woman dressed in orange against orange background in pose
Calendar, June 19, May 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Unrule

28 May-15 Jun @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Hey! Precious ·

Inspired by true tales of body horror and the prom scene from Carrie, Unrule is a spooky-scary and comedic premiere that teases apart our complicated relationships with female bodies. Award-winning maker Michelle Aitken (Future’s Eve) and an ace ensemble of collaborators grapple deep seated anxieties around sexual, mental, and reproductive health with humour, rage and raw vulnerability.

From light bladder leakage to serious accounts of medical mistreatment, they attempt to live with the monsters within by bringing them to life in grotesque, glorious, and moist forms.

Be the first to strap into this cabaret meets surreal spectacle that can turn from hilarious to horrifying on a dime.

More info:
www.blueroom.org.au/unrule

Pictured: Unrule: Credit: Pixel Poetry

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News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Light will conquer all?

Review: Julia Croft, Harriet Gillies & Joe Lui, Death Throes ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 1 May ·
Review by Jonathan W. Marshall ·

You can recognise German postdramatic theatre from the moment where the cast breaks the performance to engage in a political panel discussion with the audience. Employing this device early, Death Throes is both somewhat more timid, but also more tongue in cheek, than much postdramatic performance.

The piece begins with Harriet Gillies delivering a brief monologue on the knowingness of the 1990s generation. She holds an insanely hot light close to her face, apparently unfazed. This light is a parcan: basically a car headlight in a can; stand in front of an old car and see how long you last! Joe Lui then enters to set up tables and microphones. The pair are joined by Julia Croft and immediately Croft and Lui engage in a rambling discussion on the evils of monetary capitalism. So far, so postdramatic.

The most notable tension in Death Throes is how seriously (or not) the artists take their announced politics. Their analysis of monetary exchange holds few surprises for anyone who familiar with John Maynard Keynes or Das Kapital. The trio conclude that the problem with contemporary economics is that money — which is purely symbolic, standing in for goods or commodities — has been mistaken for an almost self-sufficient thing in itself. Monetary exchange therefore does not serve us. We serve it. Karl Marx described this in his account of capitalist fetishism, a primer for which might be offered by this advertisement, where the “value” of the product ends up having nothing to do with how much it costs to produce, or its practical use.

Lui concludes this section with an aside on the links in the productive chain underpinning even a $5 chicken bucket. This retrospectively explains why Gillies chows down on fried chicken, her calm assurance contrasting with Croft’s near manic speechifying.

In the sequences that follow, there is no further reference to economics, which is not to say links cannot be inferred, but it seems unfortunate that the production leaps into the bafflingly abstract. The main dramaturgical through-line (again, in classic postdramatic mode) is a scenographic motif, rather than a rhetorical one. Light, as actively manipulated by the cast, holds a beatific possibility throughout. There is a Barbarella-like sequence where the cast pose with spotlights held like blasters projecting steely beams to either side. The panel discussion itself is closed off by the lowering of a parcan onto Gillies’ now prone form, her head framed under its glow.

Julia Croft, Harriet Gillies and Joe Lui running around a red carpet.
Our performers adopt shiny gold costumes and jog in circles around a central light until exhausted.

In the longest sequence, our performers adopt shiny gold costumes and jog in circles around a central light until exhausted. It is not an especially original motif. Trisha Brown and others founded postmodernist or pedestrian dance (dance made using everyday movements) by running and walking on stage, and complex variations continue today (consider Thierry Thieû Niang’s 2012 …du Printemps!). If this section has a political meaning, it presumably shares it with Situationism and early performance art, where it was claimed that by doing something which has no purpose or productive outcome, such self-motivated acts lie outside of the money economy. It is a nice ideal, but given that the hugely successful performance artist Marina Abramovic made her fortune selling limited edition photographs of her otherwise “unsaleable” art, it is not so convincing.

Death Throes ends with our trio gazing distractedly past the audience, images of blue, cloud-filled skies surrounding them, as fans blow their hair. It is an oddly voyeuristic scenario for a performance which began by advertising its left-wing politics. Farrah Fawcett was the 1970s pin-up for this gently erotic “wind-blown look”, and given that Charlie’s Angels has been reworked as a supposedly feminist classic, perhaps a similar reclamation is intended here.

Death Throes is, therefore, not entirely effective. While not derivative, its elements are not especially novel. Whatever logic governs the selection of material is neither evident, nor is the production a deliberately random assemblage. That said, any show featuring Lui running in gold short-shorts, or Gillies’ supremely unflappable expression, provides a fun puzzler.

Death Throes plays The Blue Room Theatre until May 18.

Pictured top: Julia Croft, Joe Lui and Harriet Gillies in ‘Death Throes’.

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Phoebe Sullivan stands in front of a plethora of projected images of faces in 'The Double'.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A compelling take on tech

Review: Bow & Dagger, The Double ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 24 April ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

If you’re as old as I am, you might find yourself vaguely disappointed with the advent of “the future”. Where are the jet shoes, submarine cars and food pills that were promised to us on Towards 2000? Lately though, things have started seeming a little more Bladerunner-esque and slightly less 1984, what with hoverboards, self-driving cars and Alexa. The Double, a new play from Bow & Dagger, premiering at the Blue Room this week, is based loosely on the concept of Alexa, revved up as an all-knowing AI presence. Billed as a cyber-gothic nightmare, this riveting 80-minute play is not quite that, but its depiction of a tech-driven dystopia is certainly spooky.

Victoria is a struggling actress who has auditioned for an unusual role – to be the embodiment of a tech giant’s (an amalgam of Apple and Google) artificial intelligence product, Vivy. Like Alexa and other products in the current tech marketplace, Vivy can calculate sums, answer and place calls, adjust the lighting, play you entertainment or answer your trivial questions. Unlike Alexa, Vivy copies and learns the behaviours of its human model, Victoria. Victoria spends her days in a room provided by the generous tech host, working with programmers as they simulate her every expression, movement and vocal tone as they create the new product. Guess what? It doesn’t end well.

This obviously isn’t a surprise – how can it be when your show is marketed as a nightmare? But despite the fact that we know we’re in for an unpleasant or at least uncomfortable ride, the descent into dystopia is remarkably measured. Devised and written by Clare Testoni, The Double is, for the most part, so tautly written that Victoria’s journey is compelling even though we know things are headed south. Aided by some fine performances – Amanda Watson is particularly good – the narrative never feels entirely predictable, a considerable feat for a work dealing in the well-trodden ground of evil tech.

A performer stands, arms outstretched,  in front of projections of cyborgs and code, in 'The Double'.
Photo: David Cox Media.

There are some curious choices here. Testoni opts to have Victoria represented by three actors – Watson, Phoebe Sullivan and Michelle Aitken – who swap roles with head-spinning regularity. Despite the lack of physical resemblance between the three (blunted partly by identical wigs), this conceit is tricky… I wondered whether the role-swapping would have been less disconcerting had Testoni chosen to switch the roles up earlier in the show. As a viewer, I felt I was just getting to know Sullivan as Victoria when she suddenly morphed into Watson’s version. There was also some odd-looking computer-rendered imaging of the faces when beamed onto a background screen – this was a central visual element of the show and while it certainly contributed to the sinister feel, not all of the actors had the necessary stillness required to pull this off seamlessly.

But these are minor quibbles. The Double is an ambitious, provocative work that was always going be challenging to stage within the confines of the modest-but-lovely Blue Room. The show is a compelling take on the dissociative perils of our tech-driven, obsessively curated lives, and succeeds in straddling the fine line between cautionary tale and entertainment.

The Double runs until May 11.

Pictured top is Phoebe Sullivan in ‘The Double’. Photo: David Cox Media.

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Part of female figure with Miss Westralia banner across chest and holding bunch of flowers
Calendar, June 19, May 19, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Miss Westralia

21 May – 8 Jun @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Blonde Moment Theatre ·

Australia’s Pageant Past Hits Broadway.

When a Geraldton girl is crowned the unlikely winner of the first Miss Australia competition, she becomes a celebrity overnight. Discover Australia’s pageant past accompanied by some of Perth’s most exciting vocal talent. This musical comedy will have your toes tapping just inches from the action, as we uncover this untold piece of local history.

Composed by the award-winning team behind On Hold-A Musical (Best Aussie Short: Flickerfest, Dendy Top 10: Sydney Film Fest), the music and lyrics fuse nostalgia with contemporary wit.

Join us for this world premiere as we do the Charleston from outback Australia to the roaring cities of the USA.

Based on a true story, Miss Westralia is set to be Australia’s next hit musical!

More info
W: www.blueroom.org.au/events/miss-westralia/
E:  info@blueroom.org.au

Pictured: Miss Westralia, credit: Tasha Faye

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Three figures on stage in red, orange and black hues
April 19, Calendar, May 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Death Throes

30 Apr – 18 May @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Gillies, Croft and Lui ·

The end is nigh #posttruthbaby
Welcome to the end. Post truth, baby. Post fact, post power, post CD-ROM. Performed by three over excited artists who may (or may not) be authorities on power but are definitely authorities on Britney, Death Throes rips apart and reimagines humanity’s desire to tell and believe in myths.

Setting ablaze the oppressive ideas, stories and images of our world in an attempt to topple the pyramid of hierarchical power under its own weight. We’re disintegrating the grand narratives of history in an orgy of gleeful destruction, and starting again from scratch baby.

A perverse performance party inside the void, brought to you by the iconoclastic minds of Julia Croft, Harriet Gillies, and Joe Lui.

More info
W: www.blueroom.org.au/events/death-throes/
E:  info@blueroom.org.au

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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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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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