A girl sitting on a wall in a bikini top and towel. One arm is raised.
Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A satisfying start to Summer Nights

Fringe World review: Mask a Pony Theatre, Blueberry Play ·
Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights, 18 January 2019 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The young writer Ang Collins brings sharp observational ability to the story of a teenage girl approaching adult life in Blueberry Play, and the result is a fine overture to the Summer Nights programme at the core of theatre at Fringe World.

A girl (Julia Robertson) lives in a small Australian town with her mum, a fat old labrador called Dave and her dad, who is battling both the cancer that will likely soon kill him and the bipolar disorder that might get him first.

Her story builds to a precarious, though unresolved, climax that fractures all their lives but prepares her for the world outside her little horizons.

Collins describes the mundane (how, for example, a brightly coloured lolly snake turns white when you stretch it) and the profound with equal felicity and insight. Her writing is beautifully realised by Robertson, whose impressive emotional range allows the story to swing from playful comedy to wrenching moments with ease, investing all the play’s characters with distinct, multifaceted life and authenticity.

Blueberry Play is wonderful to watch, and would be just as satisfying, I suspect, to read for the poetry of its text. At the same time it has an aware artlessness that reminds me of the best of contemporary Australian songwriters; if it was a song, it would be by Courtney Barnett.

Highly recommended.

Blueberry Play runs at The Blue Room Theatre until January 26 and at Don Russell Performing Arts Centre January 27.

Pictured top is Julia Robertson in “Blueberry Play”. Photo: Nick Fry.

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5 men jumping in the air with umbrellas
Dance, Fringe World, News, Performing arts

A steep learning curve

As returning Fringe World favourites, the Djuki Mala dancers need no introduction. The ensemble’s charismatic blend of choreography from both traditional and contemporary Yolngu culture has been a hit with audiences around the world.

Despite their global success, the group remains down-to-earth and unassuming, as this Q&A with Djuki Mala dancer Yalyalwuy Gondarra reveals.

Yalyalwuy Gondarra
Yalyalwuy Gondarra

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be a dancer?
Yalyalwuy Gondarra : I didn’t always want to be a dancer; when I was younger I wanted to a professional chef. But Djuki Mala (when they were known as the Chooky Dancers) kept popping in and out of my life, with family dancing with them. Then they stuck in my mind. So the dancing found me and I am sticking with it.

S: Tell us about your early days with Djuki Mala…
YG: When I first became a Chooky dancer I had two weeks to learn the whole show. I learnt it in Sydney with the older dancers and choreographers, and I just followed the older boys… keeping up with them was hard but two weeks later I felt good. I loved it straight away.

First time I performed to a big audience was at Blues Festival with my cousin Baykali. I wasn’t even that nervous because growing up I was always dancing back at home in groups and performing to our family on the basketball court at disco. I loved looking out and seeing the big crowd – everyone clapping or dancing with us, just having fun.

S: Career highlight so far?
YG: My career highlight with Djuki Mala is hard to choose… I think for me it’s actually just always being with [the Djuki Mala team] and travelling the world with my best friends, family and now girlfriend.

Egypt is my favourite place we have toured, the pyramids and history of the place was so amazing. I took so many photos with those pyramids!

S: Career lowlight?
YG: The worst part about being an artist is getting homesick. Especially when sad things happen back at home, you just want to be with family not faking a smile on stage. But it’s my job and it’s what we do. It’s important to tell the story of my culture.

S: What made Djuki Mala decide to return to Fringe World?
YG: We have performed at Fringe World Perth three times now; some of our best and biggest fans are here! Sometimes we even get stopped in the street for a photo… I get shy though. It’s important to be humble.

S: And what do you, personally, enjoy about the Festival?
YG: My favourite thing about performing in Fringe World is meeting other people and making new friends… some of my best friends I met on tour. I also love seeing other shows and what other stories there are being told.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
YG: Growing up, I just loved playing with sand. I am an Island boy, so I love anything to do with the beach. At playgrounds I would always look for the sandpit because it made me feel like I was at the beach.

You can catch Djuki Mala 18-25 Jan, 9-17 Feb at The West Australian Spiegeltent, The Woodside Pleasure Garden.

Read Jenny Scott’s review of Djuki Mala’s 2018 Fringe World Show.

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Children, News, Reviews, Theatre

Creative fairy tale mashup

Fringe World Review: Modicum Theatre Perth, Hansel and/or Gretel
Leederville Function Centre, 18 January
Review by Rosalind Appleby

The small stage in the Leederville Function Centre is encircled with a forest of (Christmas) trees, setting the scene for Modicum Theatre Perth’s production of Hansel and/or Gretel.  In the centre is a wooden door – there is a lot of door knocking in fairy tales! – and young audience members flock to the picnic rugs spread in front of the stage.

The choose-your-own adventure version of this classic fairy tale by local writer Stephanie Ferguson is initially straightforward. It is narrated by fairy godmother Aaron Hamilton and all goes smoothly until the two children (Sarah Lewis as Hansel, Julia Haile as Gretel) argue over whether to eat the gingerbread house or not. The godmother interjects and suggests an audience vote and so the tale continues as the children wander through the wood encountering various characters. The enthusiastic audience made some interesting choices along the way, including opting for health food rather than eating the gingerbread house (cue bowls of porridge and Three Bears segue), and choosing to trust the wolf rather than proceed directly to grandma’s house (Little Red Riding Hood).

Of course you can’t fool children. “They are getting the story mixed up!” cried one child as the porridge bowls came out. But the cast took us all along for the ride, singing and dancing along with Hansel and Gretel and/or various other interlopers as they journeyed through the woods.

Modicum Theatre is an independent amateur company but what the young actors and design team (Laura Hodges sound and lighting) lack in sophistication they make up for in creativity. The audience interaction enlivens what is otherwise a fairly slow paced show. A highlight was the unexpected humour sparked by the wolf getting accidentally tangled in grandma’s knitting.

Hansel and/or Gretel is worth checking out with younger children (under 7) who will appreciate the friendly interaction and simple plot. Just make sure they know the story beforehand so they can recognise the deviations.

Hansel and/or Gretel continues January 19 and Feb 3. Modicum Theatre are also producing Fringe adult shows Urbane Legends and The Fog.

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The Big City
Cabaret, Comedy, Features, Fringe World, News, Performing arts

A clown in the city

Louis Spencer’s new work The Big City has come full circle. Bringing together clowning, cabaret, comedy and puppetry in what he describes as  “a Pixar-esque bundle”, The Big City began its life as a ten-minute piece, as part the Blue Room Theatre’s 2017 “600 Seconds” program at Fringe World.

Ahead of the premiere of the full-length version of the show, Seesaw caught up with Spencer to find out more about his path to clowning.

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Louis Spencer: Probably when I was in my early 20’s and trying to figure out if I should do something that I love or just get a job. At the time though the word “artist” wasn’t something that crossed my mind, rather I just knew that I wanted to be involved in theatre and the performing arts. I always wanted to be a performer when I was a child but I kind of went back and forth on if it was something that should actually go for. It wasn’t until I had been in university for a year or two that being an “artist” was something I considered.

S: Tell us about your training…
LS: I studied at WAAPA in the Bachelor of Performing Arts – Performance Making course; it’s still fairly new but its reputation is growing very quickly. I was very fortunate to be in a class with some people who have gone on to do some great work in Perth and become amazing artists. Seeing people that you love and respect do so well is inspiring. What I liked about the course itself was that it allowed you to find your path and discover your practice if you were willing to put the work in.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
LS: My focus, right now, is primarily on making work in the genre of clowning, mime and physical comedy – theatre that young people can enjoy but can also be appreciated by a mature audience.

S: Career highlight so far?
LS: I wouldn’t like to say I have one yet. I like to enjoy my success but also don’t like to rest on my laurels. I want to keep learning and getting better in my practice.

S: Career lowlight?
LS: Also don’t like to think about that. I think to do so can be crippling. Anything that can be considered a lowlight should be looked at as a learning experience and something to look forward from.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
LS: Performing. It is such a rare opportunity to do it. We spend so much time making and working on a show yet we may only get to spend a couple of hours on stage actually performing. It should be cherished, no matter how the performance ends up.

S: This isn’t your first time performing at Fringe World. What drew you back? 
LS: The piece that I’ll be presenting this year was developed from work I presented two years ago as a part of The Blue Room Theatre’s “600 Seconds” program. I decided the genre of clowning and physical comedy was something I wanted to develop into a full length stage show. And here we are!

S: Tell us about The Big City
LS: The Big City follows Joe the Clown as he ventures into an unknown urban terrain in search of theatrical stardom. At the same time he hopes to reconnect with a long lost friend who did what he is attempting a few years earlier. As with my previous clowning work, I have taken inspiration from the stars of the silent film era, such as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. I was also inspired by a little-known Martin Scorsese film called After Hours, in which the protagonist faces innumerable obstacles in his journey just to make it home from work.

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
LS: Feminah Anything by Charlotte Otton is worth checking out.

Front  Featuring an exceptionally talented cast.

F**K Decaf – Looks really interesting and is performed on the beautiful Alex Hotel rooftop.

Poorly Drawn Shark Will be wild.

Dad a touching, funny show by recent WAAPA Performance Making grads.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
LS: One of those really high, curly slides that felt like they went forever when you were a kid.

The Big City plays The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights, 18-20 January.

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Features, Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Theatre

Wreaking feminist havoc

Charlotte Otton may be a Sydneysider by birth but in the four years that she’s been living in Perth, she’s carved out a niche for herself in the local independent theatre scene as a theatre maker and performer. Her debut play Let me finish. enjoyed a sell-out season at The Blue Room Theatre and was named a “Top Show” for 2018 by Seesaw’s Claire Trolio, who described it as “bold, brash and powerfully feminist”.

Just three months later, she is premiering her one-woman play, Feminah, described as “a havoc-wreaking power ballad that embraces the vulgar women of the world.” Just hours before opening night, Otton squeezed in Seesaw’s Q&A.

Charlotte Otton headshot
Charlotte Otton

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be a performer?
Charlotte Otton: The earliest indication for me was probably when my mum took me to see Annie on the mainstage in Sydney when I was five. I don’t know if my memory is built from stories or real memories, but regardless, I know I was singing along to every song and wanted to be up on that stage. My absolute dream role, to this day, is to play Miss Hannigan.

S: Tell us about your training… 
CO: I’ve studied mostly improvisation; I started in Sydney and then studied in Chicago and New York for a few months. It’s the first training I had where I got a hint of the type of artist I could be. Then when I was 20 years old, I moved to Perth to do the Performance Making course at WAAPA. That course really shifted and clarified things for me, it made me take myself more seriously as an artist.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
CO: I’m still discovering it, but at the moment I’m interested in telling brutally honest stories and bringing comedy, filth, glee and spontaneity to the forefront of my work.

S: Career highlight so far?
CO: The very final performance of Let me finish. at The Blue Room in October last year. It was such an emotionally charged performance and the love from the standing crowd at the end and the women on stage was unlike anything I’ve experienced in a show before.

S: Career lowlight?
CO: I did a monologue as David Koch “Kochi”, the Sunrise presenter, for an end of year drama concert once when I was 14. I wore my dad’s suit and I think I just did a weather segment… I should bring it back. Perth audiences would love it.

S: Funniest career moment so far?
CO: Maybe when I played a series of animals and objects in the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and WASO collaboration of “Carnival of the Animals”. It’s a not a funny “ha ha” moment, it was more just me straight out of uni, playing a flowerpot, looking out into the crowd of 1500 audience members at Perth Concert Hall, wondering how I got to that place.

S: Tell us about Feminah… 
CO: Feminah is about one woman on a war-path to discover and dismantle the constructs that have made her the woman she is today. It’s a personal battle of expressing femininity and vulgarity.

It’s equal parts bawdy and vulnerable. Think personal stories, ridiculous history lessons, primo filth and live music!

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
CO: Silence My Ladyhead, Grace, Manwatching, Poorly Drawn Shark and The Big City are just some of the ones I’m excited to see!

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
CO: I love a good monkey bar set, but an adult one, I’m 6ft. 1, I’ve been dragging my feet on monkey bars since I was 10.

Feminah plays The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights, January 18-26.

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Maximus Musicus
Calendar, Children, June 19, Music, Performing arts, story telling

Music: Children: Maximus Musicus Joins the Choir

15 June @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

The magic of a live symphony orchestra in a one-hour concert for families.

Join us for a musical adventure with Maximus Musicus, the musical mouse who
finds himself at Perth Concert Hall surrounded by West Australian Symphony
Orchestra musicians and a children’s choir. Based on the award-winning book
series, this concert for families celebrates the joy of singing, and singing
together. Featuring music by Mozart, Bizet, Fauré and a selection of folk
songs, Maximus Musicus Joins the Choir is a magical musical story accompanied
by beautiful illustrations on the big screen – a thrilling experience for the
young music lovers in your life.

Suitable for 4 -12 year olds.
There are 2 performances at 1pm and 3 pm
All live action is projected onto a big screen above the stage.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/maximus-musicus
E:  waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: Maximus Musicus Joins the Choir

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WASO Gershwin
Calendar, Jazz, June 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Gershwin Reimagined

7 & 8 June @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

Broadway glamour with a honeyed jazz soul.

When the worlds of jazz and classical collide, they create
dazzling sparks, America’s greatest composer for popular love
ballads and Broadway charm is given an intoxicating new life
with two of the hottest voices in the world of jazz today.

Bursting onto the UK mainstage in 2013, Laura Mvula is described as
the Nina Simone of her generation, recognised for her molasses-rich
soulful vocal and beautiful harmonies. Blessed with a honeyed baritone
voice, José James is a sensation in the modern jazz scene. Together
with conductor and creator Troy Miller, their astonishing performance
of Gershwin Reimagined with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra
makes for a completely unmissable event.

Troy Miller’s re-imagining of Gershwin’s song book is done with an
unbridled energy and deep respect, showcasing the exquisite melodies
of the classics such as Embraceable You, Summertime (Porgy and Bess),
I Got Rhythm and lots more.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/gershwin-reimagined
E:  waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: Gershwin Reimagined

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Indies & Idols
Calendar, June 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Indies & Idols

19 June @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by Australian Chamber Orchestra ·

From Sufjan Stevens & Jonny Greenwood to Szymanowski:

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, The National’s Bryce Dessner,
and American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens were all
influenced by great composers. In this program they join
forces with the source of their inspiration, Polish nationalists
Karol Szymanowski and Witold Lutosławski.

A favourite of Richard Tognetti’s, Szymanowski’s surging String
Quartet No.2 is a fusion of neoclassicism and Polish folk music.
Lutosławski’s Overture for Strings is an almost dizzyingly
multifaceted experiment, with one foot in neoclassicism and
the other in the avant-garde.

Bryce Dessner’s Réponse Lutosławski is a homage to Lutosławski,
whom he credits with having illuminated the way forward in his
own musical development. Jonny Greenwood cites another Polish
composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, as contributing to his experimental
musical language. The suite from Greenwood’s film score, There Will
Be Blood, is foreboding, hopeful and beautifully evocative.

Sufjan Stevens is widely celebrated as an American indie luminary.
Run Rabbit Run is a précis of his 2009 album Enjoy Your Rabbit.
Rhythmic drive, catchy melodies and mesmerising string sounds
make for an energising and immersive experience.

More info
W: www.perthconcerthall.com.au/events/event/indies-and-idols
E:  boxoffice@perthconcerthall.com.au

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Doric String Quartet
Calendar, Classical music, June 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Doric String Quartet

9 June @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by Musica Viva Australia ·

Founded in 1998, the Doric String Quartet has firmly established
itself as the leading British string quartet of its generation,
receiving enthusiastic responses from audiences and critics across
the globe. Whether tackling the delicate nuances of earlier composers,
or embracing the dramatic gestures of contemporary ones, the Dorics
meet every artistic challenge with a captivating blend of sophistication
and passion.

Described by the magazine Gramophone as ‘one of the finest young string
quartets’, whose members are ‘musicians with fascinating things to say’,
the Quartet is a regular visitor to some of Europe’s leading concert halls,
has a particularly close relationship with the Wigmore Hall in London and
undertakes annual tours of North America. This is their first national
concert tour of Australia after previous appearances at the Huntington
and Musica Viva Festivals.

More info
W: www.perthconcerthall.com.au/events/event/doric-string-quartet
E:  boxoffice@perthconcerthall.com.au

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Tim Winton's Shrine
Calendar, February 19, March 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Tim Winton’s Shrine

15 Feb – 2 Mar @ Melville Theatre, Palmyra ·
Presented by Melville Theatre ·

A deeply moving and sometimes confronting play from Tim Winton comes
to Melville Theatre this February. Directed by Kayti Murphy, Shrine is
set on WA’s south coast and explores the themes of love, grief and the
way those who have passed endure through the memories of the living.

The play tells of a couple struggling to recover from the loss of their
son Jack – a year later, all they have left is a scar on a tree next to
a roadside shrine and an abundance of unanswered questions. But then a
young woman named June turns up on the doorstep with a story about their
son’s final hours.

“Shrine is not only about the irrevocable way the grief of a loved one
changes us but also the ways in which those who have passed can reveal
new things about themselves, even in death,” Murphy said.”That was the
key for me – it would be hard to just put on a play about two people
grieving the death of their son. The intrigue of June’s story drives
the play forward, exploring what really happened in Jack’s final hours.
She needs to tell her story and Jack’s father needs to hear it.”

The main challenge, according to Murphy, is ensuring there is light with
the dark. “There is so much love, intrigue and mysticism in this show,”
she said. “I wanted to make sure this is just as significant as the darker
moments of a parent’s grief.”

After studying theatre and drama at Murdoch University, Murphy appeared in
numerous productions and was one of the principal cast in the community TV
series Love on the Box.In 2013, she performed in Noel Coward’s Hands Across
The Sea at Melville Theatre and A Conversation at the Old Mill Theatre,
winner of the 2013 Milly Award for best play. Murphy followed up those roles
in 2014 with Cosi at Phoenix Theatre and Ninety at Garrick Theatre, along
with The Temperamental Artist, Love, Loss and What I Wore, Death and the
Maiden and Stop Kiss.

“As soon as I read Shrine, I knew it was something special and wanted to
bring it to the stage,” she said.”Tim Winton’s writing beautifully encapsulates
the WA landscape so much that it is an extension of the characters themselves.
“You can feel, through his writing, the magic and majesty of nature and how it
can shape us while showing us how interconnected we all are. Every character
has a sense of responsibility about what happened to Jack that night and they
are all dealing with it in their own ways.”

Tim Winton’s Shrine plays at 8pm February 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, March 1 and 2
with a 2pm matinee February 24. Bookings on 9330 4565 or at http://www.meltheco.org.au.

Melville Theatre is on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra.

More info:

June (Jessica Brooke) reflects on the death of Jack (Chris Colley) in Tim Winton’s Shrine.

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