A group of circus performers manipulating a large sheet of plastic
Circus, Fringe World, News, Reviews

Tackling plastic through acrobatics

Kinetica, 450 Years ·
Big Top at The Woodside Pleasure Garden, 13 February ·
Review by Robert Housley ·

Some scary numbers are linked to the incredible amount of time it takes for plastic to break down in the environment.

Perth circus school Kinetica has chosen 450 Years for the title of its 2019 Fringe World show to emphasise the point. It is an estimation of the time it takes for a plastic cup, or bottle (depending on your source), to decompose.

It’s a sobering figure, as is the disturbing claim in the show blurb that “two million plastic bags are used worldwide every minute”.

In 450 Years, Kinetica “imagines a future world where plastic pollution has taken over and rules our everyday existence”.

Consequently, myriad forms of plastic appear throughout the work,  as props, costumes, hair ties, belts and environmental debris. The 10-member troupe – two males and eight females – navigate the challenges of working with the material, which is either integral to, or in the midst of, its 10-plus routines.

Playfulness and humour are also integrated into several of the acts, starting with an acrobatic routine in which plastic bags are juggled while an animated male performer dances to the first of many upbeat tunes.

The hula hoop features in another routine, with the apparatus utilised in perpetual motion whilst a female performer creatively manoeuvres it in and out of all four limbs. Her single foot work while upside-down is gravity-defying. The entire troupe emerges from backstage at the conclusion of her solo, to form a conga line with hula hoops that culminates in a visually stunning human pyramid.

A “bottle-crushing” contortionist shows us how to reduce the size of plastic bottles using numerous body parts while balancing atop a 1.5m wooden table… not a level of versatility required when recycling them at home.

The larger part of the show is dedicated to aerial acts, though a few too many for the overall balance of the 50-minute work. Different airborne apparatus – a corner-hung large cube, silks, a lyra (suspended hoop), straps and a net – ensure, however, that there is sufficient aerial variety to maintain audience attention.

Striking sculptured poses in mid-air is no mean feat, and the standard of these routines is uniformly high.

While environmental awareness is an admirable theme – and there are moments when it is manifest in this work – realising it with circus skills is a challenge that isn’t quite met.

Nonetheless, 450 Years is an accomplished effort.

450 years shows at the Big Top until February 17.

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Fringe World, Music, Musical theatre, News, Theatre

Ambition and emptiness

Fringe World review: New Ghost Theatre, Paper Doll ·
&
FUGUE, Indigo Keane and Nicole Harvey, Silence My Ladyhead ·
Blue Room, February 12 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

There was something about New Ghost Theatre’s Paper Doll that bugged me until I looked back over the 35-odd productions I’ve been to so far this festival season.  Then I realised it was just about the first play, rather than theatre (or other related stuffI’d seen.

Fourth wall firmly in place; two human beings talking to each other; a distinct linear narrative; start (young woman opens door to a bedraggled, soaking older man), middle (they talk it becomes clear he is her father, he’s been inside and her friends have warned her to keep clear of him) and end (their dark secret is revealed).

Katy Warner’s play, conceived as a response to Arthur Miller’s masterpiece A View From The Bridge, is erudite, powerful and raw, reminiscent in many ways of David Harrower’s mighty Blackbird.

It’s perfectly cast (Hayley Pearl is the woman, Martin Ashley Jones her father, both are totally convincing).

Lucy Clements, who has launched a serious career since graduating from WAAPA and delivering the impressive Fracture to the Blue Room in 2015, directs here, and, by and large, it’s a strong piece of work. But I take issue with two of her (or her and Warner’s) decisions.

The first was to perform an essentially naturalistic piece on a completely bare stage. What purpose there was in not providing even a table and a couple of chairs for the actors to work – and put their beers and chips on – defeats me. It created an unnecessary and unhelpful unreality in a piece that didn’t need it.

The other, far more important quibble, was their lack of control of the piece’s temperature. Even though Paper Doll is only 45/50 minutes long, it still needed the character’s heat to rise along with its tension and reveal.

Warner/Clements got them up too far, far too fast, which meant that that the play began to plateau when it should have still been peaking.

But they are the risks you take when you eschew easy allegory or dystopia, or all the other shortcuts that mortal contemporary theatre-making is prey to, and resolve to write an actual play. It’s hard, bloody hard, and I commend them all for doing it.

Nothing I could honestly say about Silence My Ladyhead (apart from noting its cool title) would be likely to encourage you to see it.

It’s a pity because its star Indigo Keane has quite a bit going for her (in a previous review I described her as “a pneumatic, diaphanous gobsmack” and, as this show uses the quote in their publicity, I assume I’m at liberty to repeat it), but this is not the vehicle for her talents.

The piece starts promisingly enough with her long-limbed, smoke-wreathed, darkest-legal-blue tinted emergence from the shadows (assumedly as Arachne, the mortal weaver who challenged Athena on the loom and got four more limbs for her hubris), but nothing after that lives up to that promise.

Her songs (I Was Made for Loving You, a bewildering Stand By Your Man, PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love) all suffered from really limp backing tracks that left her with nowhere to go, and made her attempts at a sort of Patti Smith-like anti-performance stance lacking the Patti Smith bit.

Sorry, but after shows like Bitch on Heat, Feminah and last year’s Power Ballad, Silence My Ladyhead was, um, devoid.

Paper Doll is playing at the Blue Room until  Feb 16.

Silence My Ladyhead is playing at the Blue Room until  Feb 13.

Pictured top: Major disappointment – Indigo Keane in Silence My Ladyhead.

    

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A man pulling faces
Fringe World, News, Physical theatre, Reviews

Minimalist show, maximum charm

Fringe World review: Kallo Collective, Only Bones v1.0 ·
The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights, 12 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Before I begin writing about Only Bones v1.0, I have some advice. Go and book your ticket now. I’m in two minds about whether you should then read this review, or wait until after you’ve seen the show. Maybe wait until after you’ve seen the show.

Because a great deal of the pleasure of this witty and eccentric show comes from its surprises.

Described by its makers – New Zealand’s Thom Monckton and Gemma Tweedie and Finland’s Kallo Collective – as “minimalist micro-physical theatre”, Only Bones 1.0 is understated. The performance begins in near darkness. All that is visible is a pair of incredibly articulate hands (belonging to solo performer Monckton) that swim through a small circle of submarine blue light; rippling and twitching, inflating and collapsing. The soundscape, provided by onstage-but-barely-visible technician Tweedie, is ambient, soothing.

So far, so chill… but things are about to change for the funnier.

For the next 40 odd minutes, the tracksuit-clad Monckton uses his wonderfully mobile body, to entertain and delight. Initially, we see only his limbs. A sock-masked hand is an interloper between a pair of feet. Two hands have a melodramatic nail polished-based duel.

Gradually more of Monkton’s body is revealed but there’s trouble with the head – it just won’t stay put on top of his neck. The antics that follow have the audience gasping with laughter and disbelief in equal measure. Monkton’s body has a rubber-like capacity to change shape, while his mobile face appears to be made of plasticine that can be pulled into any expression.

It’s all accompanied by a mix of cleverly-timed sound effects from Tweedie as well as various wordless squeaks, grunts and mutterings from Monkton himself. Without giving too much away, a game of mix-the-animal-sounds is a highlight of the show.

The intimacy provided by the Blue Room Theatre’s performance space is just right for this small-scale show.

My own non-plasticine face ached from grinning. Only Bones v1.0 is an absolute treat.

Only Bones v1.o plays the Blue Room Theatre until February 16.

Pictured top: Thom Monckton’s mobile face appears to be made of plasticine that can be pulled into any expression. Photo: Dmitrijus Matvejevas.

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Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Spirited resistance

Fringe World review: Tabitha Woo, A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars ·
The Blue Room, February 6 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

It was ever thus.

Empires and trade, blockades and gunships, hypocrisy, oppression, brutality and the Peril of China, troubling the sleep of the rich, powerful and white.

And even 21st century America at its Trumpiest, confronted with the imbalance of trade between the indolent West and the industrious East, could never have been as conniving, or brutal, as the mid-19th century British.

Tired of parting with bullion for the tea, silk and porcelain they imported from China, they sent back opium as payment. And when the Chinese baulked at this devilish trade, the British sent warships and troops to enforce it (seizing some strategic ports, most famously Hong Kong, as entry points for the narcotic).

The hero of Chinese resistance was the scholar Lin Zexu, who arrested the opium traders, destroyed their pipes, mixed their drug with lime and washed it out to sea – apologising, as he did, to the ocean gods for polluting their realm (thanks again Wikipedia!).

He also wrote a letter to Queen Victoria, pleading with her to end her country’s vile practice (he was unaware of the processes of constitutional monarchy, but no-one’s perfect).

The letter is read early in A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars by Lin’s great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter Pei Hui, the performer Tabitha Woo. She winkles out the story of her family, from her doctor grandfather’s early life in Ipoh, a provincial city in British Malaya, to Singapore, where Woo’s father was born, and on to Tasmania where he married a Hobart girl and raised a classic Asian-Australian family, Tabitha the oldest of their children.

It would make an enlightening hour just listening to their story, but Woo enlivens it with an endearing performance that includes everything from a faintly ludicrous but charming caricature of Victoria to show tunes (A Puzzlement from The King and I) and the Mandarin pop of Teresa Teng.

She throws in some awkward glove puppetry and a trip through the mores of Victorian and Chinese culture and customs.

Woo is no world-beater but she inhabits her family’s story with charm and great loyalty, and comes out a winner.

I found myself far more impressed with, and entertained by, A Westerner’s Guide by the time it ended than I was half way through.

That, I promise you, is not damning with faint praise. It’s actually a rare and welcome achievement.

A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars is at The Blue Room until February 9.

Pictured top: Tabitha Woo digging her hands deep into Chinese history.

Photography: Clare Hawley

 

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2 Guitarists on stage performing
Calendar, Fringe World, Music, Performing arts

Music: The Freaky Funkathon 1970s Funky Disco Party

15 February @ Bar 1 Nightclub, Hillarys ·
Presented by  Paul Cozens ·

Royal Badness – The Prince Tribute Band at the Fringe World Freaky Funkathon

Fancy dressing up and enjoying some 1970s funky-disco dancing with Utopian Funk and Groove Disciples?  Two LIVE bands, DJ Upfront (RTR FM) and a burlesque performance by Parisian Pin Up Miss Moo Di’ Bleu.

8pm to 12am at Bar 1 Nightclub, Hillarys.

May the FUNK be with you!

More info
W: www.fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/the-freaky-funkathon-fw2019
E:  pmcozens@outlook.com

Pictured: Royal Badness: The Prince Tribute Band LIVE

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Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Firestorm

Fringe World review: Leah Shelton, Bitch on Heat ·
The Blue Room, February 6 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

They come along once in a blue moon. Shows that stop you dead in your tracks.

Neil Watkin’s sordid, poetic, The Year of Magical Wanking in 2012; Bryony Kimming’s daring, beautifully structured Sex Idiot in 2015; Lucy Jane Parkinson’s rambunctious, salty Joan last year.

All of them took no prisoners; all of them cranked up the dial; all of them changed what to expect, what you need to know, and what you must allow.

Now there’s another. Leah Shelton’s Bitch On Heat journeys down roads well travelled in contemporary theatre – female objectification, abuse, mental and physical violence and abandonment – but she does it in a high-octane, warp-speed battlewagon, leaving plenty of roadkill in its wake.

The result is fresh, massively empowering for its female audience and, to put it mildly, thought-provoking for male watchers.

The show is almost entirely physical action and lip-synch (the one line of spoken dialogue, “Shut the fuck up!”, makes shocking sense on a whole pile of levels), and the inventiveness of Shelton’s transitions, from a blow-up sex doll Pandora to a rapine old man (“Women are food”), from a cynical, transactional society dame to an exhausted, dejected and abandoned woman stripped of everything but pride, is incredible.

The great violence in the piece – inflicted and retributive – is stunningly enacted, its energy doesn’t flag for an instant, the clarity of its action, and what its action represents, is beyond impressive.

Shelton is simply magnificent, and her set and costume work is superlatively shocking and amazingly theatrically practical. Much credit is also due to Ursula Martinez (also performing in Perth this month as Perth Festival’s artist-in-residence), who directs this whirlwind of a show with precision, surprise and great humour, and to Kenneth Lyons, whose sound design is perfect.

The songs for the show, apart from their exquisite appropriateness (of course you should hack up your attacker to Cilla Black’s You’re My World, underplayed with fx from the Psycho shower scene, and celebrate your handi/knifi/axi-work with some pole acrobatics to Led Zep’s Immigrant Song; of course you should close the show with Martha Wainwright’s Bloody Motherfucking Arsehole), deliver the two things so often infuriatingly missing in most stage shows. They are played LOUD, and, more often than not, complete.

I’ve seen pretty much everything on The Blue Room stages in the last decade; don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience there so totally gobsmacked. This bloody, motherfucking thing will sell out. Hope you get in before it does.

Bitch on Heat plays at the Blue Room until February 9.

Caption: Leah Shelton rams home her message.

Photographer: FenLan Chuang

 

 

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Turquoise Theatre
Fringe World, News, Reviews, Theatre

A dark double take

Fringe World review: Turquoise Theatre, Lake Disappointment ·
The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights, 5 February ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Lake Disappointment is a one-man show starring Joel Sammels as a body double, a man whose professional value is determined by his resemblance to a particular movie star.

As the Double shares his inner thoughts while substituting for the star in the production of a new film, it quickly becomes clear that he is confusing the boundaries between himself and the man he looks like.

Hyper-aware of his physical appearance, fixated on his minor achievements, and desperately waiting for his celebrity lookalike to arrive on set, the Double’s undoing is disquieting and inevitable as his grip on reality starts to slip.

Sammels gives an impassioned performance in this production, which was directed by Susannah Thompson and written by Lachlan Philpott with Luke Mullins.

It is particularly striking to hear the Double’s monologue while watching him enact the banal, repetitive tasks that are required when shooting close-up movie footage – holding and releasing a heroic pose, or grasping his fingers around a coffee cup again and again.

While Sammels evokes sympathy for a man who attaches far too much meaning to childhood recollections and casual encounters, there is some tonal confusion in the production’s attempts to balance humour and poignancy.

Although billed as a dark comedy, the script offers less laugh-out-loud moments and more wry smiles in recognition of familiar tropes, as the Double’s narcissistic traits and the trappings of showbiz are painted in broad strokes.

Lake Disappointment plays The Blue Room Theatre until February 9.

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Cabaret, Fringe World, News, Reviews

Captivating from start to finish

Fringe World review: Holland St Productions, What Doesn’t Kill You [blah blah] Stronger ·
Downstairs at The Maj, 5 February ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

What Doesn’t Kill You [blah blah] Stronger is a gloriously funny whirlwind of a cabaret, paying tribute to those who have suffered notable near-death experiences – such as Alexander Selkirk (who was marooned on an island of feral cats), Anne Hodges (the only known person to be hit by a meteorite), and Violet Jessup (the unfortunate stewardess who survived three shipwrecks).

Although most of these stories will sound familiar to anyone with a passing interest in weird historical anecdotes, the aggressively charismatic Erin Hutchinson and Tyler Jacob Jones transform these tales into a diverse assortment of hilarious musical numbers.

Joined by Joshua Haines on piano, who plays an original score by composer Robert Woods, this cast of three exceptionally skilled local performers is an absolute delight to watch on stage. Their ceaseless enthusiasm, faultless musical capabilities and charmingly weird jokes ensure that the show remains captivating from beginning to end.

Special mention goes to Jones’s two-hatted “trio” musical number – and where else can you hear WA performers use their classically trained voices to sing about faeces over a calypso beat?

What Doesn’t Kill You… was last seen at the 2018 Fringe World, where it won both the Martin Sims Award for the best new Western Australian work, and the The West Australian Arts Editor Award. It’s easy to see why.

What Does Kill You [blah blah] stronger plays Downstairs at the Maj until February 9.

Pictured top are Tyler Jacob Jones and Erin Hutchinson. Photo: Pia Fruin.

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A choir and conductor
Choral, Fringe World, Music, News, Performing arts

For the love of indie tunes

With over 100 members, Perth indie-pop choir Menagerie has no trouble filling an auditorium with harmonies. But what does it take to muster so many voices into a cohesive whole?

Ahead of the choir’s sixth Fringe World show, Odes to the (In)significant, Seesaw chatted to Menagerie director Sally Banyard, AKA Zookeeper 3.0, to find out.

Sally Banyard. Photo: Ian Crimp Photography.

Seesaw: Tell us about Menagerie choir
Sally Banyard: Menagerie was created by our legendary original Zookeeper Claire Coleman in mid 2013.  Anyone was (and still is) welcome – no auditions and no experience necessary – just a love for singing indie tunes! Our philosophy is more-or-less centred around loving indie songs, being enthusiastic, being supportive of one another… and cake! (We do quite like cake.)

One of the best things about Menagerie is that we write our own arrangements, which means we can basically sing whatever we want to sing, and tailor it to suit the choir.  (It also leads to some very amusing score instructions!)

S: How did you come to be the director of Menagerie?
SB: I joined the choir in mid-2015 as a humble alto, after being super-jealous of my friends who had joined the previous season and completely regretting my decision not to join when they did! After my first season, I started writing arrangements – Silverchair’s “Freak” and Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” from for 2016 Fringe show Sounds Like Teen Spirit were my arranging debuts. In my third season I picked up a little conducting, and then when the time came  for Zookeeper 2.0, Kate Newell, to have baby 2.0, I was chosen by the choir and its “control panel” (committee) to be Zookeeper 3.0!

S: What is involved in being the director of Menagerie?
SB: Quite a lot… but I love it! It’s a couple of roles in one – musical director plus administrator – I run rehearsals, conduct, write and edit arrangements, organise stuff and keep the choir informed about what’s happening, amongst other bits and pieces.

Fortunately (and necessarily) I have a lot of help! Throughout the year I work with our “control panel” to run the choir – this group manages the day-to-day choir operations (like money, membership, media and parties…) and plans our non-Fringe shows. From about July to February of each year I work with an additional “creative panel” who create our Fringe show.

S: What do you like most about directing Menagerie?
SB: Rehearsals are always very fun, and satisfying – everyone is there to sing, learn and have a good time,  and I love working together with the choir to make progress on our songs and sound each week. Gigs are also exciting – having it all come together and seeing the thrill of performing on everyone’s faces! Also, as a musician I feel very lucky to have a job where I have a lot of control over the music!

S: And what’s the biggest challenge?
SB: Balancing Menagerie and life… and sometimes remembering that Menagerie is not life! (Hm, who am I kidding?!)

S: Funniest moment?
SB: When I manage to find the worst way to express myself during rehearsal, for example, “Finish loud with a short man!”

S: What is the theme of your 2019 Fringe show Odes to the (In)significant?
SB: Menagerie Choir’s Odes to the (In)significant celebrates tiny things that have a big impact on our lives. From small decisions made decades ago, to everyday subversions, these little things tend to accumulate and reverberate throughout our lives – often giving us courage, or speaking to who we are. For this show we have collected eight songs and paired them with little stories from within the choir – each exploring this idea in different ways.

S: Can you give us any hints about the set list?
SB: Maybe I should say different things each time I am interviewed and make this a “collect all eight”! Our set list is jam-packed  with indie goodness, including favourites from Ben Folds Five, Regina Spektor and The Whitlams. In terms of the original recordings, there are five songs sung by female vocalists and at least four different nationalities, including 2.5 Australian artists… we’re slightly claiming Ben Folds but I’m not sure how he’d feel about that!

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
SB: The slide (because we like glissandi).

Menagerie Choir’s Odes to the (In)significant plays at Teatro at the Woodside Pleasure Garden from 11 – 16 February.

Want to join Menagerie? There is a wait list – to add your name, use the website contact form

Pictured top: Sally Banyard conducting Menagerie Choir at Fringe World in 2018. Photo: Anthony Tran.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lady on stage, arms wide open
Calendar, Fringe World, News, Performing arts

Cabaret from the heart

The name Coober Pedy conjures up images of the Australian outback, of heat, mines and, of course, opals. It’s not a name you’d normally associate with cabaret.

But cabaret artist Michaela Burger takes audience to that famed Australian town, when she tells a tale that’s close to her heart. Written and performed by Burger, A Migrant’s Son is about her father, but also about the challenges faced by all migrants.

Seesaw chatted with Burger about her life, work and the new show inspired by her dad.

Seesaw: Describe your artistic practice…
Michaela Burger: Cabaret artist, singer, actress…

S: When did you first know that you wanted to be a performer?
MB: My earliest memory is of wanting to be a performer. Perhaps I was three or four. I have sung since I could talk and always knew that my life would be in the arts.

S: Tell us about your training – formal, on-the-job or both?
MB: My initial training was as an actor, when I was very young and still at school. Next I studied for a Bachelor of Music, majoring in classical voice, at the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music, for three years. I then furthered my studies in London at the Mountview Academy of Music for one year, where I obtained a Masters in Musical Theatre. But in saying all of this, I do believe that most of what I have learnt to date has been on the job – especially observing other incredible artists with whom I have been lucky enough to work.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
MB: The freedom with working hours. I love the fact that I can go visit my friends at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon for a cup of tea… or that my husband and I can go on holiday whenever we want for as long as we want (granted I don’t have shows). This freedom makes up for the fact that I don’t get holiday pay!

S: Career highlight so far?
MB: I have just returned from a season at Southbank Centre London, with Rumpelstiltskin – a co-production of Windmill Theatre Company and State Theatre Company of South Australia. It was a total thrill to perform 30 shows in an auditorium with 900 seats! I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity and will never forget it. Another highlight was being nominated for a Helpmann Academy Award, along with my co-writer and colleague Greg Wain, for our show Exposing Edith.

S: Career lowlight?
MB: Well, I would say that each time I have no work it could be considered a lowlight… but then again, this is when I begin to create more and when most of my good ideas come! So in the end… possibly a lowlight becomes high…

S: Funniest career moment so far?
MB: It’s hard to pinpoint one moment. Each time something goes wrong on stage, I find it quite hilarious and find that that’s where the joy is – in the mistakes! The audience has no idea what is happening, and for us performers it’s a moment of togetherness that binds us and gives us the feeling of being in it as a team. It is these moments that pull us out when we are feeling like it’s impossible to continue.

S: This is your second time at Fringe World. What drew you back?
MB: I LOVE Fringe World. Last year we worked with Jay Emmanuel at St Georges Cathedral and had the support of Ali Welburn from Limelight Consulting, and I honestly think that it’s because of their generosity and support that I have decided to return. Without them, it would be a hard slog.

S: Tell us about your Fringe World show, A Migrant’s Son
MB: The best way to tell you about the show is with a review quote : )
“A far-reaching generational story that crosses divides, ignites memories and pulls at your heart-strings” – Stage Whispers

The show explores one of the most colourful times in Australian history, the arrival of the Greeks! Brought to life through original compositions, a live musician and a community choir led by Carol Young, this unique and touching account is both hard-hitting and hilarious.

The show tells the story of a poor Greek migrant, my dad, who defied all odds and rose above adversity. From deliveries for the family bakery at age seven to opal mines in Coober Pedy, he is an unstoppable force willing to sacrifice everything for family.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
MB: Definitely a swing! I still stop at a playground if I see a swing and have a swing!

A Migrant’s Son plays at Upper Burt Hall, Cathedral Square, 13 – 16 February.

Pictured top is Michaela Burger in “A Migrant’s Son”. Photo: Anne-Laure Marie.

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