Friday, 10 January 2020

Party Snake review

When we see drag queens perform, they are confident, loud and love being the centre of attention. But how often do we think about the person behind the wig, makeup and dazzling outfit? In Kotryna Gesait’s Party Snake, the duality of these two existences is explored as a drag queen arrives home from a night out only to begin getting ready for work that morning as a primary school drama teacher. 

As Queen and the man behind the persona, Lachlan Martin shows a commanding and captivating understanding of who they are, or thinks they are. It’s rare to watch someone act drunk or high in an authentic yet interesting way, but Martin ensures that despite the state she is in, Queen never stops being a layered character who continues to surprise and engage us. As Queen begins to remove her wig, makeup and clothes, Martin finds a consistent balance in showcasing the opposing nature of these lives. The closer he gets to leaving for work, the more subdued and awkward he becomes, where even his voice changes from animated and bold to meek and polite. It's an incredibly restrained performance that clearly presents an innate awareness of their character.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Cirque Stratosphere review

Walking on the moon may have been one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind, but with Cirque Stratosphere's spaced themed circus, it's the astonishing feats that we are capable of on Earth that are explored. Producers Simon Painter and Tim Lawson have brought together over 20 performers from around the world to astound and inspire us as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon.

While the acts have the potential to excite and wow the audience, their execution occasionally results in a lot of style but with very little substance or charisma. Some come across as mechanical with minimal emotional projection. However, when they do work, we are more than eager to jump on board this spaceship. Nicolas-Yang Wang and Shendpeng Nie engage us with their energised, humourous and thrilling hoop-diving which ups the ante with each successive dive.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Love, Hugs + Kisses - Midsumma Festival preview

Nestled in a laneway near Elizabeth and Londsdale streets, queer underground nightclub, Hugs + Kisses, opened its doors in 2010 and for nine years it was a supportive space for LGBTIQ+ people to get together and make it their own. Music, dancing, liberation, open-minds and self-expression were all welcome. In January 2019, it closed its doors for the last time.

Photographer Nik Epifanidis was at Hugs + Kisses on its closing night. Set up outside the club, he spent the evening taking portraits of who was there, capturing the mood and tone that was present in the crowd. Only able to spend a few minutes with each person, Epifanidis asked them to focus on the emotion they wished to convey to the camera. The result of that is the Love, Hugs + Kisses exhibition, which acts as a compendium to a documentary on the club that is scheduled to be released in 2020, and begin presented as part of the Midsumma Festival.

While not personally connected to Hugs + Kisses, Epifanidis understood the importance and relevance of this venue closing, and was keen to be involved in the project when the film makers of the documentary made contact. "I hadn’t been to Hugs + Kisses, but I've always been intrigued by counter culture and how this is communicated. There is usually a good reason these places come into existence that speaks about people feeling the need to show themselves and be heard in a way they are unable to in the current mainstream," he says.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Rust - Midsumma Festival preview

TBC Theatre has been quietly working away on its most ambitious project yet with its upcoming immersive theatrical experience, Rust. Performed as part of the Midsumma Festival, the part period drama / part romance takes place during the height of a war where over the course of a night, secrets, spies, love affairs and betrayals are revealed. But what the audience uncover will depend on whose story they choose to follow.

There are three main stories told in Rust, each with its own intrigue and suspense, but while Vaughn Rae has written them as individual stories, there is much that ties them together. "The show is about three different relationships that reach breaking point over an evening," he tells me. "A pair of young women contemplate their future in a hostile world, two former soldiers on opposite sides of war battle with their growing attraction and a marriage crumbles under the weight of betrayal and secrecy, and gradually these lives crash into one another."

Friday, 13 December 2019

Summer of the 17th Doll - Midsumma Festival preview

Going by their past productions, the ensemble of neo-vaudevillian company PO PO MO CO are not afraid to get their hands - and minds - dirty when it comes to bringing their queer lensed physical comedy to life. As part of the Midsumma Festival, the company has bravely decided to unleash itself onto what is considered to be one of the most significant Australian plays in history.
Written by Ray Lawler in 1955, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll takes place during the summer of 1953 and follows the events that impact the lives of six people. PO PO MO CO will be taking this script and delivering parts of it to various queer theatre companies in Melbourne and giving them free reign to reimagine their scenes in any way they see fit for their season of Summer of the 17th Doll. It's an idea that PO PO MO CO's Artistic Director Kimberley Twiner is very excited to watch unfold for a number of reasons. "We’re passionate about queer representation. We grew up with basically no one like us on stage or screen," she tells me.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

The Taming of the Shrew review

William Shakespeare's The Taming of The Shrew has seen countless adaptations in theatre, opera, ballet, film, radio and TV, and to wrap up its 2019 program, the Melbourne Shakespeare Company have brought it back to Melbourne in an outdoor setting with a twist. To address the controversy of the play regarding its sexist and misogynist tones, the company have pulled together a predominantly female cast with the character of Bianca change to Bianco and played by a man, who has a list of female suitors after him.

The casting of Katherina is determined by an audience vote before every performance and on opening night, the majority voted for John Vizcay-Wilson to be Katerino with the role of Petruchia performed by Emma Jevons. This shift in power and gender blending allows the humour and the liveliness of the story to come through and it's refreshing to have the women be confident, loud and brash and not be admonished for it.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Top 10 Shows of 2019

Every year I tell myself no more saying yes to going to all the shows in Melbourne, and this year I managed to cut down from 221 in 2018 to only 199 in 2019, and yes, those numbers do annoy me. I found this year particularly exciting as I saw some amazing work from new and emerging writers and performers who I can never get enough of seeing on stage. I witnessed shows in venues that hold hundreds of people and others that were intimate one-on-one experiences.
As an audience member, I got to plan a friend's wedding in a cafe, discover hidden secrets in Werribee, explore loneliness and isolation in a caravan, watch a five hour break-up take place on stage and suckle on some of mummy's breast milk. 
Like most people, I like to keep track of everything I see so I maintained a list of them all. Below I list the top ten shows I saw in 2019. If I reviewed it, then a link to the original review is provided.

This is also a great reminder that sometimes the most memorable and exciting experiences are not always the big budget, flashy ones but the ones that are only on for four nights at a small theatre venue. Especially in this current arts climate, remember to support your independent theatre makers and venues - some can cost you as little as $20 and can be one of the most original, inspiring and though provoking performances you might see.

Here we go: