8 – 25 August @ The State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company &
WA Youth Theatre Company ·
This new adaptation of Medea, co-written by Anne Sarks and WA’s
own Kate Mulvany, puts one of history’s most notorious family
breakdowns under the microscope. Locked in their bedroom, two
brothers play games to pass the time, as siblings do. Off-stage,
their parents are having a very famous showdown. At an inevitable
moment, the children will be drawn away from their games and into
their parents’ bitter argument. From there, they will enter
mythology as the most tragic siblings of all time.
27 Feb – 3 Mar @ Studio Underground ·
Presented by Dickie Beau ·
When award-winning lip synch maestro Dickie Beau realised he might
never play The Dane, he decided to turn himself into a human Hamlet
mix-tape. Channelling audio recordings of great historical performances
of theatre’s most famous role, he created a humorous and haunting solo
show to ‘re-member’ the ghosts of Hamlets past.
Along the way, he stumbled upon the story of one especially masterful
Hamlet; one that left an indelible mark on all who saw it but one can
never be ‘re-membered’ – because no recording exists, except in the
memories of those who were there.
Featuring original interviews with theatre legends such as Sir Ian McKellen
and Sir John Gielgud, as well as exclusive finds from behind the scenes,
Re-Member Me is part documentary theatre, part 21st century séance and
the unforgettable story behind the greatest Hamlet almost never seen.
19 – 24 February @ Studio Underground ·
Presented by Danny Braverman ·
For more than 50 years shoemaker Ab Solomons drew a doodle on his
weekly wage-packet chronicling the ups and downs of his family life
and the surrounding social and political upheavals. A collaboration
between Danny Braverman and Nick Philippou, this award-winning solo
show tells the funny and moving story of how Braverman discovered his
great uncle Ab’s lost art, hidden in old shoeboxes. Like a graphic
novel brought to life (with the drawings projected on stage), he shares
this extraordinary story of love and art, history and family with
affection and humour.
14 – 18 February @ Studio Underground ·
Presented by Artist-In-Residence Ursula Martinez ·
In the current social media-obsessed climate of self-promotion,
Olivier Award-winning performance provocateur Ursula Martinez
is up on her dirty soapbox, baring her soul (and possibly more)
in an attempt to understand the absurdity of modern living.
Free Admission sees Martinez building a real brick wall between
herself and the audience, whilst revealing her innermost hopes,
fears, frustrations, delights and disappointments.
Insightful and hilarious Free Admission celebrates the inconsistencies
and contradictions that make us human, while having a dig at the mess
that is of our own making.
A Perth Festival Co-Commission
Commissioned by Southbank Centre and Fierce Festival
Directed by Mark Whitelaw
7 – 12 February @ Studio Underground ·
Presented by Artist-In-Residence Ursula Martinez ·
In 1998 Ursula Martinez took to the stage with her parents for
the sublime A Family Outing. Now, 20 years later, she attempts
to recreate the show without her dad and with a mother who can
no longer remember her lines.
Absorbed in wryly honest and frank conversation, a mother and
daughter expose the banalities, hilarity, foibles and frustrations
of their relationship. Contrasting past and present, they bicker,
cajole and encourage each other through this endearingly ad hoc,
entertaining and ultimately uplifting performance.
Since A Family Outing originally premiered in 1998 Martinez has
turned 50, her father has passed away and her mother has been
diagnosed with early stage dementia. Through a canny interplay
with the first production, this bracingly funny new show blurs
the lines between artifice and reality while grappling with
identity and the march of time.
A Perth Festival Co-Commission
Co-Commissioned by SICK Festival and Barbican Centre, London
Review: Black Swan State Theatre Company, Xenides ·
Studio Underground, 27 October ·
Review by David Zampatti ·
What does a biodrama need? An interesting subject. Revealing, fresh insights into the subject and their milieu. A dramatically satisfying narrative, or a non-narrative alternative that leads us to a deeper understanding of the subject.
That’s the challenge for Clare Watson and her team of collaborators, creatives, cast and musicians in Xenides.
They’ve delivered a complex piece that is more about the theatre than the life it portrays; more about actors than the role they play.
It’s entertaining, clever and tightly staged. It’s also emotionless and shallow.
The problem is revealed by a quick dive into the reviewer’s little helper, Wikipedia.
For all her longevity as a television personality (she holds all sorts of records for her 18-year stand as the letter-spinner on Grundy’s afternoon hit Wheel of Fortune), the dislocations of her childhood and the lugubrious circumstances of her early death at 54, there’s really not much to tell about Adriana Xenides.
Neither is there any strong evidence (as far as I can tell anyway) of her standing for anything much, or, really, doing anything much else. And neither is there anything much in the text of Xenides that tells us things we wouldn’t know about her from that scant Wikipedia entry.
I mean her no disrespect. What she did so successfully for so long requires a genuine talent and determination, but I fail to see what it brings to the stage.
What Xenides does have, though, is a meta-theatrical romp that dissects what we are seeing and how we are going to see it. Four actors – Adriane Daff, Harriet Marshall, Laila Bano Rind and Katherine Tonkin – play themselves playing Xenides, or at least putting their case to play her, all dressed in variations of Adriana’s trademark red number, all striking the poses that come with the territory. It’s catty and sweet, often very funny and sometimes, though not often enough, sad.
Tonkin is an established stage and television star, and her CV, which she carries with her as a talisman, drives her self-characterisation. Bano Rind is an indigenous actor, also of Persian descent, who underlines the universality of the story of the Greek/Spanish Xenides, while Marshall is an opera singer – something Adriana was definitely not – who makes her stage debut here (and sings a lusty Vissi d’arte from Tosca, because that’s what she does).
Adriane Daff is a firecracker lit and thrown onto every stage she inhabits. She gives a curious, fidgety performance, combative and intensely self-aware, and is just about worth the price of the ticket on her own.
What seals the deal, though, is a half-dozen ripping songs by Xani Kolac, which she plays and sings expertly with bassist Djuna Lee and drummer Holly Norman and the cast. There are some wonderful, immediately accessible tunes here, and they lift the performances, which at times lacked a little vim.
The show is wittily choreographed (by Laura Boynes), well dressed (by set designer Zoe Atkinson and costume designer Sarah Duyvestyn) and wrangled (by Watson), but ultimately it couldn’t move or reveal enough to do what it needed to do.
A footnote: I despise the backslapping post-show speeches that infect opening nights these days. Nothing is more certain to subsume the experience of theatre to its corporate and social functions. Having said that, “Baby” John Burgess’s lovely remembrance of the woman he worked with on Wheel of Fortune for a dozen years, and his endorsement of the show named after her, was quiet (courtesy of incredible microphone technique learned over a half century behind them), sincere and deeply touching.
Awesome Festival junior review, Cubbyhouse Co. Ruby’s Wish ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, 3 October ·
Review by Bethany Stopher, age 12 ·
The brilliant show Ruby’s Wish, written by Holly Austin, Adriano Cappelletta and Jo Turner, is currently playing at the Studio Underground, State Theatre of Western Australia.
Ruby’s Wish is amazing! The set is really flexible; one scene it’s the clown doctor Dot’s home, where she sobs over yet another awkward moment when she has said the wrong thing, and next it’s a hospital, where seven-and-three-quarters year old Ruby and her single dad count her “bravery beads” (beads given to her for each of her operations.) It’s hard to believe it is all the same set up!
Another surprise; Ruby’s a puppet! When she was wheeled on stage on her bed, a little girl in front of me exclaimed in surprise, “It’s a dummy!” But Ruby seemed like a real little girl as performers Adriano Cappelletta (the dad) and Alice Osborne (the narrator) made her actions so convincing! What was really cool is that when Ruby felt extremely unwell, they would bring out a smaller puppet to show her feelings.
One thing that I don’t really understand is that all the kids in the audience were younger than me; older children must have been put off by the 7+ rating, but Ruby’s Wish is exciting, funny and moving, and perfect for teenagers too. You have a puppet, a stressed dad, shadow puppets, a crane that folds out from a bed and a clown doctor who has a recording instrument on her arm that she uses to create crazy noises to make a sick little girl laugh and a dad believe in wishes… how much better can you get? It is also interesting that the actors (who are all wonderful, by the way) explore what is reality and what is fiction.
And last of all, it’s just plain funny. There is a paper friend called Russel (get it?) and the actors insist on redoing their entrances until they are just right, which sends the kids into hysterics (and adults too!). My favourite part has to be when Dot the clown doctor (Holly Austin) sings a song for Ruby about being absolutely starving, complete with wild noises and flashing lights and then promptly makes her way into the audience and “eats” a few unlucky children!
Ruby’s Wish is a must-see for all families who don’t mind the occasional sad or scary scene, (there are a couple). I definitely recommend it, but you’ll have to dash because it finishes at the end of this week. I’m so glad I got to see it, I hope they make a sequel!
Awesome Festival review: Cubbyhouse Co. Ruby’s Wish ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre, 1 October ·
Review by David Zampatti ·
Theatre for kids (or Bright Young Things, as the Awesome Festival adroitly likes to call them) is so often the best there is that it’s no longer a surprise.
These days I take my seat in the midst of squirming, tousle-haired grommets at a kids’ show with more excitement and anticipation than when I’m with world-weary adults, seeing “grown-up” theatre.
And there’s a good reason for it. Unlike the adult variety, theatre for kids can’t take its audience for granted; get too arcane or too high-falutin’ and the wriggling will go all wormy and the growing minds will go wandering to places you can’t get to.
Get it right, though, and the resulting bright-eyed attention and unleashed imagination will be as immediate and palpable a reward as performers could hope or wish for.
If you want to see what I mean, grab some kids and take them to Ruby’s Wish at Awesome this week.
The kids will be entranced by the story of the brave Ruby, desperately ill in her hospital bed, and the friendship she finds with Dot the clown (Holly Austin) that heals them both. They’ll love the pop music (and even the jazz) that Dot’s character, Dr Audy Yo, conjures up with her vocal loop machine, her hilarious sound effects and her mime. They’ll suffer Ruby’s pain with her, and cheer her courage. It’s just a wonderful show for kids.
If you can’t find any of them, though, grab some adults and take them instead. It’s maybe the best show for ANY age you’ll see this year.
To begin with, it’s a perfect example of metatheatre – the art-within-the-art that exposes the artificiality of drama; that the characters are actors, the dialogue is a script, the action is staging. We know – we are told from the start – that Dr Audy-Yo is Dot, and that she is Holly Austin, that Ruby’s dad is Adriano Cappelletta, that the narrator is Alice Osborne. We are watching people doing something as much as we are watching what they are doing.
What they do, and how they do it, is a magical exercise in sub-creation, brought together with snap, crackle and pop by the director Jo Turner. Ruby is a puppet (directed by Osborne, whose credits also include puppet and movement direction for the Australian production of War Horse) who is tiny when she’s feeling sick, larger when she’s okay. Her nightmares come to life in terrifying animations of skeletal x-ray forests (by The Last Great Hunt’s Tim Watts), monster mop puppets and desperate drowning dreams (outstandingly lit by Verity Hampson).
Triumphant over the pain of illness and the fear of death is the life force in Ruby, brought alive by Dot. Austin has a kind of genius in her performance, a happy, infectious tenacity. She’s like Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky or Audrey Tautou in Amélie. (In front of me, young Xavier, only six, turned to his mum to explain to her what “invincible” means).
She’s sad, too, and frightened, as is her dad, and they make you want them to be happy, and safe.
And you want Ruby’s dream to come true. It’s not, as her dad fears, that she will live to see her eighth birthday.
Yilin Kong first performed her self-devised solo Blushed at Strut Dance’s 2017 “Short Cuts” season, where it was described by Seesaw’s Nina Levy as “sculptural”, “dynamic” and “gloriously articulate”. So it’s no surprise that Blushed was selected to be further developed for performance in Strut Dance’s “Next” season. Nina Levy found out more about this solo, ahead of the presentation of “Next” at the upcoming MoveMe Festival.
Nina Levy: Tell me about Blushed. Yilin Kong:Blushed is an extended version of a solo created for STRUT’s 2017 Short Cuts. The [original] solo was a self exploration of physicality and emotion around my own relationship to my femininity. Femininity exists everywhere and is a part of every person and there is always a particular stereotype and expectation with the understanding of the word. I am curious about the complexity and scale of femininity that can exist and be represented within history, nature, culture and atmosphere. I myself have an interesting relationship with my understanding of my own femininity and often find myself thinking things that are taboo or contradictory, or feeling the sense that the feminine voice isn’t loud or heard.
The work last year stood in two parts, looking at the idea of landscape and sculptural structures on the body and then at the feminine and the groundedness within the woman. This time round I have revisited both sections, and am adding a third, that will take us into another world, looking at the ethereal yet alien. So this work will be comprised of three episodes in three different worlds.
NL: What inspired you to make Blushed? YK: I decided to create a solo as a challenge and an exploration of physical research, playing with and pushing my boundaries. This is the first time I have created on myself at a performance level and it has been an interesting experiment on understanding my perspective, expectations and trust in myself. There’s definitely a real test but also liberation in holding the majority of the responsibility.
NL: Who else is involved in Blushed? YK: Niharika Senapati is making one component of the music. Not only does she make sound but she is also my soundboard for ideas and provides general encouragement and positivity if I feel like I’m losing any sort of direction. I’ve also had other close artists come through to help keep my perspective while working away by myself. It’s very easy to lose track of yourself, being alone all day!
NL: Talk me through the creative process of making Blushed… YK: Another reason why I was interested in working solo was to try a different creative process to what I would usually play in. All the material for this solo came from states of improvisation. I found myself in a place/state/atmosphere and settled and played for a while and then re-learned the bits that I found interesting and relevant. There is so much intricate detail and idiosyncrasy in movement that is generated in the moment and I find it so much more integral and interesting to play and shape with. And working on myself, I can really push myself physically to find new pathways and ideas. I do think it’s quite a skill to be able to learn from idiosyncrasies, and have only just started to get the grasp of it, without taking hours on about 30 seconds!
I am also interested in the layers of performance and how much we can be with our audiences. Playing solo has been a useful way to consider building a relationship with my audience, as I don’t have other bodies in the space to interact with.
NL: What excites you about presenting Blushed at MoveMe? YK: It’s a first work of mine to be performed at a festival to ticketed audiences and the first time I’m performing my own work. I feel incredibly exposed and vulnerable which is nerve-wracking but also exciting and so beautiful at the same time. I think I’m excited to share my choreographic voice with people outside of my immediate work community and family. When I was first making this solo last year, it was quite cathartic and a big part of my personal growth, so the work feels very special and considered. I hope that audiences can take something away from it, whether they connect to me as a performer or my journey, or just to the images or atmosphere present.
NL: Have you performed at the MoveMe Festival previously? YK: Yes, I performed in the last MoveMe Festival [in 2016], in STRUT’s presentation of Ohad Naharin’s Decadance. That performance has definitely been a highlight of my performing career, not only because the work is so iconic and such a joy to perform and share with audiences, but because being a part of a festival creates such a buzz, in both the arts community and the community around Perth. On multiple occasions I enjoyed going home on the bus and listening to strangers talk about the different shows they had had the opportunity to experience and how it allowed them the opportunity to see something different and local. I think it’s so important that festivals such as MoveMe are around, as there are so many local artists and makers who have a voice and work to share. I feel very passionate and privileged to be so involved in the festival.
NL: What are you looking forward to seeing at MoveMe? YK: I am very curious about Dust on the Shortbread by Anything is Valid Dance Theatre (AIVDT). This work has been in progress for a little while and I’m very interested to see the outcome.
I also haven’t had much experience with intimate works especially in intimate and familiar site specific spaces so am curious to experience it. I am also intrigued by the two prominent performers, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman and George Shevtsov, as I am familiar with both but haven’t seen perform in a creative space like this and can imagine their presence and performance to be quite special and poignant. I think Serena and Quindell [of AIVDT] are incredibly interesting and intelligent creatives so I’m also excited to see their work again.
This September, Co3 Australia will launch the 2018 MoveMe Festival with a double dance bill celebrating four dynamic West Australian women, led by the legendary Chrissie Parrott. Nina Levy headed into the rehearsal studio to find out more.
It’s a chilly Thursday afternoon but inside Rehearsal Room 2 at the State Theatre Centre it feels summer-warm and a little sweaty, evidence that the black-clad dancers of Co3 Australia have been hard at work. They’re preparing for the company’s upcoming season, “WA Dance Makers Project”, which will be presented as part of the 2018 MoveMe Festival, and I’m lucky enough to be attending an exclusive studio showing of the works in progress. As the name suggests, this double bill is all about supporting WA choreographers, with the headline work created by State Living Treasure Chrissie Parrott, supported by a new piece from the delightfully quirky Unkempt Dance (Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis and Amy Wiseman), and a curtain-raiser choreographed by WA born-and-trained Richard Cilli, performed by WAAPA’s LINK Dance Company.
With over 90 dance works in her back catalogue, you’d think that Parrott might be running out of ideas, but the glimpse we get of her new work, In-Lore Act II, indicates that this veteran choreographer is still exploring new concepts. While the whimsical gestures and folky accompaniment of the opening trio (performed here as a duo by Katherine Gurr and Zoe Wozniak because the third performer is unwell) might, fleetingly, remind those in the know of 2009’s The Garden, the pace and precision demanded by this fast and furious number give it a very different look.
In the Q&A that follows the showing, Parrott talks about those folky touches. “I have this inkling towards Nordic folklore,” she explains. “The music that you heard is a Swedish folkloric song and there are ideas of some of the mystery and magic that continues to hold in the folklore of those cold, dark places, so that’s fed into this work. It’s got a richness to it that is universal, I think, even though it’s got that Nordic edge to it. That’s why the work is called In-Lore, because it has a folkloric aspect to it.”
In spite of that folklore element, the starting point for In-Lore Act II isn’t a narrative. “The work has never started with a narrative, except for my secret narrative without a story or story without a narrative,” says Parrott enigmatically. “So we’ve started with very simple abstract tasks that you give dancers and then we put them together, we mix and match dancers and develop them into work, until the narrative starts to reveal itself to me.”
Although Parrott says that the narrative has started to appear at the time of the showing (four weeks from opening), she’s not telling. “I won’t give away the narrative yet because I think when we get to the theatre it will give people the opportunity to write their own,” she explains. “You’ll see it and you’ll decide what the narrative is.”
Our In-Lore Act II preview is followed by a peek at Unkempt Dance’s new work, You Do Ewe. Comprised of dance artists Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis and Amy Wiseman, Unkempt has been making dance theatre with a comical streak since 2010. True to form, the choreography thus far includes lip-syncing, a hot pink wig, and an acrobatic approach to storytelling.
Those who saw Unkempt’s work for Strut Dance’s 2017 “Short Cuts” season, I Have Health Insurance Now will recall that work’s light-hearted take on what it means to be 30. Listening to the trio talk, it’s clear that there’s a relationship between that work and You Do Ewe.
“Our work for Co3 started from discussions about the phase of life that we’re in,” remarks Lewis. “We’re suddenly very aware of having lots of different roles, different hats we’re all wearing.” Like many independent artists, all three members of Unkempt have multiple jobs on the go, covering a range of skill sets. And so the three got thinking about some advice they’ve heard often, ‘Just be yourself’. “We wanted to unpack that idea,” says Lewis. “’Just be yourself’ is such a loaded statement, really.”
“We weren’t interested in just one ‘authentic’ version of self,” Armstrong adds. “We wanted to discover and explore the different facets of each dancer, and push some of these to a heightened level.”
“We’re also interested in the opportunity to slip into or try on other versions of yourself that might not feel comfortable, but will actually push you in a direction that is exciting or different,” Wiseman concludes. “We’re all for multiple selves.”