A woman dancing. She takes a deep lunge, tango style
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A one-woman weaving

Review: Suzanne Ingelbrecht, PRESENTES! ·
Minnawarra Chapel, Armadale, November 28 ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

Like millions around the world in 1987, I listened to U2’s Joshua Tree on repeat. And its final track, the hauntingly beautiful and desperately sad “Mothers of the Disappeared” grabbed me by the throat (and led me to my school’s Amnesty group). A hymn to human rights, the song refers to the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of women whose children had “forcibly disappeared” at the hands of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships.

The mothers’ heart-breaking plight is a central thread in Suzanne Ingelbrecht’s one-woman play. Written and performed by Ingelbrecht, and directed by Igor Sas,  PRESENTES! weaves song, dance, film and storytelling to relay her physical and psychological journey through South America.

“Presentes” is Spanish for “here” or “present”. The mothers (now grandmothers) march every Thursday, 40 years after their children were taken off the streets. Their presence, their visibility, has spurred the ongoing search for truth and justice.

Footage from the weekly march and portraits of the disappeared, etched into glass at a memorial, are projected on a screen at the back of the stage (the work of filmmakers Belinda Thomas and Tina Aliedani).

A woman smiling, standing in front of a projection of film footage of women at a protest.
‘PRESENTES!’ weaves song, dance, film and storytelling to relay Suzanne Ingelbrecht’s physical and psychological journey through South America. Photo: Organic Productions.

Ingelbrecht also uses the word “presentes” to represent her own refusal “to go quietly into invisibility, shuffling off this mortal coil with an apologetic look back over my shoulder”. In 2016, she travelled from Buenos Aires, across the Andes to Chile, back to Argentina and down to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.

One of the most dramatic episodes re-enacted during the show is a trek through ice and 80km/hour winds in Patagonia. I enjoyed the suspenseful story of a hairy bus ride a on dodgy road and the tale of a poignant encounter with a masked Airbnb host.

Ingelbrecht says she undertook the epic trip to connect with her childhood fantasies, stirred by her father’s fascination for the Incas and Andes. Vignettes about her relationship with her dad form a key part of the play. One relating to dashed expectations at a swimming carnival is particularly moving.

Less successful, for me, are the stories about the fraught relationship with her travelling companion, Sarah. Some jokes landed (such as Sarah’s criticism, over breakfast in Chile, of Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize). But I found Ingelbrecht’s unflattering imitations of her frenemy mean spirited; an airing of dirty laundry. Why do some friends “disappear from your life”, she asks. Linking the women’s “breakup” to the disappearance theme also seemed distasteful, given the seemingly petty nature of the women’s dispute and the unspeakable tragedy faced by the mothers of the disappeared.

The tango, which embraces both passion and cruelty, becomes an effective motif in the show and fabulous footage of a social tango dance evokes a sense of place.

Ingelbrecht is a multi-skilled performer. My favourite scenes in PRESENTES! comprise Ingelbrecht dancing by herself, with just a chair on stage, to piano accordion music composed and played by Cathie Travers (choreography by Li-anne Carroll).

“PRESENTES!” will be performed again outside the Artists’ Retail Collective (ARC) Building in Jull Street Mall, Armadale on Thursday, December 13 at 8pm.

Pictured top is Suzanne Ingelbrecht in “PRESENTES!” Photo: Organic Productions.

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Children, News, Performing arts, Visual arts

Summer Gig Guide for Kids

Wondering what to do with the kids this summer? Seesaw co-editor and mum-at-large Rosalind Appleby has compiled a gig guide that will kindle creativity!

The summer holidays are here with long weeks of sunshine, rest and play for children. How will you fill your child’s summer? I’m reluctant to schedule events into the wonderful hours of unstructured play that my children relish, but I also know that things deteriorate when we stay home for too long.

My favourite thing to do is head out to art events.  The American writer Dorothea Brande said “A child’s mind is not a container to be filled but rather a fire to be kindled.”

I find that going to arts events as a family stimulates so much creativity when we return home. And there is plenty to choose from this summer with a host of family-friendly events plus the Fringe World starting in January.

Opening this week at the State Theatre Centre is the 91-Storey Treehouse. The team behind the 13-, 26-, 52- and 78-Storey Treehouses are back with another trip into this weird and fantastical world. The play by Richard Tulloch is adapted from the books by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton and aimed at children aged 6-12.

Also on this weekend is Symphony in the City. On Saturday night the West Australian Symphony Orchestra is joining forces with Lotterywest, the City of Perth and Variety for what will be Perth’s largest outdoor Christmas concert. Sing-along to Jingle Bells and Silent Night while also enjoying the sparkling Overture to Bernstein’s Candide, Jupiter from Holst’s The Planets and Tchaikovsky’s popular 1812 Overture, featuring a spectacular fireworks-filled finale.

In the lead up to Christmas there are some lovely themed events for children. The immersive theatre show Santa’s Enchanted Wardrobe runs from 14-25th December at Claremont Showgrounds. This imaginative mix of the Narnia and Santa stories involves the Wardrobe, Enchanted Forests, Ice Caves and wonderful creatures waiting to help or hinder you on your epic adventure to meet a real Santa! Perfect for ages 2-16.

The City of Perth has curated a Christmas Lights Trail.  Select from two mapped out journeys or go your own way as you marvel at the stunning animated lights, street decorations and projections across the CBD.

A new children’s show Maisie will be premiering at the Subiaco Arts Centre on Jan 18-19. Maisie is a princess who doesn’t want to be a princess. She’d much prefer to play video games or go exploring! The production features professional and emerging young artists, and is also part of the Fringe Perth program. For more Fringe events stay tuned for Seesaw’s Fringe Kids Guide.

Lewis Carroll’s timeless classic Alice in Wonderland comes to life at the State Theatre Centre from 22-23 January. A cast of actors and puppeteers fresh from performances in Victoria will bring to life this madcap story.

Another classic book has been adapted to the stage by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. They are reprising their 2015 production Moominpappa at Sea based on the series of Moomin books by Tove Jansson. The season runs from Jan 14 to Feb 2 for children aged 5+. Spare Parts will also be running a pop up puppet making station on Saturdays in the park directly in front of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. Experienced tutors will help children make their own hand puppets.

If your children like to get involved in the action you could also enrol them in NIDA’s Screen Acting Boot Camp for kids which runs 7-13th Jan. The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts also offers a range of theatre, musical theatre and music courses for young people ages 9-18 at WAAPA’s Summer School. These courses run on various dates throughout the summer holidays, starting Monday 19 December.

For kids who love to dance, Co3 Australia is running contemporary dance workshops January 14-18 (7-12 years), focusing on developing creativity, imagination and team work through dance. For teens, the senior workshop runs January 29 – February 1 (13-18 years) and includes daily contemporary technique classes, workshops in improvisation and choreography, and a taste of the Co3 repertoire.

An absolute must-see is the Fremantle Art Centre’s first curated exhibition for children running throughout the holidays. Animaze: Amazing Animals for Kids is a visual and sensory delight. You can read the Seesaw review here. FAC also run a plethora of art classes for all age ranges during the holidays including pottery, 3D animation, digital game development, craft, film-making, stencil, clowning, mosaic, drawing and tie dying.

Speaking of art classes, there are plenty on offer over summer. In Fremantle Inkling (a studio next to Paper Bird) will be running Christmas art classes from the 17-21st December plus holiday classes in January. Themes include clay, watercolour, selfies, rock art and Christmas! Other options are Quirky Cactus in Subiaco, the Children’s School of Contemporary Art in Applecross, Galleria Art Studio in Morley, Creative Kids Art Club at various locations and Jackie Peach in Queens Park runs paint pouring classes for children 10+.

Dive in and kindle your child’s creativity this summer!

Pictured Top: Alice in Wonderland by Boyd Productions

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

At surface level

Review: Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold, ‘Speaking to the Surface of Lake’; Matt Aitkin and Mei Swan Lim, ‘Land Sale’; Tessa Rex, ‘Sequestered’; James Doohan & Bianca Sharkey, ‘Astro Morphs Ascension’ ·
Cool Change Contemporary ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

One of Perth’s newest artist-run initiatives, Cool Change Contemporary, has curated a joint exhibition that explores landscape, perspective and the ever-challenging impact of mankind on our natural environment. Located in separate gallery spaces, the artists’ works transcend the walls that divide them, drawing invisible lines of connection.

Matt Aitken and Mei Swan Lim’s “Land Sale”, showing in Gallery 2, is a mixed media delight that is the most successful of the four exhibitions. Their play on “yellow sand” and “white sand” highlights the incompatibility of urban sprawl and conservation efforts. The Home Reno Craft tables look like furniture you’d find in a kindergarten – chunky and childlike, a white and yellow puzzle suggestive of play. But this infantility hints at a collective ignorance, something that is highlighted and critiqued by the title AV installation, in which we watch land being cleared for housing developments and witness the pervading social emptiness of streets built on these fringes.

Aitken and Lim’s Mountain Dune features fluorescent yellow sand in a PVC bottle, suggesting an unnatural toxicity that is also alluded to in several of the photographs on the opposite wall, in contrast to the natural yellow of desert landscape. The lines linking evidentiary materials in the Big Map are also fluorescent yellow, rather than the red often used in depictions of investigation or conspiracy maps, and the tongue-in-cheek evidence causes its own alarm when you realise these “crimes” are not so funny after all.

A person dressed in hi-res gear, in a desert, at sunset
Matt Aitken & Mei Swan Lim, Land Sale, 2018, single channel video, 12:40.

There are some stunning shots of unceded land in Rebecca McCauley and Aaron Claringbold’s “Speaking to the Surface of a Lake” in Gallery 1. The artists have purposely dispensed with the trope of the horizontal line on which landscape photography has long relied, successfully frustrating the viewer, who can no longer judge scale. The photographs of Lake King are a highlight in this regard, also capturing hues and textures absent from the type of photography one might see in, say, tourism campaigns.

The various salt compositions on display are also unique, though their placement on the window sill and centre plinth seems to underplay how much of a natural wonder they are. Perhaps this is the point, to place the extraordinary in the ordinary, unsettling the viewer. There is also a lot of unused floorspace around the crowded centre plinth and, while this may be a deliberate play on our sense of scale, the obvious vastness acts to reduce the images; on first glance, one might dismiss the photographs as stock images.

Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold, Speaking to the surface of a lake (exhibition view)
Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold, ‘Speaking to the surface of a lake’ (exhibition view).

The viewing of Tessa Rex’s “Sequestered” in Gallery 3 seems to suffer as a result of the way it has been installed. Rex’s title work is a nine-minute video loop, but it’s difficult to engage with the projected Arctic image and the classical audio track. There is nowhere to sit, and standing is a disorienting experience when you’re not sure if you’re meant to be looking for changing nuances in the image or whether it is permanently static (or, in fact, jammed). Similarly, it’s easy to dismiss the music as a dramatic device. On reading about Rex’s residency in sub-arctic Canada it becomes clear this former activist and now non-classical documentary maker has put a lot of thought into this piece, and it translates better when viewed online. The three “experiments”, backlit with pink light in the centre of the room, are diminished by the confusion over the video experience.

Tessa Rex, SEQUESTERED, 2018, single channel video, 9:00
Tessa Rex, ‘Sequestered’, 2018, single channel video, 9:00.

In the Project Space room, James Doohan and Bianca Sharkey’s Astro Morphs is a highly original, colourful performance piece that embraces human movement and playfully incorporates molecular patterns. It is deliberately cryptic, with the artists delivering a “nuanced confusion”, as they term it, in the journey of characters Yow and Sox. Again, the way the work has been installed in the space affected this viewing experience. While there is a bench to sit on, there isn’t a blackout curtain at the door (as there is in Gallery 3) and complete cinema blackout is, arguably, required to hold the viewer’s attention to the psychedelic visuals. The inclusion of three masks and a full-body suit – props from the performance – at the side of the room distracts the eye, and the open-door entrance is an exit reminder. This creative piece is likely best enjoyed while fully immersed.

This was my first visit to Cool Change, and its location on the first floor of the Bon Marche building is surprisingly secluded. I look forward to seeing what this ARI has in store for us next.

The exhibitions continue until 15 December.

Pictured top: James Doohan & Bianca Sharkey, ‘Ascension’ (from ‘Astro Morphs’), 2018, single channel video, 11:50.

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

At the intersection of art and friendship

Review: Various artists, ‘Collective States’; Bevan Honey & Paul Moncrieff, ‘BHPM’·
Art Collective WA ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

The exhibitions “Collective States” and “BHPM”, currently at Art Collective WA, both explore ideas of collaboration and collectivity, and the possibilities that arise from community and friendship.

“Collective States”, curated by Paola Anselmi, brings together a range of artists whose work is not immediately similar. In so doing, Anselmi emphasises points of connection across a range of art practices, showcasing the diversity of work created by mid-career WA artists as well as the ways in which these practices can unexpectedly overlap, collide or intersect. Featuring the work of Christophe Canato, Jennifer Cochrane, Mel Dare, Louise Dickmann, Jane Finlay, Indra Geidans, Paul Kaptein, Susan Roux, Vanessa Russ and Lynnette Voevodin, the exhibition variously displays work that examines bodies, patterns, textures and the WA landscape.

Many of the works are exploratory, portraying their subject matters in unexpected ways. Christophe Canato’s Galerie de Portrait #1-8 is a series of portraits with impossibly placed features – ears are twisted upside down, or placed in the middle of the forehead, emerging from the centre. The images are slightly unsettling, with the “wrongness” of the features challenging the unity of a single face and creating multiple anonymous identities within each image.

This theme of images revealing multitudes or challenging initial appearances is carried through to other works in the exhibition, such as Jennifer Cochrane’s Impossible Shadow sculptures, which emerge from corners, working with the architecture of the space to create shadows and patterns where none previously existed.

Other artists examine the tropes and common narratives of the WA landscape, with Indra Geidan’s The State I’m In placing emphasis on roadkill, four-wheel drives, and native flora and fauna, juxtaposed against the kitchiness of the State Museum’s souvenir teaspoons (hanging neatly on an Australia-shaped rack) and crockery sets.

An artwork made of canvas with frames of blue, yellow, green, red and black
Negotiating the vicissitudes of a long friendship: Bevan Honey and Paul Moncrieff, ‘BHPM8’, spraypaint on canvas, acrylic paint on plywood, 70 x 50cm.

In “BHPM”, Bevan Honey and Paul Moncrieff use their art practices to negotiate the vicissitudes of a long friendship; the challenges of communication and distance as well as its benefits and rewards. Over the past three years, the artists have been exchanging works and intervening with paint or construction additions, overlapping or alongside the original piece. The results are structured objects or assemblages of (variously) acrylic, plywood, spray paint and metal, all which seem remarkably unified and considered – a mark of the ultimate benefits of ongoing negotiation and collaboration. These collaborations are the physical results of a friendship and creative relationship that prioritises change, the unexpected and responsivity.

In both exhibitions, points of connections emerge between and across individual works, creating an interestingly layered showcase of WA artists.

Both exhibitions continue until December 22.

Pictured top is Jennifer Cochrane’s “Old Shadows, New Shadows”, 2018, tape on steps in Cathedral Square, Perth, variable dimensions. Courtesy Art Collective WA.

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Circus, Classical music, News

Circus spectacular

Review: ‘Tutti: Circus Oz and WASO’ ⋅
Perth Concert Hall, November 30 ⋅
Review by Laura Biemmi ⋅

The concept of Circus Oz performing with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra is as brilliant as it is intriguing. Watching two seemingly separate art forms collide and interact not only puts a new spin on each discipline, but it can potentially introduce new audiences to each art form (such as myself; a classical music lover who hadn’t been to the circus before).

Throughout the performance the collision of classical music and death-defying circus acts was an awe-inspiring spectacle. Nigel Westlake’s Flying Dream suite was the perfect accompaniment to the ascents and descents of the performers, who scaled ropes and used them to soar above the orchestra. Similarly, Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre suited the terrifying trapeze display, the dangerous nature of which drew gasps and cries from the audience. Semra Lee-Smith’s devilish violin solo with its perfectly tuned tritones was just as exciting as the visual spectacle. The evening was also filled with mind-boggling juggling, some terrifying unicycle riding that involved more people than wheels, and plenty of acrobatics to keep the eyes of the audience entertained.

As a classical musician and a regular concertgoer, the frequent audience applause and cries that interrupted the performances was a new and interesting experience for me. How freeing to clap whenever one feels like it! However, the cries of the audience when a trick nearly went wrong was uncomfortable; how awful for the performers to know that the audience not only witnessed but felt the need to draw attention to a momentary stumble. I couldn’t imagine this translating into an orchestral context; imagine playing a wrong note, only to have the audience gasp at your mistake!

Whilst the orchestra may not have been the focal point for the audience, the music was just as integral to the evening as the circus acts on display. However, it would be reasonable to assume that Circus Oz may have been distracting for the orchestra, as questionable intonation pervaded several wind chords, and there were a few moments where the brass playing wasn’t as clean as usual. Nevertheless, WASO and guest conductor Benjamin Northey did a fantastic job of supporting Circus Oz, always maintaining excellent rhythmic clarity and cohesion.

The orchestra may have always been in time, but there were moments when the circus performers did not align in their manoeuvres. Perhaps this is informed by my musical and rhythmic training, but I found the moments where two performers were performing the same acts side by side but not in an entirely synchronised manner, quite distracting. However, this may be me misinterpreting the aim of the artform; synchronisation and unity may be valued more in music than in the circus arts.

Circus Oz and WASO was a fantastic visual and aural feast for a diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds. Though some of the numbers may have been a bit longer than necessary (and, perhaps the number of numbers too numerous), the evening was unlike anything that I had experienced in the Perth Concert Hall.

Pictured top L-R: Kyle Raftery, Sam Aldham, Tania Cervantes Chamorro, Alyssa Moore, Josie Wardrope, Robbie Curtis. Photo Rob Blackburn.

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Dance, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A girls school adventure

Review: Fishwick & Hughes, ‘In SITU’, presented in association with STRUT Dance, Tura New Music and Artrage ·
Girls School Creative Precinct, East Perth, 29 November ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

It’s just after 7.15pm as we enter the corridors of the old Girls School in East Perth and the fading light that filters in through art-deco gridded windows lends an eeriness to proceedings. This is “In SITU”, Perth’s annual season of site-specific works from local independent choreographers and composers.

In keeping with former incarnations of this program, producers Emma Fishwick and Kynan Hughes present 2018’s “In SITU” promenade style, but this time it feels particularly adventurous. While the 1930s Girls School building is currently in use as a cultural space, it has an air of abandonment that creates a sense that we are on an expedition into the unknown.

Framing the program is Serena Chalker’s evocative installation, in-passing. As we travel from one performance space to another, we pass fragments of memory, moments of homage to the building’s former uses, first as a school and then as a police station. Text books are wedged in the wooden locker, a school uniform hangs in an alcove, incident reports cover a desk, a light-bulb hangs from gallows.

The first stop on the walking tour is a small office-carpeted room for Apply Within, choreographed and performed with punch and zest by Sarah Chaffey, Mitchell Aldridge and Melissa Tan. With its clever use of projection to imply a second performance space, Apply Within is a witty exploration of the interview process. Clad office attire teamed with boxer shorts and socks, the three dancers reveal what lies beneath their game faces. They’re accompanied by Ryan Burge’s score, that ranges from discomforting white noise to dance-style electronica. Now they move together; perched on three chairs they twitch and soften in synchrony. Now they’re solo; Aldridge pouring across the tiny space, Tan climbing the windows, crabwise, Chaffey shimmying through a presentation.

A girl upside down in a window frame.
Melissa Tan, climbing the windows. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Stop two takes us into a large room lined with wooden shelving, on which sit rows of apples; their fresh scent lightly perfuming the air. This is May Greenberg’s How to Digest an Apple, a duet performed with grace and energy by Greenberg with Mitchell Harvey. Their movement is sometimes robotic, as apples are sorted; sometimes weighted, as though the apples are heavy in their hands; sometimes wild, causing an apple cascade. In Dane Yates’s electronic score we can hear vocals; repetitive, distorted.

Our third stop, in the building’s basement, is also scented; sweet and cloying. In There’s a redness in the west, blood on the moon, fire in the sky and it’s coming this way, dancers Dean-Ryan Lincoln and Tahlia Russell lead us through a series of rooms and soundscapes (by Steve Paraskos), the echoes of which create ghostly underlayers. Whether performing in the gaping space of an underground bar, a discomfortingly cramped cellar-like space or a room flooded with dead leaves, the dancers negotiate one another with a wariness that seems to battle with a desire for closeness. While this work isn’t as succinct in its motivation as the first two, both concept and performance are dramatic and engaging.

Two people dancing in a room of apples
Grace and energy: May Greenberg and Mitchell Harvey. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Finally we move outside, looking towards a flight of steps that leads to the building’s main entrance. At the top of the steps, two dancers hang, their torsos obscured by crimson skirts, only two hanks of hair visible to give a sense of their identity. This is Sisters Vice, created by Natalie Allen in collaboration with endearing performers Ella Watson-Heath and Sarah Sim. The two young women ricochet between adulthood and childhood, chasing one another with screeches of delight one minute, seductively sliding down the bannisters the next. Rebecca Riggs-Bennett’s score also straddles the divide; playground giggling contrasts wordless vocals.

And so, the end. As we leave the precinct, we glimpse a figure in school uniform (Serena Chalker) drifting ghost-like down the corridor. It’s time to return to the present.

Whether your interest is in dance, music, architecture, or simply a desire to lose yourself in another world, “In SITU” is an intriguing and appealing walk into the unknown. Highly recommended.

“In SITU” plays until December 1.

Photo: Emma Fishwick.

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Features, News, Performing arts

Music Makes a Way

For 12 year old Armadale girl Anastacia Dawes life was a catastrophe. Much of her childhood had been spent managing diabetes, epilepsy, ADD and Tourette Syndrome. To top it off her mum was fighting cancer. She dreamed about studying singing at the WA Academy of Performing Arts but even getting to school was a challenge. It was hard  for Anastacia to talk about it, so instead she wrote a song.

“I’m livin’ a catastrophe, and life is gettin’ harder/I live it tough, everyday, it’s getting hard to see the other side…”

It is now 12 months later and Anastacia will be performing Catastrophe on Saturday night with the Perth Symphony Orchestra. It is a dream come true for the student from Challis Primary School and a direct result of the transformation that has taken place in the school since since the principal decided to introduce a music program.

Anastacia’s story came to light in the landmark ABC television documentary Don’t Stop the Music which screened in November. When conductor of the Perth Symphony Orchestra Jessica Gethin watched the documentary she was captivated by Anastacia’s singing.

Jessica Gethin meets Anastacia Dawes. Photo Belinda Sherry.

“Not only does she have an amazing voice and talent but the journey she’s had and the way she was able to translate that into music – she is a natural at it.”

At one particular moment in the documentary the Challis school choir visited WAAPA to hear Eneskis vocal ensemble perform. The camera caught the expression on Anastacia’s face when the ensemble started singing.

“There was this look wonderment on her face,” Gethin said. “I could see the experience was giving her hope and opportunity for her future. And it made me think we need to support her. It was an opportunity for all of us to see where things start and how important it is to nurture those beginnings so that people like Anastacia don’t fall through the cracks.”

Within two weeks the song had been arranged for orchestra by WAAPA students Corey Murphy and Callum O’Reilly and on Wednesday night Anastacia rehearsed the song with orchestra for the first time. Joining them on stage was Challis music teacher Simon Blanchard accompanying on guitar.

“I’ve gotta live my life to the full, and not be afraid to speak aloud” she sang from the stage. “I’m a girl ready to be me, it’s who I’m made to be.”

““It felt amazing,” Anastacia said afterwards. “I’ve loved singing since before I can remember and I am so lucky to have this opportunity.”

Anastacia Dawes with arrangers Corey Murphy and Callum O’Reilly, music teacher Simon Blanchard and Micheál McCarthy with Jessica Gethin rehearsing in the background. Photo Rosalind Appleby

In fact it was pure coincidence that Anastacia’s talent was discovered. Blanchard had been receiving coaching from WAAPA lecturer Micheál McCarthy who happened to overhear Anastacia singing. McCarthy organised an audition for her at a specialist music school.

“It was pure luck that I happened to hear her outside the music room that day,” McCarthy said. “If I hadn’t heard her that day she wouldn’t have featured in the documentary and she wouldn’t have got into Kelmscott Senior High School. I didn’t realise until I transcribed the song last week that the words were ‘Luck will arrive one day, maybe today’s the lucky day’.”

Anastacia Dawes. Photo Belinda Sherry

Anastacia’s mother Kelly Dawes  watched the rehearsal and said it was beyond her wildest dreams for her daughter.

“Anastacia’s confidence has gone up, she is more positive and relaxed and inspired. The impact on Challis Primary has been amazing. There are so many students from the school going into specialist music programs next year. Music should be in all the schools.”

Anastacia agrees. “Having music at school meant I was able to improve and singing in the choir meant I had to learn to work as a group. And when I sing in front of people it makes me calmer. Plus I met Micheál (McCarthy) and Guy Sebastian.”

Has her luck arrived?

“That moment has come. Mum hasn’t been in hospital for a long time. At school I have the best teachers and good friends. It is fun.”

Anastacia Dawes will perform Catastrophe with the Perth Symphony Orchestra Kwinana at the Tianqi Lithium Symphony Spectacular, on December 1. Don’t Stop the Music is an ABC documentary by Artemis Media available on iView.

Pictured top: Anastacia Dawes rehearses with the Perth Symphony Orchestra.

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Three people in a hotel room
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A theatrical road trip

Review: The Last Great Hunt, Stay with Us ·
Riverview Hotel, 28 November ·
Review by Robert Housley ·

Just as its marketing grab suggests, Stay with Us – the latest offering from local theatre collective The Last Great Hunt – is “an immersive theatrical journey through a hotel”. More specifically, the theatrical road trip ventures through three rooms on the third floor of Riverview Hotel, a hop, skip and jump from Kings Park near the base of precipitous Mount Street.

“A hotel is a place of journey,” posits director/co-creator Arielle Gray. “We are exploring that idea on a grand scale through small theatrical moments in the intimacy of hotel rooms.” This unusual setting, then, is not a rejection of main stage production, but rather a more inclusive way for an audience to engage with live performance. Hats off to the Riverview Hotel for its willingness to accommodate the experience – its third such relationship with a local performing arts company.

Audience proximity to the experience is both spatial and actual. Only 10 people are permitted to attend each of the six nightly shows. And they all have a part to play in each room as the distinct but interwoven narratives unfold.

Two people in a hotel room can feel crowded, but up to 12 (including the concierge/guide – co-creator/performer Tim Watts for our group – plus a performer) could feel claustrophobic. But it doesn’t. And the “actual” involvement of the audience is limited to donning a costume, handling some props and switching on/off electrical items. Nothing to scare away a reluctant participant.

The show features co-creators/performers Chris Isaacs, Gita Bezard and Watts along with guest theatre makers Jo Morris, Zachary Sheridan and Clare Testoni.

One of the most alluring aspects of the work is the anticipation, the not knowing what to expect from one room to the next.

four people lying on hotel beds, in dressing gowns, holding teddies and watching projections of a galaxy on the ceiling
Its themes are expansive: life, death, the infinity of the universe… Photo: Daniel James Grant.

Its themes are expansive: life, death, the infinity of the universe, the human experience on earth, adventure, twins and “a world that lies between the physical and spiritual”. Each leg of the journey is foreshadowed on the landing outside, when the concierge/guide shares abstract musings about time, space and our microscopic significance in the scheme of things.

In room one is a woman (Morris) in mourning, seemingly fresh from the funeral of a female astronaut, evidently her twin.

In room two are the desiccated, life-size remains of an elderly woman (a stylised dummy made by Tarryn Gill) whose insides harbour not just her vital organs but a plethora of mementoes from her life.

In room three Testoni directs the group to lie down on a long line of adjoining beds, each with a teddy bear, a night gown and a pillow. Shoulder to shoulder we watch a wondrous display of mostly live whiteboard marker animation (Testoni’s handiwork) unfold on the ceiling above.

Reflecting on the connections between each of the stories, post-performance, there is a sense of having seen three shows in one, such are their differences.

One of the benefits of this site-specific show was sharing it with the same few people. It heightened the intimacy of its “small theatrical moments” without lessening its universal ambitions.

Stay with Us is performed until 8 December.

Top photo by Daniel James Grant.

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Features, News, Opera, Perth Festival

Composer gives speech for the voiceless

Award-winning composer Cat Hope will give a voice to the silenced when she returns to Perth to present the annual Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address on Thursday. Hope is currently based in Melbourne where she is head of the Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music at Monash University. The visit will be the first of several Hope will make to her hometown in the coming months.

Glanville-Hicks had a stellar international career and the address named in her honour provides a platform to challenge the status quo and raise issues of importance in new music. Hope is a fitting choice for the address with industry experience as a performer, curator, academic and advocate for gender equality.

Speaking on the phone from Melbourne she outlined her plans to use the Glanville-Hicks address to discuss gender inequality in the music industry.

“Some in the industry believe that gender equality is not an issue but there is now evidence to confirm women and non-binary individuals do not experience the same access to opportunities as men working as music creators. I’ll present this data and also suggestions on how we can develop change.”

Composer Cat Hope. Photo supplied

Hope’s advocacy for women and non-binary artists was galvanised by observing the treatment of women in public life.

“Women like Julia Gillard, Gillian Triggs – women just doing their job – were attacked for reasons that had nothing to do with their work. I realised that Australians operate within a systemic hierarchical structure and the arts are included in that, even though we may think we are more collaborative or left-leaning. We need to change the way we think, talk about and commission compositions across the full range of society, from individuals at a ground level to government policies at a federal level.”

In a tangible demonstration of putting change into action, Hope’s address will include the performance of a new work commissioned from artists she would not normally work with. Melbourne metal singer Karina Utomo will perform a composition for voice and electronics created collaboratively by Hope and Polish-Australian composer Dobromila Jaskot.

Utomo will also be starring in Hope’s first opera Speechless, to be premiered in February as part of the Perth Festival. In Speechless Hope’s concern for issues of social justice take on a large scale, as befits a work in the genre of opera which historically often drew on the issues of the time. The score is derived from drawings and graphics extracted from the 2014 Human Rights Commission report, The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

“Speechless is my personal response to Australia’s refugee crisis. When it first happened I was devastated and felt so helpless. I wanted to use music to activate the issue.”

The opera retains the conventional structure of arias, recitative accompanied by orchestra but Hope expands the horizon of opera according to her experimental practice and philosophy of inclusivity.

Utomo will perform alongside experimental vocalist Sage Pbbbt, Iranian-born singer Tara Tiba, opera singer Judith Dodsworth and a combined community choir of 30 voices. The opera has no libretto, instead the four soloists and choir will sing wordlessly (think Ennio Morricone mixed with experimental singer Cathy Berberian) in a fitting homage to people whose voices are rendered silent through political means. Instead the narrative will unfold through the music which will be performed by the Australian Bass Orchestra, an ensemble of low pitched instruments such as cellos, double basses, bass guitars, bass winds and brass, bass drums and electronics.

Hope composes her music using graphic notation and the score for Speechless is derived from the format of The Forgotten Children report. The singers and musicians follow specific colours and literally ‘read’ the report, following the up or downward trajectory of graphs, children’s drawings and photos.

The process may be unusual and technical, but Hope says the experience for audiences will be exhilarating.

“People will be challenged but it is ultimately rewarding. We’ve heard a lot of words and seen a lot of images and I think Australians are suffering from compassion fatigue. I hope the opera might give people a different way to grapple with the issue.”

Perth audiences can have a preview of Hope’s compositional style performed by Utomo at the Peggy Glanville-Hicks address on Thursday night. Hope will also be performing with her award-winning ensemble Decibel on Monday night at the Subiaco Arts Centre. Since founding in 2009 the six-piece electro-acoustic ensemble has become something of an Australian institution, renowned for their pioneering work with graphic notation and their commitment to commissioning Australian composers. The Decibel concert explores the vinyl record as a sound source, musical instrument and score.

The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address is November 29. Decibel’s Revolution concert is December 3. Speechless will run February 26 until March 3.

Picture top: singer Karina Utomo. Photo: Paul Tadday.

 

 

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children entering a room full of crotcheted reef and sea animals
Children, Exhibitions, News, Reviews, Visual arts

Amazing kids exhibition pitches it right first time

Review: ‘Animaze; Amazing Animals for Kids’ ⋅
Fremantle Arts Centre, November 24 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

Visiting the Fremantle Arts Centre’s latest exhibition was like touring Aladdin’s cave; room after room filled with artistic riches that the four children I had in tow wanted to admire, touch, and try. Fortunately that’s exactly what is intended with Animaze: Amazing Art for Kids. Fremantle Arts Centre’s first exhibition designed specifically for children features the work of 50 artists and much of the work is interactive. You can time your visit to coincide with a sculpture or crotchet classes, story time, stroller tour or artist in residence session. Entry is free and even better you can pause part way for lunch at the cafe or a run under the trees.

Ross Potter demonstrates his shading pencil. Photo Rosalind Appleby

We started in the gallery where Ross Potter was working on a life-sized drawing of Tricia the elephant from Perth Zoo. Potter patiently answered questions and demonstrated how he used his toolbox of pencils and electric erasers to shade the enormous elephant with photographic accuracy. Then we were distracted for a good twenty minutes by the immersive joy of a room full of crochet. The Golden Wattle Hookers (Jill and Holly O’Meehan) have constructed a reef structure from brightly coloured wool art that climbs up walls, hangs from the roof and creates snuggly nooks.  It was the ultimate in tactile, sensory art and for several in my entourage this was the highlight, a place where they could hide, rest, and marvel.

Further treasures were uncovered down a hallway (via a 2-channel soundscape of frog and bird calls) where a dark room offered monster animal portraits (Austen Mengler) , shadow puppet opportunities and – by chance – the opportunity to become a work of art. It was perhaps not part of the original intention but my children – encouraged by the spirit of participation the exhibition had generated – discovered they were also illuminated by the UV light in Anna Nazzari’s aquarium: “My shirt has become seaweed!” my five year old exulted.

There was so much to see and do: Joe Ong’s intricate 10 metre pen drawing of 460 animals caused us to pause in wonder; the animated numbat images scurrying across a wall invited whole-body participation and there was wallpaper to colour and pom-poms to stick on a giraffe.

And then there were the bean bags scattered everywhere to collapse in. It was during one such chill-stop that we noticed the Cicada series on a wall.  “I like Shaun Tan’s work,” the nine year old in our party recognised it with delight. “It’s unorthodox. He draws weird things that aren’t normal. They are grey and sad but there is always something bright in there that the story is about.”

Shadow puppets invite a spirit of participation. Photo Rosalind Appleby

It’s not hard to ignite the imagination of a child but they are also honest critics, not easily duped by adults dragging them through an ‘educational’ art experience. It is sheer delight when arts companies (as Fremantle Arts Centre have done) pitch it just right so that the children interact spontaneously. All four of my entourage voted Animaze a success. “I really like art,” said one. “I suck at it but I really like it and it was good to learn more”.

“The whole thing was important,” they concluded, “doing an exhibition for the first time ever just for kids.”

Animaze: Amazing Art for Kids continues until January 23. Visit the website for details of classes and artist in residence sessions.

Pictured top: Jill and Holly O’Meehan’s Neon Lagoon. Photo Rebecca Mansell.

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