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.

Please follow and like us:
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.

Please follow and like us:
One man stands on a small table others dance in front of him
Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Fiction at the forefront of Mandela tribute

Review: Madiba: The Musical ·
Crown Theatre, 3 January ·
Review by Claire Trolio ·

On the surface there’s a lot to like about Madiba: The Musical. Originally written and composed in French by Jean-Pierre Hadida with co-author Alicia Sebrien, the work has been adapted into English by Dylan Hadida and Dennis Watkins in this new, Australian production. Directed by Pierre-Yves Duchesne, it’s a fast-paced, frenetic story about one of the world’s most celebrated revolutionaries, Nelson Mandela.

Aside from some wavering South African accents, the cast delivered a flawless performance on opening night, packed with booming vocals from Ruva Ngwenya, Tarisai Vushe, Tim Omaji, Barry Conrad, Madeline Perrone and Blake Erickson. The indefatigable ensemble, led by Tiana Canterbury, kept the energy high as they performed Johan Nus’s dynamic steps, in striking costumes (designed by Sabrina Gomis Vallée) which evoked the colours and streets of South Africa over four decades.

Dancer, rapper and singer David Denis was a crowd favourite as the narrator, weaving together the story which spans 42 of Mandela’s 95 years, whilst Perci Moeketsi offered depth and dignity in the title role.

Yet despite the star power spilling from the stage, Madiba: The Musical doesn’t do the Mandela story justice.

Mandela seems more of a background character than the main event. The show skips lightly over much of his life, choosing instead to focus in depth on fictional characters. His activist wife, Winnie, is also given a smaller part than befits her life’s achievements. While Ruva Ngwenya performed the role of Winnie with grace, I was still left feeling that a strong voice had been silenced. It is disappointing that, with the wealth of material available in the true stories of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, so much time is spent on fabricated scenarios.

In particular, too much stage time is given to an interracial love story between idealistic Helena and aspiring artist and activist Will, as well as to Helena’s father Peter Van Leden, a racist white police officer who later struggles to come to terms with guilt about his actions. The message here is unequivocal: oppression doesn’t just hurt the oppressed, but the oppressors too, and the scars left on a nation’s psyche as a result of brutal injustices run deep on both sides. It’s a valuable lesson but it doesn’t need to be taught through a white lens. Even the police shooting of a black individual becomes more about the effect it had on the white policeman than the man whose life was stolen, or his family left behind. Does the story benefit from these white voices? Not for me.

While Madiba: The Musical may not hit the mark as a tribute to Mandela, it does, nonetheless, make for an entertaining and thought-provoking couple of hours. This is an uplifting tale of good triumphing over evil and a celebration of resistance, culture and, of course, freedom.

Madiba: The Musical plays Crown until January 12.

Please follow and like us:
Choral, Classical music, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A choral Christmas treat

Review: Perth Symphonic Chorus and Perth Baroque Orchestra, Handel’s Messiah ·
Perth Concert Hall, 22 December ·
Review by Leon Levy ·

For some 30 years Handel’s fame had been based on a large body of operatic works. Thus it is arguable that had not changing fashions pushed the composer in the direction of oratorio – for which his dramatic instincts were well-suited – the world might conceivably have been deprived of the masterpiece that is Messiah. For the work responded to the particular texts, drawn by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer, in a way that yet another operatic libretto was, surely, unlikely to.

Messiah
Advertisement for the first London performance.

The premiere, a charity occasion held in Dublin in April 1772, was well-received. In order to accommodate the expected crowd, ladies were requested not to wear hoops in their dresses and gentlemen to dispense with their swords (a tradition that was respected by the Perth audience on this occasion, along with the custom of standing during the Hallelujah chorus). The reception given to the first London performance, almost a year later, was, however, less enthusiastic: this was perhaps shaped by the belief that the work’s sacred subject matter was not suited to theatrical performance by secular singers. In any event, the work was described merely as “A New Sacred Oratorio”, shorn of its name “Messiah”. But there was no resisting its power, and from 1750 onwards there were regular London performances, followed elsewhere with increasing frequency.

Fresh from an exceedingly fine Remembrance Day concert, Dr Margaret Pride’s Perth Symphonic Chorus was, on this occasion, accompanied by the Perth Baroque Orchestra under Paul Wright. Taking one’s seat, one noted a band numbering just 25, well below the strength of most modern authentic performances. But towering above them was a group of some 125 choristers, many times the number of singers that the composer would have employed! However, any concerns regarding imbalances between instruments and singers were quickly banished, for Pride deployed her choral forces in a way that conveyed a sense of quiet strength, and throughout the performance the singing felt proportionate to the orchestral sound.

And what a fine sound the hard-working Perth Baroque Orchestra produced, setting the tone in the opening instrumental Symphony for all that was to follow. Similarly, tenor Robert Macfarlane established the standard for his fellow soloists, bringing colour and feeling to his “Comfort Ye” recitative, and even runs and convincing decorations in the following “Every Valley”.

“But who may abide” proved to be a less than successful introduction to bass James Clayton and counter tenor Tobias Cole, whose contrasting voice-types did not sit well together in the shared aria. Each, however, went on to contribute enormously to the evening: the counter tenor rapidly establishing his credentials in his next recitative and aria, and demonstrating well-matched duet-singing with the soprano in “He shall feed his flock”, and again in Part II with a heartfelt “He was despised”.

Clayton, too, went on to great things, revealing wonderful vocal splendour throughout, and using ornamentation, firm line and clear diction to bring life to all of his singing. And in “The trumpet shall sound” his vibrant projection was fully matched by Jenny Coleman’s gleaming and excitingly decorated trumpet accompaniment.

Soprano Janet Todd may have been a late replacement for two successive ailing soloists, but she rose splendidly to the occasion. With a fresh and pure tone, words feelingly articulated and a lovely stage presence, she met the most taxing of challenges.

The choir reflected all of the trademarks of Pride’s training. “Since by man” was just one of many examples of their pedigree, but throughout the evening their contribution brought unalloyed pleasure.

If it may be considered an honour to have brought a year of fine music-making in Perth Concert Hall to a conclusion, this truly fine Messiah was deserving of that distinction.

Pictured top is Perth Symphonic Chorus, conducted by Dr Margaret Pride, performing Handel’s Messiah at Perth Concert Hall (NB this photograph is not of the 2018 performance).

Please follow and like us:
A man looking out with one hand shading his eyes
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A lesson in overcoming life’s challenges

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Moominpappa at Sea ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, December 5 ·
Review by Ollie Halusz, age 13 ·

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre has kicked off its 2019 season with a remount of Moominpappa at Sea, adapted from the book by Tove Jansson. The play is about a family, the Moomins, who leave their home to find a different life out at sea, finding comfort on an island with a lighthouse. When they first arrive, they each go off to do their own separate things, discovering both challenges, such as a big storm, trying to find food and a lighthouse that doesn’t work; and delights, such as a beautiful forest, hundreds of fish and fresh soil for a garden. This play goes to show that anyone can overcome any challenges life throws at you.

Puppets from Moominpappa at Sea
The Moomins. Photo:  Jessica Wyld

The lighting, by Elliot Chambers, is effective, transporting the audience to the story’s ocean setting. The sequence with the moon is particularly evocative. The puppets, designed and made by Leon Hendroff, are well made. One particular character, the Groke, reminded me of the Dementors from the Harry Potter series. There are three versions of the Groke – represented by a cloth, a puppet and the performer, Michael Barlow, who wears the cloth to became the character.

Barlow, Spare Parts’ associate director, plays many roles in this production including voicing all of the characters as well as narrating, and was very clear and entertaining.

Leon Hendroff’s set is a miniature version of an island, featuring a lighthouse at one end. Barlow takes advantage of the blank island, using his body and language to describe the setting of a forest, and the ocean surrounding the island. Smoke enhances both the eeriness of this island in the middle of the ocean and the character of the Groke.

Lee Buddle’s music composition and sound effects help to create the sense of the environment and atmosphere.

From my perspective as a 13 year old, I didn’t find the play as enjoyable as I might have a few years ago, but it definitely would suit ages 3-7, and is an ideal outing for parents and grandparents with young children, during the Christmas holiday break.

Moominpappa at Sea plays Spare Parts Puppet Thearte, 14 Jan – 2 Feb.

Read “senior critic” Rosalind Appleby’s review of Moominpappa at Sea.

Please follow and like us:
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Elusive theatre puts audience at sea

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, ‘Moominpappa at Sea‘ ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, December 7 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will launch their summer holiday show Moominpappa at Sea this week. The production is based on a book written by Finnish author Tove Jansson describing the adventures of the eccentric Moomin family. Jansson’s series of stories from the mid 20th century about a family of white trolls with large snouts have developed a cult following. During the Moomin boom in the nineties the book series inspired movies, TV shows, merchandise, theme parks, and even the naming of the Moomintroll asteroid.

The Spare Parts production was created in 2015 by associate director Michael Barlow and the late Noriko Nishimoto, based on a book about the Moomin family moving to a deserted island. In this revival Barlow dons a top hat and takes on the role of Moominpappa, simultaneously voicing the other characters as he moves them around the island. Lighting designer Elliot Chambers operates the lights from the stage and takes on a cameo role as a fisherman/lighthouse keeper.

On one level it is a charming, timeless show that uses good old fashioned storytelling to transport us to a dreamy, mysterious island. On another level it is a melancholic and at times quite scary journey into one of Jansson’s more symbolist books.

We checked out a performance late last year during the schools season. In a string of quite disconnected scenes we discovered that nothing works out for the trolls on their new island home: the lighthouse is too small to enter, Moominmamma’s garden dies and storms wash away Moominpappa’s jetty. The overwhelming message is about loneliness and futility, depicted bleakly in the poem the trolls discover written on the lighthouse wall.

When Moomintroll decides to move out on his own and is haunted by the Troke it becomes quite nightmarish and creepy. The complete blackout in the theatre performance didn’t help; my five year old spent a large part of the performance huddled on my lap.

Many things are left unexplained such as the character of Little My (an adopted daughter), and the lighthouse which Moominpappa describes as huge but is actually far too small. And what is the purpose of the reclusive fisherman who is actually the previous lighthouse keeper?

Barlow providing the voices for Moomintroll and Moominmamma. Photo Jessica Wyld

Part of the problem is the trolls; Leon Hendroff’s designs are faithful to Jansson’s illustrations but essentially they are stuffed toys devoid of expression (not really puppets at all). Barlow’s gentle narrating doesn’t pack much emotional punch either, although it suits Jansson’s dreamy prose.

Instead the production relies heavily on Lee Buddle’s soundtrack to generate character and empathy. The sounds of waves, gulls and wind mix hypnotically with folksy flute and marimba. Even so the show never quite arrives at what the publicity material describes as “the spirit and joy of families going on great adventures together.”

Yet for all its melancholy and elusiveness it held the attention of my children and they both recommended others should go and see it.

In fact they travelled more deeply into the story than I realised. My seven year old thought the point of the story was that we should not take other people’s homes and try to rule over things. “They tried to rule over nature and nature didn’t like it. But when they made friends with the Groke and began to understand the sea it gave them things.”

Moominpappa At Sea runs Jan 14 – Feb 2. Recommended age is 5+ but I would suggest 6+.

Pictured top: Michael Barlow as Moominpappa. Photo Jessica Wyld.

Read a review of Moominpappa at Sea by junior critic Ollie Halusz, aged 13.

Please follow and like us:
A woman dancing. She takes a deep lunge, tango style
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A one-woman weaving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please follow and like us:
A photo of two people climbing a sand dune. Their body outlines are filled with pink geometric shapes.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

At surface level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exhibitions continue until 15 December.

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

Please follow and like us:
An artwork of yellow and black geometric lines on a concrete wall next to a staircase.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

At the intersection of art and friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both exhibitions continue until December 22.

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

Please follow and like us:
A girl walking down a corridor
Dance, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A girls school adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In SITU” plays until December 1.

Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Please follow and like us: