15 May @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by TURA ·
The Augmented Piano is an immersive, multi-layered event combining music, film, and electronics. Works by Gordon Monahan and Chiyoko Szlavnics reimagine the instrument, stretching the limits of how a piano can produce sound, while works by Nicole Lizée and Ann Southam bring in visual elements to augment the piano. Breathtaking explorations of the inside and outside of the piano, of overtone resonances, and the melding and bending of electronic tones coax the instrument into a new realm, inviting an entirely new perspective on sound and listening.
Subiaco Arts Centre is at 180 Hamersley Road, Subiaco.
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, Cracked ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 11 May ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·
Cracked is a play about a mother’s struggle for freedom. It opens and closes in song.
In mournful yet hauntingly beautiful song. And by the end of it, we know why a caged bird sings.
Frances (an outstanding portrayal by Bobbi Henry) is an Aboriginal woman, 15 months into a prison term. She misses her children, who’ve been put into foster care, and she sings in the prison choir. Her plight reminded me of the bird in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s classic poem, Sympathy. The poem describes the awful experience of a bird trapped in a cage. The bird flaps its wings and sings, not because it is happy but because it is desperate and sad. Dunbar used the bird to represent the oppression of his fellow African-Americans in the late nineteenth century.
Like that bird, Frances wants to be out with her flock. She wants to nest; she wants to fly. But her life has steered off course. Intergenerational trauma, poverty, insecure housing, lack of education and employment, domestic violence and methamphetamine use; these factors and more have led to Frances into crime and prison, and now threaten her prospects for parole and a new chapter with her kids. Frances speaks for Aboriginal Australians in similar circumstances.
Motifs of birds and flight are woven throughout the production, directed by Eva Grace Mullaley. They feature in the script, by Barbara Hostalek, and in the evocative soundscape by Mei Swan Lim and multimedia projections, by Mia Holton.
Despite help from her Aunty Pat (played to perfection by Rayma Morrison) and well-meaning community corrections officer Edwina (Holly Jones), Frances becomes frustrated and overwhelmed. At least behind bars she is assured of “three square meals a day, a roof over your head and no risk of getting smashed up.” So much for The Lucky Country.
The scenes charting Frances’s tentative freedom are gut-wrenching but skilfully executed. Sara Chirichilli’s clever set features a cell on a circular, revolving platform – as the plot nears the resolution, its symbolic value becomes apparent.
Hostalek’s characters are beautifully drawn, defying stereotypes and injecting energy and humour into what could otherwise have been a bleak play. Luke Hewitt is superb as an affable prison officer and Matthew Cooper is beautiful to watch as Edwina’s jaded colleague, Joel.
This is a memorable play with an important message. Perhaps Edwina best sums up that message, in her conversation with Joel about her clients: “They’re broken beyond all repair but I don’t want to give up on them.”
7 – 18 May @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company ·
Frankie is in jail for serious offences of assault and drug possession. She’s bitter, disenfranchised and just wants to live life on her terms. But jail is a temporary escape for her – free from financial hardship, homelessness, and hunger. Cracked is the story of Frankie as she rages her way through the criminal justice system with the hope of being reunited with her kids. Weaving several narratives, Cracked shows the complexity and disconnectedness of people that fall into a life of crime, and the trials faced by prisoners and others who are determined to help them find a better life. Written by Barbara Hostalek, whose first play Banned sold out two seasons at The Blue Room Theatre in 2018, Cracked is a powerful and thought-provoking look inside our criminal justice system from an exciting new voice.
At Seesaw we enjoy publishing a range of voices. In this feature WA Academy of Performing Arts student Mae Anthony offers her insights as a Gen Z and a pianist in an interview with experimental pianist Zubin Kanga.
Have you ever wanted to control what a performer does on stage? International experimental pianist Zubin Kanga is taking the idea of improvising on a theme to a whole new level, inviting audiences to hack his piano recital by uploading ideas to a website. The piece is called WIKI-PIANO.NET and will be performed as part of his recital at Subiaco Arts Centre, the penultimate leg of his national tour.
PIANO EX MACHINA is the third in a series of unique programs (DARK TWIN (2015) and CYBORG PIANIST (2017)) containing pieces that merge elements of theatre, cinema, gaming, internet culture, and advanced technology. Nearly all of these pieces have risen from discussions and collaborations between the Australian/UK pianist and artists from around the world, resulting in funny, ironic and entertaining incarnations that offer insights into everyday life.
WIKI-PIANO.NET by German composer Alexander Schubert is arguably the most exciting piece on the programme in the way that it attempts to provoke a genuine human engagement between performer and audience members. Its praxis is the embodiment of the kind of work that Kanga is pioneering through performance: the interaction between art, specifically the piano, and technology.
Hacking the music
Over the phone Kanga described the process Schubert used to create WIKI-PIANO.NET.
“It is like a Wikipedia page that anyone in the public can go visit. The website is comprised of texts, sounds and audio, videos and images that are embedded by the public into the page, and that serves as the notation for the score. It is a piece that is always changing and dependent on the content that is posted.”
The multimedia content is shown to the audience and then the performer must act out, and respond to, what is being shown.
“It is always quite funny to perform because it’s got memes and things that people have done on the internet and can provoke me to react in surprising ways,” Kanga remarked, “There have been instances where I had to yell out lines from that really bad movie The Room or sing along to a pop song. A few weeks ago there was something in there about Will Smith in blue paint in that Aladdin trailer looking really ridiculous.”
Growing up in Sydney, Kanga pursued studies not just in music but also in philosophy and computer science. His music studies from this well-rounded education included the opportunities to explore musical projects with a vast amount of freedom. From as young as 22 he worked with Damien Ricketson and Ensemble Offspring. This opened up possibilities for him to work with experienced senior musicians in other projects.
Collaboration is key
Kanga says that building these relationships between himself as the performer and the composer is so essential to the outcome. One of his significant collaborators is Sydney saxophonist Ben Carey who will be performing in PIANO EX MACHINA. Carey’s piece taking the auspices is inspired by the flocking of starlings and uses artificial intelligence and 3D scans of objects to merge audio and visual elements live on stage. Carey is a technologist but also a saxophone player which gives him insight into Kanga’s performance practice.
“Carey knows how to read my body language and respond in a very organic way, which I think is really important to the sound of the piece,” says Kanga. “Often when you’re working with all this technology there’s so much risk in terms of what could go wrong so it’s essential to have someone you trust.”
The program contains four other Australian works including a piece by monumental Australian composer and improviser Jon Rose, titled Ballast, a work comprising a whirlwind of sound using a 3D hand sensor. The use of new technologies in piano performance is where Kanga feels most at home, and it is also the essence of his research as a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the Royal Holloway, University of London.
“Working as a soloist with new technologies has become the big focus in my work. It’s what I love doing and the kind of work I like commissioning.”
Continuing the theme of new technologies, A Novel Instrument by Australian composer Kate Neal, in collaboration with stop-motion animator Sal Cooper, explores the kinship between cars and pianos. One movement from this large music-theatre work will be premiered in PIANO EX MACHINA. It combines music, images, film, electronics, and piano to create a mixture of musical counterpoint, visuals and movement.
Tristan Coelho’s work Rhythm City amalgamates looped urban film scenes with music. These visuals can be manipulated by the pianist using a midi keyboard and then is responded to at the piano.
The union of video and piano can also be seen in Adam de la Cour’s Transplant the Movie 2!, a piece that presents as a short film and is a comical take on low-fi action and spy movies from the 1980’s. This piece is the sequel to Transplant the Movie! by the same composer based on early 20th century horror movies.
Kanga resides in London for part of the year where he is able to immerse himself in the vibrant contemporary music culture in the U.K. He works closely with a number of British composers including de la Cour. Kanga says collaborative relationships of this kind create a space where he can merge other styles and interests, such as film, theatre, comedy, and movement on stage with music and work at the piano in particular.
“Hopefully a few of these pieces will be quite funny, as well, rather than being just intense and serious which I think a lot of contemporary music can be,” Kanga said.
Kanga has also contributed a composition to the program, a piece titled Transformations that manipulates sounds from the inside of a piano with those of an analogue synthesiser. It draws inspiration from the lives of his friends, family and colleagues who are experiencing changes to their internal, and in some cases external, bodies. It’s another aspect to Kanga’s adoptive process where his creative outcomes are grown from the seeds of input from others.
His unique methodology enables Kanga’s performances to both provoke and amuse audiences and PIANO EX-MACHINA promises to continue that proud tradition.
31 Jan – 2 Feb @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
9 – 10 February @ De Parel Spiegeltent ·
Presented by Flash in the Can ·
Fringe World favourites, members of British improv comedy superstars Racing Minds and Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes, bring a mad mash of improv games, all with different crazy twists and all driven by suggestions from the young ‘uns. Runner up: Best Children’s Event Fringe World 2016 with (Aaaand Now For … Kiddo Kaos!), 2019’s show will have MORE Kaos with new cast members: Vicki Hawley, Caitlin Campbell and Tom GK, joining Racing Minds members Tom Skelton and Daniel Nils Roberts.
Stuffed with hilarious characters and LOTS of daft jokes, this mischievous show is whatever the kids want it to be! Expect improvised mayhem, physical comedy, music and merriment for ages 7 – 12 and adults too! With the help of their junior conspirators, these dashing adventurers create a show that is just as entertaining for adults in 2 venues: Subiaco Arts Centre (31 Jan, 1-2 Feb, 2:30pm) and De Parel Spiegeltent, The Woodside Pleasure Garden (9-10 Feb at 1:45pm)
Two shows at Subiaco Arts Centre (31 Jan and 1 Feb ) will be AUSLAN interpreted for the hearing impaired.
“My six-year-old son and I were both in hysterics at the show we attended which was entirely due to the talent of the ensemble rather than any luck or divine intervention. So, whilst no two shows could possibly bare the same outcomes, I’d find it impossible to conceive that each performance would be anything less than hilarious (playandgo.com.au Australia)
“Impressive improvisational talent … fast-paced, inventive, jolly good fun” (The West Australian)
“Script-less brilliance, crowd captivated from start to finish” (Three Weeks, Edinburgh)
30 Jan – 1 Feb @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Flash in the Can ·
Tom and Tom have been best friends for 9,855 days and counting. They’ve walked miles through blizzards, run amok in city streets and been superheroes of the playground. Their amazing bond was strengthened as Tom Skelton lost his sight and Tom GK his hearing. This is their unique story of lasting friendship, with songs and silliness along the way.
Tom Skelton is a character comedian and improviser, who happens to be registered blind. He’s had four smash hits at Edinburgh: Blind Eye Spy, Blind Man’s Bluff, Foolball and 2061. He stars in Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes and is a member of UK improv comedy group Racing Minds.
Tom Skelton developed Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (a genetic eye condition that runs in his family) ten years ago, leaving him with 5% vision. He first noticed some loss of vision at the Edinburgh Fringe, when fellow performers on stage became blurry, and he started to struggle to read the information on tickets. His sight quickly deteriorated and he was diagnosed weeks later. Tom GK grew up obsessed with music and became a successful music critic for London’s Daily Telegraph. He then began losing his hearing and was diagnosed with a genetic disease, neurofibromatosis. He now writes and performs about it.
“Inventive and very enjoyable” Mirror, UK
“Deliciously talented,” The Guardian, UK
“Exceptionally funny” Weekend Notes, Australia
“Inventive and very enjoyable” ★★★★ Mirror, UK
“Undoubtedly funny” The West Australian, WA
“An extraordinary performer” ripitup.com.au, SA
There will be an Auslan Interpreter for shows on 31 January and 1 February.
31 Jan – 2 Feb @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Neylon & Peele ·
‘Gus and his band want top place on the Hottest 100, Kate just wants to get the f**k out…’
The brainchild of Neylon & Peele; ‘Kate, Gus & The Other Kids,’ is a never before seen Australian musical comedy with a rock/rap/ alternative/indie/pop score that dares to be anything but conventional.
Imagine if Once (The Musical), John Butler and Scott Pilgrim had a baby. This is that baby.
3 December @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Tura New Music ·
Revolution is dedicated to the vinyl record – as a sound source,
musical instrument and score. The program features three new world
premieres by Annika Moses (Difficult Commission), Lindsay Vickery
and Ryan Ross Smith, and existing works by Milan Knížák, Chris De Groot,
Cat Hope and The Velvet Underground.
This concert explores the turntable in music across a range of
approaches, from the deliberate use of breakage, the integration
of purpose cut and prepared records, to the integration of the
skilled turntable performer. This will be one of the first
concerts featuring turntable and vinyl record in every work
of an entire program, providing a detailed overview of the
possibilities for records and record players in new music.
Review: Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company & Te Rehia Theatre Company, SolOthello ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, November 21 ·
Review by Jan Hallam ·
There are stories and there are storytellers. When a good story meets a good storyteller, magic happens.
Regan Taylor, from New Zealand’s Te Rehia Theatre Company, in collaboration with co-writer Craig Geenty, has adapted the culturally problematic Othello into a one-hour maelstrom of high drama, pathos and flat-out comedy.
Directed by Tainui Tukiwaho, SolOthello is hugely entertaining and inventive, with highly successful insertions of Te Ao Maori language, effective use of exquisitely crafted masks and one super-charged personality in Taylor, who carries this one-hander to its inevitable conclusion.
Taylor begins the performance with a “dissertation” on the “thief Shakespeare” who, Taylor asserts, stole the story of Othello (and probably a whole heap more) from Maori lore. Given the uncanny similarity of his interpretive Te Mata Kokako o Rehia mask-work to commedia dell’arte, we might have to reconsider the Italian Renaissance as well!
Co-produced by WA’s Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company – SolOthello is much more than a Shakespeare mash-up. Cultural appropriation and alienation are all at play here, refreshingly disruptive and thereby enhancing the notions of race, gender and power that Othello traditionally evokes.
It is, at times, a raw confrontation.
SolOthello strips the Shakespeare play back to four characters – Othello, Desdemona, Iago and Rodrigo – revving up the devastating impact of patriarchy, jealousy and envy of the original text (yes, I’m revealing my cards).
Taylor’s haka-inspired heart pumping, foot stamping Othello is impressive and his whining Rodrigo exquisite. But his Iago is something else. He manages to grow Iago’s small-minded malevolency into a golem capable of enormous evil. It is really something to see.
The gender discourse of this play is a well-tilled field. In this respect, Othello, and its natural companion from Shakespeare’s “comedies”, Much Ado About Nothing, never fails to imbue a thinking audience with unbearable sadness.
Not for its history but for its Ground Hog Day future – no culture on earth has yet come to grips with men’s violence against women for what it is – men’s absolute responsibility to own and to change.
Taylor exquisitely renders Desdemona as a speechless, keening wraith, drifting through the hands of powerful and manipulative men until Othello loves her “none too wisely, but too well” for the last time and murders her.
Lovers of Shakespeare and theatre have seen this scene many times, on the stage and in their minds, but they are encouraged to revisit it with Taylor’s master hand. His simple yet heartbreaking portrayal is up there with the best.
SolOthello is an intense, provocative hour of theatre, which Perth is fortunate to witness.
20 – 24 November @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company and Te Rehia (NZ)·
A bold and humorous Maori twist on the classic tragedy in which Te Reo, original prose, and contemporary English come together.
Using traditional Maori masks (Te Mata Kokako o Rehia), this solo interpretation of Othello puts the spotlight on the characters Iago, Rodrigo, Othello and Desdemona, and places them into the context of a war between tribes in pre-colonial New Zealand.
Our adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic Othello places the tale within a Te Ao Maori context and pares back the story to focus on three aspects; character, the core story line driven by the characters very human motivations of revenge and deception and on finding the humour in this tragedy. We place the spotlight on the characters of Iago, Rodrigo, Othello and Desdemona who are explored physically through the Māori performance mask form Te Mata Kōkako o Rēhia. In this adaptation the war setting is maintained as the backdrop for the story and is transposed onto a battle between two far flung iwi in a timeless Aotearoa.
We bring together four specific “voices” to tell this tale; The original prose which is the language of the maskless outsider Othello, te reo Māori interspersed throughout, a quintessential colloquial Māori male voice particularly through Iago and finally Regan’s own voice of the performer, his comedic improvisation engages audience in the mechanics of the storytelling, bringing the audience on the journey and making Shakespeare’s work accessible and engaging for all.