Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

In brief: Winter Nights

If the Blue Room’s Summer Nights season is a garden in full bloom, in the soft warm soil of sun-drenched January and February, then its Winter Nights season sees its first green shoots poking through the cold, stony ground of bleak July.

It’s a time for reflection and experimentation, of anticipation of change, of new faces, new stories and new ways of presenting them – in many respects what you see and hear at Winter Nights is preparation for what you will be seeing and hearing in seasons to come.

Seesaw’s short spot reviews provide a quick insight into some of Winter Nights’ offerings. We’ll be posting all Winter Nights reviews below.

Noemie Huttner-Koros, The Lion Never Sleeps ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 24 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Noemie Huttner-Koros’s site-specific roaming performance The Lion Never Sleeps gives a people-centred retrospective of Northbridge’s spirited queer nightlife of the 1980s and earlier.

With headphones and an MP3 track featuring interviews with local LGBTIQA+ elders, participants were harmoniously led by Huttner-Koros and co-performers Evelyn Snook and Aisyah Aaqil Sumito to community sites past and surviving, collectively honouring queer joy, loss, transgression, and resilience.

I encourage the artists to prioritise accessibility for disabled and senior citizens in their next development of this tender and insightful work, being critical of who cannot yet access community, history, and a place in queer futurity.

 

Rhiannon Petersen, The Jellyman ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 26 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Rhiannon Petersen’s solo performance-in-development The Jellyman is a frank and witty pummelling of toxic masculinity delivered without compromise, as a work about masculinity should be.

At this stage a series of unflinching and comical vignettes and images, including meta mask play and vexing depictions of sexual harassment, The Jellyman undermines the performativity of harmful masculinity through drag and absurd humour to affirm its very flimsy nature, and repeatedly exemplifies masculinity as an ultimately inane tool of power.

The Jellyman is a fearless project determined not to hold anything back, from the queer, to the malignant, to the human.

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa in collaboration with Centre for Stories, Saga Sisterhood ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 27 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Saga Sisterhood, directed by Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa in collaboration with Centre for Stories, is a big-hearted project which saw four South Asian women share captivating personal stories of love, loss and family as could only have happened in the South Asian diaspora. 

For me, hearing the familiar vernacular and toils of migrant identity and Brown motherhood was like finding home in a black box theatre. As non-performers, the women’s energy and playfulness was contagious; as audience members we were kept on the edge of our seats with wide smiles, and we all left in a buzz of cuddles and multilingual chatter.

Stace Callaghan, Queer as Flux and/or The Medicine of Chaos ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 30 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Stace Callaghan’s Queer as Flux and/or The Medicine of Chaos is a raw, passionate project, making space for Callaghan’s stories of navigating nonbinary identity and gender nonconformity in childhood and adulthood.

Expertly scaling the nooks and crannies of The Blue Room’s main theatre space, the multi-talented writer and performer uses music, poetry, circus and dress-ups to reconfigure archaic definitions of their body, often using their body to tell tales through scars, tattoos, and parts never welcomed.

Whilst many of the stories are culturally appropriative and unsettling to witness, this poignant work is one of great heart and queerly triumphant humanity.

Review: Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Clare Testoni, The Children Grim and Wild ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 27 July ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

Before Second Hands came The Red Shoes; before The Beast and the Bride came Beauty and the Beast.

Both Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Clare Testoni are drawn to fables and fairy tales; Fowler because of his leaning towards dystopia, Testoni through her practice in shadow puppetry and storytelling.
Their collaboration in The Children Grim and Wild is something to savour, and this taste of it – only the bare bones of the performance, and only of its first act – does nothing to dampen the anticipation of the final product.

The story has all the hallmarks of a dark fable; a brother and sister run away to the woods, wolves, orgres and lots of scary bits. The siblings, Grim (Mararo Wangai) and Wild (Erin Hutchinson), are craftily cast, with the extravagance of Hutchinson neatly contrasted by the droll Wangai. The songs, composed by Max Juniper, are shot through with Fowler’s trademark savvy and wicked wit.

Keep an eye out for it.

Review: Michelle Hall, The Dirty Mother ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 3 August ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The creators of the work-in-progress that make up the Winter Nights programme bring them at different points in their development, both conceptually and as performance. That’s the point.

Nevertheless, it was as startling as it was exciting to see a work as complete in its form and function as Michelle Hall’s The Dirty Woman at Winter Nights.

That’s partly just because it is, but, more importantly, what it is; Hall dives deep into one of the two universal and inevitable boundaries of our lives, and she’s quite right to note that, unlike the other, death, childbirth has been rarely brought to the stage.

Which is strange, because it’s got everything; agony and ecstasy, anger and comedy, the promise of life and the danger of death.

Hall, who’s a passionate and highly skilled performer across many disciplines, delivers all of them, and the result is gripping, exhilarating and radiates truth.

The Dirty Mother will be back, I’m sure, and is not to be missed.

Three dancers: one in yellow, one in blue, one in green. Each has one arm over their head and other extended with a limp wrist.
Alex Abbot, Kimberley Parkin and Rhiana Katz in ‘Fish Feet’. Photo: Tasha Faye

Review: Jessie Camilleri-Seeber & Jocelyn Eddie, Scott Galbraith, Rhiana Katz, & Tahlia Russell, ‘Winter Shorts’ ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 1 August ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Presented as part of the Winter Nights Ground Up program, in which artists develop their work in response to audience feedback over the course of a short performance season, “Winter Shorts” was a mixed bill of four dance works-in-progress. The program viewed was the culmination of the three-night season.

First up, Rhiana Katz presented a self-devised solo entitled the listener. To a haunting melange of piano and vocals by composer Annika Moses, the work sees Katz transformed into an otherworldly creature, whose talons twist and curlicue as she twitches in agitation under a ghostly veil. At once fascinating and discomforting, this unnerving work keeps us delicately poised on the edge of uncertainty.

Next was Sharing by Scott Galbraith, a structured improvisation for two dancers (Aimee Sadler and Galbraith) and a guitarist (composer Abbey Bradstreet). Though the performance space is tight there’s a sense of spaciousness to this work as the performers sweep and fall in response to tumbling guitar strings. Underpinning Sharing is a sweetness born of the trust evident in the quick exchanges of eye contact between the three artists.

Third on the program was another self-devised solo, by Tahlia Russell. Entitled Home, the work sees Russell manipulate a portable greenhouse, that seems to at once protect and constrain her. The tension is ratcheted up by Joel Baker’s soundscape of sirens and storms, as we watch the shadowy outline of Russell’s writhing form. Freed from her plastic shackles, it’s the final moments of this solo that are the highlight, figuratively and literally.

Last was fish feet, by Jessie Camilleri-Seeber and Jocelyn Eddie, a work for three dancers (Alex Abbot, Kimberley Parkin and Rhiana Katz) in its current iteration. It’s a primary coloured trip into the world of show and tell; with a dash of disco and a splash of square dance. Stories are deconstructed; key words singled out and manipulated into an absurdly comical mess of sound and movement. I’m keen to see where this work goes next.

Having seen versions of three of these works previously, I could see the benefit that the Ground Up process has had on the their creative development. Kudos to the Blue Room Theatre for providing this opportunity to artists.

More spot reviews coming soon!

Winter Nights closes August 3.

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