26 April @ Broadwalk Theatre, Mandurah Performing
Arts Centre ·
Presented by Iridescence Dance Company ·
Within – a double-bill ballet. Internal landscape versus the outer persona. An experience in ballet, music, spoken-word and aerial. Fire Within. Inspired by the saying “Sky above me, Earth beneath me, Fire within me”, the narrative focuses on Beatrice’s walk outside and her reveries. Does she have cause for happiness?
Shakti. Three women, each in different cultures, each with different societal expectations. Within the bundle of twine-bound journals found in the effects of her beloved and recently departed aunty, the lives of Cataline, Atiya and Danielle are revealed to Sarah.
Aerial art explores each woman’s internal landscape; ballet explores the external actions of the woman. Vocalization of the inner monologue of each character shows the moments of internal and external congruency/conflict.
Within is a ballet imbued with meaning, but remains a visual and aural delight that has the flavour of a classic ballet, in a modern context.
Review: Riptide, The 1s and 0s and Everything in Between ·
Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, 18 September ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·
This play left me feeling incredibly uplifted. Sure, communication in the digital age is fraught with issues and it’s unlikely to get any less complicated in the future. What warmed my heart was a glimpse at the future of theatre.
I’m embarrassed to admit that before seeing this show, I imagined theatre by young people as something you politely endured rather than enjoyed. I imagined a mediocre script rendered awkward by enthusiastic but untrained performers. Well, the joke’s on me.
Everything about this production, directed by Katt Osborne, was brilliant – from the poignant, funny and shockingly relatable script (by Chris Isaacs) and clever set (Laura Heffernan), to the innovative staging and flawless performances. It shows what is possible when young people’s talent is harnessed and nurtured. It shows what is possible when new writing is commissioned and funding is made available for a professional dramaturg, designer and director.
We are connected – but are we close? This is the central question explored in The 1s and 0s and Everything in Between. A series of vignettes examine relationships, conversations and the construction of identity in the age of digital communication.
The key feature of Heffernan’s set is integral to the play. Strips of thick transparent plastic, forming a curtain, divide the stage: the front half representing the “real” world, and the rear half the digital world – the world we experience behind the screen of our smartphone or computer.
At one point, the performers tapped in unison on the screen, saying “dot dot dot”. It made me reflect on that rush of dopamine I feel when checking into Messenger or Hangouts to find someone I love composing a message. (“Wavy dots” I call them. I usually type “wavy”, just so they know I am there, too, and am feeling that delicious sense of anticipation.)
Often, performers just behind the screen interact with those in a scene in the “real”, highlighting how hyper-connection hinders our efforts to be truly present or augments our perception of reality.
In one scene, a man and women on a Tinder date look at messages on their phones. Each has a friend (behind the screen) checking in on them, asking for updates. When both gave bogus explanations for having to reply to the message, the audience erupted with knowing laughter. “Yes! I do that all the time!” my friend whispered to me.
In fact, my ribs were sore by the end of the show, not just from laughing so often but by the number of times my companion had nudged me with her elbow – shorthand for: That is us, that has been us, or we were just talking about that the other day…
There are scenes about virtue signalling, ridiculous hashtags, inane comment threads, catfishing and anonymity fuelling hateful comments. Scenes about long-distance lovers, finding it hard find anything to say, beyond “I love you” and “I miss you”, highlight the primacy of physical connection. We witness another couple, whose relationship is strained by smartphone addiction, particular the fear of missing out. A budding actor discovers she is more valued for her Instagram following than her talent.
In one scene, young women talk up the freedom of being able to select a date from the comfort of their home, dressed in their jammies. In previous eras, women had to dress up to meet the male gaze, then go out and be harassed by men, they said. At the end of scene, they pose provocatively, trying to capture the right look for their profile photos. Clearly, we are meant to recognise that while there is some truth in what they believe, they are naive to think they have escaped the pressures of objectification.
My one slight criticism is that I felt the play was a little too long. It covered a multitude of scenarios which arise out of our relationships with technology; but I think trimming or cutting several of these would enhance rather than detract from the audience’s overall experience.
The Riptide ensemble, based in Mandurah, is comprised of Max Baker, Ruby Liddelow, Teaghan Lowry, Harrison Mitchell, Tristan Pateman, Clea Purkis, Lexie Sleet, Monique Tibbott, Shekaila Walker and Megan Willis. While all were magnificent, Purkis deserves a special mention – she was an exceptional.
The ensemble worked with Isaacs (an award-winning WA playwright), giving their thoughts and opinions on communication and how technology affects the way we connect with each other. This helps to explain why their performances appeared so natural and authentic; it was a case of their youth being an asset rather than a hurdle. I sincerely hope it can be restaged to a new and bigger audience.
Pictured top: Max Baker and Clea Purkis. Photo: Zal Kanga-Parabia.
2 June at 8pm @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions ·
UK’S ACCLAIMED ‘BEYOND THE BARRICADE’
TO PREMIERE IN AUSTRALIA
SONGS FROM THE WORLD’S GREATEST MUSICALS IN CONCERT
The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Evita,
Hamilton, Miss Saigon, Wicked,
Mamma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar,
The Lion King, Les Misérables
PERTH, MANDURAH & GERALDTON
Tickets on Sale Friday 23 February at 4pm
The UK’s critically-acclaimed show BEYOND THE BARRICADE, a glittering concert of musical showstoppers, will make its debut in Australia this year, touring to 24 cities from 1st June.
Starring past principal performers from Les Misérables in the West End and on UK tour, this blockbusting two-hour show features favourite songs from the world’s greatest West End and Broadway musicals including the latest sensation Hamilton, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Evita, Wicked, Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King and of course Les Misérables, to name just a few.
Sally Richardson’s work defies simple definition. Bringing together circus, theatre, puppetry and clowning, her latest production, Fearless, is no exception. She talks to Nina Levy about how and why she came to work across performing art forms.
It’s 2006 and I’m at the Playhouse Theatre (RIP), watching Sally Richardson’s The Drover’s Wives at the Perth International Arts Festival. Taking Henry Lawson’s famous poem “The Drover’s Wife” as its starting point, this mesmerising work weaves together original dance, theatre, photography and music. Ashley de Prazer’s projected imagery captures the harsh beauty of the Australian bush and Iain Grandage’s score is a rich blend of strings and birdsong. Against this visual and aural backdrop are five dancers, Claudia Alessi, Felicity Bott, Shannon Bott, Jane Diamond and Danielle Micich (also the choreographic team). They tell a story of solitude and community, of joy and sorrow, of the lives of 19th century bush women.
This is my first experience of the magic of Sally Richardson. It’s hard to pin Richardson down in a single word – she is a director, writer, dramaturg, producer and consultant, and works across a range of artistic disciplines, including dance, circus, physical theatre and theatre. She is, however, first and foremost, a story-teller… and she is one of WA’s best.
“That desire to work across disciplines is a combination of invitation, circumstance and curiosity.”
The desire to tell stories goes back a long way, says Richardson. “I used to like making shows with the kids from the neighbourhood, putting little shows together for our parents that were probably quite appalling. We used to do a lot of lip-synching to ABBA. We’d set up stages and have a little gym mat and bounce around. My mother took me and my brother to see performances from quite a young age and the escape into the imagination was always magical and attractive to me. When I was at school I got actively involved in drama, making work. I was at a school that encouraged us to take all sorts of roles, beyond simply playing parts. We directed things, we adapted things.”
After finishing school, Richardson completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Western Australia, majoring in theatre and English, and it was during this time that she was first exposed to the world of professional theatre. “The whole postmodern European wave, in terms of directors’ theatre and things like that, were very much a part of what we were invited to participate in,” she remembers.” The training was very much about the idea of the ensemble, devising adaptations and so on.”
It was SWY Theatre that gave Richardson her first major break as a writer, director and actor, picking up her show Five Fingers and presenting it at the Festival of Perth in 1993. “It was an incredible experience,” she remembers. “I would have been only 26, maybe 27 years old. The work was described by a visiting British critic as one of the little gems of the Festival. It was an incredible context to be in as a young artist.”
So Richardson began her professional life firmly in theatre… but it wouldn’t be long before she began working in other disciplines. “I think it’s an Australian thing that we are quite comfortable with non-traditional approaches to form,” she remarks. “What I mean by that is, if a puppet can tell one part of a story, if choreography can tell another part, if someone’s on stilts [for another part] – it can all come into the same performance. That fluidity in terms of hybridisation – think of companies like Stalker, Legs on the Wall where playwrights work with physical performers, aerialists – there’s a real tradition of that in Australia and we do it really well. Circa, now, are also form breakers in terms of circus. I think that’s an exciting thing about the performing arts [in Australia].”
For Richardson, the move away from traditional theatre was about finding her tribe. “I felt like a lot of text-based theatre was trapped in a particular tradition,” she recalls. “I worked at Sydney Theatre Company for a while and then I worked in various script development organisations. They’re very connected with the idea of the well-made play, which is not uninteresting to me but tends to be found in a traditional theatre environment – hierarchical, patriarchal and predominantly white. As a woman I found that the artists I admired, who were making work that interested me, were elsewhere at that time. They were running companies like Legs on the Wall… or they were involved in Circus Oz, or they were choreographers like Meryl Tankard, Chrissie Parrott. You tend to look where your heroes are.”
Another reason for working across genres? “People asked me to,” she says, simply. “People approached me with a view that I could make a contribution in terms of contemporary dance. I ended up in working in circus because Kim Walker from Flying Fruit Fly circus approached me and said, ‘Why don’t you consider circus?’ And I said, ‘Yeah! Why not!’ And so I went and spent time with the company in a dramaturgical role… and then they offered me a commission.
“So that desire to work across disciplines is a combination of invitation, circumstance and curiosity,” she concludes. “I’m interested in how we tell stories for the performing arts. That a body might do that, or music might do that, or a circus performer might do that, feels, to me, all part of the same thing.”
“We’ve been able to grow a theme and embody it in a much richer way. That’s a fantastic opportunity as a maker.”
The diversity that characterises Richardson’s work isn’t just about working across genres, but also about the roles she takes. That’s partly about practicality, she explains. “It’s about making things happen. So the producing side, the writing side, and the directing side is about making things possible, being proactive. Artistically and creatively in this country if you wait around for people to provide you with opportunity it’ll be a very long wait.”
Richardson isn’t complaining though. “It’s an incredible privilege to be able to work in the performing arts and with the artists that I’m working with,” she reflects. “There are days that I pinch myself. Watching people’s creativity and artistry, I just think, ‘What a glorious life!’ At the moment [working on Fearless] I’m watching these incredible aerialists fly. Yesterday we had a three-high [human tower] of stacked performers – all women – that’s an incredible achievement for them, their strength, courage and tenacity. They inspire me.”
Fearless, Richardson’s current project, blends circus, theatre, puppetry and clowning, and premiered at the 2017 Perth Fringe Festival in February. This new version, which is being presented at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre as part of the WA Regional Arts Summit, is a development of that production and it’s undergone some significant changes since Fringe, says Richardson. “It’s more of a spectacle. It’s at the Boardwalk Theatre, so it’s a big proscenium arch theatre, compared to the tiny little runway [used for Fringe]. And the story telling has shifted, although the theme is still the same. It’s very much about the need of the community to ‘fear less’ but we’ve created a stronger narrative line. So we watch the journey of a family of foxes who travel across the ocean to try and find a place to call home. It’s a storytelling framework of the refugee experience.”
“We’ve also built the skills, continues Richardson. “There’s a double trapeze routine which was a highlight in the first production – we’ve kept that but we’ve enhanced it. We’ve brought in an aerial ladder, which flies around. There is harness and stilts. There is much more puppetry. So that’s all been really exciting. The a whole journey motif is told through suitcases, which we didn’t even have in the first iteration. There’s a whole choreography of the suitcase – what would it be if your entire life was in one suitcase? So we’ve been able to grow a theme and embody it in a much richer way. That’s a fantastic opportunity as a maker. We don’t get enough chances to do that, particularly in areas like dance and physical theatre. So this opportunity to present Fearless at the WA Regional Arts Summit in Mandurah is just fantastic.”