Musical theatre, News, Reviews

A fine evening’s entertainment

Review: WAAPA Music Theatre, Strictly Ballroom ·
Regal Theatre, 15 June ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The ascent of WAAPA’s annual Regal Theatre musical from an extravagant prac exercise for its third and second year music theatre students to a bona fide highlight of Perth’s entertainment calendar – with sellout crowds in the thousand-seat-plus venue as evidence – is impressive.

The turning point in its evolution was 2017’s smashing Legally Blonde, a delicious season of a never-seen-before-in-Perth hit show that was packed to the rafters. It’s little surprise, given its provenance, that this year’s first Perth season of the musical theatre remake of Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 film Strictly Ballroom was sold out before opening night.

There’s an obvious logic to all this. WAAPA, uniquely in this state, has the resources, and the guys and dolls power and talent, to mount local productions of these monster shows (over 100 of them worked on this one), and the reputation to convince their owners to grant performing rights.

So what have we here?

The stage Strictly Ballroom is greatly enlarged by the addition of a dozen new songs, mostly by Eddie Perfect with a few by the team of David Foster, Mozella and Bernie Herms and, fortuitously, Sia Furler. “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” and, of course, “Time After Time” and “Love is in the Air” remain from the film.

Front L-R: Harrison Targett (Scott Hastings), Benjamin Barker (Rico) and Rose Shannon-Duhigg (Fran) with the cast of ‘Strictly Ballroom’. Photo: Jon Green 2019.

Most of the new numbers are more dance than song, and that well suits the focus of the production and the strengths of this cast.

Its strongest voice is Rose Shannon-Duhigg, and her Fran is winsome, emotional and appealing. The musical highlight is Fran’s duet with her grandmother Abuela (Ciara Taylor) to Sia’s restrained but unmistakable “Leap of Faith”. It’s a song I hope to hear more of.

When push comes to shove Shannon-Duhigg shows she can also cut the rug, and her leading man Harrison Targett, while principally a dancer (his work in “On The Edge” with the male ensemble is outstanding) can hold a tune – they make a terrific leading couple around which the show is built.

The other principals – the conniving dance federation boss Barry Fife (Ethan Jones), the bitchy reigning champion Tina Sparkle (Grace Collins), Scott’s parents (Tahra Cannon and Jackson Peele), Fran’s gypsy father Rico (Benjamin Barker) and the championship Emcee JJ Silvers (Alexander Landsberry) among others, attack their stock, two-dimensional characters with gusto, and the ensemble’s work, marshalled by choreographer Jayne Smeulders, is sharp, humorous and enthusiastic throughout.

The show looks wonderful. Student costume designer Amalia Lambert unleashes a cavalcade of marvellous creations to dress everything from the fiery paso doble of “Magnifico” to the dreamy gossamer of the Ziegfeld-inspired “Beautiful When You Dance”.

Crispin Taylor’s direction and James Browne’s set are models of stylish efficiency – and they need to be.

The show bogs down badly in an overlong build up to its denouement as the multifarious strands of the story line are arduously plaited into shape. It might work on film (although my memory of it is that things did get tedious at times), but it’s a killer on the less flexible stage, so that the big finale, culminating with THAT song, lacked some of the momentum the efforts of all concerned deserved.

For all the text’s flaws, though, Strictly Ballroom’s colour and movement, its swirls and chops, make for a fine evening’s entertainment, shot through with the promise of another batch of stars for WAAPA’s seemingly infinite firmament.

Strictly Ballroom plays until June 22. 

Pictured top are Rose Shannon-Duhigg as Fran and Harrison Targett as Scott. Photo: Jon Green.

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

LINK warms up for world stage

Review: LINK Dance Company, ‘The Body Politic’ ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 23 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

I’m always curious to see LINK Dance Company’s May season. Part of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Art’s Dance department, LINK is designed for postgraduate students, as a fourth year of training to “link” the tertiary and professional sectors. With a fresh cohort starting every year, the annual May performance is our first chance to see the company’s latest crop of dancers in action.

As is traditional, this year’s debut season is a triple bill. Entitled “The Body Politic”, the choreographic line-up – an attractive mix of local and international talent – only added to my anticipation ahead of opening night, as did a sneak peek at a rehearsal last month.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The program opens with an aesthetic that is at once space-age and retro. Eight dancers are clad in sleeveless, A-line skirted silver (including the one male dancer – I’m loving the recent shift away from gendered costumes). The action takes place on the perimeter of, and within, a large circle of light. Composed by WAAPA lecturer Michael Terren, the score of electronic strums lends a touch of sci-fi to proceedings. This is Shrink, a new work by local emerging choreographer Scott Elstermann.

A scene from Scott Elstermann's Shrink
Scott Elstermann’s ‘Shrink’, performed with engaging precision. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Watching this work it’s easy to see why Elstermann was the first Australian to win a coveted Pina Bausch Fellowship. There’s a dance-off, of sorts, as tension builds between those dancers moving with an organic, breathy movement style and those whose style is comically mechanical; a robotic blend of jazz and aerobics. Gradually the automatons take over, framing and re-framing around a single dancer until all have been absorbed into a droid-like dance of snappy claps and gestures.

And then almost imperceptibly – even magically – things are being pared back, until the focus is on the dancers’ fingers, and movement and music bring to mind automated insects. Shrink is a smart work, and it was performed with engaging precision and attention to detail by the 2019 company.

Next up is Chasing-breath, choreographed for LINK by visiting Israeli choreographer Niv Marinberg, with sound design by Brett Smith. The program notes for this work – which talk about the effect of emotion on our perception of time, and the effects of feeling breathless on our movement and behaviour – belie its glorious humour.

From the outset, the mood is potentially seedy. To the seductive sounds of Egyptian composer Umm Kulthum’s “Enta Oumry”, dancers – dressed for a night out – variously strut, slump or stagger across the back of the stage, which is stripped to its bricks and lined with various bottles plus two champagne glasses. As the work unfolds, to David Fray’s moody and distinctive interpretation of one of Bach’s Keyboard Concertos, various dancers move in slow motion, their limbs unfurling into prolonged balances that are disturbed as another dancer (Thomas Mullane) careers amongst them.

Things deteriorate. Now a dancer (Emily Tuckwell) is spitting what look like mint balls, while another (Giorgia Schijf) takes a swig from one of the bottles to become a human fountain. The increasing contrast between the mood of the dancers (unrelenting silliness) and the mood of the music (sombre) only heightens the entertainment value. On opening night, its clear that both audience and performers were enjoying it very much.

Mesmerising: Raewyn Hill's 'Carnivale.3'. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.
Mesmerising: Raewyn Hill’s ‘Carnivale.3’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Closing the bill is Carnivale.3, choreographed by Raewyn Hill, artistic director of WA’s state flagship contemporary dance company, Co3 Australia. Like previous iterations of this work, Carnivale.3 is a 15 minute feat of endurance, designed, says Hill, to create group cohesion amongst the dancers as they navigate its challenges.

That sense of group cohesion radiated from the cast of eight as they forged their way through the loose-limbed leaps, deep lunges, rippling, rolling jumps and triumphant wordless cries of this mesmerising work. Rather than tiring as the work progressed, the dancers seemed to become strangely energised by the fatigue they must have felt; as Eden Mulholland’s rousing score built in intensity, so too did their performance.

“The Body Politic” is a credit to LINK Artistic Director Michael Whaites. Running at about an hour, the pacy and engaging program showcases the considerable talents of this year’s LINK dancers. It’s pleasing to note that the company is about to take this impressive triple bill on tour to France – do try to catch the show before they head off.

“The Body Politic” closes May 25.

Pictured top is a scene from Niv Marinberg’s “Chasing-breath”. Photo: Stephen Heath.

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Male and female ballroom dancers rehearsing with reflection in mirror
Calendar, June 19, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Strictly Ballroom The Musical

15 – 22 June @ The Regal Theatre, Subiaco ·
Presented by WAAPA ·

Strictly Ballroom The Musical will quick step, cha cha and samba its way into your heart when it dances on to the stage of the Regal Theatre as WAAPA’s highly anticipated mid-year musical from June 15 to 22.

Based on Baz Luhrmann’s much-loved 1992 film that became a global sensation, Strictly Ballroom The Musical breathes gleeful new theatrical life into the tale of the maverick ballroom dancer who just wants to do his own steps and the shy young Spanish dancer he takes on as his rookie partner.

Defying both convention and their families in their quest to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship, Scott and Fran discover that to be a winner, your steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom. This sequined, sparkling extravaganza features larger-than-life characters, spectacular dance routines and much-loved songs from the hit film, including Time After Time, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Love is in the Air.

There are also fabulous new songs by internationally acclaimed artists such as David Foster, Sia Furler and WAAPA graduate Eddie Perfect, whose original score for the new Broadway hit musical, Beetlejuice was recently nominated for a 2019 Tony Award.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical will be performed by a huge cast of WAAPA’s 2nd and 3rd Year Music Theatre students with an orchestra of WAAPA Music students, under the direction of Crispin Taylor and music direction of David King. Making sure the show’s dance routines are sprinkled with just the right amount of ‘sparkle’ is former WA Ballet principal artist Jayne Smeulders, who now teaches at WAAPA. Returning to their alma mater for this production, thanks to the generous support of the Minderoo Foundation as part of WAAPA Visiting Artist Program, are set designer James Browne and lighting
designer Trent Suidgeest.

So strap on your dancing shoes for this iconic Aussie story about daring to dream and being true to yourself.

Tickets $76 Full / $66 Concession and Friends / Group deals available
Sat 15, Tue 18, Wed 19, Thu 20, Fri 21, Sat 22 June, 7.30pm
Matinee Sat 15 & Sat 22 June, 2.00pm
Book now via Ticketek: Tel: 1300 795 012 or online at www.ticketek.com.au

More info:
W: www.waapa.ecu.edu.au/performancesandevents/performances/2019/strictly-ballroom
E:  a.maz@ecu.edu.au

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4 dancers in formation
Calendar, Dance, May 19, Performing arts

Dance: The Body Politic

22 – 25 May @ Geoffs Gibbs Theatre, WAAPA, Mount Lawley ·
Presented by LINK Dance Company ·

“Collectively we are powerful,” says Michael Whaites, Artistic Director of LINK, WAAPA’s graduate dance company. “That’s the theme for The Body Politic, which showcases our talented dancers in imaginative contemporary dance pieces from a trio of exceptional choreographers.”

The Body Politic is an exciting triple bill of new dance works choreographed on the LINK Dance Company by visiting Israeli choreographer Niv Marinberg, Co3 founding Artistic Director Raewyn Hill, and WAAPA graduate Scott Elstermann, the first Australian to win a prestigious Pina Bausch Fellowship.

The Body Politic will be performed in WAAPA’s Geoff Gibbs Theatre from 22-24 May at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday 25 May at 2.00pm.

Tickets $28 / $23 Concession and Friends
Bookings: Tel: (08) 9370 6895 or online at: www.waapa.ecu.edu.au/boxoffice

More info:
www.waapa.ecu.edu.au/research-and-creative-activity/performance-groups/link-dance-company

Pictured: The Body Politic, credit Christophe Canato

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Standards continue to rise

Review: WAAPA 2nd and 3rd year dance, ‘Rise’ ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 4 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

With a stellar line-up of choreographic names on the bill for the WAAPA dance department’s May season, I took my seat in the Geoff Gibbs Theatre with anticipation. The program that followed more than lived up to expectation.

Sarah Ross and Alexander Diedler in ‘A Fraction of Abstraction’, by Sasha Janes. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

First up was A Fraction of Abstraction, created for its cast of 11 third year dancers by visiting Perth-born, US-based choreographer Sasha Janes. With all performers – male and female – costumed in stylish black leotards teamed with elegant skirts, the mood of this work is racy in more senses than one; playful (even flirtatious) but competitive. Set to a selection of pieces from the maelstrom of strings and percussion that is John Adams’ Book of Alleged Dances, A Fraction of Abstraction is, for the most part, comprised of fast-paced duets, frantic canons and teetering off-centre balances,  all  beautifully executed by the third year dancers on opening night.

I say “for the most part”; a poignant pas de deux, set to Johan Johannsson and Hildur Guonadottir’s yearning “Flight From the City”, punctuates the work’s centre. Packed with complicated lifts, the female dancer seems almost to swim around her partner. Despite a few shaky moments (opening night nerves perhaps?) dancers Alexander Diedler and Sarah Ross managed the challenges of this difficult and lengthy duet with impressive focus.

Second year students performing Claudia Alessi’s ‘Holding on to Fall’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Up next was Holding on to Fall, a contemporary work choreographed by Claudia Alessi, exploring the concept that “falling is inextricably linked to holding on”. The work – by necessity – has a large cast, created for the current second year Bachelor degree students, who number more than 20. That’s a lot of bodies and though the stage feels cluttered at times, at others, the numbers provide power. This is particularly noticeable at work’s start – we see the dancers clustered in a slow-moving pyramid, their arms reaching as one, while Elvis sings of being “lonesome tonight”. This moment has a nostalgic appeal, gesturing, perhaps, to a desire to hold on to the past. In this scene and throughout, all dancers performed with intensity and commitment. Mention must be made, too, of the haunting vocals of singer Lucy Schneider.

Also striking are the solos performed on a single point harness that hangs from the fly loft, allowing the dancer to swing suspended, about a metre from the floor. Of particular note was Niña Brown’s solo, which saw her surge into a handstand that tipped as the rope swung her back so that she lay, prone, her hair trailing like Millais’ Ophelia.

‘Shade’ by Kim McCarthy. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

After interval, the mood turned autumnal, with Shade by WAAPA lecturer Kim McCarthy. Made for 16 second year students, gently falling leaves form a backdrop to this neoclassical work, which is set to a selection of richly textured  music, mostly by contemporary composers Johan Johannsson and/or Hildur Guonadottir.

Clad in shades of russet, amber and mustard, the dancers tumble and spiral, rond and roll. Various pas de deux see female dancers tossed and spun. Trios comprised of one male to two female dancers have the men working double time, switching from partner to partner at lightning speed. Like the first work of the evening, the fast pace of this work is demanding and the second year students rose to the challenge with style and grace.

Third year dancers performing “Liminal” by Lauren Langlois. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

Rounding out the evening’s entertainment was Liminal, a new work created for 18 third year students by Perth-born, Melbourne-based dancer and choreographer Lauren Langlois. Though the movement for the work has been created in collaboration with the dancers, it has, nonetheless, the inimitable stamp of its maker. As a performer Langlois is known for the furious energy that she emanates on stage. On opening night that manic magnetism was transferred to her young cast, who gave a mesmerising performance.

Liminal “explores symbiosis and transformation inspired by fractal patterns in nature” and the patterns in this work are compelling, from the clump of twitching, turning heads in the opening, to the line of tightly interlinked arms that spirals and undulates like a giant, robotic caterpillar. In shades of midnight blue through to pale turquoise, Anna Weir’s costumes lend an aquatic feel to proceedings, while the soundscape, created by 2018 WAAPA graduate and recent Fullbright scholarship winner Azariah Felton, fills the air with a kind of crackling magic, an abstracted storm.

This is a particularly pleasing program of work from WAAPA’s dance department. Highly recommended.

“Rise” plays until May 10.

Pictured top: Third year students performing Lauren Langlois’s ‘Liminal’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

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Performers on stage, gathered around a table. Some sit at the table, some sit on the table, one stands on the table.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

The future is in safe hands

Review: WAAPA 3rd year acting, When the Rain Stops Falling ·
The Roundhouse Theatre, 4 May ·
Review by Steven Cohen ·

When the Rain Stops Falling is a strangely beautiful Australian play; original and intriguingly complex. The sheer genius of the playwright, Andrew Bovell, is striking.

Andrew Bovell is a wizard of Oz. He forgoes the politics of David Williamson, the cultural lashings of Ray Lawler and the suburban psychology of Patrick White. Rather, he sets out to shunt upon us a gut-wrenching story that tackles intergenerational trauma, father-son relationships and – curiously, given the play’s focus on the personal and familial – the devastating effect of environmental damage.

The plot is a plate of spaghetti. There is no typical rise and fall. Instead, each scene focuses upon both the ordinary and grotesque. Some scenes are intense, but the theatrical style serves the theme well: that history is not necessarily linear but tangential. And vital.

The action shifts between Alice Springs, Uluru, Adelaide and London, fluctuating backwards and forwards in time. There is little connection between scenes, zero linearity and only the subtlest of links. We are made to feel “curiouser and curiouser” through jagged moments of peculiar dis-quiet. But, this is no Wonderland. Rather, it is a juxtaposition between hinterland and wasteland, where future is devoured by the sins of the past and the only way out is through the sheer power of love, strength and hope.

Performers on stage, crouched under umbrellas
Equally impressive: the student cast of ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’. Photo: Jon Green.

The crucial scenes occur in London 20 years apart. First, we are introduced to Gabriel Law, who confronts his malcontent and dispirited mother. We learn that Gabriel’s father absconded to Australia, when Gabriel was a small child. Later, the action shifts, in the most distressing of scenes, to that pivotal moment when Gabriel’s father leaves. Ignorant of the past, Gabriel decides to retrace his father’s footsteps to the Australian centre. And there we see how the ghosts of our past crash the future.

WAAPA’s production stays true to the intensity of the narrative. Using Edith Cowan University’s Roundhouse Theatre, visiting artist and director Peggy Shannon successfully creates an intimate and visual portrayal of time and its linear shifts.

Set designer Danielle Chilton has cleverly incorporated cascading water into the stage, framing weather as a key motif. Period clothing from each of the last several decades is used to fiendishly wrap each character in a generation of servitude to their ancestors.

On opening night all nine actors were equally impressive. Characterisation was on point, as was accent, position and interpretation. Indeed, it was a shame that not all actors shared equal stage time.

Everyone should see this production. Not just for the melancholy yet uplifting story, but to rest their minds that the future of theatre is in exceptional hands.

5 stars.

When the Rain Stops Falling plays until May 9. 

Photo: Jon Green

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Old made new

West Australian Academy of Performing Arts: “Beethoven: Moonlight and Pathétique” ⋅
Richard Gill Auditorium, April 12 ⋅
Review by Sandra Bowdler ⋅

Charisma is a slippery thing, impossible to define, but you know it when you’re in its presence. Mike Cheng-Yu Lee, dressed simply and evincing nothing more than a gentle friendliness, stepped up to the fortepiano and instantly had the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end. Playing without a score throughout, his concentration was intense, and the combination of familiar music and somewhat unusual instrument made for a fresh and most rewarding experience.

Lee is currently director of the Australian National University’s Keyboard Institute – the largest collection of historical pianos in the southern hemisphere. On this occasion he was showcasing one of the historical instruments in WAAPA’s expansive keyboard collection in an all-Beethoven program.

The instrument in question – the WA Academy of Performing Art’s McNulty-Walter fortepiano (1805) – is a replica by modern maker Paul McNulty  of a Viennese original by Anton Walter. Lacking the pedals of a modern piano, the dynamics of this version is controlled by knee levers, and notes are generally less sustained, leading to a somewhat clipped sound, but generally sounding completely different to a harpsichord.

Along with the famous Pathétique and Moonlight sonatas headlining the bill, other pieces by Beethoven were included. The first were the six short movements of the Bagatelles Op 126, from quite late in Beethoven’s career (1825) and covering a range of tempi and feelings which allowed the audience to appreciate the style and nature of the instrument and its potentialities. Every note was heard distinctively. Lee was able to produce noticeably varied dynamics, especially in the last two movements, filling the room with robust sound and tapering the sound down to a veritable whisper.

The Grande sonata pathétique, or Sonata in C minor Op 13, is of course one of the most familiar pieces in the classical repertoire, but it was like hearing it anew. In some ways, Lee brought out the darker side of this with an almost tortured sound to the introductory passage followed by sustained precise attack. The Adagio cantabile contrasted with gentle warmth but no sentimentality, with just the slightest pause before launching into the Rondo: allegro with flying fingers and a crisp finish.

After an interval we heard the Sonata in E minor Op 90, with its curiously and elaborately named two movements; the first was definitely played with the specified liveliness, feeling and expression throughout, and a lesson in dynamic effects. The second, marked by the composer as ‘not too fast and very song-like’, was indeed that, with soothing rippling effects and utterly lyrical withal.

It is a toss-up as to whether the Sonata in C sharp minor (Op 27 No 2) Quasi una fantasia but known as the Moonlight Sonata is more famous than the Pathétique, but in both cases Lee’s presentation brought something new. The first movement was played relatively slowly, making it somewhat of a cloudier moonlight than is usual, while the allegretto was perhaps a little faster, and livelier. The Presto agitato lived up to its description with quite a furious attack, but with every note clearly articulated and another satisfyingly concise ending.

Pictured top: The charisma of Mike Cheng-Yu Lee.

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Fine choral opener

Review: West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, “Fauré’s Requiem” ⋅
St Mary’s Cathedral, April 11 ⋅
Review by Leon Levy ⋅

Has there ever been so fruitful a period of choral performance in Perth as that now under way?  Six months of eclectic and stimulating repertoire has included the visiting Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the Choralfest currently underway in Fremantle and still to come the WA Symphony and St George’s Cathedral performing Bach’s St Matthew Passion on Tuesday.

The WA Academy of Performing Arts has inaugurated the 2019 season with a somewhat unexpected programme. “Fauré’s Requiem” was the concert title, but there in the small print of the Academy’s website was Telemann’s Concerto in E minor for Two Violins and Basso Continuo TWV 52:e4. Harking back to a world some 250 years distant, this work provided an effective and enjoyable opener. A double concerto is always a tantalising prospect, and conductor Paul Wright and Adrian Biemmi on the other violin proved to be beautifully matched soloists. Together with the WAAPA String Camerata, they did ample justice to this rarity.

Thereafter we were onto choral terra firma, the WAAPA Chamber Choir delivering four short unaccompanied works, three of them motets by Poulenc. The first of these, Timor et Tremor, written in 1939 for Holy Week, was followed by two Christmas motets, composed in 1952. Well-meshed and balanced choral sound conveyed the spirit of the works and, in the last, allowed Poulenc’s distinctive harmonies to be savoured. On paper, Edward Elgar seemed an unlikely candidate to conclude this bracket, but he did so most effectively. His brief elegy They Are at Rest was written for the 1910 anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death. A setting of words by Cardinal Newman, and displaying echoes of his Dream of Gerontius, it received a poised rendition by the choristers under conductor Kristin Bowtell.

And so to the title work of the evening. Fauré’s Requiem last received a very fine Perth performance in November under Dr Margaret Pride, and if another outing just five months later seemed excessive, this was certainly not the case. The first, with large chorus and orchestra, was very much what one might expect at Perth Concert Hall. Now, in St Mary’s Cathedral, with a modestly-sized WAAPA Symphonic Chorus and organ accompaniment (Stewart Smith), we were very much closer to a liturgical performance, albeit that the French church authorities of Fauré’s time would have insisted on an all-male vocal line-up. Here we had the choristers intermingled rather than grouped by voice-type, sometimes for the better, occasionally less so, although this arrangement did gain in effectiveness as the performance progressed. The two baritone soloists, Nathan Breeze and Kyle Garces, both brought a pleasing quality that was entirely consistent with the fresh and firm choral tone surrounding them, rather than projecting in an overtly soloistic manner. Ashley Chua’s Pie Jesu was confidently and cleanly declaimed, while Paul Wright’s solo violin in the Sanctus added a moment of distinction.

While a cathedral setting is most apt for a work such as this, the acoustic does pose its challenges. By the time of the Agnes Dei, however, the choral sound was cutting through most satisfyingly, although here, with the spotlight on the tenors, the disadvantage of their scattered disposition was revealed. Nevertheless, this was the movement in which the performance came into its stride and where the choir sounded truly integrated, as it did to the conclusion of the work.

Judged by this season opener, there are some very fine things happening at the WA Academy of Preforming Arts, and music director Kristin Bowtell and his forces have provided a tantalising foretaste of what may be in store this year.

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Ghoulish figure in prison cell
Calendar, Fringe World, Multimedia

Multimedia: The Ghosts of Fremantle

9 February @ Fremantle Prison ·
Presented by Genrefonix ·

Genrefonix bring their sell-out fictional multimedia show back for 2019.
Perth based arts/music collective, Genrefonix return to the atmospheric Fremantle Prison Theatre with a multimedia show featuring original horror music and soundscapes, all  performed live alongside compelling imagery of Fremantle’s architecture and its ghosts.

One of WA’s most haunted buildings will be bought to life through emotive tunes, eerie sound effects and imaginative ghost portraits. The original theatre screen used for prisoners will fire up once again, bringing history and imagination to life.

Each ghost has a story, each building a unique ambiance. Share in the power and passion of the supernatural landscape of Fremantle. Spooky fun! Rockin’ tunes! Witness if you dare! Highly talented performers taking part in The Ghosts of Fremantle include WAAPA jazz graduates and local Perth rockers.

Genrefonix combines cutting-edge sound engineering and filmmaking techniques to create unique live events. Employing a strong gothic style the creative team often focus on bringing real local histories to life through innovative and surprising mixed media experiences, with the performance venue integrated into the work. Genrefonix employs popular tropes from ‘genre’  filmmaking to reinvigorate local history for new audiences.

A range of musicians and visual artists collaborate on original artworks such as films and soundscapes, as well as augmenting public domain properties through a process of ‘re-editing’ and ‘re-composing’. Artists includeWAAPA trained jazz improvisers and members of local rockers Oats Supply, Day of the Dead and many more.

Show times: 7pm, 8.15pm, 9.30pm

More info:
https://www.fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/the-ghosts-of-fremantle-fw2019

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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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