A man pulling faces
Fringe World, News, Physical theatre, Reviews

Minimalist show, maximum charm

Fringe World review: Kallo Collective, Only Bones v1.0 ·
The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights, 12 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Before I begin writing about Only Bones v1.0, I have some advice. Go and book your ticket now. I’m in two minds about whether you should then read this review, or wait until after you’ve seen the show. Maybe wait until after you’ve seen the show.

Because a great deal of the pleasure of this witty and eccentric show comes from its surprises.

Described by its makers – New Zealand’s Thom Monckton and Gemma Tweedie and Finland’s Kallo Collective – as “minimalist micro-physical theatre”, Only Bones 1.0 is understated. The performance begins in near darkness. All that is visible is a pair of incredibly articulate hands (belonging to solo performer Monckton) that swim through a small circle of submarine blue light; rippling and twitching, inflating and collapsing. The soundscape, provided by onstage-but-barely-visible technician Tweedie, is ambient, soothing.

So far, so chill… but things are about to change for the funnier.

For the next 40 odd minutes, the tracksuit-clad Monckton uses his wonderfully mobile body, to entertain and delight. Initially, we see only his limbs. A sock-masked hand is an interloper between a pair of feet. Two hands have a melodramatic nail polished-based duel.

Gradually more of Monkton’s body is revealed but there’s trouble with the head – it just won’t stay put on top of his neck. The antics that follow have the audience gasping with laughter and disbelief in equal measure. Monkton’s body has a rubber-like capacity to change shape, while his mobile face appears to be made of plasticine that can be pulled into any expression.

It’s all accompanied by a mix of cleverly-timed sound effects from Tweedie as well as various wordless squeaks, grunts and mutterings from Monkton himself. Without giving too much away, a game of mix-the-animal-sounds is a highlight of the show.

The intimacy provided by the Blue Room Theatre’s performance space is just right for this small-scale show.

My own non-plasticine face ached from grinning. Only Bones v1.0 is an absolute treat.

Only Bones v1.o plays the Blue Room Theatre until February 16.

Pictured top: Thom Monckton’s mobile face appears to be made of plasticine that can be pulled into any expression. Photo: Dmitrijus Matvejevas.

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Turquoise Theatre
Fringe World, News, Reviews, Theatre

A dark double take

Fringe World review: Turquoise Theatre, Lake Disappointment ·
The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights, 5 February ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Lake Disappointment is a one-man show starring Joel Sammels as a body double, a man whose professional value is determined by his resemblance to a particular movie star.

As the Double shares his inner thoughts while substituting for the star in the production of a new film, it quickly becomes clear that he is confusing the boundaries between himself and the man he looks like.

Hyper-aware of his physical appearance, fixated on his minor achievements, and desperately waiting for his celebrity lookalike to arrive on set, the Double’s undoing is disquieting and inevitable as his grip on reality starts to slip.

Sammels gives an impassioned performance in this production, which was directed by Susannah Thompson and written by Lachlan Philpott with Luke Mullins.

It is particularly striking to hear the Double’s monologue while watching him enact the banal, repetitive tasks that are required when shooting close-up movie footage – holding and releasing a heroic pose, or grasping his fingers around a coffee cup again and again.

While Sammels evokes sympathy for a man who attaches far too much meaning to childhood recollections and casual encounters, there is some tonal confusion in the production’s attempts to balance humour and poignancy.

Although billed as a dark comedy, the script offers less laugh-out-loud moments and more wry smiles in recognition of familiar tropes, as the Double’s narcissistic traits and the trappings of showbiz are painted in broad strokes.

Lake Disappointment plays The Blue Room Theatre until February 9.

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Three aggressive looking women, dressed in 1950s costumes, on a stage, behind microphones
Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A gleeful sump

Fringe World review: Spooky Rainbows, The Violent Years (1956) ·
The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights, 20 January ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

A late night spot on a blistering Sunday night at Fringe World makes for a tough room to fill – even if the show is part of the Blue Room’s crowd-pulling Summer Nights programme.

Not that the cast of Rachel Kerry’s The Violent Years (1956) ain’t up for it; when you’re playing three teenage schoolgirl hoodlums in a stage musical version of Ed Wood’s truly awful exploitation flick of the same title and year you’ve gotta be.

The movie is a gleeful sump, swirling adolescent boredom, crime, sex and anarchy into a nasty brew designed to offend every complacent, puritanical atom of 1950s America, as leader of the pack Paula and her Violent Girls – Phyliss, Georgia and Geraldine – go on a rampage and pay for it with their lives.

Kerry has brought it pretty much intact, albeit abridged, to the stage, along with some high-octane original songs that work from rockabilly to Joan Jett and riot grrrl (“Ever Feel Like Fucking Shit Up?” the highlight, if only for its title).

There’s a lot of Cry Baby about it, some Heathers too, and it’s all a bit of fun, even if the points it’s making are mostly lost in the mash-up.

And it’s not a show for a quiet late-night Sunday in front of a dozen punters.

The Violent Years (1956) plays The Blue Room Theatre until January 26.

Pictured top (from left to right): Billie Miles as Phyllis, Lucy Green as Geraldine and Elsa J Cherlin as Georgia. “The Violent Years”. Photo: Rachel Kerry.

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stage bathed in purple light, one performer at a desk
Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Beware the gimmick

Fringe World review: The Royal Court, Izzy McDonald and Gavin Roach, Manwatching ·
State Theatre Centre of WA as part of the Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights, 18 January ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

So here we have the latest iteration of the Soleimanpour School (after Nassim Soleimanpour, the Iranian playwright whose White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was among the first of the species); plays specifically written to be performed by people – professional performers or amateurs – who have never seen the script they will read to an audience.

Manwatching has another progenitor, Eve Ensler’s epochal The Vagina Monologues, which has done great things, and great box office, since the mid-nineties.

With bloodlines like that, it should be impossible for it to fail.

The play, written by an anonymous woman, is about “heterosexual female desire”, though by-and-large that translates to female masturbatory fantasy. Its shtick is that it’s read by a man.

Now you can argue that this gender reversal emphasises “Anonymous’s” points about male perceptions of women. Fair enough.

My suspicion, though, is that it’s more in response to the flaw in the whole Soleimanpour School; it’s essentially a gimmick, and the problem with gimmicks is that you can’t keep repeating them – you can’t throw the same pitch too many times.

So you have to find ways to gimmick the gimmick, and Manwatching is one of them.

Tonight’s performer was the skilful and wily actor Paul Grabovac, and he waded into the long monologue with all his talents on show. It was fun delving into the etymology of genitalia, and, for a time, the qualities in men that make them wankworthy. Before long, however, you realised you weren’t hearing anything you hadn’t heard before, and you were hearing it rehashed too often.

Grabovac’s performance wilted under the weight of it all, and eventually you could tell he was wondering how many pages of script were left to go.

So was I.

Manwatching plays the State Theatre Centre of WA until January 26.

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A woman in white curly wig in front of a projection of a young girl wearing a hat.
Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A star on the rise

Fringe World review: Charlotte Otton, Feminah ·
The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Brash and witty, Feminah takes its audience on a brief romp through the history of feminism and female sexuality in the Western World, from the 1800s to today. Written and performed by local theatre-maker Charlotte Otton, this “seminar” is cleverly interspersed with stories of her own experiences and confrontations with the subject matter.

It’s by no means exhaustive – at the outset Otton states that she’s coming at the topic from the perspective of a 24 year old, white, straight, cisgender female. And the concept – of flipping between external and personal narratives – is nothing new. So why does Feminah grab the audience by the scruff of its proverbial neck?

Firstly there’s Otton’s sharp, dark and frequently dirty sense of humour. Without giving away any punchlines, the great “knee-reveal” of the 1920s was a personal favourite, as was the patriarchy/oral sex analogy. Listen out for Otton’s muttered asides – they’re gold.

Then there’s her cabaret-style crooning. Accompanied by the coolly understated Joe Lui on electric guitar, Otton’s sultry contralto punctuates the decades. Her version of “Someone to Watch Over Me”, fluctuates deliciously between rich sensuality and an eye-rolling subversion of the song’s submissive lyrics. Another highlight is her tongue-in-cheek take on Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time”.

Lastly there’s Otton’s honesty. An exposed breast is not all that’s laid bare; she shares plenty. Memories of  awkward sexual encounters are funny and revealing, but it’s the childhood snapshots of body-shaming comments and advice that are most discomforting. Otton is a child of the new millennium. In her vulnerability we see, shockingly, the progress that hasn’t been made.

And she’s angry about it – as well she might be. That anger explodes into a furious finale, that’s mad, bad… but somehow hopeful.

Otton’s star is on the rise. Feminah is a winner.

Feminah plays The Blue Room Theatre until January 26.

You can also catch Otton’s play Let me finish. at the Circus Theatre @ Fringe Central, February 12-17. Read Claire Trolio’s review of the 2018 season.

And check out Otton’s Fringe Session Q&A.

Pictured top: Otton’s childhood snapshots of body-shaming are striking and moving. Photo: Marshall Stay.

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A girl sitting on a wall in a bikini top and towel. One arm is raised.
Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A satisfying start to Summer Nights

Fringe World review: Mask a Pony Theatre, Blueberry Play ·
Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights, 18 January 2019 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The young writer Ang Collins brings sharp observational ability to the story of a teenage girl approaching adult life in Blueberry Play, and the result is a fine overture to the Summer Nights programme at the core of theatre at Fringe World.

A girl (Julia Robertson) lives in a small Australian town with her mum, a fat old labrador called Dave and her dad, who is battling both the cancer that will likely soon kill him and the bipolar disorder that might get him first.

Her story builds to a precarious, though unresolved, climax that fractures all their lives but prepares her for the world outside her little horizons.

Collins describes the mundane (how, for example, a brightly coloured lolly snake turns white when you stretch it) and the profound with equal felicity and insight. Her writing is beautifully realised by Robertson, whose impressive emotional range allows the story to swing from playful comedy to wrenching moments with ease, investing all the play’s characters with distinct, multifaceted life and authenticity.

Blueberry Play is wonderful to watch, and would be just as satisfying, I suspect, to read for the poetry of its text. At the same time it has an aware artlessness that reminds me of the best of contemporary Australian songwriters; if it was a song, it would be by Courtney Barnett.

Highly recommended.

Blueberry Play runs at The Blue Room Theatre until January 26 and at Don Russell Performing Arts Centre January 27.

Pictured top is Julia Robertson in “Blueberry Play”. Photo: Nick Fry.

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The Big City
Cabaret, Comedy, Features, Fringe World, News, Performing arts

A clown in the city

Louis Spencer’s new work The Big City has come full circle. Bringing together clowning, cabaret, comedy and puppetry in what he describes as  “a Pixar-esque bundle”, The Big City began its life as a ten-minute piece, as part the Blue Room Theatre’s 2017 “600 Seconds” program at Fringe World.

Ahead of the premiere of the full-length version of the show, Seesaw caught up with Spencer to find out more about his path to clowning.

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Louis Spencer: Probably when I was in my early 20’s and trying to figure out if I should do something that I love or just get a job. At the time though the word “artist” wasn’t something that crossed my mind, rather I just knew that I wanted to be involved in theatre and the performing arts. I always wanted to be a performer when I was a child but I kind of went back and forth on if it was something that should actually go for. It wasn’t until I had been in university for a year or two that being an “artist” was something I considered.

S: Tell us about your training…
LS: I studied at WAAPA in the Bachelor of Performing Arts – Performance Making course; it’s still fairly new but its reputation is growing very quickly. I was very fortunate to be in a class with some people who have gone on to do some great work in Perth and become amazing artists. Seeing people that you love and respect do so well is inspiring. What I liked about the course itself was that it allowed you to find your path and discover your practice if you were willing to put the work in.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
LS: My focus, right now, is primarily on making work in the genre of clowning, mime and physical comedy – theatre that young people can enjoy but can also be appreciated by a mature audience.

S: Career highlight so far?
LS: I wouldn’t like to say I have one yet. I like to enjoy my success but also don’t like to rest on my laurels. I want to keep learning and getting better in my practice.

S: Career lowlight?
LS: Also don’t like to think about that. I think to do so can be crippling. Anything that can be considered a lowlight should be looked at as a learning experience and something to look forward from.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
LS: Performing. It is such a rare opportunity to do it. We spend so much time making and working on a show yet we may only get to spend a couple of hours on stage actually performing. It should be cherished, no matter how the performance ends up.

S: This isn’t your first time performing at Fringe World. What drew you back? 
LS: The piece that I’ll be presenting this year was developed from work I presented two years ago as a part of The Blue Room Theatre’s “600 Seconds” program. I decided the genre of clowning and physical comedy was something I wanted to develop into a full length stage show. And here we are!

S: Tell us about The Big City
LS: The Big City follows Joe the Clown as he ventures into an unknown urban terrain in search of theatrical stardom. At the same time he hopes to reconnect with a long lost friend who did what he is attempting a few years earlier. As with my previous clowning work, I have taken inspiration from the stars of the silent film era, such as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. I was also inspired by a little-known Martin Scorsese film called After Hours, in which the protagonist faces innumerable obstacles in his journey just to make it home from work.

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
LS: Feminah Anything by Charlotte Otton is worth checking out.

Front  Featuring an exceptionally talented cast.

F**K Decaf – Looks really interesting and is performed on the beautiful Alex Hotel rooftop.

Poorly Drawn Shark Will be wild.

Dad a touching, funny show by recent WAAPA Performance Making grads.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
LS: One of those really high, curly slides that felt like they went forever when you were a kid.

The Big City plays The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights, 18-20 January.

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Feminah
Features, Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Theatre

Wreaking feminist havoc

Charlotte Otton may be a Sydneysider by birth but in the four years that she’s been living in Perth, she’s carved out a niche for herself in the local independent theatre scene as a theatre maker and performer. Her debut play Let me finish. enjoyed a sell-out season at The Blue Room Theatre and was named a “Top Show” for 2018 by Seesaw’s Claire Trolio, who described it as “bold, brash and powerfully feminist”.

Just three months later, she is premiering her one-woman play, Feminah, described as “a havoc-wreaking power ballad that embraces the vulgar women of the world.” Just hours before opening night, Otton squeezed in Seesaw’s Q&A.

Charlotte Otton headshot
Charlotte Otton

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be a performer?
Charlotte Otton: The earliest indication for me was probably when my mum took me to see Annie on the mainstage in Sydney when I was five. I don’t know if my memory is built from stories or real memories, but regardless, I know I was singing along to every song and wanted to be up on that stage. My absolute dream role, to this day, is to play Miss Hannigan.

S: Tell us about your training… 
CO: I’ve studied mostly improvisation; I started in Sydney and then studied in Chicago and New York for a few months. It’s the first training I had where I got a hint of the type of artist I could be. Then when I was 20 years old, I moved to Perth to do the Performance Making course at WAAPA. That course really shifted and clarified things for me, it made me take myself more seriously as an artist.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
CO: I’m still discovering it, but at the moment I’m interested in telling brutally honest stories and bringing comedy, filth, glee and spontaneity to the forefront of my work.

S: Career highlight so far?
CO: The very final performance of Let me finish. at The Blue Room in October last year. It was such an emotionally charged performance and the love from the standing crowd at the end and the women on stage was unlike anything I’ve experienced in a show before.

S: Career lowlight?
CO: I did a monologue as David Koch “Kochi”, the Sunrise presenter, for an end of year drama concert once when I was 14. I wore my dad’s suit and I think I just did a weather segment… I should bring it back. Perth audiences would love it.

S: Funniest career moment so far?
CO: Maybe when I played a series of animals and objects in the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and WASO collaboration of “Carnival of the Animals”. It’s a not a funny “ha ha” moment, it was more just me straight out of uni, playing a flowerpot, looking out into the crowd of 1500 audience members at Perth Concert Hall, wondering how I got to that place.

S: Tell us about Feminah… 
CO: Feminah is about one woman on a war-path to discover and dismantle the constructs that have made her the woman she is today. It’s a personal battle of expressing femininity and vulgarity.

It’s equal parts bawdy and vulnerable. Think personal stories, ridiculous history lessons, primo filth and live music!

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
CO: Silence My Ladyhead, Grace, Manwatching, Poorly Drawn Shark and The Big City are just some of the ones I’m excited to see!

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
CO: I love a good monkey bar set, but an adult one, I’m 6ft. 1, I’ve been dragging my feet on monkey bars since I was 10.

Feminah plays The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights, January 18-26.

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DAD
Calendar, Fringe World, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: DAD

5 – 9 February @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights
& Emily Stokoe ·

“Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? Great food, no atmosphere.” – Dad

Three fully grown men in onesies explore the shifting nature of their relationships with their fathers, tackling masculinity, connection, and legacy in a room filled with the most pillows you have ever seen in one place.

Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Emily Stokoe, DAD is a multi-layered, all too real, laugh out loud romp crafted by three of Perth’s most exciting emerging theatre makers.

The trio bust out of the pillow fort on the memories and events that shape who we see as the father-figures in our lives. That time he taught you how to ride a bike; the countless hours he blasted his favourite “dad rock” albums or when he threw you against the wall…

Trustworthy, a**hole, role-model, prick. Who’s your daddy?

More info
W: www.facebook.com/events/640716956326101/
E:  info@blueroom.org.au

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Talofa Papa
Calendar, Fringe World, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Talofa Papa

12 – 16 February @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights
& The Co – Lab ·

After a sell-out, award-winning season in the 2018 New Zealand Fringe Festival, Papa is heading to Perth to celebrate and meet with his Western Australian family for the very first time.

Talofa Papa, written and performed by Kasiano Mita (Most Outstanding Performer,
NZ Fringe 2018), takes you on a journey with your grandparents in the comfort of your jandals. Generous and poignant, this is a communal experience with its heart set on reminding you to slow down and breathe in the rich idea of family.

Expertly shaping his audience’s story using Samoan culture and mischief, Papa takes you by the hand and transports you to a world of kindness and compassion. Talofa Papa is a gorgeous show for you and all your family with fun, laughter and a naughty fala.

Don’t be late to the party!

More info:
www.fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/talofa-papa-fw2019

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