Ensemble Offspring
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, September 18

Music: Spel

11 September @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
15 September @ Albany Entertainment Centre ·
Presented by TURA Music ·

Ensemble Offspring presents a hard-hitting program of all-female works exploring nostalgia and adventure, love and life. Featuring a world premiere by long-time collaborator, Netherlands-based Australian sensation Kate Moore and a first-time performance of a piano solo by Composer-in-Residence for the Chicago Symphony, Missy Mazolli. Andrea Keller’s gorgeous Love in Solitude and Moore’s flowing solo vibraphone work Spel are contrasted by Felicity Wilcox’s Composer’s Cut which will be performed to the composer’s own edit of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1962 French New Wave classic film Vivre Sa Vie. The film juxtaposes whimsy and hard-edged themes, presenting the conflicted reality of 60s France, where the new hope offered by a burgeoning feminist movement, was not always what it seemed.

More info
W:  www.tura.com.au/tura-program/spel-ensemble-offspring/
E:   info@tura.com.au

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Gutenberg! the Musical
Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A sheer delight

Review: Western Sky Theatre, Gutenberg! the Musical ·
Subiaco Theatre Centre, 27 June ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

As a certified word nerd, I am fascinated by the printing press; and before seeing this show, pondered how such a complex piece of machinery would be represented on stage. Would its placement have involved a crane?

Nope. Just a humble cardboard box, as it turns out, with an A4 sign that says “printing press”. The phrase “less is more” sounds like such a cliché. But after experiencing the sheer delight of Gutenberg! The Musical, a celebration of minimalism and imagination, I am convinced this maxim applies to musical theatre.

Gutenberg is about two dreamers, Bud (Tyler Jacob Jones) and Doug (Andrew Baker), who have written an alternative history musical about the inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg. Bud is a barrista at Starbucks; Doug works in a nursing home and lives above a noisy pet store. “We used to do lip synch concerts for people in wheelchairs,” we’re told. They had earlier written a musical about Stephen King.

The hapless but adorable pair pitch their concept before a room full of producers, hoping it will lead to a dream run on Broadway. This clever premise explains the minimalist set, tiny cast and lack of costumes.

The versatility displayed by Jacob Jones and Baker as they slip between these characters is staggering.

At the back of the stage are two tables, each holding about 20 baseball caps labelled with characters’ names. The pair don the hats to indicate which role they’re playing. And what a bizarre cast of characters they create … among them the beef fat trimmer, the monk with a cat called Satan, the long-suffering young monk, Gutenberg himself and his love-interest Helvetica.

The versatility displayed by Jacob Jones and Baker as they slip between these characters is staggering. At times, they wear about 10 hats, ditching one then another as they take on new roles. It is a hilarious spectacle.

And thanks to some simple yet ingenious use of string and pegs, the whole cast forms a chorus line at the show’s climax.

Written by Anthony King and Scott Brown, Gutenberg parodies musical theatre conventions. There’s a “charm song” about biscuits, intended for a cameo by Kevin Spacey, and an end of act rock number that Doug explains “would include electric guitars and lasers”.

Directed by Erin Hutchinson, Gutenberg is a feel-good, off-beat comedy that provides a perfect vehicle for the performers’ considerable talents. Musical director Joshua Haines is incredible as Charles the pianist.

Gutenberg! The Musical follows Western Sky Theatre’s brilliant season of Once We Lived Here, staged at the Blue Room last year. Baker founded Western Sky to give performers from WA, or those trained at WAAPA, a reason to return to Perth and perform in a well-produced, small-scale musical.

At the end of Gutenberg, Bud and Doug sing “it’s not the success that counts, it’s the dream.” That may be true but this production proves that with enough vision and talent, the dream and success can come together. I can’t wait to see what Western Sky do next.

Gutenberg! The Musical plays Subiaco Theatre Centre until June 30.

Read Seesaw’s interview with Andrew Baker here.

Pictured top are Tyler Jacob Jones as Bud and Andrew Baker as Doug.

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The Talk by The Last Great Hunt photo by Daniel James Grant_ pictured L-R Christina Odam, Cassidy Dunn, Megan Hunter-011
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Chipping away at age-old taboos

Review: The Talk, The Last Great Hunt ·
Subiaco Theatre Centre, 11 April ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

For an introvert like me, that 10 minutes before a show begins can be painful. You’re in your seat and feel obliged to speak to the stranger next to you. But not so with The Talk! Rozina Suliman’s gorgeous, evocative set handed me the perfect icebreaker.

“Great set!” I said.
“Are they candles?” he replied. We both peered a little harder.
“Umm … I think they’re dildos.”

Cue laughter. From there, we chatted like old friends. He told me about how his sons were quite open about their use of porn. I told him my mother had never got around to having the “birds and bees” talk with me. Although after she found a packet of condoms in my wardrobe when I was 17, she did say: “I hope you’re not being promiscuous!”

In a sense, I feel The Talk achieved its aim, before any of the three performers delivered their first line. I imagine these are exactly the conversations writer and director Gita Bezard hoped the play would inspire; conversations that encourage reflection and chip away at age-old taboos and, ultimately, equip and empower young people to have healthy relationships.

The play revolves around 15-year-old Eva (Cassidy Dunn), who has fallen foul of double standards and becomes the victim of harassment, slut-shaming and catfishing. Throughout the play, she becomes aware of how society objectifies women, tricking them into believing their worth is measured by their success in attracting a man and fulfilling his sexual needs.

The Talk opens with a hilarious sex-ed scene in which Eva’s tentative question about lubrication is met embarrassment and denial. “I could show you the chlamydia pictures again,” the prudish teacher (Christina Odam) replies. “Was the birthing video not graphic enough?”

Eva finds the focus was on abstinence, or at least protection from STDs, insulting. “You’d like us to have safe, bad sex?” she asks. The teacher’s ensuing discussion about fallopian tubes evoked hearty laughter from the audience, who like me, remember this style of vacuous health lessons, and why Dolly Doctor filled the void.

When Eva contacts a young woman, whose phone number has ended up on the back of a toilet door (Odam), the two strike up a friendship that fosters self-discovery and empowerment. Oh, and the theft of a six-speed vibrator from an adult store.

As well as playing one of Eva’s school frenemies, Megan Hunter portrays a tragically awkward teen boy with a fascination for the mating habits of insects. The character highlights the difficulties of fitting in and the dangers of adopting a fictional persona online.

Hunter also plays Eva’s mother, whose mishandling of “the mother-daughter talk” proved a crowd-pleaser.

The scenes are interspersed with glorious song and dance routines – essentially a mash-up of pop and hip-hop hits over several decades. One suggestive lyric (“I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock”) rolls into the next and twerking abounds. Ben Collins’ sound design and musical arrangement elevates the show by adding layers of cultural critique and character development in an entertaining fashion.

By the end of this sexual coming-of-age story, Eva and friends belt out “I love myself and I don’t need anyone else!” It’s an uplifting message but one I feel a teenage audience needs to hear more than middle-aged folk. At times I felt I was watching a play adapted from a YA novel, albeit with more coarse language and adult themes. And, while the show was warmly received by its opening night audience, I wasn’t convinced about the protagonist’s progression to maturity. One minute Eva’s swooning over texts from a mystery suitor, the next she’s ranting about the patriarchy. If only it were that simple…

The Talk plays Subiaco Theatre Centre until April 21.

Pictured top: Christina Odam, Cassidy Dunn, Megan Hunter in ‘The Talk’. Photo: Daniel James Grant.

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Calendar, December, November, Theatre

Theatre: Amanda Muggleton in Masterclass

16 November – 2 December @ Subiaco Theatre Centre ◆

Amanda Muggleton

From 16 November, 2017

Amanda Muggleton reprises her Helpmann and Green Room Award-winning role as Maria Callas in a brand-new production of Terrence McNally’s theatrical masterpiece “Masterclass” directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher.

Maria Callas. The original diva. The greatest dramatic soprano of her generation. After a sensational career that saw her become the undisputed star of the world’s greatest Opera Houses including La Scala and The Metropolitan Opera in New York, she accepts an invitation to conduct a series of master classes to a select group of young vocal students at the Juilliard School in New York.

In this extraordinary theatrical tribute, Callas takes centre-stage one more time as she passes on to her students – and to us – the experiences and lessons of a lifetime. We witness her passion and commitment and realise the uniqueness of her great talent as she cajoles and lectures her students, delivering wisdom and insults in true diva style.

Amanda Muggleton is one of Australia’s greatest and most beloved actresses. In a career that spans four decades, she has more than fifty theatre, film and television credits to her name including the long-running role of Chrissie Latham in television’s Prisoner as well as starring roles in stage productions of Hello Dolly!, Entertaining Mr Sloane, HMS Pinafore, Calendar Girls, Blood Brothers, Steaming, The Seagull and, of course, her unforgettable Shirley Valentine.

Tickets on sale now at Ticketek.

More info: http://premier.ticketek.com.au

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A powerful punch: Good Little Soldier

Review: Good Little Soldier
Ochre Contemporary Dance Company and The Farm
Subiaco Theatre Centre
9 July
Reviewed by Nina Levy

Good Little Soldier packs a powerful punch. A collaboration between WA’s Ochre Contemporary Dance Company and Queensland-based dance theatre company The Farm, the work tackles the challenge of post-traumatic stress disorder head-on. First presented in Berlin in 2013, Good Little Soldier was developed in response to director Mark Howett’s own experiences of growing up with a father afflicted by PTSD.

The story centres on returned soldier and PTSD sufferer Frank (The Farm’s Gavin Webber) and the impact of the illness on him, his wife Trish (Raewyn Hill) and son Josh (Otto Kosok). Frank’s flashbacks take the form of the ghosts of two fellow soldiers (The Farm’s Grayson Millwood, and Ian Wilkes). They could be mistaken for live friends, initially, as the three men drink and joke. These spectral interactions, however, quickly become a window on Frank’s nightmarish war memories.

Good Little Soldier often teeters between humour and horror, keeping the audience in a state of high alert. Like Trish and Josh we know that laughter will inevitably give way to a violent outburst — it’s just a matter of when.

While the work is scripted, the highly physical choreography is central, and it’s performed with guts by the Perth cast. An early trio sees Webber literally climb the walls, hauled upwards by Millwood and Wilkes. A push-pull duo between Hill and Kosok is impressive for its finely tuned moments of counter-balance and resistance, especially when one considers that Kosok is a year 12 student making his debut alongside Hill, the artistic director of Co3. Webber and Hill’s final, brutal duo to a rendition of “Falling in Love Again”, that, like their truce, skips and falters, is executed with savage energy by the two performers.

It’s all accompanied by acoustic and synthesised music that ranges from poignant to discordant (Dale Couper and Matthew de la Hunty), and the sound effects of war (Laurie Sinagra).

With its corrugated iron sheets, glass louvres and washing lines, Bryan Woltjen’s set has a gritty beauty, especially in combination with lighting by Howett and associate Chloe Ogilvie.

The only wobbly moment comes when the narrative digresses from Frank’s story to discuss the PTSD suffered by Aboriginal people as a result of European invasion. A necessary conversation, but it feels like a token gesture.

It’s a minor flaw, however. Good Little Soldier is gut-wrenching and compelling dance theatre.


Good Little Soldier plays Subiaco Theatre Centre until July 30.

This review first appeared in The West Australian newspaper, Tuesday 11 July.

Top photo: Raewyn Hill and Otto Kosok in Good Little Soldier. Photo: Peter Tea.

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