Sara Ouwendyk as Grandma with Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter with Mayume Noguromi as the Bird watching on. Photo by Scott Dennis
Classical music, Dance, News, Reviews, story telling

Inspiring the next generation

AWESOME Review: West Australian Ballet, Peter and the Wolf ⋅
Perth Cultural Centre, October 5 ⋅
Review by Amy Wiseman ⋅

It is always a thrill to see a buzzing young crowd gather for an outdoor performance, particularly the morning after one of Perth’s vicious spring storms almost blew the temporary stage over.

Thankfully the weather cleared for the opening of West Australian Ballet’s Peter and the Wolf, a short symphonic story ballet presented to the next generation of ballet fans through a collaboration with AWESOME Arts Festival. This work serves the dual purpose of introducing children to the instruments of the orchestra as well as telling a cautionary fairy tale of bravery and vigilance.

Opening the performance is a short divertissement that displays the dancers’ technical skill and reinforces to the young audience that although we’re about to enter a fairy tale world, the dancers themselves are not to be feared. The cast, a selection of WAB’s corps de ballet and young artists, perform Andries Weidemann’s neat, complex choreography with aplomb.

The story itself unfolds – quite literally – in the form of a pop-up story book, in which characters are introduced in turn and adorn themselves with an additional costume piece, accompanied by a particular orchestral instrument. Design graduate Maeli Cherel’s clever sets and costumes are intricate yet functionally designed, with the potential for future touring.

Michael Brett’s arrangement of Prokofiev’s original score for Perth Symphony Orchestra is superb, but the highlight of this iteration is Julia Moody’s narration, her mellow, gravelly tones exuding warmth and character in spades.

Mayume Noguromi as the Bird with Kassidy Thompson as the Cat and Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter copy
Mayume Noguromi as the Bird with Kassidy Thompson as the Cat and Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter. Photo: Scott Dennis.

Though each character danced beautifully it was corps de ballet member Mayume Noguromi who shone as the Bird, with twinkling footwork and ethereal lightness.

The young cast felt a little too reserved for this style of performance, where exaggerated mime and facial expression are a must to establish the story. Weidemann’s musicality and penchant for comedy, however, proved entertaining in the main.

An engaging performance aside, the wonderful thing about this collaboration is the opportunity for West Australian artistic development – the young performance team and all areas of the production behind-the-scenes. And the other outcome? Inspiring a love of the arts in the next generation.

Peter and the Wolf  is on at 11am from October 7-11.

Pictured top: Sara Ouwendyk as Grandma with Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter with Mayume Noguromi as the Bird watching on. Photo: Scott Dennis.

Junior review by Bethany Stopher (13)

Peter and the Wolf, performed by West Australian Ballet, is a free event as part of the AWESOME Festival. Not only does this event add culture to the city, it also is an amazing experience for all ages. Peter and the Wolf is cleverly designed to be suitable for young children. Full length, traditional ballets are sometimes hard for young ones to focus on and they can get fidgety and bored. Peter and the Wolf has aspects that mean even a toddler can keep up with the story line.

Firstly, the characters are beautifully depicted. As Peter, Sara Ouwendyk is courageous and valiant, skipping and jumping merrily around the stage. Mayume Noguromi, as the Bird, is adorned in a pretty, feathered plume and tutu, and flitters about, full of personality. I especially admired her, as out of the dancers her spirit, expression and technique was most commendable.

Dancing the role of the Cat, Kirsty Clarke is also amazing, practically screaming the smugness of the animal she’s portraying. Playing Peter’s grandma, Asja Petrovski appears very little, and although she acted well she wasn’t given much choreography. I have seen Asja perform as Clara before, so I think her talent is wasted just hobbling around.

Emma-Rose Barrowclough is excellent as the Duck, making the children shriek with laughter as she paddled around on a little blue mat. Kassidy Thompson and Sarah Ross appear only briefly as the Hunters, but play their parts well, very brisk and foreboding.

Finally, Nathan Claridge, as the Wolf, is a truly sinister character, with a million-dollar snarl that could rival an actual wolf. His jumps are amazing. At the performance I saw the little boy in front of me screamed “Wolf!” to warn the characters every time he got too close. The Wolf was my little brother’s favourite character, even though he hid in my dad’s shoulder.

Providing a voice-over of the story helps engage the audience, especially younger viewers. Although the portable stage is small, the company makes the most of it, adding a raised top level to resemble a tree. The scenery is well-used and effective, though simple. When the unfortunate incident occurred between Wolf and Duck feathers blew across the stage, which made us chuckle, although we were sorry for the duck!

Another interesting element is that the different characters in the story are represented by different musical instruments, as is usually the case for this story.  For example, the flute for the bird, the oboe for the duck. The narrator explains this to the audience when the characters are introduced.

The choreography is fun and playful, the dancers frequently turning cartwheels. The choreography showcases the different characters.

Throughout the show there is audience interaction. When the audience cries out to the performers, the dancers acknowledge them by gesture. At the show I saw I think this made the younger children feel as if they were part of the story. Sometimes the performers prompted the audience to clap, when someone was executing a challenging sequence. At the end of the show all the littlies were called up to the front of the stage, where they were given a mini dance class. I feel like this really added to the experience.

Peter and the Wolf  is a touching, enjoyable piece that considers the needs of younger viewers. This free event is a great opportunity to open up the world of ballet to a new audience, but experienced viewers will also appreciate this wonderful performance. If you have spare time on your hands definitely head to the Perth Cultural Centre, where the AWESOME Festival is being held. I absolutely recommend Peter and the Wolf to everybody!

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News, Performance poetry, Poetry, Reviews, story telling, Theatre

Persian love story a little too spare

Review: IllUMEnate, Layla Majnun ⋅
Subiaco Arts Centre, October 2 ⋅
Review by Varnya Bromilow ⋅

First it was stories around the campfire, then it was books, then radio serials, then films, then television, then webisodes on YouTube. The history of storytelling can also be read as a history of our diminishing attention spans. Where once we had the ability to focus on a single speaker, our contemporary brains have become accustomed to the sort of dazzling clutter our antecedents could never have imagined.

Is my judgement leaking off the page? I lament this diminishment. Which is why I was excited to get along to the Subiaco Arts Centre this week to see Layla Majnun, a unique storytelling event produced by Performing Lines WA. Billed as the greatest love story ever told, Layla Majnun is a traditional Persian story of love and separation. In this world premiere, scholar and performer Feraidoon Mojadedi, together with local group IllUMEnate, tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers in a bare-bones, stripped-back production that has far more in common with stories around the campfire than with any webisode.

Perhaps as a counterpoint to the sparseness of the production, the preamble to show was decidedly elaborate. The foyer of the Arts Centre was threaded with fairy lights, plump cushions for sitting strewn across the floor. The savoury scent of Persian foods filled the air, courtesy of a food van parked out front. Headscarves and platform heels; Converse and saris; a riot of colour. The capacity crowd was buzzing — snapping selfies in front of the elaborate decorations, enjoying the virtuosic sitar playing, chattering in anticipation.

Finally, as the lights went up, delicate Farsi script projected onto six pillars faded into obscurity. Mojadedi appeared alone on the stage, eager, but perhaps slightly nervous, to begin his hour-long tale. Mojadedi has a rich voice that carries easily and although some of his pacing was a little stilted, the story felt naturally told, intimate.

The straight narrative is interwoven with chanting of Farsi and it was during these interludes that Majodedi seemed most comfortable. The soothing rhythm of the language created an almost musical tonal switch and a welcome diversion to the bare simplicity of the story. For the first half hour I felt transported, carried gently along by the tale. Excerpts of poetry from Rumi and other Persian poets were projected onto the six pillars, each moved into place by Mojadedi as another section of the story was completed.

But by the second half of the performance I was ashamed to find myself yearning for a more varied aesthetic experience, for a more compelling narrative pull. Layla Majnun is not a story with twists and turns; there is little suspense drawing us forward. While the delivery is soothing, the lack of visual elements seemed a lost opportunity. Some of the projections were genuinely beautiful (the animated projections were particularly gorgeous) but I found myself wondering why director James Berlyn had not chosen to make more use of these elements to illustrate, ornament the narrative?

By the latter half Layla Majnun felt like a challenge to contemporary audiences:­­ we know you’re used to spectacle so let’s see if you can keep focus with all the trimmings stripped away? It might have worked too, were the story a more varied one than a simple tale of thwarted love. If there had been a less predictable, less expected narrative outcome the audience would have had no trouble keeping faith. But as it was, the story alone was simply not engaging enough to keep the keen audience onside. In their eagerness to be entertained in a more conventional manner, some of the audience laughed at inopportune moments — at times it seemed a desperate response to the one-note earnestness of the performance.

It’s a commendable task — to bring a traditional story from another culture to broader audiences.  And I admit that my failure to be satisfied with the simplicity of the staging may be an indictment on my own attentional deficits more than anything else. But I just wish Layla Majnun had felt more like an invitation to share in a new experience, rather than a gauntlet thrown down.

Layla Majnun continues until October 5. 

Pictured top: Feraidoon Mojadedi in ‘Layla Manjun’. Photo: Christophe Canato.

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Man sitting on plastic chair in outback space
Calendar, Literature, September 19, story telling

Lit Live: Behaving Badly

4 September @ Centre For Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

Australia’s finest storyteller, Humphrey Bower joins Lit Live this month to read provocative, moving and entertaining stories about the worst in us all. Humphrey has recorded numerous audio books by Bryce Courtenay, Tim Winton, Craig Silvey and more.

Lit Live brings together the best short fiction with the best storytellers.  Sarah McNeill is the producer of Lit Live.

The Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge

More info

Pictured: Actor, writer and storyteller Humphrey Bower

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Glass with martini
Calendar, July 19, Literature, story telling

Literature: Lit Live

3 July @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

Shaken not Stirred

A martini-dry collection of stories with a unique twist, ranging from a contemporary American horror story to an Aussie larrikin yarn. Featuring favourite storytellers Rebecca Davis and Greg McNeill.

More info

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Poster Advertising Lit Live
Calendar, June 19, Performing arts, story telling

Storytelling: Lit Live

5 June @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented Sarah McNeill ·

Sweet and Sour: A delicious collection of sweet stories with a sour twist read by master storytellers Andrea Gibbs and Luke Hewitt.

Produced and hosted by Sarah McNeill. The Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge.

More info:

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Lady reading from a large book with book shelves in background
Calendar, Literature, May 19, story telling

Literature: Lit Live: Strange Bedfellows

1 May @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

Weird, wonderful and strange stories read by professional actors with live music.
Lit Live: Strange Bedfellows commences at 7pm. Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge.

More info

Pictured: Actor Sarah McNeill reads the greatest short fiction

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Lady's face surrounded by flowers
April 19, Calendar, July 19, Music, October 19, story telling

Children: Musical Tales in Willagee Community Centre

18 Apr, 11 Jul & 10 Oct @ Willagee Community Centre ·
Presented by Music Book Stories ·

School Holiday Fun for 2 – 9-year-olds with stories told as never before. Images are projected onto the screen and stories are accompanied by live music. BYO drinks & snacks. Teddy Bears Welcome!

Doors open at 10am, Concert starts at 10.15am.
Cost: $8 per child aged 2 +, Children under 2 years and adults are free.
Door Sales available – contact us to register.

The Community Centre is an accessible venue on the corner of Archibald and
Winnacott Streets, Willagee.

This concert is proudly supported by City of Melville, Forgotten Books & Cottage School of Music Jnr, and is part of the Community Centre Concerts series.

More info

Danielle Joynt -storytelling to music.

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News, Performing arts, Perth Festival, Reviews, story telling, Theatre

Treasure trove

Perth Festival review: Danny Braverman, Wot? No Fish!! ·
Studio Underground, February 20 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The stories of the great ones are carved in stone.

Around them teem millions of people with lives that pass unknown, their stories unnoticed and then forgotten – evidence of their joys and sorrows, their increase and decrease, the circumstances of their coming and their going reduced to a few dusty lines in government files, a photograph album soon to be discarded or fading from living memory.

Or left, forgotten, in a shoebox under a bed.

Which is where the English storyteller Danny Braverman and his mother found a treasure-trove of common life – and a long, ordinary love affair told in an extraordinary way – as they were clearing out her deceased cousin’s flat in Chelsea.

Since 1926 when he married his beautiful next-door neighbour Celie, Braverman’s great-uncle Ab Solomon had taken home his payslip from the shoe factory where he worked and given it to his wife with the housekeeping inside and a simple drawing or a painting on the outside.

When he retired he kept giving her an envelope with a painting on it every week until she died in 1982.

It’s the history of their marriage, from their ardent newlyweddedness through to ailing old age.

History – depression, wars, austerity, the exodus of the middle-class from old cities to new, milquetoast suburbia – comes and goes; Abe and Celie suffer hardships and personal tragedies, feel their ardour cool and, sometimes,  distances grow, but Abe’s little sketches tells the story of an enduring love that recalls John Donne’s great metaphor, “If they be two, they are two so, as stiff twin compasses are two”.

Braverman tells Ab and Celie’s story in the simplest possible way, projecting a selection of these little doodles on a screen while commentating – and often speculating – about what’s happening in them.

He has a broad, knowing East-End Jewishness that disarms you immediately. If you enjoy words starting with schm… you’ll have a ball; if you love fishballs dipped in chrain (the traditional relish made from beetroot and horseradish that Braverman hands around as an icebreaker)  you will be with him from the get-go.

As you should be, whatever your taste in dialects and finger-food, because the story of Ab and Celie that he tells with good humour, taste and emotional precision is a window into the world of real people that will survive, in our common humanity, when all the statues have crumbled and there’s nothing left of the great ones they memorialise but names.

Wot?  No Fish!!  is playing at Studio Underground until February 24,

Pictured top: Danny Braverman diving deep into his family history. Photo: Tony Lewis.

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3 men making music at night in the Bush
Calendar, Fringe World, Music, Performing arts, story telling

Music: One Sky, Many Stories

9 & 10 February @ The Edith Spiegeltent, Yagan Square ·
Presented by Michael Sollis & The Griffyn Ensemble ·

‘Akin to a religious experience’ – The Australian

Take a spellbinding journey to the far reaches of the galaxy with one of Australia’s most prolific indigenous songwriters Warren H Williams and members of the acclaimed Griffyn Ensemble. Discover western and indigenous astronomy through a synthesis of masterful storytelling, music and short film.

What do the stars mean to you? Where do all we come from, and what will we all become? What is unique about our own Australian sky, and how does it reflect our landscape?

These are some of the thought-provoking questions that inspire audiences as they explore their relationship to the night sky, indigenous culture and the world around us. Enter our world for an evening of mystery and delight and emerge transformed. One Sky, Many Stories, developed in Tennant Creek, sparks conversation, creativity and inspiration long after the final curtain drops.

Appropriate for all ages and curious minds.

More info:

Pictured: One Sky, Many Stories: Barkly Regional Arts

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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

Pictured: Maximus Musicus Joins the Choir

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