Black and White sketch of man with name of play
Calendar, May 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

21 May – 25 May @ Hayman Theatre ·
Presented by Hayman Theatre Company ·

Meet Arturo. Gangster? Businessman? Politician? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. He’s a song and dance man, as in he’ll sing you a song while he twerks on your grave. “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”, Brecht’s parable play about the rise of Hitler, explodes onto the stage in a pop culture frenzy of violenceand lip synching. Welcome to Brecht for a meme generation! Resistance is futile. Or is it? #faketheatre

More info
W: haymantheatre.curtin.edu.au/productions/resistible-rise-arturo-ui/
E:  haymantheatre@curtin.edu.au

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Woman dressed in fairy tale costume
August 19, Calendar, Children, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Children: Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts

13 – 16 August @ The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by Shake & Stir ·

Think you know the stories of The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Goldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk? Think again! Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts bursts off the page in a spectacular live show, taking the world’s best-­loved fairy tales and rearranging them with some surprising and hilarious twists.

Seriously funny and frighteningly silly, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts is the perfect family entertainment especially for children 5 to 25, that’s sure to delight and disgust in equal measure.

Making their 3rd visit to Perth the multi Helpmann Award winning team at shake & stir have adapted the works of Roald Dahl to fit a 55 mins format which will have the kids and adults squirming with delight!

Tuesday 13 August at 10am, 1pm & 6pm
Wednesday 14 August  at 10am, 1pm & 6:30pm
Thursday 15 August at 10am & 6:30pm
Friday 16 August at 10am, 4:30pm & 6:30pm

More info:
www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/roald-dahl-s-revolting-rhymes-dirty-beasts/

 

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A scene from Water, featuring Glenda Linscott. Amy Mathews. Emily Rose Brennan. Richard Maganga
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

The perils of polemic

Review: Black Swan State Theatre Company, Water ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

As we all come to grips with the most pressing issue of our age – humanity’s impact on our planet – it’s only fitting that this theme makes its way onto our stages. As is often the case, theatre is miles ahead of cinema or TV in grappling with this topic – it’s hard to make art that reflects our growing concern, while not straying too far into the boredom of strident polemic. So far, at least, it’s been left to theatre to press the case.

With Water, Melbourne-based playwright Jane Bodie has created a work for Black Swan State Theatre Company that is as ambitious as it is broad-ranging. Set in three different time periods and places, the play examines two of Australia’s thorniest political challenges – climate politics and refugees.

The first and strongest act is set on Molloy Island off WA’s Southwest in the not too distant future. Water has become scarce, birds have all but died out and food rationing is in place. We meet Peter (Igor Sas), a disgraced politician, recently forced to resign over his handling of refugee policy; his wife, Beth (Glenda Linscott) and the couple’s daughters Gemma (Amy Mathews) and Joey (Emily Rose Brennan). Gemma, a corporate lawyer, and Joey, a hippy traveller, have returned to the family’s holiday home to celebrate Peter’s birthday. Joey has been travelling for years and, as with all prodigal offspring, her return is cause for joy, dampened slightly by the fact that she has invited along a friend (and African immigrant), Yize (Richard Maganga).

A scene from 'Water', set in a holiday home on Molloy Island.
An undercurrent of tension: Igor Sas (Peter), Glenda Linscott (Beth) and Amy Mathews(Gemma) in the first act of ‘Water’. Photo: Daniel J Grant.

Bodie begins slowly, casting out small measures of narrative and context that makes the play an enjoyable tease for half of the first act. Why exactly did Peter leave politics? Why is Beth so on edge? Why does Gemma seem so irritated? What are Joey’s motives in inviting Yize? Director Emily McLean paces the show beautifully, creating an undercurrent of tension that is bound to explode. She is aided in this effort by a gorgeous soundscape and score from Clint Bracknell. Beginning with the clatter of parrots, an echo of a more bountiful time, Water is notable for its aural sparseness. We feel the absence of the birds, just as we feel the absence of water. The silence at the show’s beginning builds via stilted conversation, elongated pauses, until finally – with a remarkable soliloquy from Yize – the dam bursts. Maganga’s performance here was so impassioned, so utterly authentic, that it was followed by spontaneous applause from the packed house.

But, despite the talent of the actors, Water is a deeply flawed work. For a contemporary piece written by a female playwright, the raft of characters is alarmingly cliched. We have the absent poli dad; the long-suffering, needy wife; the wild, irresponsible daughter and the corporate careerist. I understand the seduction of writing about characters we are familiar with – there’s little an audience enjoys more than seeing itself reflected onstage – but for a new work, these roles seemed all too predictable. Of course the roguish daughter is there to cause trouble! Of course the corporate careerist is secretly unhappy! In writing such broad caricatures, Bodie underestimates the capacity of her audience to comprehend something more nuanced.

A scene from 'Water'. A nurse examines a patient's throat.
Bodie takes the audience to Ellis Island in 1921. Pictured are Amy Mathews and Glenda-Linscott. Photo: Daniel J Grant.

By the end of the first act though, we are engaged. We know these people, we care about them. Minor irritations like the distraction of Gemma’s resignation can be overlooked in favour of the over-riding pull of any good story – what happens next? But, in an ill-advised attempt to underscore the injustice of Australia’s refugee policy, the next act deprives us of this satisfaction. Instead, Bodie takes us to Ellis Island in 1921 where an elderly white Australian couple is attempting to emigrate to the United States. By drawing an apt but facile comparison with immigration systems elsewhere, Bodie again underestimates her audience. Her point was already made with stirring eloquence through the vessel of Yize – the clunky comparison doesn’t make the point stronger, it weakens it.

Similarly, when we are then transported to Queensland in 1905 in a brief reference to the slave trade that supplied the labour for Australia’s cane plantations, I had no idea where we were or why. Compounding the confusion is Bodie’s decision to use similar names for the characters in each setting. But what happened to the people on Molloy Island? When, finally, the playwright brings us briefly back to the characters of the first act, we are left without any meaningful resolution.

By divorcing us from the characters of the first act, Bodie sacrifices audience enjoyment to belabour her point – our climate policies are failing; our refugee policies are inhumane; we are not learning from history. As someone who agrees wholeheartedly with Bodie’s politics, it pains me to see this sort of didacticism onstage. Making theatre with a political message is extremely difficult; making theatre with a political message while avoiding the perils of polemic is even harder.

Water plays until May 26.

Pictured top are (L-R): Glenda Linscott (Beth), Amy Mathews (Gemma), Emily Rose Brennan (Joey) and Richard Maganga (Yize). Photo: Daniel J Grant.

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News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Why a caged bird sings

Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, Cracked ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 11 May ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

Cracked is a play about a mother’s struggle for freedom. It opens and closes in song.

In mournful yet hauntingly beautiful song. And by the end of it, we know why a caged bird sings.

Frances (an outstanding portrayal by Bobbi Henry) is an Aboriginal woman, 15 months into a prison term. She misses her children, who’ve been put into foster care, and she sings in the prison choir. Her plight reminded me of the bird in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s classic poem, Sympathy. The poem describes the awful experience of a bird trapped in a cage. The bird flaps its wings and sings, not because it is happy but because it is desperate and sad. Dunbar used the bird to represent the oppression of his fellow African-Americans in the late nineteenth century.

Like that bird, Frances wants to be out with her flock. She wants to nest; she wants to fly. But her life has steered off course. Intergenerational trauma, poverty, insecure housing, lack of education and employment, domestic violence and methamphetamine use; these factors and more have led to Frances into crime and prison, and now threaten her prospects for parole and a new chapter with her kids. Frances speaks for Aboriginal Australians in similar circumstances.

Motifs of birds and flight are woven throughout the production, directed by Eva Grace Mullaley. They feature in the script, by Barbara Hostalek, and in the evocative soundscape by Mei Swan Lim and multimedia projections, by Mia Holton.

Bobbi Henry as Frances with (L-R) Luke Hewitt (John Rogers), Rayma Morrison (Aunty Pat) and Bruce Denny (Dwayne).

Despite help from her Aunty Pat (played to perfection by Rayma Morrison) and well-meaning community corrections officer Edwina (Holly Jones), Frances becomes frustrated and overwhelmed. At least behind bars she is assured of “three square meals a day, a roof over your head and no risk of getting smashed up.” So much for The Lucky Country.

The scenes charting Frances’s tentative freedom are gut-wrenching but skilfully executed. Sara Chirichilli’s clever set features a cell on a circular, revolving platform – as the plot nears the resolution, its symbolic value becomes apparent.

Holly Jones as Edwina and Matthew Cooper as Joel.

Hostalek’s characters are beautifully drawn, defying stereotypes and injecting energy and humour into what could otherwise have been a bleak play. Luke Hewitt is superb as an affable prison officer and Matthew Cooper is beautiful to watch as Edwina’s jaded colleague, Joel.

This is a memorable play with an important message. Perhaps Edwina best sums up that message, in her conversation with Joel about her clients: “They’re broken beyond all repair but I don’t want to give up on them.”

Cracked plays until May 18.

Pictured top is Bobbi Henry, as Frances, with (L-R) Bruce Denny (Dwayne), Luke Hewitt (John Rogers) and Holly Jones (Edwina).

All photo: Dana Weeks.

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Pink and yellow poster advertising play with a hill's hoist in it
Calendar, May 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Hill’s Heist

15 – 18 May @ Dolphin Theatre, UWA ·
Presented by University Dramatic Society ·

The University Dramatic Society is proud to present our semester one musical,
“The Hill’s Heist”.

Helen Bowen is a cop, and she should not be part of this heist. She can’t even really remember agreeing. But here she is, confessing to everything: the identity theft, the international jet-setting, the local grocery shopping, the code names, the drag shows, the newly re-opened laundromat and dry-cleaning service. But the heist isn’t over. It’s barely begun. And Helen doesn’t even know the half of it.

The Hill’s Heist is an original comedy musical about convictions and conflictions,  rights and not wrongs, hills, heists, and a load of dirty laundry.

Book and lyrics by Xavier Hazard
Directed by Alex Crouch and Megan Rundle
Music by Isaac Reynolds and Matthew Nixon
Choreography by Katherine Hooker

More info:
www.ticketswa.com/event/hills-heist

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woman dressed in orange against orange background in pose
Calendar, June 19, May 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Unrule

28 May-15 Jun @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Hey! Precious ·

Inspired by true tales of body horror and the prom scene from Carrie, Unrule is a spooky-scary and comedic premiere that teases apart our complicated relationships with female bodies. Award-winning maker Michelle Aitken (Future’s Eve) and an ace ensemble of collaborators grapple deep seated anxieties around sexual, mental, and reproductive health with humour, rage and raw vulnerability.

From light bladder leakage to serious accounts of medical mistreatment, they attempt to live with the monsters within by bringing them to life in grotesque, glorious, and moist forms.

Be the first to strap into this cabaret meets surreal spectacle that can turn from hilarious to horrifying on a dime.

More info:
www.blueroom.org.au/unrule

Pictured: Unrule: Credit: Pixel Poetry

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Performers on stage, gathered around a table. Some sit at the table, some sit on the table, one stands on the table.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

The future is in safe hands

Review: WAAPA 3rd year acting, When the Rain Stops Falling ·
The Roundhouse Theatre, 4 May ·
Review by Steven Cohen ·

When the Rain Stops Falling is a strangely beautiful Australian play; original and intriguingly complex. The sheer genius of the playwright, Andrew Bovell, is striking.

Andrew Bovell is a wizard of Oz. He forgoes the politics of David Williamson, the cultural lashings of Ray Lawler and the suburban psychology of Patrick White. Rather, he sets out to shunt upon us a gut-wrenching story that tackles intergenerational trauma, father-son relationships and – curiously, given the play’s focus on the personal and familial – the devastating effect of environmental damage.

The plot is a plate of spaghetti. There is no typical rise and fall. Instead, each scene focuses upon both the ordinary and grotesque. Some scenes are intense, but the theatrical style serves the theme well: that history is not necessarily linear but tangential. And vital.

The action shifts between Alice Springs, Uluru, Adelaide and London, fluctuating backwards and forwards in time. There is little connection between scenes, zero linearity and only the subtlest of links. We are made to feel “curiouser and curiouser” through jagged moments of peculiar dis-quiet. But, this is no Wonderland. Rather, it is a juxtaposition between hinterland and wasteland, where future is devoured by the sins of the past and the only way out is through the sheer power of love, strength and hope.

Performers on stage, crouched under umbrellas
Equally impressive: the student cast of ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’. Photo: Jon Green.

The crucial scenes occur in London 20 years apart. First, we are introduced to Gabriel Law, who confronts his malcontent and dispirited mother. We learn that Gabriel’s father absconded to Australia, when Gabriel was a small child. Later, the action shifts, in the most distressing of scenes, to that pivotal moment when Gabriel’s father leaves. Ignorant of the past, Gabriel decides to retrace his father’s footsteps to the Australian centre. And there we see how the ghosts of our past crash the future.

WAAPA’s production stays true to the intensity of the narrative. Using Edith Cowan University’s Roundhouse Theatre, visiting artist and director Peggy Shannon successfully creates an intimate and visual portrayal of time and its linear shifts.

Set designer Danielle Chilton has cleverly incorporated cascading water into the stage, framing weather as a key motif. Period clothing from each of the last several decades is used to fiendishly wrap each character in a generation of servitude to their ancestors.

On opening night all nine actors were equally impressive. Characterisation was on point, as was accent, position and interpretation. Indeed, it was a shame that not all actors shared equal stage time.

Everyone should see this production. Not just for the melancholy yet uplifting story, but to rest their minds that the future of theatre is in exceptional hands.

5 stars.

When the Rain Stops Falling plays until May 9. 

Photo: Jon Green

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Twelve women engaged in discussion
Calendar, June 19, May 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Twelve Angry Jurors

17 May – 1 June @ Roxy Lane Theatre, Maylands ·
Presented by ARENAarts ·

An all-female version (bar one) of Twelve Angry Men at the Roxy Lane Theatre, re-titled Twelve Angry Jurors, is putting a new spin on the classic courtroom drama. Presented by ARENAarts and directed by Simon James, the setting has also been changed from 1950s America to Australia during World War II – but the basic premise remains the same.

A young man is accused of stabbing his father to death and, after hearing days of evidence, 11 jurors vote guilty with one voting against. What follows is a tense drama of contradictory evidence and conflicting personalities that will keep audiences guessing to the end.

First created for television in 1954, Twelve Angry Men became a stage play the following year and then a feature film with Henry Fonda in 1957, scoring three Academy Award nominations. James said an all-female version of the play provided a very different dynamic to an all-male or mixed cast. “Males tend towards the bravado, posturing and attainment of superiority over other men and women,” he said. “Although this can also be true of an all-female jury, it’s much more subtle and intriguing to explore the power-plays, insults, jostling for attention and methods used to get individual opinions to dominate over others that occur in a group solely made up of women. For a number of years, I seem to have been drawn to directing plays featuring largely female casts such as We Happy Few, The Hound of the Baskervilles and All The King’s Women. It’s great to be able to create a production that stimulates more opportunities for women and allows them to develop some pretty amazing characterisations.”

With the whole cast on stage for the entire production, James said each actor had to be constantly engaged in the play’s narrative, as well as continually acting and reacting to what was going on around them. “Coming up with ways to achieve this has been challenging but, ultimately, very satisfying,” he said. “Each actor has created quite a detailed backstory for the characters and we have woven that into their performance on stage. I had extensive workshops with each actor to work on physical characterisation so they present a well-rounded individual on stage, rather than themselves just in a different set of clothes. Although the script only refers to them as Juror 2, Juror 3 and so on, each actor has invented a name,  family life, history and emotional and intellectual reactions to the situation they find themselves in.”

James also made the decision to change the setting of the play to make it more directly appealing and  relevant to local audiences. “With a jury of all women, I thought a wartime setting would best explain why there aren’t any men available to do their courtroom duty,” he said. “We chose 1944 in an unspecified  major city in Australia, as it was after the turning point in World War II, but at a time when victory was still not guaranteed and much hardship was still to come. The wartime era evokes a great ambiance – it’s a wonderfully vivid and dynamic time in history with distinctive clothes and hairstyles and memorable music.”

As for the one male actor in the otherwise all-female cast, James explains: “We had 32 women audition for the 12 jurors and could have cast one of them as the guard but Mike Moshos put himself forward as a possibility, so we went with that option instead. His character is obviously someone who wouldn’t have been forced to enlist during the war, so we don’t have to explain that and the role fits comfortably as a male one.”

Twelve Angry Jurors plays at 8pm May 17, 18, 24, 25, 30, 31 and June 1 with 2pm matinees May 19 and 26.

Tickets are $22, $16 concession – book  at www.TAZTix.com.au or call TAZTix on 9255 3336.

The Roxy Lane Theatre is on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Roxy Lane, Maylands.

More info:
www.TAZTix.com.au

Pictured:
The all-female (bar one) cast of Twelve Angry Jurors: Hettie Lobegeiger, left, Amy Swerlowycz, Lisa MacDonald, Lis Hoffmann, Trish Zanetti, Mike Moshos, Janet Pusey, Julie Holmshaw, Andrea O’Donnell, Jenny Smith, Ashlee McKenna and Jenny Smith.

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News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Light will conquer all?

Review: Julia Croft, Harriet Gillies & Joe Lui, Death Throes ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 1 May ·
Review by Jonathan W. Marshall ·

You can recognise German postdramatic theatre from the moment where the cast breaks the performance to engage in a political panel discussion with the audience. Employing this device early, Death Throes is both somewhat more timid, but also more tongue in cheek, than much postdramatic performance.

The piece begins with Harriet Gillies delivering a brief monologue on the knowingness of the 1990s generation. She holds an insanely hot light close to her face, apparently unfazed. This light is a parcan: basically a car headlight in a can; stand in front of an old car and see how long you last! Joe Lui then enters to set up tables and microphones. The pair are joined by Julia Croft and immediately Croft and Lui engage in a rambling discussion on the evils of monetary capitalism. So far, so postdramatic.

The most notable tension in Death Throes is how seriously (or not) the artists take their announced politics. Their analysis of monetary exchange holds few surprises for anyone who familiar with John Maynard Keynes or Das Kapital. The trio conclude that the problem with contemporary economics is that money — which is purely symbolic, standing in for goods or commodities — has been mistaken for an almost self-sufficient thing in itself. Monetary exchange therefore does not serve us. We serve it. Karl Marx described this in his account of capitalist fetishism, a primer for which might be offered by this advertisement, where the “value” of the product ends up having nothing to do with how much it costs to produce, or its practical use.

Lui concludes this section with an aside on the links in the productive chain underpinning even a $5 chicken bucket. This retrospectively explains why Gillies chows down on fried chicken, her calm assurance contrasting with Croft’s near manic speechifying.

In the sequences that follow, there is no further reference to economics, which is not to say links cannot be inferred, but it seems unfortunate that the production leaps into the bafflingly abstract. The main dramaturgical through-line (again, in classic postdramatic mode) is a scenographic motif, rather than a rhetorical one. Light, as actively manipulated by the cast, holds a beatific possibility throughout. There is a Barbarella-like sequence where the cast pose with spotlights held like blasters projecting steely beams to either side. The panel discussion itself is closed off by the lowering of a parcan onto Gillies’ now prone form, her head framed under its glow.

Julia Croft, Harriet Gillies and Joe Lui running around a red carpet.
Our performers adopt shiny gold costumes and jog in circles around a central light until exhausted.

In the longest sequence, our performers adopt shiny gold costumes and jog in circles around a central light until exhausted. It is not an especially original motif. Trisha Brown and others founded postmodernist or pedestrian dance (dance made using everyday movements) by running and walking on stage, and complex variations continue today (consider Thierry Thieû Niang’s 2012 …du Printemps!). If this section has a political meaning, it presumably shares it with Situationism and early performance art, where it was claimed that by doing something which has no purpose or productive outcome, such self-motivated acts lie outside of the money economy. It is a nice ideal, but given that the hugely successful performance artist Marina Abramovic made her fortune selling limited edition photographs of her otherwise “unsaleable” art, it is not so convincing.

Death Throes ends with our trio gazing distractedly past the audience, images of blue, cloud-filled skies surrounding them, as fans blow their hair. It is an oddly voyeuristic scenario for a performance which began by advertising its left-wing politics. Farrah Fawcett was the 1970s pin-up for this gently erotic “wind-blown look”, and given that Charlie’s Angels has been reworked as a supposedly feminist classic, perhaps a similar reclamation is intended here.

Death Throes is, therefore, not entirely effective. While not derivative, its elements are not especially novel. Whatever logic governs the selection of material is neither evident, nor is the production a deliberately random assemblage. That said, any show featuring Lui running in gold short-shorts, or Gillies’ supremely unflappable expression, provides a fun puzzler.

Death Throes plays The Blue Room Theatre until May 18.

Pictured top: Julia Croft, Joe Lui and Harriet Gillies in ‘Death Throes’.

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2 male actors, 1 female actor, in a forest setting
Calendar, Children, June 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Children: Theatre: The Gruffalo

4 – 9 June @ The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by CDP ·

Whether their favourite food is roasted fox, owl ice cream, scrambled snake or Gruffalo crumble, audiences eat up this delectable tale about the adventures of a clever little mouse in a forest full of predators, which returns to Perth after sell-out seasons when it plays at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia from 4-9 June 2019!

Adapted from the Gold Award-winning children’s book, The Gruffalo follows Mouse into the deep dark wood on the hunt for hazelnuts. Armed with just a nut map and a very vivid imagination, Mouse runs into the smirking, wheeler-dealer Fox; an eccentric, retired Woodland Air Force General Owl; and the maraca-shaking, party animal Snake. Rather than becoming the main course of their next meal, Mouse kills their appetites with stories of an imaginary monster friend. But what happens when Mouse welcomes face to face with the very creature she imagined? In a production that has become the toast of London’s West End, Tall Stories & CDP vibrantly reinvent this delightful tale through its signature style of bold, multifaceted storytelling.

A trio of bright new performers fill the forest with colourful characters and toe tapping, sing-along songs. Audiences will be dazzled with brand new sets and costumes when the return season entices fans with the magic of the deep dark wood.

Tuesday 4th of June at 1pm
Wednesday 5th of June at 10am & 12pm
Thursday 6th of June at 10am & 12pm
Friday 7th of June at 10am & 12pm
Saturday 8th of June at 10am, 12pm & 3pm
Sunday 9th of June at 10am & 12pm

More info:
www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/the-gruffalo/

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