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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
8 – 23 February @ Stirling Theatre, Innaloo ·
Presented by Stirling Theatre ·
Two strong ladies feature in two strong plays for Stirling Theatre’s first
season of 2019.
Presented under the banner of “Grace and Willpower”, The Greening of Grace is
about a woman who changes her politics after traumatic life events while Lady
Willpower is a gentle comedy of bad manners, deceit and a battle of siblings
over a £30 million estate. Written by Australian actor William Zappa and
directed by Tim Riessen, The Greening of Grace highlights that every individual
has the power to change the world.
“The play is told from Grace’s perspective, in retrospect, providing an insight
into how her family provided a catalyst for the change,” Riessen said.
“I was inspired to direct the show by what I saw as a strong character in the
title role. The biggest challenge comes from Grace acting as the narrator –
allowing her to tell her story is crucial but it’s not a one-person show.”
Written and directed by Bob Charteris, Lady Willpower stems from the author’s
fascination of media reports about families fighting over wills.
“I’ve always thought it would make an ideal subject for a comedy,” he said.
The play features Lady Catherine Cadwalladr, a woman who has led an unusual
life and intends to make her last days equally unusual by re-writing her will.
“This causes ructions with her rather nasty and spiteful middle-aged children
who think they are going to get an equal share of the estate,” Charteris said.
“That’s until they discover their mother has certain ‘conditions’.”
“Grace and Willpower” plays at 8pm February 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23
with 2pm matinees February 10 and 17.
Whether you loved or loathed Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel Eat Pray Love (and the film that followed), local theatre-maker Andrew Sutherland is inviting you to question Western discourses around Asian cultures in his new two-hander Poorly Drawn Shark.
Written by Sutherland, performed by Ming Yang Lim and Sutherland, and directed by Vidya Rajan, Poorly Drawn Shark is presented by independent company Squid Vicious. Founded by Sutherland and Jess Nyanda Moyle, Squid Vicious describes itself as “the moist love-child of Perth and Singapore [that] aims to kiss dominant narratives into submission.”
Intrigued, Seesaw caught up with Sutherland to find out more.
Seesaw: Tell us about your theatrical training… Andrew Sutherland: I have an honours degree in acting from LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore. But in terms of working as a maker, as opposed to strictly pursuing acting, I would say that I learnt just as much or more on the job. In the first few years of my professional practice in Singapore after graduation, and I probably worked as much or more as a playwright and assistant director and dramaturg than as an actor, which has really helped to define my trajectory thus far.
S: Describe your artistic practice… AS: I sit around and do unnecessarily complicated academic research for ages, then sit around for a while longer in intellectual paralysis while I try to piece together texts that I’ve either written, stolen or recycled. I aggressively structure and restructure my work while storyboarding reasonable ways to fake my own death, in case I really want to cancel the show. At some point I get into a rehearsal room with bangin’ great artists, look at a lot of memes, hopefully laugh a bunch, and from there try making something good.
S: Career highlight so far? AS: Continuing to work with regular collaborators who are as rigorous as they are endlessly fun to engage with, like Joe Lui and Jess Nyanda Moyle, or Sharda Harrison and Koh Wan Ching in Singapore.
S: Career lowlight? AS: Nah, every day is a victory, and every low point is tomorrow’s funny story.
S: Speaking of which, funniest career moment? AS: In July last year when Renegade Productions brought Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes to Bondi Feast in Sydney, a woman in the front row very loudly and gleefully proclaimed: “lil boy, you got silly string hanging outta your butt”. In my defence, I got shot with a lot of silly string in that show.
S: What do you love most about making and performing work? AS: I guess I answered that above; in theatre, the practice of it really soars for me when it’s all about the collaboration. I also work as a poet and writer, which can be such an isolated slog, so when you can get into a room with people who are thinking and feeling on the same page as you and fuck around with how you want to make a performance – that’s an amazing feeling.
S: Tell us about your 2019 Fringe show Poorly Drawn Shark
AS: Poorly Drawn Shark was conceived with Melbourne-based playwright Vidya Rajan as a kind of queer takedown of the Eat, Pray, Love narrative; about the Western consumption of other cultures and the problematic idea of finding “meaning” or “purpose” from Asian cultures and peoples.
So we’ve been twisting the idea of autobiography; looking at the framework of my lived experience in Singapore and the issues of race, desire and citizenry attached to my presence. With director Joe Paradise Lui and co-actor Ming Yang Lim the show has developed into this sexy stew of daddies and boys, nationhood and neo-colonial encounters, and objectification and use between mutually “exotic” bodies. Also, there’s a very convincing Merlion, some A+ jokes, and lots of dumb facts about sharks.
S: What’s your favourite part of the playground? AS: Probably the swings. When I was in primary school somebody told me that if you go all the way over the swing set your skin turns inside out, which remains a goal of mine.
Unprecedented heat waves, floods, bushfires… at a time when the effects of climate change are all too evident in Australia, the premise of A Region Where Nobody Goes, by new local theatre collective Lindstedt & Davies, feels frighteningly relevant. Set in an imagined future Australia, the work follows Bree, the prime minister’s speech writer, as she faces the challenge of writing about the natural disasters that are besetting the continent.
Seesaw chatted to the pair behind this dystopian two-hander, Anna Lindstedt and Sally Davies, to find out more about the two artists and the show they’ll be presenting at Fringe World.
Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to work in the arts? Anna Lindstedt: I made my prestigious theatre debut as The Lorax in my primary school’s rendition of The Lorax. After that, I knew. I always enjoyed performing and telling stories from a young age. It was when I left school, however, and started studying and making theatre that I really started to think of myself as a theatre artist.
Sally Davies: I was planning to study social work at uni but when I went to an information night in year 12 I realised it probably wasn’t for me. I always liked English at school so I thought I’d pursue writing.
S: Tell us about your training… AL: I completed a Bachelor of Arts at Curtin in 2017, majoring in Performance Studies. This took me three and a half years, and during this time I also did a bunch of other theatre and film related short courses around Perth. However, the best training and experience I’ve gained so far have come from getting amongst the Perth theatre scene and working on shows with other like-minded artists.
SD: Like Anna, I studied at Curtin, doing a double degree in Performance Studies/Creative Writing. I’ve been really lucky that in the last couple of years I’ve been able to work with some talented and creative people from whom I have learnt a lot.
S: Describe your artistic practice… AL and SD: Our previous shows have all been very different in style, content and themes. We chose to partner up because we are both passionate about uniquely Australian theatre that is relevant, socially conscious, inclusive and playful. We hope to continue making independent theatre in Perth that explores a range of topics in new and interesting ways.
S: Career highlight so far? SD: I don’t think I have a career highlight. I’ve been a part of so many great teams that I would struggle to pick one moment or production. I’ve really enjoyed working with Fonder Factory at Winter Nights and with Jess Moyle to write Tunes from the Roadside (by Lindstedt and Davies). Tale of Tales (by Claire Testoni) is also memorable because it came at a time when I felt I wasn’t contributing much to the Perth arts scene, and broke me out of a bit of a slump.
AL: I also have been very lucky with the great projects I’ve been able to be a part of. I can’t rave enough about how grateful I am to have worked with the amazing team of Toast (by Maiden Voyage Theatre Company) and what an amazing opportunity that was for me to learn from so many people that I admired so much. I also played The Cat in the Hat in my Year 11 production of Seussical the Musical, and that was cool.
S: Career lowlight? SD: When I graduated uni and didn’t have any upcoming shows, I was feeling a bit useless and dejected. I’ve since accepted that I need to work hard to make stuff happen, and that I have to be constantly working for opportunities.
AL: In the period between high school and starting my degree, I had a few unsuccessful attempts at getting into drama schools and it really made me doubt my own capabilities and future as an artist. I believed that there was a streamlined pathway to becoming a successful actor, and I’d missed the boat. In the years since, my whole perception of the industry and sustainable arts careers has changed, and now I really value this perceived setback. It led me to Curtin and the many incredible theatre-makers I met and worked with there.
S: Funniest career moment so far? SD: I did a devised show in my third year of Curtin, where I forgot to bring my phone onstage to use as a prop, so I panicked and used my shoe to make a phone call.
AL: In an audition, I was using my water bottle as a prop and in a moment of blind passion I threw it on the floor. It split, and water went everywhere. As soon as I finished my audition I had to frantically apologise and mop up all the water. I still got cast though.
S: What do you love most about what you do? SD: I feel very lucky that we get to make up a story and then people will come and share it with us. The collective of theatre makers in Perth are all amazing and I love that I’m part of it.
AL: I love the moment just as the house lights are about to dim, and the show is about to start, and you know that whatever happens in the next hour or so is going to be a shared experience between only the people in the room.
S: Tell us about A Region Where Nobody Goes SD & AL:A Region Where Nobody Goes is a theatre piece that follows Bree, played by Anna, and her journey in the end times. Bree is the speech writer for the Prime Minister and is trying to make sense of a series of natural disasters that is wreaking havoc in Australia.
We wanted to be able to talk about climate change and wilful ignorance in a way that is real and urgent. Australia has such a rich and dangerous history, and we wanted to see how that applied to modern problems.
5 – 9 February @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights
& Emily Stokoe ·
“Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? Great food,
no atmosphere.” – Dad
Three fully grown men in onesies explore the shifting nature of their
relationships with their fathers, tackling masculinity, connection,
and legacy in a room filled with the most pillows you have ever seen
in one place.
Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Emily Stokoe, DAD
is a multi-layered, all too real, laugh out loud romp crafted by three
of Perth’s most exciting emerging theatre makers.
The trio bust out of the pillow fort on the memories and events that
shape who we see as the father-figures in our lives. That time he
taught you how to ride a bike; the countless hours he blasted his
favourite “dad rock” albums or when he threw you against the wall…
Trustworthy, a**hole, role-model, prick.
Who’s your daddy?
19 Jan – 17 Feb @ The Actors’ Hub, East Perth ·
Presented by the Actors’ Hub ·
A team of actors is testing its mettle four nights a week over the
next month by performing a different show each night. In 4x4x4, the
same team from The Actors’ Hub will perform four separate 60-minute
shows during Fringe World – four nights, four shows, across four weeks.
Director Amanda Crewes described it as an amazing challenge for the actors.
Implied Consent gives a 360-degree perspective on what people believe
consent is, giving an often harrowing exploration as to how they imply it.
“The challenge was creating a piece that is both entertaining and truthful
to the devastating impact this issue has on us culturally,” Crewes said.
In L’Appel Du Vide, the actors use physical theatre and Jacques Lacoq
basel masks to explore different stages of life and how the relationships
we form, and connections we yearn for, are impacted by things we think we want.
Crewes described it as otherworldly and a rare opportunity to see basel masks
being used in Perth theatre. “The story is told through movement only so we
spent a lot of time making sure the physical storytelling was clear,” she said.
The Les Darcy Show is a high octane, action-packed piece featuring dancing and
fighting set in the early 1900s, focusing on the short but incredibly full life
of the Australian boxing legend. Called the Maitland Terror, Darcy won 52 of his
56 fights and was crowned middleweight champion of the world – all before his
tragic end in 1917 at the tender age of 21. “The actors have had to master Irish
dances and physical boxing,” Crewes said. “They have to throw a punch – and a
good one at that! “It has rich and gritty Aussie, Irish and American characters
and, at its core, it’s a celebration.”
Steve Irwin and Dame Edna Everage are brought to life in An Evening with…
as they explore the question: who is the ultimate Australian?
In a style reminiscent of Have You Been Paying Attention?, both
characters battle it out as they talk sex, politics and religion.
“We wanted to honour these characters everyone knows so well while
saying something about divisive thinking,” Crewes said.
4x4x4 plays 7.30pm January 19 to February 17 with Implied Consent on
January 19, 25, February 2, 10 & 14; L’Appel Du Vide on January 20 & 26,
February 1, 7 & 17; An Evening with.. on January 24, February 3, 8 & 16
and The Les Darcy Show on January 27, 31, February 9 & 15.
It’s been little more than a year since Isaac Diamond graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts but he’s already making a name for himself on the Perth theatre circuit. In 2018 he caught the attention of Seesaw critics in WA Youth Theatre Company’s Cloud Nine, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s The Night Zoo and Lazy Yarns’ Penthouse.
Now the emerging actor/performance maker is preparing to appear on stage with Slate, a new local theatre collective. Slate will debut at Fringe World 2019 with Michael Abercromby’s Front, a play that takes viewers behind the scenes of the music industry. Seesaw had a chat to Diamond ahead of opening night.
Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an actor? Isaac Diamond: When I was a kid I thought I wanted to illustrate books but it turned out I really wasn’t that good at drawing. Fast forward to my first year out of school when I was giving physiotherapy a whirl and failing (literally). After some time off I decided to try the thing that had made me happiest in high school, performing.
S: Tell us about your training… ID: I trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) for three years. I did the Bachelor of Performing Arts majoring in Performance Making. In this course, students are encouraged to push boundaries and explore the limits of theatre and performance. We receive a wide range of training, ranging from traditional acting and voice classes to more diverse methods such as butoh, Suzuki, clowning and puppetry, among others.
As far as my personal method is concerned, it’s all on the job learning. Trust your gut, make mistakes and keep doing that until you unlock the secrets of the universe.
S: Describe your artistic practice…
ID: I consider myself a performer and a maker. Acting was my first love but training at WAAPA showed me how much more there is to art. I’ve been a part of the devising process for a number of shows now, and I’m proud of all of them. I like work that is nuanced, authentic, challenging and exciting. I want to see humans struggle and love and burn and fly and shit everywhere. You know, normal stuff.
S: Career highlight so far?
ID: I was honoured and humbled to be the recipient of the Blue Room Theatre’s “Best Performance” award for my role in Lazy Yarn’s Penthouse. The awards are presented by the Blue Room Theatre for their entire 2018 season. It is a crazy thing to have happened and I still can’t really believe it. The talent and quality of work being made in Perth is unreal and I’m so happy to be amongst it.
S: What do you love most about what you do? ID: I feel like I’m playing make-believe out the back with my little brother except I’m an adult and I get paid… what’s not to like?
S: 2018’s Fringe World saw you perform in Salt Theatre Company’s Minus One Sister and Lazy Yarns’ Less Light. What drew you back to Fringe World? ID: A few buddies of mine let me know about a casting call for FRONT, looking for actors/musicians to play members of a band in a new/high-energy show written by a WAAPA acting grad.
Plus, I’ve loved Fringe in the past – the city is transformed. It’s bliss.
S: Tell us about your 2019 Fringe show! ID:FRONT is fun, high-energy, crass, loud and gut-wrenching. It dives deep into the psyche of a musical psycho and smashes together ideas of ego, fame, power and loyalty into a tight 65 minute emotion explosion.
S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe? ID:Grace (I’m doing the sound design hehe) Dad (I’m doing the sound design hehehehehe) Silence my Ladyhead (groovy groovy) Cotton Wool Kid (wrap yourself up 4 this) The Big City (Louis is a clown-god) Feminah (Charlotte is a boss-ass-BITCH) Tony Galati the Musical (COZ DUHHH?)
S: What is your favourite part of the playground? ID: OMG the swings. I’ll swing all damn day.