Film, Immersive Experience, News, Perth Festival, Reviews, Theatre

A star is born

Perth Festival review: The Last Great Hunt, Lé Nør   ·
PICA, February 13 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

Lé Nør  (The Rain) is the most ambitious work yet by The Last Great Hunt. It’s also the first time that all six members of the West Australian company have combined their talents as devisers, operators and performers in one production.

The result is awe-inspiring.

Here’s the bare bones: Lé Nør is set on the imagined North Atlantic island city-state of Sólset (from now on I’m going to dispense with the accents and umlauts; more on them later) that has endured a terrible seven-year drought that has reduced its inhabitants to water-hoarding, water-blackmailing obsessives. When the rains finally come, they keep coming. Before long the little island faces an even more existential threat.

We follow the lives of the inhabitants of one apartment block, Inez (Gita Bezard), a pregnant recue helicopter pilot, and her husband Leal (Jeffrey Jay Fowler), Petri (Chris Isaacs) and his inseparable mate Tobe (also Fowler), and two single women drawn to each other, Eliza (Arielle Gray) and Soren (Adrianne Daff). Another woman, Suzette (Jo Morris, the only non-Hunter in the cast) pines for her fled boyfriend in her lonely flat, endlessly playing and replaying Phil Collins’s Against All Odds.

All of their shenanigans are overseen with mild menace by the narrator, TLGH’s gamester-in-chief, Tim Watts.

That’s the last you need bother about the plot. It’s the how, not the what, that this thing is about.

As well as the Collins dirge, there’s I’m Not in Love, White Wing Dove, Head over Heels, How Do I Get You Alone, steak knives and more in the exquisitely hideous 1980s soundtrack ­– is there a word for nostalgia for a time you didn’t have to endure yourself?

That’s only part of the referential delight of the work. It’s a deep dive into a world transformed by the lens of a camera, a stage show that becomes, more completely than anything I can remember, the Grand Illusion, the making of cinema.

Effectively the set is a screen that dominates the PICA stage, designed, along with its attendant gadgetry, by the “seventh Hunter”, Anthony Watts. All the show’s action, all its effects, are created for, and live on, that screen. Around it bustle the Hunters and stage manager Clare Testoni, setting scenes, setting up camera shots, striking poses, delivering lines, all to be distilled into images on it.

It’s a phenomenally intense ride – if anything a little too dizzying to actively engage in for 90 minutes – wildly funny and sexy. It’s a technical achievement, with a personality and charisma, like nothing we’ve seen from a West Australian company.

The title, the Hunters say, means “The Rain” in the hilarious gibberish-language they have concocted for the show (there are English surtitles), but we know better.

It really means film noir (although some of the shots, of Gray and Daff in particular, owe as much to flicks like David Hamilton’s soft focus, gauzy 1977 Bilitis as anything grittier) but film theory is probably as unimportant here as narrative. Nothing is important (when nothing is real, there’s nothing to get hung about).

So just sit back and watch Jo Morris in a phone box climbing up the walls and across the ceiling while you see how it’s done; watch two fight superstars (Gray and Daff as goodie and baddie respectively) suddenly come to life on their billboard; watch Bezard’s matchbox helicopter swoop down to rescue our heroes from Solset’s last unsubmerged rooftop (the one with the billboard) like eagles on the slopes of Mt Doom.

With Lé Nør the Last Great Hunt have confirmed their individual and collective stardom and their mastery of their craft. Now it’s time for the real fun to begin.

“Lé Nør” is playing at PICA until February 24, and Mandurah Performing Arts Centre February 28 – March 2.

Pictured top: Visual marvel – Jo Morris and The Last Great Hunt soar. Photo: Daniel Grant.

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Dance, News, Perth Festival, Reviews

Stark, dark and utterly compelling

Perth Festival review: Michael Keegan-Dolan and Teac Damsa, Swan Lake/Loch na hEala ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, 14 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Anyone who saw Michael Keegan-Dolan’s dance theatre work Giselle at Perth Festival, back in 2009, will know that the Irish choreographer has the capacity to show us that the dark and often gruesome side of 19th century Gothic fairy-tale narratives lies just below the surface of contemporary life.

So it’s no surprise that his Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, created for his Ireland-based dance theatre company Teac Damsa, is laced with loneliness and grief, punctuated by violence. Instead of a castle we see an Irish housing estate. In place of a prince we have Jimmy O’Reilly (Alex Leonhartsberger), a 36-year old man emotionally paralysed by unemployment and the loss of his father.

The evil sorcerer is The Holy Man (Mikel Murfi); the story is his confession. In a flash-back scene we learn that he has sexually abused Finola (Rachel Poirer), a teenaged girl in his parish. When he realises that the crime has been witnessed by her three sisters he silences them with a curse that transforms all four girls into swans.

Years later, when Jimmy seeks solace at the local lake,  he is transfixed by the swan-woman Finola. And so the story unfolds but this is no escapist Romantic tragedy. Instead it’s a tale of the insidious nature of depression, of prejudice, and of corrupt power.

It would feel unrelentingly dark, but Keegan-Dolan tells this modern-day fable with a light touch. For starters, there’s a liberal sprinkling of humour. Then there’s the sparkling live music, composed by Dublin-based band Slow Moving Clouds and performed with zest by Aki (nyckelharpa, vocals), Mary Barnecutt (cello, vocals) and Danny Diamond (fiddle). The folk resonances of the tumbling score, with its yearning wordless calls and minor key melodies, are soothing as the story takes increasingly disturbing turns.

And, of course, there’s the dance, which interweaves the spoken narrative with curlicuing limbs and spiralling paths. It’s beautifully executed by the cast. As The First, Second and Third Watchers, Saku Koistinen, Zen Jefferson and Erik Nevin are lithe and nimble, while the swan sisters Kim Ceysens, Anna Kaszuba and Carys Staton, and Poirer are at once weighted and expansive, their arms extending with an airiness that belies their firmly grounded steps. With their broad-spanned swan wings (designed by Hyemi Shin) they are almost angelic.

Poirer and Leonhartsberger’s two duets are highlights, the first flinching and stuttering; the second softer and more supple, a moment of comfort before parting. Both dancers portray their vulnerable, damaged characters with poignancy and sensitivity.

As The Holy Man (and various other minor roles) Mikel Murfi is outstanding. This is no fantasy villain; chilling yet comical, his Holy Man is both repellent and believable. And Murfi is versatile; so swiftly and deftly does he switch between two conversing characters that we almost see two men on stage.

It’s a pleasure to see Australia’s own Elizabeth Cameron Dalman playing Jimmy’s widowed mother Nancy. At 84, this doyenne of contemporary dance inhabits the role with stoic grace. Her wonderfully expressive face speaks volumes and it’s a privilege to see her dance in the final scene, albeit briefly.

Though the feather-filled finale feels disconnected from the story’s tragic conclusion, it also allows viewers time to gather their thoughts and spirits. By curtain call on opening night, the audience was, justly, ecstatic.

Stark, dark and disturbing, Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake is utterly compelling.

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala plays the State Theatre Centre of WA until February 17.

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Comedy, News, Perth Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Brickbats and bouquets

Perth Festival review: Ursula Martinez, Free Admission ·
Studio Underground, February 14 ·
Review by Robert Housely ·

The art of bricklaying typically is practised by tanned alpha men in stubbies shorts and blue singlets on dusty building sites.

When a well-manicured gay woman with hair in a neat bun wearing a white business suit does it on stage, the stereotypical world order has been seriously disrupted.

Although this contradiction is extremely unlikely, it is possible, sometimes. Sometimes, anything can happen.

That is precisely the point of acclaimed UK experimental theatre maker and cabaret performer Ursula Martinez – a Perth Festival artist-in-residence – in this one of her several festival offerings.

The starting point for this Mark Whitelaw-directed show was her realisation that “the word sometimes reinforces the idea that there is no absolute truth … that life isn’t fixed … that we are all prone to contradiction and all capable of change.”

Her performance comprises a strategically entangled compendium of personal anecdotes and observations, many of which begin with the word “sometimes”.

All the while she uses small concrete blocks, a trowel and mortar to fill in a cut-away section of a partition wall between her and the audience.

Slowly but surely you see less and less of her as she gradually builds a wall which, in keeping with her intent, is a complete contradiction to her unabashed personal exposé.

Her anecdotes can be bawdy, are frequently topical and – whatever the subject matter – are often hilarious.

“Sometimes”, she says, “the world would be better without penises and religion; and I’m not saying get rid of penises.”

“Sometimes”, she says, “I get jealous of Catherine Tate because I once did a comedy show with her 20 years ago. Sometimes, I’m not ‘bovered’.”

She remembers racist childhood ditties from the 1970s, reciting them as though still in the schoolyard with friends.

She reveals her “obsession with having a clean bum hole” as though intimate personal hygiene was open to public debate.

She mentions her current divorce proceedings with ex-partner “princess mental case”.

Nothing is off the table in what is a smorgasbord of personal admissions.

Her command of multiple accents complements many of her stories whether parodying her Scottish sex-education teacher or channelling her Spanish mother, who has a propensity for “hitting the nail on the head”.

Some playful audience engagement and an outrageous finale contribute to making this thoroughly accessible show well worth the price of admission.

Free Admission is playing at the Studio Underground until  Feb 18.

Pictured top: Ursula Martinez trowels it on.

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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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Female choristers singing
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

An early highlight

Perth Festival review: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Australian Chamber Orchestra ⋅
Perth Concert Hall, February 13 ⋅
Review by Leon Levy ⋅

There is nothing more stimulating – nor more hoped for – in a festival than an unusual and imaginative confluence of artistic forces. This dream was doubly fulfilled on this occasion when the Perth Festival brought together a choir and orchestra who last performed on the same stage in 1999 and two composers – J.S. Bach and the Estonian Arvo Pärt – separated by 250 years.

The early composing career of Pärt came to a halt under Soviet censorship; but his research into the roots of Western music and into early choral writing brought with it fresh inspiration and a compositional style that takes off in the pre-Bach era and makes its landing in a receptive contemporary world. It is probably fair to say that few composers of the post-war era have so successfully absorbed archaic sounds and fashioned them so as to be distinctly and uniquely of our times.

All of this was reflected clearly in the opening work, Pärt’s Da Pacem Domine, a Jordi Savall commission for a 2004 Barcelona peace concert, and composed in memory of the victims of the Madrid train bombing of that year. With the choir standing in a single row in front of the orchestra and barely visible in the darkened auditorium, the short, slow plea for peace had the audience collectively holding its breath. Sparing in harmony and restrained in melodic content, voices perfectly pitched and weighted, a more arresting opening would be hard to imagine.

And then, completely without pause and with the lights raised, Bach’s motet Komm, Jesu, Komm was launched while the choir sang its way to its double chorus formation behind the orchestra. With the singers summoning freshest tone and the purity of the upper voices lending an appropriately ecstatic quality, the theme of the work – the release from earthly life into life-eternal – was perfectly evoked.

Each composer having thus made his opening statement, a pattern of short alternating works followed, Pärt’s orchestral utterances contrasting with Bach’s accompanied Lutheran motets. All were performed with high accomplishment and each was replete with memorable moments in composition and execution.

The third item, Pärt’s orchestral Summa, with its jagged lines gently intoned, suggested a quiet determination that life shall go on, following the tragedy that inspired Da pacem Domine. By contrast, Bach’s Singet dem Herr ein neues Lied then led into an unleashing of joy and energy, with solo voices emerging as though from a heavenly host!

A brief but attractive In Paradisum by Galina Grigorjeva strongly reflects her Orthodox inspiration.  In this performance it built towards a richly harmonic Slavonic climax before a finely controlled quiet close. Moving abruptly – and without chorus – into an altogether different sound world, Peter Sculthorpe’s Djilile (“Whistling Duck”) uses an Aboriginal melody from Arnhem Land that resonated strongly with the composer.  The emergence of the song from the vast landscape evoked by the cello introduction, seemed to convey love and loss of country and a spirituality no less profound than anything that had preceded it on the programme.

Pärt’s Berliner Messe was composed for the 1990 Berlin Katholikentage, a periodic gathering held in the German-speaking countries. The evening’s most substantial offering, it is a work of solemn devotion in Pärt’s tintinnabuli style and is devoid of any hint of flamboyance. Its performance reflected the qualities heard throughout the evening and, with a concluding plea for peace, brought us full circle to the theme of the opening work.

Richard Tognetti, combining masterful direction with a self-effacing presence, together with a group of truly fine orchestral and vocal artists, gave the 2019 Perth Festival an absorbing and stimulating early highlight.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir can also be heard in performance at Winthrop Hall on Friday 15th February at 8pm and Saturday 16th at 3pm, with pre-concert conversations one hour before each show.

Pictured top: The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Photo Kristian Kruuser.

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A man in blue singlet and boots pulls a dance move in front of the sign "spudshed"
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Spud King flawed but fun

Fringe World review: Aarnav Productions, Tony Galati: the Musical ⋅
De Parel Spiegeltent February 13 ⋅
Review by David Zampatti ⋅

Since the demise of the bushranger, Australians have searched for their heroes on sporting fields, in parliaments, in big business, and on stage and screen. Let’s face it, the search hasn’t turned out so well.

In desperation (or perhaps, unlike Napoleon’s English – the “nation of shopkeepers” – we’re just a nation of shoppers) we’ve looked to our retailers for inspiration, especially those who bucked bureaucracy and vested interests to succeed – and give us a good deal. Your Dick Smiths and Gerry Harveys are household names across the wide brown land. Here in WA we’ve had our share of Purchaseonalities too; Tom “the Cheap” Wardle even became Lord Mayor of Perth, John Hughes of Shepparton Road, Victoria Park, Rick Hart.

But none has quite captured the imagination like the Titan of Tubers, the Prince of Potatoes, the Bane of Bureaucrats and the Rolled-Yukon Gold, open 24/7 Spud King, Tony Galati. Son of a hardscrabble Italian migrant, wearer of ubiquitous blue singlets, muddy of boot and bushy of eyebrow, a bit hard, a bit generous, a lot stubborn, he’s the stuff around which urban myths are woven. And, it seems, musicals.

I’m sure Galati (played by Thomas Papathanassiou) has as many flaws as his discounted rejected spuds, and so does Tony Galati: the Musical, the impossible-to-get-a-ticket Spiegeltent production that’s probably been the most anticipated show this Fringe. But you know what? It’s fun, it’s not at all badly done, and, best of all, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I like that it can really only ever play in WA. In the rest of the world, its absolute parochialism would fall flat, so it’s really just for us. I like the tunes Caleb Garfinkle nicked straight off the rack. You’ve heard Perth (The Greatest City on Earth), Set it in Stone, Sunrise and There’s a Potato in You a thousand times (and sure, often a lot better) in everything from Annie to Zorba the Greek.

I liked that Garfinkle and writer Dan Debuf were able to make something (I forget what exactly) sort of rhyme with “John Inverarity”. I like the cast of actors, drawn largely from Perth’s improv theatre scene (impossible not to mention Sam Longley, whose Russet Burbank Jr from the Potato Marketing Board is sort of an Inspector Javert to Galati’s Jean Valjean). I like the packs of spuds waiting outside as gifts to the audience.

Best of all I liked the Perth crowd (a lot of them, I’m guessing, Spud Shed customers), that forgave the show its faults and revelled wholeheartedly in its strengths. There should be more like them.

Tony Galati: the Musical continues until February 17.

Picture top: Thomas Papathanassiou plays Spud King Tony Galati. Photo Sean Breadsell

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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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Features, Lectures and Talks, Literature, News, Perth Festival

A writers festival for you

Running from 18-24 February, Perth Festival Writers Week is a feast for the mind, combining an immersive weekend of panel sessions at the University Club at UWA as well as a number of satellite events around Perth. This year marks William Yeoman’s second as Writers Week Curator and, with one successful event already under his belt, he’s excited for what he promises will be an even better program this February. Claire Trolio spoke to Yeoman to find out more.

William Yeoman
William Yeoman

William Yeoman works an eight day week.

Yes, you read that right.  Maintaining his full time job as Books Editor and Arts Writer at The West Australian, he also works two days a week in the Perth Festival offices and steals time early in the morning or in the evenings to make up an extra day. Fortunately, there is some overlap between his jobs, most notably the copious amount of reading required!

To get through those mountains of literature, Yeoman has perfected the art of skim reading. When he’s reading for work and it’s not a text he’d otherwise choose, he is able to familiarise himself with a book in about one hour.

But reading for enjoyment? That’s another story he says. I wonder if there is any time left in his schedule for a leisurely read? “I make time,” he stresses. “If you love the language [of a writer] you need to slow down.” At the moment, Yeoman is savouring Fiona Wright’s collection of essays “The World Was Whole”, ahead of her appearance in two sessions at Writers Week.

Curating Perth Festival Writers Week is a mammoth task and Yeoman doesn’t pretend otherwise. “Let’s be clear, this kind of writers festival is a major international festival. But once you get your head around all that, it’s fine,” he chuckles. To approach the task he starts with a rough idea of the themes he wants to explore and the kinds of authors he wants to invite. But, he stresses, “it’s also about being flexible enough to change your mind and being ready to accept those authors who are offered up to you, sometimes quite late in the piece.”

Jane Caro. Photo: David Hahn.

Jane Caro is one example. The writer and social commentator’s new book Accidental Feminists, is coming out this month and Yeoman jumped at the chance to add her name to the bill. Not only does this make for an up-to-date, relevant program, but Caro is also a big name. “Someone like that is going to raise the profile of the festival,” explains Yeoman.

Entertaining the audience is also high on Yeoman’s list of priorities. “I am big on the ideas of performance and theatre,” he reflects. “Of course, solid, conceptual ideas might be at the heart of that, but hopefully they are presented in an engaging way. Part of creating that experience is related to the kind of guests you invite,” he continues, naming Benjamin Law and Mikey Robins as two 2019 Writers Week guests whose brilliant presentation styles were a big drawcard when planning the program.

As Writers Week Curator, Yeoman considers his responsibility to be “first and foremost, to the reader”. It’s the same way he approaches journalism. This means he must compromise his personal interests and, sometimes his political opinions. “It’s important to have dissenting voices [within a festival], not if they are extreme, but where they are reasonable,” he remarks.

There’s also room in the festival to have some fun, and one of the program highlights for Yeoman himself is Freo Groove, a celebration of the musical history of Fremantle. “To have writers and musicians Claire Moodie and Bill Lawrie together with Lucky Oceans and some of the musicians who feature in their book, in a free, outdoor marquee sundowner – what’s not to like?”

A keen musician himself, he admits to always seeking out musical connections, and the program reflects this. As well as Freo Groove, Yeoman has programmed author and travel editor Stephen Scourfield in conversation with Margaret River based guitar maker Scott Wise (There Are Strings Attached); Jazz High Tea, combining a conversation about The Great Gatsby with live music from WA Youth Jazz Orchestra; and a performance of songs of love and desire in German and English preceding a discussion about singing in translation (Lust in Translation).

The intersection between literature and other disciplines is a feature of Yeoman’s programming. Film, architecture, photography and fashion, as well as music, are represented in this year’s program. Where do you draw the line when it comes to crossing disciplines at a writers festival? “You don’t!” Yeoman responds emphatically. “You find a connection somewhere. If someone has written a book on a topic, well, it’s as easy as that.”

The architectural legacy of Kerry Hill will be discussed by Kerry Hill Architects’ Patrick Kosky and architect Geoffrey London alongside a tour of Hill’s City of Perth Library (Remembering Kerry Hill). And one of Australia’s most famous and respected film critics, David Stratton, will pop by. He’ll discuss hidden cinematic gems (101 Marvellous Movies You May Have Missed) before joining Jane Lydon, Joanna Sassoon and George Kouvaros to consider how moving and still images shape our memories and future (Migration, Memory & Movies).

Benjamin Law

Yeoman is also excited to present madison moore, an American cultural critic, DJ and Assistant Professor of Queer Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Moore’s first book, Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric, explores how eccentric style, fashion and creativity is political, particularly in queer culture and non-white cultures. As well as appearing alongside Benjamin Law and Ursula Martinez in panel session A Queer World, moore will present a late-night performance lecture at the State Theatre Centre of WA, exploring the concept of clubs as a safe space for experimentation and self-expression (Dance Mania: A Manifesto for Queer Nightlife).

Evidently, moore’s work ties in closely to what Yeoman has declared to be the theme of Writers Week 2019: Our Imagined Selves. “In fact,” declares Yeoman, “this year’s theme was partly inspired by madison moore.” As beautifully diverse as Yeoman’s 2019 Writers Week program is, this concept ties it together. Stories – both fiction and non-fiction – are the essence of who we are. So as you journey through Perth Festival Writers Week, consider yourself, your own story and how it fits with those around you. Because as much as the festival is about the writers, it’s also about you.

Perth Festival Writers Week runs from 18-24 February 2019. 

Pictured top is madison moore.

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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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Two dancers, one male, one female, both with silvered hair, slicked back with paint. They lunge into one another.
Dance, News, Perth Festival, Reviews

Some hits, some misses

West Australian Ballet, ‘In-Synch: Ballet at the Quarry’ ·
West Australian Ballet, Friday 8 February ·
Review by Amy Wiseman ·

West Australian Ballet’s annual outdoor season sees ballet fans flock to Floreat’s magnificent Quarry Amphitheatre for a balmy summer evening of dance. This year’s programme, “In-Synch: Ballet at the Quarry”, features four short contemporary ballet works, including a unique collaboration with WA’s flagship contemporary dance company, Co3 Australia. Arriving early at the venue allows for the added luxury of a shared picnic in the setting sun and the chance to observe the artists warm up and prepare for the performance.

Opening the evening, Finnish choreographer Johanna Nuutinen’s X-It uses both live performance and a projected film, which was shot in the iconic Fremantle Prison. Unsettling in theme, the work explores our psychological reaction to constant surveillance.

An eerie, suspenseful solo, aided by Thomas Norvio’s sparse sound design, unfolds both on and off the screen, performed with strength and precision on opening night by Kymberleigh Cowley. Though the concept is not fully explored and ideas feel fractured, the piece is technically impressive, as the cast of six weave and arc through physically demanding duets.

Itzik Galili’s The Sofa follows a short interval. This comical romp, originally performed by the company in 2014, delighted the opening night crowd. Though thematically a little dated on the issue of sexuality and dare I say, consent, on the whole this work is clever and engaging with charming characterisation (in this casting) from dancers Matthew Lehmann, Chihiro Nomura and a sassy Oscar Valdés.

The world premiere of In-Synch follows. Conceived by Aurélien Scannella and Sandy Delasalle this is an improvised work with the musical score selected by the audience each night. Performance improvisation, as those of us who have tried it will attest, is immensely challenging and demanding. The craft often requires years of specific training even without the added restriction and specificity of the classical form, and unfortunately this ambitious experiment misses the mark.

The company dancers move between a series of constructed tableaus using guided frameworks featuring morphing lighting states by Michael Rippon and movement provocations by former WAB dancer David Mack. For the most part, the work felt structurally transparent and tentative at the performance viewed, though a brief duet by Dayana Hardy and Juan Carlos Osma found space to captivate with stunning partnering and responsiveness.

Concluding the evening, is Reincarnation, a new work created for this season by renowned Australian choreographer Garry Stewart. Bold and visually striking, Reincarnation uses company artists and dancers from Co3 Australia, to full exertion. Clad in saturated reds and blues, ungendered bodies parade in ritualistic procession, moving with Stewart’s characteristic tension and physical intensity. Eccentric and at times ironic, the suspended fantasy felt bewildering and otherworldly but it was difficult to remain completely absorbed, despite the theatrics. Fire-cracker Katherine Gurr (Co3 Australia) and the lithe Polly Hilton (WAB) delivered powerful commanding performances amongst a cast of proficient and committed artists.

Artistic opinions aside, it was wonderful to see an Australian choreographer, particularly one of such esteem in the programming this year, as well as witnessing the (currently) rare opportunity for professional West Australian artists in ballet and contemporary disciplines to share the process and the stage together at a Perth Festival event. I look forward to future collaborations between these two wonderful companies.

“In Synch: Ballet at the Quarry” runs until March 2.

Pictured top: Julio Blanes and Carina Roberts in ‘X-it’. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

Dancers of West Australian Ballet and Co3 Australia in ‘Reincarnation’. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.
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