Two girls wearing sunglasses, sitting in front of a projection of birds.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Suffering from climate change

Review: Alexa Taylor, Two Canaries ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 12 September ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

Climate change is overwhelming; the overwhelming issue of our time.

Inevitably, then, it presses in on the theatre – but it comes with great challenges. What we are visiting upon our planet has such enormity, but is so incremental, that it’s hard to represent or to build a dynamic stage narrative around it.

Two Canaries is about climate change, and it has been created and is staged by people with commitment and skill, so that its failure as theatre is primarily inherent in its subject rather than their attempt to explore it.

Let me explain. At one point, one of the two writer/performers (Jess Nyanda Moyle and Zoe Street) tells a story I had never heard; it seems that even after coal miners had access to more sophisticated ways of monitoring the amount of oxygen in the air they were breathing underground, they kept bringing their canaries down the mines with them, because they had grown to love the sound of their singing.

It’s an image that speaks to a sad resolve to cling to beauty in a toxic world, but, in Two Canaries, nothing comes of it. What might have been a jumping-off point full of dramatic and emotional possibilities became just a factoid – interesting, but formless.

Zoe Street in the ‘dark pool of Tessa Darcey’s impressive set’. Photo: Floyd Perrin

Two Canaries is full of cul de sacs like this; vignettes that lead us nowhere and don’t ignite a narrative. Some, like the story of Verdan Smajlovic, the cellist of Sarajevo, are, like the singing canaries, poignant and evocative; others are observant and instructive, but, taken together, they don’t constitute a drama.

In its absence, there’s a disconcerting amount of filler in Two Canaries. I’m an enormous fan of the American performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson, but whether the six plus minutes from her Big Science album, with footage of street scenes from around Perth (designed by Edwin Sitt) or a long, admittedly pretty, game of making water patterns in the dark pool of Tessa Darcey’s impressive set is more than passing time is problematic.

Brooke Wilson’s violin accompaniment is effective, as is the music, especially The Cowboy Junkies’ “Mining for Gold”, the production is technically excellent (thanks to the above, and to director Alexa Taylor and lighting designer Joe Lui), and there are passages of some beauty – but there was also a deliberate but irritating awkwardness in the performances .

In the end, its subject inundates Two Canaries. It won’t be the only venture, on or off the stage to suffer that fate.

Two Canaries runs until September 28.

Pictured top are Jess Nyanda Moyle and Zoe Street in “Two Canaries”. Photo: Floyd Perrin.

Two girls sit in front of a projected image of Perth CBD
‘There are passages of some beauty’: Zoe Street and Jess Nyanda Moyle in ‘Two Canaries’. Photo: Floyd Perrin.
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News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Teen tale kicks the goal

Red Ryder Productions, The Wolves ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 21 August ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

I’ve long been a fan of American teen drama. Like most of my generation, my interest began when I actually was a teenager, with the likes of 90210 and Party of Five. Now in my forties, I’ve still got a nostalgic soft-spot for the genre (my recent foray into the world of Netflix saw me catch up on the entire seven seasons of The Gilmore Girls).

So it’s no surprise that the opening of The Wolves, with its cacophony of adolescent banter, won me over immediately.

Penned by New York playwright Sarah DeLappe, The Wolves has a few key differences to your average American teen drama, however.

For starters, this is a story about a high-school girls’ soccer team, The Wolves. Not only is women’s sport at the heart of the play but the ensemble cast is all-female. Though we hear of the occasional male (the coach, a boyfriend), we don’t see them and they are certainly not central to the action.

Instead, the fast-paced script revolves around various concerns. The nine members of The Wolves move from discussing tampons to genocide with breath-taking speed (speaking as a former high school teacher, it’s an accurate representation). They feel their way around big-ticket issues, like cancer and abortion, and then laugh them off… or not. Every now and then someone ends up in tears. Adolescent bravado may come across as naïve or self-involved, but through the chinks in the armour we see young people navigating the reality of life in the 21st century.

McLean’s choreographed drills ensure that women’s athleticism is at the heart of this production. Front: Chelsea Gibson, back: Anna Lindstedt. Photo: Susie Blatchford of Pixel Poetry.

It’s refreshing, too, to see physicality at the heart of The Wolves’ Perth season, which is presented by local outfit Red Ryder Productions. In her programme notes, director Emily McLean remarks on the way the young protagonists “create a dialogue on women’s bodies as strong, athletic and capable.” This is reflected in McLean’s choreographed ball drills and stretches, which deftly weave together theory and practice. It’s beautifully complemented by the part-rousing, part-ominous cheer-inspired electronica that punctuates the scenes, created by composer/sound designer, Rachael Dease.

Portraying the intricacies and hierarchies of the teenage social microcosm, McLean’s cast is uniformly terrific. In particular, Angela Mahlatjie is wonderfully sassy and stroppy as the alpha-girl, while Elise Wilson, as the seemingly unaware outsider, is a poignant figure. The standout, however, is Anna Lindstedt, the “high-functioning”, highly anxious super-achiever, a silent yet potent figure in a maelstrom of chatter.

There’s so much energy and tension in this script – we know something is going to happen. But what?

All I can say is, it’s not what you expect.

This season is sold out but if you’ve managed to snaffle a ticket, you’ll see why this play was nominated for a 2017 Pulitzer Prize.

The Wolves runs until September 7.

Pictured top: the cast of ‘The Wolves’. Photo: Susie Blatchford of Pixel Poetry.

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Calendar, December 19, November 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Bang! Bang!

26 Nov – 14 Dec @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Scott Elstermann & Shona Erskine ·

Murder, Melodrama and Wes Anderson.

Be swept into The Grand Budapest Hotel in a visually striking crime caper. Be fascinated by tales of true crime and love: gunshots at a ball, evil stepmothers, and town gossip.

Reconsider what you though you knew about contemporary dance with this theatrical double header

More info:

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Man sitting and staring at knife in his hand
Calendar, November 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Playthings

5 – 23 November @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Second Chance Theatre ·

Like watching RAGE at 3AM.

Lucy and Arnold are 13. He’s a bit sensitive and she loves The Simpsons. This week, he has an English assignment due, and she’s planning on killing her stepdad.

From the award-winning Second Chance Theatre (Laika: A Staged Radio Play), Playthings is an unflinching portrayal of violence, trauma, and abuse in Australian suburbia.

More info:

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Calendar, November 19, October 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Cephalopod

29 Oct – 14 Nov @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Squid Vicious ·

Calamari, Karaoke, and Filipina Fury.

Part confessional, part identity instructional, Cephalopod is a tentacular mess of Blue Planet homages, Little Mermaid drag-retellings, karaoke bangers, and work-out routines. A mess that asks, what does a Filipina sacrifice in order to survive a new life in Australia? How does a second-generation immigrant forge an identity?

More info:

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Calendar, November 19, October 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: SHARBAT

24 Oct – 2 Nov @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Third Culture Kids ·

A sweet elixir of warm hospitality.

They say blood is thicker than water, but the Gül sisters think it’s more like weak cordial, since all they share is their Muslim heritage and their mistrust of one another. Thus year Eid is on Christmas Day; double the holidays, double the drama.

Heartwarming and bittersweet, pull up a chair to fights, forgiveness, and family bonds.

More info:

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Calendar, Music, October 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre, Music: I Feel Fine

1 – 19 October @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Public Service Announcement ·

Let’s Repent.

Welcome to the church of the Anthropocene; a place to repair our relationship with the world.  It’s time to shake off your climate-shame, sing, dance, pray, and sip a little wheatgrass.

Say goodbye to the urban monotony of everyday life and experience a pop-gospel extravaganza that’ll leave you reborn.

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Two women dressed in yellow sitting on branches of a tree
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, September 19, Theatre

Theatre, Music: Two Canaries

10 – 28 September @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Alexa Taylor ·

Come in. The water’s warm.

The canaries have gone quiet. Catastrophe is here. Come on a personal, poetic, and ridiculous expedition into the known world of climate change — as you haven’t known it before. With a score for voice and violin serenading a rising tide on stage, Two Canaries is a requiem for a melting world, and a love-song for our future one.

More info:

Pictured: Two Canaries, credit: Stephanie Senior

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August 19, Calendar, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Apparatus

20 – 31 August @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Humphrey Bower ·

Absurd comic horror.

Three stories by Franz Kafka explore legal limbo, border paranoia,  and offshore detention and torture. This visceral new work by one of Perth’s leading devisor-performers (WISH, SKIN) and the creative team who brought you HIRO will make you feel the absurdity and horror of what lies on our doorstep.

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Pictured: Humphrey Bower, credit: Marshall Stay

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Girl caught mid air in soccer match
August 19, Calendar, September 19, Theatre

Theatre: The Wolves

20 Aug – 7 Sep @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Red Ryder Productions ·

Play hard or stay on the bench.

Lace up for the Pulitzer Prize nominated play that’s kicking goals on stages across the globe. Take a look at the lives of The Wolves, a girls’ indoor soccer team somewhere in Middle America. They train hard, laugh harder, and over a season fight battles with each other and themselves. Undefeated, smart, tough; they are both terrified and terrifying as together they step into the arena of adulthood.

Red Ryder – the incredible squad that brought you Grounded – have teamed up for this season with nine of Perth’s dynamite young actors. We’ll see you on the turf.

More info

Pictured: The Wolves, credit: Red Room Design

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