want our nominations and awards to carry the same prestige as a Green Room Award, and part of getting there involves making sure the standards are rigorous, that the judges are drawn from a large and diverse pool, and that our processes (i.e. how work is assessed and decisions are reached) are transparent.

NL: Anything else we should know about the PAWA Awards?
NM: As a volunteer committee, putting on an event of this scale can be daunting. That’s why we’re thrilled to have partnered with GM Consulting, which helped us deliver last year’s awards. Georgia and Rachel at GM Consulting have been integral to realising our goal of taking the awards to another level!

The PAWA Awards cocktail party and ceremony is open to the public. To book head to www.performingartswa.org.au/2017-awards-ceremony/

See the list of nominees for the 2017 awards at www.performingartswa.org.au/2017-nominees

Pictured: Last year’s PAWA Awards ceremony. Photo: Monica Defendi Photography.

Nina Levy is one of the judges on the new dance panel for the 2018 PAWA Awards.

Hir by Taylor Mac
News, Reviews, Theatre

The domestic heart of darkness

Review: Black Swan State Theatre Company, Hir by Taylor Mac ·
Studio Underground, Perth, 12 May ·
Review by Jonathan W. Marshall ·

Hir is a bleak hothouse melodrama by Taylor Mac that charts the final meltdown of an already barely functional American family unit. Paige (Toni Scanlan), the mother, embraces a newfound radical freedom, enthusiastically throwing herself into promoting gender-fuck concepts in her life and home-schooling her onetime daughter, the now trans-identified Max (Jack Palit).

Paige’s freedom has arisen because of a stroke suffered by her formerly abusive husband Arnold (Igor Sas). Paige wreaks vengeance upon him by transforming him into an absurdly made up clown-servant in a dress, whom she sprays with water when his now slurred, barely sensible speech or actions run counter to her wishes. Sas’s facial spasms and dragging, semi-paralysed limbs make Arnold a figure one wants desperately to forgive, even as Paige forces us to reconsider this.

Paige and Max are now living in a world of chaotically managed freedom, with dirty clothes and rubbish stacked so high the front door will not open. Tyler Hill’s design of papered over dirty walls, cheap linoleum flooring, and a cut away roof whose central beam juts outwards like a thorn onto which the characters will eventually be skewered, is particularly effective.

Hir by Taylor Mac
Tyler Hill’s design is particularly effective. Pictured: Will O’Mahony as Isaac, Igor Sas as Max and Toni Scanlan as Paige. Photo: Daniel James Grant.

Into this radically changed scenario comes Paige’s son Isaac (Will O’Mahony), a traumatised and dishonourably discharged Afghanistan war veteran who just wants everything to be as he left it—but with less violence and more compassion from his father.

Observing Paige, Mac remarks, “rarely are women onstage allowed to be so contradictory”. One is tempted to describe Toni Scanlan’s performance as a tour de force, though this might suggest Paige is a whirlwind of energy and power. Scanlan’s characterisation certainly includes an often-enthusiastic Paige flapping about to questionable effect as her cheerleading for a new post-gender world over-reaches her ability to properly describe it.

Nevertheless, the most remarkable thing about Scanlan’s Paige is her calm sense of surety, particularly in the devastating concluding scene. As her family implodes and both Isaac and Max elect to depart, she remains grounded and centred. Having passed out of her former life as an abused wife, she is not about to let go of her newfound identity, even if it means losing both her house and her children.

Mac states, “It’s important to me that the actor playing Max be someone who was a biological female and now identifies as transgender or gender-queer.” The production, therefore, marks the Black Swan premiere for Jack Palit, previously with St Martins Youth Theatre in Melbourne. As befits the character, Palit has a wavering, difficult to place voice, and his physicality is all angularity, accentuated by overalls, which emphasise the character’s beanstalk horizontality.

Palit’s Max comes across as young and awkward, hovering between self-conscious hesitancy and an emergent sense of confidence. His deliberately modest performance is not ideal in this slightly over-large venue, but the actor nevertheless nails the nature of the role. One can but hope this will be a break-out part for Australian trans performers and initiate future trans-blind casting.

Despite the overt gender-fuck concepts at play, Hir is conventional in that the central protagonist, around whom all of these events are centred, is a straight, white male. Rather than a celebration of gender fluidity or change, Hir is a particularly intriguing, up-dated form of American mom-critique. Since at least the immediate aftermath of World War II, US commentators have been obsessed with the potentially corrosive effects of populating the country with “mommy’s boys” and although Isaac struggles to recreate himself, in the end it is his inability to give up an idea of what mothers and homes should be that causes him to self-destruct.

In short, the play is extremely bleak. The future has been mortgaged, the occupants are drowning in their refuse past and present, there is no money and no credit, no ability to move beyond vengeance into compassion for those who have wronged you, while ties of family and love are inadequate to paper over the gaping holes in the wall.

Hir has been described as an allegory for the current state of the US after the housing debt crisis, and this is certainly part of its meaning. But Mac’s relentless focus on a family which, even in the face of apparent gender freedom, is revealed as totally irredeemable, suggests something darker—much like the sedimented landfill of garbage upon which the family’s pathetic dwelling crookedly rests.

Hir plays the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA, until May 27. 

Pictured top: Toni Scanlan, Igor Sas, Jack Palit and Will O’Mahony in ‘Hir’. Photo: Daniel James Grant.

summer of the 17th doll
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Black Swan’s Doll is a revelation

Review: Black Swan State Theatre Company, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll  ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, May 9 ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

It’s not often a play’s set makes me analyse my obsession with mid-century furniture. But such is the case with Black Swan State Theatre Company’s stunning production of The Doll (as it is affectionately known). From the standard lamp and floral velour sofa, to the vinyl pouffe and the laminex table, the set closely resembles my home’s interior. It caused me to ponder why I have compulsively acquired items from an era steeped in such conservative values.

Ah, nostalgia; that trap of rosy retrospection.

Ray Lawler’s classic play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, set in 1953 and first performed in ‘55, speaks of the unbearable nostalgia and the confusion of a group of people when their beloved private world disintegrates under the stress of time and shifting circumstances. It examines what happens when people cling to the past out of fear of an uncertain future.

It is also a tragedy of the inarticulate, who feel more than they can express. Emotional honesty or nuanced vocabulary – like job security or savings – is a distant luxury.

Like generations of Australians, I read The Doll at school. But in my Year 11 drama room in 1989, its outdated colloquial language just seemed cringeworthy. (“Pigs I will!”, “Real ear-basher, he is.”) Its themes were utterly lost on us. Amateur productions I’ve seen were tragically shouty.

But finally, (finally!) I get it. I appreciate the brilliance of Lawler’s text, thanks to Adam Mitchell’s sensitive direction, the luminous design by Bruce McKinven and Trent Suidgeest, and the quality of the acting.

summer of the seventeenth doll
Mackenzie Dunn exudes a warm charm as Bubba, pictured with Kelton Pell as Roo (left) and Jacob Allan as Barney (right). Photo: Philip Gostelow.

Amy Mathews is superb as the sunny (but ultimately distraught) thirty-something barmaid Olive, who lives with her ageing, acerbic mother Emma (Vivienne Garrett) in a Victorian terrace in Carlton. Olive swoons adoringly, as she awaits the arrival of Roo and his mate Barney, down from cane cutting in Queensland for the five-month lay-off season. It’s been rinse-repeat for the past sixteen summers: Roo teaming up with Olive and Barney with Nancy. But with Nancy now married and sceptical Pearl invited as a possible replacement, it’s time to enter the spin cycle.

Kelton Pell is convincing as the proud, hot-headed Roo, who has returned to Melbourne stripped of his status, money and dignity. Machismo renders him all but mute (“Whatever. Don’t much care.”) until he vents with his fists.

Jacob Allan is outstanding in the role of Barney, a lively, un-reconstructed “ladies man” whose lack of self-awareness provides much of the play’s humour.

Alison van Reeken does well to portray the highly-strung widow Pearl, whose fresh perspective on the men’s behaviour, and the group’s dynamic, accelerates inevitable change.

Michael Cameron swaggers as Roo’s rival, the young upstart Johnnie Dowd. Mackenzie Dunn exudes a warm charm as Bubba, whose attraction to Johnnie shocks the other characters into confronting some home truths.

summer of the seventeenth doll
Machismo renders Roo all but mute until he vents with his fists. L-R: Jacob Allan as Barney and Kelton Pell as Roo. Photo: Philip Gostelow.

Of course, staging (and viewing) The Doll now is more than an act of nostalgia. The rise of the fly-in, fly-out lifestyle, and the challenge that poses for couples and families, adds contemporary resonance. So too does society’s growing critique of toxic masculinity.

Lawler’s characters are full of ambiguity and contradiction, though, and he resists moralising. Take Roo’s act of continuing to give Olive kewpie dolls: is it sweet, or infantilising – like some sugar (cane) daddy?

Olive’s rejection of marriage reminds me somewhat of Nora in Ibsen’s Doll House. When Nora says she cannot be a good wife and mother without learning to be more than a plaything, her husband is baffled because it contradicts all he has been taught about women. Likewise, Roo is at a loss to understand why Olive would not want to be his wife.

Does happiness elude her because she has been treated as a plaything and come to expect no better, or does she genuinely want to live beyond the trappings of marriage? Surely some women still grapple with the same question.

My only connection to Queensland or the world of cane-cutting has been through my long-standing love of the Go-Betweens’ song “Cattle and Cane”. Grant McLennan’s lyrics drip with affection and longing; nostalgia and melancholy. “From time to time the waste, memory wastes (memory wastes).”

I can’t be sure what McLennan means by those lines, though I’ve sung them with conviction countless times. But given that he wrote the song on Nick Cave’s guitar in London while feeling homesick for rural Queensland…

Perhaps there’s something in that for Olive and Roo and Barney and all of us. Memory lies. Memory wastes. The past was not necessarily a better place.

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll plays the Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre until May 20.

Top: Sensitive design and quality acting: Amy Mathews as Olive and Alison van Reeken as Pearl. Photo: Photo: Philip Gostelow.

 

 

Frank Enstein
April 18, Calendar

Dance: Frank Enstein

11 – 15 April @ State Theatre Centre of WA , Heath Ledger Theatre ·
Presented by Co3 Australia ·

School Matinees: Thu 12 and Fri 13 April
Evening Performances: Wed 11 – Sat 14 April, 7.30pm and Sun 15 April, 5pm

Made by The Farm in collaboration with Co3 Australia

Frank could be a genius. Just one more ‘i’ and he’d be an Einstein!

Frank’s a lonely guy who wants to make his imaginary friends real. Harnessing electricity from a storm he creates his world from nothing but his imagination and the garbage in his lab. Battling a physical impairment, Frank creates monsters to fulfill his desire to be normal and to be accepted by others. Can he control what he creates? And who is the real monster anyway? Frank Enstein is a retelling of the classic tale for children and adults – magical dance-theatre illuminating a path to self-acceptance.

The Farm’s wicked sense of humour together with the extreme physicality of Co3 Australia’s dancers combines magic and dance to create a show for the child in all of us.

Suitable for all ages: recommended Ages 8+ (when accompanied by an adult)

Duration: 60 minutes (no interval)

More info: https://co3.org.au/frank-enstein-2018/
Email: info@co3.org.au

Top: The monsters Frank brings to life. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

William Rees as Frank with Co3 Australia dancer Andrew Searle
Children, Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A winning reinvention

Review: Frank Enstein, The Farm with Co3 Australia ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 12 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

When I first heard that Co3 Australia was remounting Frank Enstein, I was sceptical. A retelling of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic by Gold Coast-based duo The Farm, the work made its premiere in WA just a year ago and it felt too soon to watch it again.

My fears, however, were unfounded. Watching Frank Enstein “2.0” (to borrow Co3 executive director Richard Longbottom’s nickname for the show) it was apparent that this is, indeed, a new version of the work rather than a simple reproduction.

The bones of the story are the same as last time. Frank’s a lonely inventor with a physical impairment who creates monsters in an effort to find friends. It’s a tale about acceptance, of both others and ourselves. Frank’s workshop, with its electric generator, crate of mannequin parts, fluorescent signs and AstroTurf surrounds, is also familiar.

So far, so recognisable, but there’s one key difference this year. Two of the five characters, Frank and his romantic interest Liz, are played by teenagers rather than adults. While the recast was made for practical rather than creative reasons (lack of availability of the original Frank, Daniel Monks), the decision to replace them with young performers has worked a charm.

As in the first rendition, both Frank and Liz are a sweet mix of awkwardness, enthusiasm and eccentricity. Casting them as teenagers gives a context for their idiosyncrasies that makes them more relatable.

William Rees as Frank with Co3 Australia guest artist Luci Young
William Rees as Frank with Co3 Australia guest artist Luci Young. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

Guest artists William Rees (Frank), 16, and Luci Young (Liz), 15,  have put their own spin on their respective characters. Both gave highly engaging performances on opening night, at once comical and sensitive.

As Frank, Rees had the audience giggling as he ricocheted between triumph and terror, interacting with his newly enlivened creatures. Like Monks, Rees has a physical disability, in his case restricting the use of his left arm. As in the first version of Frank Enstein, the difference between Frank’s arms is acknowledged in a moment that is deft and poignant, without being overly sentimental.

Young’s Liz was full of delightful bravura, whether tossing her head wildly to the instructions of an “advanced at-home dance class” issuing from her old-school ghetto blaster or losing herself in a spine rippling solo, performed with an exuberance and abandonment beyond her years.

As well as cast changes, there have been adjustments to both the narrative and choreography, making this version of Frank Enstein that little bit darker and kookier. The “vacuum cleaner scene” was, if anything, even funnier on second viewing, as various body parts fell victim to the power of suction. I don’t seem to recall a disco scene in last year’s version, but it shone golden this time.

Once again, guest artist Andrew Searle and Co3 Australia’s Zachary Lopez and Talitha Maslin were sensational as the three monsters. Wonderfully funny in their interactions with one another and with Rees and Young, it was in their solos that we saw their incredible physicality as movers. Searle moved through his mass of spirals with his trademark grace. Lopez both amused and amazed as a series of crazed vibrations overtook his body. And Maslin appeared inhuman, her limbs contorting at seemingly impossible angles.

Finally, mention must be made of the sound design, with its evocative layers of melody and machinery, created by James Brown with Laurie Sinagra.

Kudos to the creators of this work, The Farm’s Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood, as well its cast – Frank Enstein 2.0 won me over.

Frank Enstein plays until 15 April and is suitable for ages 8 to adults.

Read Seesaw’s interview with Co3 Australia’s artistic director Raewyn Hill to find out more about Frank Enstein.

Pictured top: William Rees as Frank with Co3 Australia dancer Andrew Searle. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

Frank Enstein
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

A tale of two companies

Raewyn Hill, artistic director of Co3,  takes Nina Levy behind the scenes of the contemporary dance company’s upcoming season of Frank Enstein, a darkly comic retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic tale, with a message for young and old.

RaewynHill by Naomi Lee
Raewyn Hill. Photo: Naomi Lee.

WA’s Co3 and Queensland’s The Farm may be dance companies based on opposite sides of Australia but their respective directors go back a long way. The common link is Townsville-based company Dancenorth (An aside: if you were lucky enough to catch Attractor at this year’s Perth Festival then you saw Dancenorth in action). Gavin Webber, now co-director of The Farm, was artistic director of Dancenorth from 1997-2005. “And I took over Dancenorth when he left,” explains Co3 director Raewyn Hill. “When I left Dancenorth, Gavin had just arrived back from Berlin, and was setting up The Farm on the Gold Coast [with co-director Grayson Millwood].” It was 2014, the same year that Co3 was established in WA.

As the two newest contemporary dance companies in Australia, it made sense to collaborate, continues Hill. “Because we’d had such a long artistic association I invited Gavin to be one of our guest choreographers for  Co3’s launch season. Then the opportunity came about for a full-length work. Gavin and Grayson had been talking to me about Frank Enstein and I decided it was a great time for it.”

Frank Enstein
‘Gavin and Grayson are constantly push the boundaries in terms of concept and in terms of content delivery’. Pictured: Co3 dancer Talitha Maslin rehearsing ‘Frank Enstein’. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

And so, in April 2017, Frank Enstein premiered in WA. Webber and Millwood are no strangers to our state capital – they toured to Perth as Splintergroup with lawn in 2006 and roadkill in 2009, and collaborated with Ochre Contemporary Dance Company to present Good Little Soldier last year – and those who have seen the pair’s work will know it ranges from blackly comic to downright disturbing. Frank Enstein sits at the lighter end of their spectrum. As the name suggests, the work references Mary Shelley’s famed nineteenth century novel, with a lone scientist who creates a monster (or three)… but Frank Enstein is full of quirky touches. A monster pops out of a smoking wheelie bin, a vacuum hose wreaks suction-based havoc… it’s classic Webber and Millwood, lavishly kooky.

Gavin Webber. Photo: Stefan Gosatti
Gavin Webber. Photo: Stefan Gosatti
Grayson Millwood. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.
Grayson Millwood. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

“Gavin and Grayson are… some of the bravest, most courageous artists working currently. They constantly push the boundaries in terms of concept and in terms of content delivery,” muses Hill. “They have a very distinct style of work, a very clear and established aesthetic in terms of movement language, design and working process. They come with an enormous amount of personality, an enormous amount of desire to create something original, they have this incredibly ability to tackle big subjects and balance them with humour and irony.”

Frank Enstein will have its second outing in Perth this April, but the production won’t be quite the same as last time. In the premiere season, the cast was entirely composed of adults, with Daniel Monks taking the lead role of Frank and Brianna

Kell as the young woman who discovers the inventor and his creations. This time those two characters will be played by teenagers, William Rees, a young actor based in Canberra, and Luci Young, a West Australian dancer and Co3’s Act-Belong-Commit CoYouth Ensemble member.

The recast took place because Monks was not available to do the repeat season. “That led to lots of different conversations about the work and where it could go next,” explains Hill. “We were drawn to idea of creating the characters using younger performers, to bring a new voice and perspective to the work.” For Hill, incorporating young performers was a philosophical decision too. Co3 was formed by amalgamating Buzz Dance Theatre and STEPS Youth Dance Company, two companies that focused on working with young dancers and young audiences, and Hill is conscious of upholding that heritage. “Youth and education are a big part of the company’s legacy, but I also believe that’s where our future is,” she reflects. “I hold that responsibility really strongly, to nurture the next generation of dancers. That idea of the younger dancers joining the company dancers onstage will continue as the company develops.”

Frank Enstein
‘We were drawn to idea of creating the characters using younger performers, to bring a new voice and perspective to the work.’ Pictured: William Rees rehearsing ‘Frank Enstein’. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

As well as strengthening the link between generations of performers, the recast has seen the work develop and change, says Hill. “The way we work as a company is that the personality and character of the performers plays a big part in how the work is developed. So there are big changes to the work because of the cast changes. Luci and William bring an enormous amount to the work in terms of their life skills and where they’re at, in relation to the subjects that Frank Enstein deals with. Gavin and Grayson have drawn on that and also on their particular personalities.”

Like the works made by Co3’s predecessor companies, Frank Enstein is pitched at both children (eight and above) and adults, with its story line about Frank, a lonely guy who wants to bring his imaginary friends to life. Managing a physical impairment, Frank longs for acceptance by others… a concept that we can all relate to, says Hill, no matter what our age. “That idea of the struggle to find our place, our worth… we all experience that regardless of age, race, religion,” she reflects. “A 10 year old’s concept of fitting in and finding place and worth is actually the same as an 80 year olds, just on a different level. The work is a reminder, too, to be a little less judgmental and a little more accepting of others around us. It’s as much about acceptance of others as about self-acceptance.”

Frank Enstein plays the State Theatre Centre of WA, 11 – 15 April.

Pictured top are (L-R): Luci Young, Andrew Searle and William Rees, rehearsing the 2018 season of ‘Frank Enstein’. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

Xenides
Calendar, November 18, October 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Xenides

25 October – 11 November @ State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company ·

WORLD PREMIERE
XENIDES
by Clare Watson and collaborators
25 OCT to 11 NOV
STUDIO UNDERGROUND

Xenides is a top dollar musical that peers behind the glitz, the glamour and the fabulous prizes of Australia’s favourite game show, Wheel of Fortune.

It’s time to take another spin and revisit Adriana Xenides, the darling of ‘TV Week’ and glossy magazines, who made a visit into almost every lounge room across Australia. She wore 4000 dresses, turned 200,000 vowels, traversed 500km in killer heels and always beamed that million-dollar smile. Adriana won our hearts, and after 19 years, won a place in The Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest serving gameshow hostess. Xenides gives voice to the woman we all knew but who was largely misunderstood and misrepresented. Her story is operatic in scale: rags to riches, the migrant’s journey, the fairytale princess and the tragic icon, who died far too young.

This hotly anticipated new work by Clare Watson and her team of talented collaborators features a wonderful mash-up of ‘80s songs, from TV theme tunes to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, alongside an original composition by electronic power-pop group, The Twoks.

An energetic Australian musical exposé that is both hilarious and tender, a tribute and a protest.

Xenides is the second in a triptych of ‘80s celebrity portraits (alongside I Heart John McEnroe and The People’s Princess), conceived by Clare Watson and created by Uninvited Guests.

DIRECTOR Clare Watson
MUSICAL DIRECTOR Xani Kolac
SET DESIGNER Zoë Atkinson
CAST INCLUDES Lisa Adam
COLLABORATORS INCLUDE Adriane Daff, Virginia Gay, Sophie Ross, Katherine Tonkin
SUITABILITY 16+
WARNING Adult themes.

Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
XENIDES by Clare Watson and collaborators
DATES: 25 OCT – 11 NOV 2018
VENUE: Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
WARNING: Adult themes.

Prices: $35.00 to $55.00

Book via www.bsstc.com.au

More information at www.bsstc.com.au/plays/xenides
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More info: www.bsstc.com.au/plays/xenides

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

Theatre: Skylab

skylab

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

WORLD PREMIERE
SKYLAB
by Melodie Reynolds-Diarra
16 AUG to 02 SEP
STUDIO UNDERGROUND

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
CAST INCLUDES Alan Little
SUITABILITY 12+
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

Book via www.bsstc.com.au

More information at www.bsstc.com.au/plays/skylab
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https://instagram.com/blackswanstc/
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More info: www.bsstc.com.au/plays/skylab

A Farewell to Paper
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Of typewriters and telegrams

Perth Festival review: A Farewell to Paper ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, 17 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

In 1982 I was seven years old and learning to write with a fountain pen at my primary school in the UK. It’s not something I’ve thought about for decades but when Evgeny Grishkovets pulled out a sheet of blotting paper at A Farewell to Paper last night, I was suddenly remembering my own blotting paper; its mottled texture, its pink hue, my attendant anxiety about handling the strange pen nib. Sitting in the theatre, struck by this long-forgotten memory, it occurred to me that I must have been part of the dying throes of an era, one of the last school children to learn to use a fountain pen.

It’s this passing of an era that Grishkovets is marking in A Farewell to Paper. Both written and performed by Grishkovets, it’s a monologue (of sorts) that plays tribute to paper and its traditions. Behind him, five doors act as portals to the paper past; in the foreground, a writing desk is almost drowned in vintage accoutrements of communication (plus laptop). Typewriters, telegrams, aerogrammes, newspapers, books… some are gone, some are going and Grishkovets wants us to consider what we’re losing as we move into an age where draft copies don’t exist, where we no longer recognise a loved one’s handwriting, where our memories are no longer stored in shoe boxes but on external hard drives.

It’s poignant but light-hearted; telegrams and texts are held up for comparison (“A man didn’t get drunk and send a whole heap of telegrams to his exes”), the postal system of the past is admired (“Here in Perth you have a magnificent old post office and now it is… a supermarket? No! Worse, it is an H&M!”).

A Russian author, director and actor, Grishkovets delivers the show in his native tongue, with a live translator and interpreter, a role taken for this season by former Australian diplomat and Australian National University fellow at the Centre for European Studies, Kyle Wilson. Although it doesn’t appear that performing arts has been part of Wilson’s extensive professional experience, he is completely at ease in this role, managing not just the nuances of translation, but numerous hilarious interactions with Grishkovets, with aplomb.

At just over two hours with no interval, the only criticism to be made of A Farewell to Paper is that it felt very long. Grishkovets must realise this; he warns the audience of the work’s length at its outset and, amusingly, provides reassurances, at various intervals, that the show IS going to finish after two hours, as promised. The nature of the work, which doesn’t have a clear story arc but instead follows a meandering path through Grishkovets’ memories and musings, is charming. Nonetheless, it would, perhaps, be more effective with some culling to keep it under the 90-minute mark.

Even if he doesn’t have every audience member in the palm of his hand for the work’s entire length, Grishkovets is an endearing and engaging performer. As a solo show, A Farewell to Paper is a remarkable achievement, a whimsical and timely reflection on an age that has almost disappeared.

‘A Farewell to Paper’ closes 18 February.

Pictured top are Evgeny Grishkovets (foreground) and Kyle Wilson (background) in ‘A Farewell to Paper’ at the Heath Ledger Theatre. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.

Attractor
Contemporary music, Dance, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Incredible art-making

Perth Festival review: Attractor by Gideon Obarzanek, Lucy Guerin, Dancenorth and  Senyawa ·
State Theatre Centre, 8 February ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

A group of people sit around in a semi-circle, in the centre of a Spartan stage.  Just as the audience is becoming restless, a couple of the figures start to move, robot-like, up from their chairs.  Others join in but two people in the middle of the semi-circle stay put.  As the bodies around them expand their movements, one of the two remaining figures picks up a large instrument and out of the silence comes a crashing metallic chord.  Here we go…

Attractor is a unique beast – a joint creation from two of Australia’s luminaries of contemporary dance, Gideon Obarzanek and Lucy Guerin.  Obarzanek is best known for his founding of Chunky Move, the Melbourne-based contemporary dance outfit in part responsible for the popularization of the genre in Australia.  Guerin is one of the country’s leading choreographers whose company Lucy Guerin Inc is renowned for its innovative, challenging works.  Both are credited as choreographers for Attractor while Obarzanek alone designed the work.  It shows – while the frenetic blur of movement may be familiar to anyone who has seen works by either Obarzanek or Guerin, the sinister underlying tone is distinctly Chunky Move-ish.

The collaboration does not stop there.  All the dancers, save the excellent Harrison Hall from Lucy Guerin Inc, are from Queensland’s esteemed Dancenorth.  But the centrepiece of this extraordinary collaboration is provided by Senyawa, a two-piece duo from Indonesia.  Incorporating elements of doom metal, folk and acapella, Senyawa’s music is a sonic trip.  The soundtrack of Attractor becomes the focal point of the performance – when someone is screeching into a microphone, accompanied by reverberating chords of pure noise, it’s hard to focus on anything else.

To be honest, I had no idea what instrument guitarist Wukir Suryadi was playing.  Was it a Chapman stick?  Was it some kind of guitar indigenous to Indonesia?  I had to look it up.  Turns out, Suryadi created the instrument himself – it’s a bambuwukir (namecheck!), an amplified zither made out of bamboo.  It’s loud, really loud.  And whether Suryadi is coaxing doom-like horrors out of it, or something more melodic, it’s incredible to behold.  That is, you think it’s incredible to behold until you shift your gaze to Suryadi’s partner in crime…Rully Shabara.  Shabara vocalizes (one cannot call it singing) as though he is possessed by the same spirits that created Suryadi’s instrument.  He wails, he ululates, he growls and groans and shrieks.

Surrounded by this sonic furore, the dancers flail and pop, sometimes in unison, sometimes in a mess of discrete movement.  There is no particular narrative here – we’re being taken on a trip, a trance and there is nothing to interpret, we are here to observe.  The choreography is as intense as the music – contorted exertions that ripple with energy.  Some of the most effective phrases are those performed in unison, the dancers slicing through space, jerking and bustling with near-perfect cohesion.  A solo from Samantha Hines is absolutely gob-smacking.  Her arms and hands shuddering, her back arched, head thrown back – all while Shabara howls gutturally into the microphone.  Intense doesn’t begin to describe it.

This is incredible art-making.  Go see it.

‘Attractor’ runs until February 10th.

Photo: Gus Kemp