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

Theatre: Skylab


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

by Melodie Reynolds-Diarra
16 AUG to 02 SEP

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

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

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

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

DIRECTOR Kyle J Morrison
WARNING Some strong language.

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

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

Prices: $35.00 to $55.00

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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.

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

News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Superstar Joan is not to be missed

Fringe World review: Joan by Lucy J Skilbeck ·
State Theatre Centre Round, 7 February ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The idea of the teenage warrior/martyr/saint Joan of Arc haunts us, from classroom history to Shakespeare, Schiller and Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw to Leonard Cohen, as hot and elusive as flame.

Nothing in my experience, though, captures the idea of Joan more completely and more convincingly than Lucy J Skilbeck’s Joan. It is also an exciting, hilarious and deeply poetic piece of theatre, performed with incredible passion and élan by the British drag king Lucy Jane Parkinson.

I won’t waste too much of your time regurgitating the well-known history of Joan – and it’s not mere historical accuracy (which in any case is disputable) that Skilbeck and Parkinson are about here.

As they tell it, though, the young Joan, beset with visions of St Catherine, sees her village plundered and her mother raped and killed by English marauders. Called by Catherine to rid France of the invaders, she meets the dissolute Dauphin of France and persuades him (she is now 17, remember) to give her an army for the purpose.

She inspires her army to break the English siege of Orléans and, three months later, install the Dauphin as Charles VII, but he reneges on his promise to support her, and, left with only the remains of her army, she is captured and, after a show trial, burnt at the stake.

It’s not the tale but the telling that matters, though, and Skilbeck gives her Joan a wonderful language – bawdy, ribald and power-packed – the best analogy I can think of is Shakespeare’s Henry V, with her “I am Joan – BEGONE, OR I WILL MAKE YOU GO!” before Orleans every bit the equal of Henry’s “Tomorrow is St Crispin’s Day”.

Parkinson’s Joan, mohawked, tattood, black T-shirted, with an accent of pure Sheffield steel, is utterly different from Jean Seberg’s iconic page-boyed saint in shining armour, but she inhabits the character completely.

Her ardour is wonderful, but so is her sassiness – among the highlights of the show are three of Skilbeck’s songs, for Joan’s dee-dar dad, the mincing Henry and the corrupt judge Pierre Cauchon, all of whom Parkinson plays in drag. There’s something of Rice and Lloyd Webber in the songs, and Parkinson gives them all superstar treatment.

Her audience work is also fabulous. People give up their seats for St Catherine, make out as horses, dance with her, walk “like men” for her, all in high good spirit.

And, of course, the delicious irony of a drag king (Parkinson, AKA LoUis CYfer, is a quest-winning practitioner) playing history’s most famous cross-dresser is a kicker throughout.

Unlike Joan, I cannot MAKE YOU GO to this show, the highlight of the Fringe so far, but if there’s an empty seat for the rest of its short run, it’s a travesty.
Joan’ plays until 10 February.

This review first appeared on and is published on Seesaw with kind permission from David Zampatti.

Photo: Robert Day

Calendar, May 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: HIR By Taylor Mac

HIR by Taylor Mac

10 May to 27 May @ Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA ∙
Presented by: Black Swan State Theatre Company ∙

A brutally funny and subversive take on the American kitchen-sink drama. Isaac returns home from Afghanistan to find his family in revolt. His father has suffered a stroke, his mother has become a gender studies aficionado and his younger sister, is now his younger brother.

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Cerita Anak (Child's Story)
Calendar, Children, February 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Perth Festival: Cerita Anak (Child’s Story)

Theatre ∙
23-25 February @ The State Theatre Centre of WA ∙

We’re off on an adventure on the high seas and we need you to help bring this magical journey of discovery to life.

Youngsters and their adults will be swept away by puppetry, song, shadow imagery and sound in the delightful Cerita Anak (Child’s Story). Climb aboard and be rocked and rolled on the waves. Discover a world that bustles with fish and birds. Hear stories on the wind and in the currents of the water, and dive to the bottom of the sea to meet the creatures you helped create.

Everyone is a passenger and storyteller in this interactive, sensory adventure that shimmers with all the life of the ocean.

Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) is designed for children aged 2 – 7 and their adults.

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Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

Out of control

Dance is uncontrollable, says Israeli choreographer Omer Backley-Astrachan, and that’s what he loves about the art form. He’ll be performing in his dance work TOHU alongside co-creator and wife, Sharon Backley-Astrachan at Fringe World and he took some time to tell Seesaw more about his practice and work.

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Omer Backley-Astrachan: I can’t recall a specific moment when I decided to become an artist. I was always exploring and making things as a child. When I discovered dance, it was like I found my perfect form of creativity. During the early years of my career I worked in a number of dance companies in Israel but still felt unsatisfied. It was only when I began to work as a freelancer with independent artists that I realised it was collaboration and creativity that drive me more than just performing. I think this transition paved the way for me to later on become a choreographer.

S: Tell us about your training
OBS: I started dancing at a very young age but was only doing Israeli folklore dance. My ballet and contemporary training came a bit later when I was about 20 (during my mandatory army service). I was a helicopter technician in the airforce. Some evenings I would sneak out and walk about four kilometres in the desert to take ballet with little girls in the nearby kibbutz (I even encountered an echidna one time on the way back which nearly gave me a heart attack). Then at the age of 21 I joined a full-time dance training course for professional dancers at Bat-Dor Dance School in Be’er Sheva, Israel. Two years later I got my first contract in a company and the rest is history.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
OBS: All I would say is that although I am extremely driven by movement, I am not interested in choreography per se. Dance interests me when I can see and feel what the dancer experiences. Choreography can be a great tool to capture these moments but I always try to keep it as a loose frame. I strive to feel something even from the most abstract moment.

S: Career highlight so far?
OBS: Just spending time in the studio with my dancers. Being creative, seeing my thoughts and the thoughts of the dancers coming to life.

S: And lowlight?
OBS: Well… When I get in a creative zone I sometimes lose my English (being my second language). Not long ago I wanted to tell a 17-year-old student to “amuse me with one idea”, but instead I asked her to “pleasure me with one thing”. I would say this is definitely a lowlight, possibly for both of us.

Omer and Sharon Backley-Astrachan ask questions about human behaviour in their work ‘TOHU’.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
OBS: I love how dance is uncontrollable. That once I start making a work, it dictates what it needs and not me.

S: Tell us about your 2018 Fringe show!
OBS: TOHU (chaos in Hebrew) was created together with my wife Sharon Backley-Astrachan. This work started when we moved to Australia. It was a huge culture shock for us (Sharon lived in Israel from the age of 21). Through TOHU we asked questions about human behaviour and sought-after answers in philosophy, cosmology and history. After living my whole life in Israel, it was very easy for me to identify differences in Israeli and Australian behaviour, but the universal things are never changing. In TOHU we try to understand where they come from, suggesting that perhaps they are embedded in us because of the way the universe works. So, we created a mini universe of our own where we both try to embody some universal behaviours as a driving force of life, relationship, order and chaos.

TOHU plays the State Theatre Centre of WA 2-10 February, as part of Fringe World.

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April 18, Calendar, Comedy, Performing arts

Comedy: Afternoons Tonight! with James Valentine

Presented by Live Ideas and Perth Comedy Festival

Live Ideas and Perth Comedy Festival present
Afternoons Tonight! with James Valentine
“Talk back radio. You won’t believe who calls ..…”

Direct from sell out seasons on the East Coast, James Valentine tours his wildly funny stage show to Perth Comedy Festival.

James Valentine exists in the grey fringes of your memory. He did ABC TV kids telly in the 80s, he was in the hit Australian band Models, and he’s been on some shockers of TV shows that even he can’t remember.

But what he’s actually been up to for the last twenty years is talk radio on ABC Radio Sydney. He’s been on air for two decades and his Afternoons show is like no other. It’s funny, but not just because he’s funny – it’s his callers. They are hilarious. They’re bizarre, and they tell him all the weird stuff that happens in their life.

James will share his best, worst and most intriguing callers from his Afternoons radio show, and then he’ll turn it over to you for a live session of talkback theatre that will bring out the strange, the wonderful and the hilarious sitting right there in the room.

You’ll laugh, you’ll crack up and you’ll have something to talk about all weekend!

Afternoons Tonight! is a fantastically funny and interactive night at the theatre and a great insight into how talk radio really works!

James Valentine is one of Australia’s most loved radio presenters and in a long and eclectic career has worked as a journalist, author, television host and musician. A saxophonist, he has performed with many acclaimed acts including: Jo Jo Zep, Models and Absent Friends. James also hosts the ABC Podcast Head Room which expands on musings and questions posed during James’ Afternoons radio show from 1-3pm weekdays on ABC Radio Sydney and NSW.

Ticket Price- $49.50/ $45.00 Concession or phone (08) 6212 9291
Follow us on:

Twitter: @abcperth
Facebook: @abcperth
Instagram: @abcperth

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Email: [email protected]

Calendar, Dance, February 18, Performing arts

Fringe World: TOHU

2-3 Feb, 6-10 Feb 2018 @ State Theatre Centre of WA •
Presented by Omer and Sharon Backley-Astrachan •

TOHU explores our chaotic existence as a mere reflection of our known universe. This captivating duet takes on various macro-processes that occur in the large universe and transpires them as abstract and metaphorical processes. The artists draw the viewers into their re-imagined micro-universe as they strive to make sense of our most enigmatic behaviours.

“Challenging the very existence of the art form by pitting it comparatively against the ways of the universe and the philosophical order of things” — Form Dance Projects.

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Email: [email protected]

Image credit: Benjamin Nunney

Calendar, February 18, January 18, Music, Performing arts, Theatre

Fringe World: Slap and Tickle

27 January, 30 January – 3 February 2018 @ State Theatre Centre of WA •
Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights, The Kabuki Drop and WAYJO•

Featuring Helpmann award winning singer, actor and composer, iOTA with a 12-piece orchestra, this world premiere co-production between The Kabuki Drop and WAYJO and is a show within a show. The piece takes the trope of the Fringe variety formula and turns it on its head in an irreverent and touching exploration of friendship and artistic camaraderie. Tickets from,

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Email: [email protected]