Jazz Band in stage in quadrangle
Calendar, Jazz, Music, November 19, Performing arts

Music: Perth International Jazz Festival 2019

8-10 November @ Various Venues in Perth & Northbridge ·
Presented by Perth International Jazz Festival ·

Get jazzy with the coolest concerts from some of the world’s hottest musical talent at the Perth International Jazz Festival (PIJF) happening for one weekend only from 8 to 10 November.

Featuring free and ticketed concerts, intimate artist talks and workshops, experience new delights and reacquaint yourself with old favourites spanning big band, solo performers, instrumentalists, vocalists, contemporary and avant-garde.

The State Theatre Centre will be the Festival hub incorporating the Courtyard and Heath Ledger Theatre in ways you’ve haven’t experienced before – and all in walking distance to venues The Bird, The Ellington Jazz Club and Downstairs at the Maj, which will also be utilised across the three days.

The free-to-attend parts of the program are also bigger than ever – get set for jazzy sounds spilling out from the Perth Cultural Centre’s Wetlands Stage, The Rechabite and Birdwood Square.

More info:
perthinternationaljazzfestival.com.au/

Pictured: Perth Jazz Festival credit: Corey James

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Luke Carrol, Tony Briggs, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra.BITNW_STC_2018Brisbane_creditPrudenceUpton_049.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Building bridges with laughter

Review: Black Swan presents Sydney Theatre Company, Black is the New White ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, 14 September ·
Review by Jan Hallam ·

Before the start of the opening night performance of Nakkiah Lui’s Black is the New White, directed by Paige Rattray, actors Tony Briggs and Kylie Bracknell (Kaarlijilba Kaardn) paid a moving tribute to Ningali Lawford-Wolf, a Wangkatjunka woman of the far-north Kimberley and all-round great actor and person.

She passed away in Edinburgh while touring with The Secret River for Sydney Theatre Company – a terrific play she helped develop from Kate Grenville’s powerful novel.

Ningali Lawford-Wolf touched many lives, not least the many thousands who saw her perform but with whom she never met, this reviewer being one of them.

How is this relevant to Lui’s fast, furious and funny discourse on race, class, politics, love and the perils of Christmas?

In the simple injunction of Briggs – to feel free to laugh often and loudly, just like Ningali, and the opening night audience took him at his word.

There is a lot of playful fun watching as young successful lawyer Charlotte Gibson (Miranda Tapsell) tries to clear a path through her family’s (mostly her father, Roy’s) expectations that she become a crusading Aboriginal leader – playing a strong second fiddle to him, of course, and his vision of himself as the Australian Martin Luther King.

Miranda Tapsell as Charlotte and Tom Stokes as Francis. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.
Miranda Tapsell as Charlotte and Tom Stokes as Francis. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.

The way is especially fraught because the love of her life, Francis (Tom Stokes), is an unemployed experimental musician, who happens to be white, and not just musician white, but the son of Roy’s sworn political enemy, the arch conservative Dennison Smith (Geoff Morrell). Briggs is masterful in the role.

Chuck in the tensions between and within each set of parents – special mention of Melodie Reynolds-Diarra as Charlotte’s mum, Joan, and Vanessa Downing as Fran’s mother, Marie, who together managed to add such a classy and sassy layer of sharp-witted feminism into the already heady brew – and the audience is working double time to keep pace.

Oh, and did I mention Charlotte’s sister, Rose? Bracknell plays this glorious character – the fashionista WAG of the first Aboriginal captain of the Wallabies, the god-fearing, sweet-natured Sonny (Anthony Taufa).

Rose has a head for business and a nose for the good life but she also has deeply held views about keeping the family black and making a lot of black babies to reclaim Australia. The twist there is she doesn’t want to stop taking the Pill.

Like the ancient classics, Lui adds a touch of the Greek Chorus with narrator Luke Carroll watching over proceedings, offering a missing lighter for the cheeky spliff here and there, and some context to help the audience to keep pace… and busting some pretty neat dance moves.

And like all great comedies there is a solid trail of ideologies on display, ripe for challenging ill-begat stereotypes and cultural tropes.

But perhaps more importantly, certainly felt from this angle, Lui also wants her audience to be free to engage with the painful and complex aftermath of the Stolen Generation, the deeps cracks caused by past and present colonialism and social and political disenfranchisement of not only Aboriginal people but any one who plays differently in the playground of current Australia.

It is a powerful and sturdy bridge she builds.

Black is the New White plays the State Theatre Centre of WA until September 22.

Pictured top: Luke Carrol, Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra. Photo: Prudence Upton.

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Firing the senses

Review: Bangarra Dance Theatre, “30 years of sixty five thousand” ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 31 July ·
Review by Jo Pickup ·

“We are the books of yesterday”.

These were amongst the words spoken by Balladong Noongar artist Barry McGuire in his welcoming address to the audience at the premiere of Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Perth season “30 years of sixty five thousand”.

Indeed, on opening night, the bodies of 17 Bangarra dancers pulsed with stories of both ancient and more recent pasts, as they performed three works specially chosen by the company’s Artistic Director Stephen Page to comprise the company’s thirtieth anniversary season.

The three works are Unaipon (2004) by former Bangarra dancer-turned-choreographer Frances Rings; Stamping Ground (1983) by internationally renowned Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, and to make fire, a 40 minute work comprised of various memorable moments from the company’s repertoire as chosen by Stephen Page.

Tyrel Dulvarie in 'Unaipon'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
Tyrel Dulvarie in ‘Unaipon’. Photo: Daniel Boud.

Firstly, Unaipon. This is a work inspired by Aboriginal inventor and philosopher David Unaipon, a Ngarrindjeri man whose face now appears on the Australian $50 note. At first, Unaipon’s score (composed by the late David Page), resonates with mellifluous orchestral string sounds. Five male dancers clad in bright orange pants soon appear and zigzag across the stage, sliding and stretching between long elastic strings which are pulled taut like a clothesline across the width of the space.

The dancers expertly weave themselves through this maze creating small geometric kaleidoscopes at intermittent intervals. The music also builds into impressive patterns and layers that include rattling, stick tapping and deep electronic beats. The small ensemble of performers move with effortless strength and vitality, though dancer Beau Dean Riley Smith is particularly captivating here. At particular moments his physical presence eclipses his band of brothers; his unique series of flexes and strikes are achieved with remarkable precision.

As more dancers enter the stage, the work progresses to scenes of male-female duets and cyclical stage patterning. By the end, we seem to have been taken into a world of an individual whose life was layered with complex questions of identity. Through Rings’s choreography; Page’s sound score; Peter England’s set design and Nick Schlieper’s lighting, certain aspects of Unaipon’s life as a traditional Ngarrindjeri man, a man raised by a white family, and a man who was a devout Christian are drawn out in poetic and, at times, highly abstract style.

Ryan Pearson,Tyrel Dulvarie, Ella Havelka in 'Stamping Ground'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
Ryan Pearson, Tyrel Dulvarie, Ella Havelka in ‘Stamping Ground’. Photo: Daniel Boud.

This complex intertwining of different cultures and beliefs also imbues Jiří Kylián’s iconic work Stamping Ground. This piece was created in the early eighties after Kylián travelled from Europe to Northern Australia to experience a massive corroboree at Groote Eylandt. The result is a fascinating window into Kylian’s creative mind and curious spirit. To see Kylian’s response to these traditional, ceremonial Aboriginal dances, expressed through his signature balletic, yet boundary-pushing modern dance style was very interesting. Aesthetically stripped back and minimalist, the six dancers in this work (three male, three female), performed Kylian’s both profound and playful visions in dynamic fashion on opening night. Especially impressive was the performance of soloist Baden Hitchcock. His leaps were magnificent, his landings silent and controlled. Throughout the work, though especially in his opening solos, he moved with a mesmerising eloquence that was almost breathtaking and left a deep impression.

And lastly, to make fire. As a selection of best-bits and moving moments Bangarra’s archive over the past thirty years, on the whole, the piece seemed subtle in its choices. However (and almost as an admonishment for such an observation) its closing scene comes up trumps. A circle of dancers in white dust lie on a darkened stage until a moment of awakening. This waking instant is dramatic, enlivening and stirring. Yes, Bangarra continues to fire our senses in its power to connect us to the strength inherent in Aboriginal culture and stories, and “30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand” is a nourishing reminder of that.

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s “30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand” plays until August 3.

Pictured top: Courtney Radford, Tyrel Dulvarie and Gusta Mara in ‘to make fire’. Photo: Daniel Boud.

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August 19, Calendar, Dance, Featured, Performing arts

Dance: Wonder Woman

28 – 31 August @ Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by State Theatre Centre of WA and Laura Boynes ·

Imagine feminism was a superhero.
Imagine laughing together with the women of the world.
Wonder Woman is here. Time is up.

Provocative and physical, Wonder Woman unearths the everyday superhero and delivers a solid punch to the gut. A double bill of dance works choreographed by NSW artists Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long in collaboration with WA performer Laura Boynes, this is an exposing, funny and intimate show that will have you furiously nodding in agreement and shouting me too.

“Laura Boynes brought her powerful presence… characteristically self aware, even self-deprecating, but always exuding a certain magnetism that leaves you unable to blink.” – Yolande Norris BMA

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

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A woman (Katherine Gurr) tries to hold back two men (Ian Wilkes and Andrew Searle)
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A richly layered work

Review: Co3 Australia, The Line ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre of WA, 16 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

At the heart of Co3 Australia’s latest contemporary dance work, The Line, is a story of racial segregation.

This story may be unfamiliar to many West Australians, but it’s part of our not-so-distant past. Between 1927 and 1954, there was a law in place that banned Aboriginal people from entering the City of Perth’s boundaries after 6pm, unless they could prove that they were in “lawful employment”. The work’s title refers to the boundary lines of what was known as the Prohibited Area.

It’s a tough topic to tackle, particularly through the non-verbal medium of dance. Nonetheless, The Line’s directors – Co3 Artistic Director Raewyn Hill and Artistic Associate Mark Howett – have created a work that resists the temptation of a simple plot. Though interspersed with narrative elements, it is up to the audience to draw the threads together.

What we do see is an Aboriginal man (Noongar dancer Ian Wilkes) and a white woman (Katherine Gurr), who appear to be a couple. They are repeatedly pursued, interrogated and attacked by a man – some kind of policing officer – played by Andrew Searle.

The design elements of the work are immediately striking. As the curtain rises we see seven swings hanging from the fly loft, suspended by long chains that slice the space. A narrow tube of light crosses the darkened back of the stage, intersecting the vertical lines of the swings. Perched high above the dancers, it appears stationary… but time will reveal otherwise. In the dim, hazy light, the atmosphere is eerie as two dancers (Wilkes and Gurr) make lazy, sweeping arcs, on symmetrically placed swings. The peace is broken as the official-type man shouts loudly “YOU!” and mayhem ensues.

A man hold his hand like a gun to another man's jaw.
Constant tension: Ian Wilkes and Andrew Searle. Photo: Daniel Carson

From here the choreography oscillates between anguish and slapstick. Though the conflict is primarily between the Aboriginal and the white man, all three characters seem to be constantly wrestling with one another, and with themselves. The tension rarely lets up, and though this is, no doubt, intentional, it’s exhausting to watch. An exception is a gorgeously soft solo that blends Auslan signs with gestures from traditional Aboriginal dance (beautifully danced by Wilkes), followed by the soothing to-and-fro of the three dancers swinging, bathed in pyramids of light.

It can’t last though and soon we’re plunged back into the cartoon-like violence that punctuates the work. Though horrifying to watch, these repeating scenes of slow-motion violence are fascinating for the skill of both choreography and execution.

Throughout the work, Eden Mulholland’s score is, quite simply, fabulous. Played live in the main, the layers of sound range from long and eerie notes interspersed with storms of recorded voiceovers and ominous rumblings, to a rollicking, romping, 1930s jazz vibe. With James Crabb on classical accordion and Mulholland on a startling array of instruments (various guitars, piano, synthesizer, vocals, percussion), the music is a glorious performance in itself.

The design elements of this work are exceptional too, and with such a rich visual and musical backdrop, a cast of three – the number dictated, presumably, by budget limitations – seems too small, especially in relation to the scope of the issues that the work is tackling. It seems odd, too, to have only one Aboriginal performer, given the work’s context.

That said, the three dancers gave compelling performances on opening night, displaying admirable physical and emotional stamina. Though the duo and trio work was impressive, it was in their solo moments that each dancer shone brightest, Searle slicing and dicing, Gurr arching and melting, and Wilkes gently gesturing.

The repetitive structure of this work, in combination with the near-constant tension, feels unrelenting and – ultimately – unresolved. Though these artistic choices are effective, in terms of representing the discrimination that Aboriginal people have suffered and continue to suffer, personally, I found myself longing for relief.

But perhaps that was the point. Around me, audience members rose to their feet to applaud.

The Line plays until May 19.

Read an interview with directors Raewyn Hill and Mark Howett.

Pictured top are Ian Wilkes, Katherine Gurr and Andrew Searle in “The Line”. Photo: Daniel Carson.

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News, Reviews, Theatre

A call for belonging

Review: Black Swan State Theatre Company, You Know We Belong Together ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA, 21 March ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

From the moment she welcomes us to the theatre, performer and writer Julia Hales has us in the palm of her hand. This is the encore season of her work You Know We Belong Together, created with director Clare Watson and writer and associate director Finn O’Branagáin. A co-production by Black Swan State Theatre Company, Perth Festival and Dadaa, You Know We Belong Together had its first outing at last year’s Perth Festival. In recognition, no doubt, of the success of the 2018 iteration, the show has moved upstairs into the Heath Ledger Theatre in 2019, with a run three times the length of the original.

Described in the programme as a “live documentary”, You Know We Belong Together is based around a series of vignettes comprised of monologues, filmed interviews, sketches and chats. With Hales at it centre, the work is driven by her dreams: to find love, and to be on the long-running television show Home and Away.

A woman sits at a coffee table another woman dances. In the background is a projection of a train station.
“When I dance I feel like myself”: Lauren Marchbank dances as Julia Hales looks on. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.

But there’s more to this show than personal aspirations. You Know We Belong Together is a passionate call for inclusivity for people with disability, in particular on stage and screen. A woman with Down syndrome, Hales gives us an insight into her life and the lives of some of her friends with Down syndrome. We meet dancer Lauren Marchbank, who moves with loose-limbed release; Joshua Bott, whose dance-style is all about funk; Tina Fielding, a performer and palm-reader who’s always up for a laugh; the gentle Patrick Carter, whose talents lie in both performing and visual arts; and Mark and Melissa Junor, who met at a dance class and have been happily married for almost 19 years.

A woman standing in front of a portrait of herself. Both have their arms extended up and out.
Julia Hales. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.

And then there’s Hales, who manages the show with warmth, humour and sensitivity, whether interviewing her friends about love or taking us on a guided tour of her life. Though she keeps us giggling with her references to Summer Bay and its residents (cleverly supported by Tyler Hill’s set design), she doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. We learn of her struggles, as a young adult, to come to terms with the fact that she is a person with Down syndrome, and her ongoing grief for her late mother. It’s honest, poignant and, most importantly, relatable.

And so when she asks why we don’t see people with Down syndrome on shows like Home and Away, the injustice of this absence is striking. Why, indeed?

Together with the creative team and cast, Hales, O’Branagáin and Watson have brought to the stage an engaging work that quietly but firmly lets us know, it’s time for change.

It’s a message everyone should hear.

You Know We Belong Together runs until March 31. 

Pictured top are Julia Hales and Joshua Bott. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.

A woman stands with her hands clasped over her heart.
Julia Hales manages the show with warmth, humour and sensitivity. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.
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Calendar, Dance, May 19, Performing arts

Dance: The Line

15 – 19 May @ Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre ·
Presented by Raewyn Hill & Mark Howett ·

Co3 Australia presents The Line, a world premiering creation by Raewyn Hill in collaboration with Mark Howett. This powerful dance-theatre work draws on the boundary line that demarcated a prohibited area in central Perth for Aboriginal people between 1927 and 1954. Co3’s cast are joined on stage with live accompaniment by Co3 Associate Artist and award-winning musician Eden Mulholland and internationally renowned classical accordionist, James Crabb.

More info
W: www.co3.org.au
E:  info@co3.org.au

Pictured: Stefan Gosatti Dancer: Ian Wilkes

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Dance, News, Perth Festival, Reviews

Stark, dark and utterly compelling

Perth Festival review: Michael Keegan-Dolan and Teac Damsa, Swan Lake/Loch na hEala ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, 14 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Anyone who saw Michael Keegan-Dolan’s dance theatre work Giselle at Perth Festival, back in 2009, will know that the Irish choreographer has the capacity to show us that the dark and often gruesome side of 19th century Gothic fairy-tale narratives lies just below the surface of contemporary life.

So it’s no surprise that his Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, created for his Ireland-based dance theatre company Teac Damsa, is laced with loneliness and grief, punctuated by violence. Instead of a castle we see an Irish housing estate. In place of a prince we have Jimmy O’Reilly (Alex Leonhartsberger), a 36-year old man emotionally paralysed by unemployment and the loss of his father.

The evil sorcerer is The Holy Man (Mikel Murfi); the story is his confession. In a flash-back scene we learn that he has sexually abused Finola (Rachel Poirier), a teenaged girl in his parish. When he realises that the crime has been witnessed by her three sisters he silences them with a curse that transforms all four girls into swans.

Years later, when Jimmy seeks solace at the local lake,  he is transfixed by the swan-woman Finola. And so the story unfolds but this is no escapist Romantic tragedy. Instead it’s a tale of the insidious nature of depression, of prejudice, and of corrupt power.

It would feel unrelentingly dark, but Keegan-Dolan tells this modern-day fable with a light touch. For starters, there’s a liberal sprinkling of humour. Then there’s the sparkling live music, composed by Dublin-based band Slow Moving Clouds and performed with zest by Aki (nyckelharpa, vocals), Mary Barnecutt (cello, vocals) and Danny Diamond (fiddle). The folk resonances of the tumbling score, with its yearning wordless calls and minor key melodies, are soothing as the story takes increasingly disturbing turns.

And, of course, there’s the dance, which interweaves the spoken narrative with curlicuing limbs and spiralling paths. It’s beautifully executed by the cast. As The First, Second and Third Watchers, Saku Koistinen, Zen Jefferson and Erik Nevin are lithe and nimble, while the swan sisters Kim Ceysens, Anna Kaszuba and Carys Staton, and Poirier are at once weighted and expansive, their arms extending with an airiness that belies their firmly grounded steps. With their broad-spanned swan wings (designed by Hyemi Shin) they are almost angelic.

Poirier and Leonhartsberger’s two duets are highlights, the first flinching and stuttering; the second softer and more supple, a moment of comfort before parting. Both dancers portray their vulnerable, damaged characters with poignancy and sensitivity.

As The Holy Man (and various other minor roles) Mikel Murfi is outstanding. This is no fantasy villain; chilling yet comical, his Holy Man is both repellent and believable. And Murfi is versatile; so swiftly and deftly does he switch between two conversing characters that we almost see two men on stage.

It’s a pleasure to see Australia’s own Elizabeth Cameron Dalman playing Jimmy’s widowed mother Nancy. At 84, this doyenne of contemporary dance inhabits the role with stoic grace. Her wonderfully expressive face speaks volumes and it’s a privilege to see her dance in the final scene, albeit briefly.

Though the feather-filled finale feels disconnected from the story’s tragic conclusion, it also allows viewers time to gather their thoughts and spirits. By curtain call on opening night, the audience was, justly, ecstatic.

Stark, dark and disturbing, Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake is utterly compelling.

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala plays the State Theatre Centre of WA until February 17.

Pictured are Alex Leonhartsberger (Jimmy) and Rachel Poirier (Finola). Photo: Matt Grace.

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Senior Citizen seated at piano, with 2 men and a lady standing alongside
April 19, Calendar, Comedy, Performing arts, Revues

Revue: Senior Moments

10 – 17 April @ Heath Ledger Theatre ·
Presented by Return Fire Productions ·

After sell-out shows around the country, the hilarious comedy revue Senior Moments is back by popular  demand for a new national tour from February 2019, with the legendary John Wood, Max Gillies, Benita Collings and Geoff Harvey returning with a cast of young and old in this senior theatrical smash-hit.

Senior Moments  is a comedy revue about old people and the young people they have to deal with, with sketches and songs  and performers who are old enough to know better, all making wicked fun of the trials and tribulations of  growing old disgracefully. It’s a seriously silly show for otherwise sensible seniors.

Gold Logie winner and veteran actor John Wood (Blue Heelers, Rafferty’s Rules) joins master satirist Max Gillies (The Gillies Report), Play School icon Benita Collings, Kim Lewis (Sons and Daughters,  The Restless Years) and Russell Newman (A Country Practice, Underbelly), with Midday Show Maestro Geoff Harvey on piano.

Senior Moments is a deliciously funny and fresh collection of comic senior moments, scenes and songs,  with hilarious sketches and wonderfully witty songs performed by some legendary show business seniors, coming to a theatre near you in 2019.

Senior Moments: a seriously funny revue for slightly old people. (That’s you. Be honest.)

More info:
www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/senior-moments-a-comedy-revue/

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You Know We Belong Together
Calendar, March 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: You Know We Belong Together

20 – 31 March @ State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Black Swan Theatre, Perth Festival & DADAA ·

You Know We Belong Together by Julia Hales with Finn O’Branagáin and Clare Watson

Following the sold-out success of the 2018 world premiere of You Know We Belong Together, we are thrilled to present an encore season of this joyful celebration of community spirit.

You Know We Belong Together is a story of love; that force of nature that strikes like lightning into our hearts. Family, friends and lovers are all part of Julia Hales’ deeply personal account of her experiences as a daughter, actor, dreamer and person with Down syndrome. She brings with her the voices and aspirations of a community rarely seen on stage in an uplifting performance with video, dance and song.

Book via www.bsstc.com.au

More info:
www.bsstc.com.au/plays/you-know-we-belong-together

 

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