Sunday 31 January 2016

Intoxication - Midsumma Festival review

I still remember the excitement in my house when we signed up for dial-up Internet. It brought a new world into my living room with just a tap of the keyboard and a click of the mouse. 17 years later, the technological advances we have made have brought this virtual world closer to us, but has it pushed us further away from the real world? Presented as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival, Christopher Bryant’s Intoxication analyses and raises questions about how our reliance on social media, dating apps and smart phones are hindering us from building honest and meaningful relationships with actual people.

The three performers - Ryan Forbes, Amy Hack and Bryant – each sit on an individual cube and, as if they are in a confessional, share their anxieties with us. Even though there is barely, if any, interaction between the three during these moments, the thoughts and emotions shared are very similar, building on Bryant's idea that despite all having these insecurities and feelings of loneliness, we seem to push ourselves further away from reality and into the digital world, where we are free to project the life we wish we had and want the world (wide web) to see.

Friday 29 January 2016

BOYZ - Midsumma Festival review

Your 20s are a time in your life where you finally step out into the real world and attempt to make sense of it all. For most, it includes moving out of the family home, graduating from studies and finding your place in life. Easier said than done though. Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, Paul Malek's new contemporary dance piece, BOYZ, explores what it means being a gay man in your 20s.

Whilst there is a feeling of frustration and boredom, things begin serenely enough with five males - Jayden Hicks, Samuel Harnett-Welk, Charles Ball, Lachlan Hall and Kurt Dwyer-William - living under one roof. However, the gradual exploration of their sexuality, individuality and how they fit in to a society such as ours, has them experiencing new and foreign moments. Malek incorporates some engaging storytelling through his choreography, and the characters the dancers take on maintain a sophisticated depth to them that I rarely witness in contemporary dance.

Saturday 23 January 2016

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story - Midsumma Festival review

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two young, highly intelligent men from wealthy families about to embark on a career towards law who were also lovers. However, the two men began to see themselves as far more intelligent than those around them, and to prove this, began to commit crimes, such as theft, arson and the eventual murder of a local boy in 1924, leading them to be nicknamed, "The Thrill Killers".

Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, with book, lyrics and music by award-winning writer/composer, Stephen Dolginoff, is a musical theatre show that examines the relationship between these two men and the lengths they went to, to get what they wanted. The story is effectively told in flashback with Nathan facing a parole hearing, having already served 33 years in prison. He recalls his infatuation with Richard, the lead up to the murder of Bobby Franks and their subsequent capture and arrest. Despite the outcomes of these real-life events being known already, the two actors manage to keep the audience engaged with the narrative and their relationship.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Grant Busé: The Late Night Sexy Show - Midsumma Festival review

Even though it plays at the not-so-late night sexy time of 8.30pm, you may want to fasten your seatbelts with The Late Night Sexy Show, as you’re going to be in for a bumpy night! Performed as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival, musician, singer and comedian, Grant Busé humorously explores the wonderful world of sex, sexiness and everything else in between.

Busé enters the stage in a suit, gradually losing one piece of clothing with every sexy song he performs. Between songs, we are treated to some erotic reading material that will have everyone getting a little hot under the collar and spend some “quality time” with Busé in which he calls out questions to the audience and in return, we direct questions to him regarding sex, desire and anything else we can think of.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

The Ultimate Vegas Show review

The Ultimate Vegas Show is a night of magic, illusion, circus, songs, dancing and music. It's got all the ingredients for a brilliant and captivating show, yet sadly this experience left me feeling underwhelmed and wanting to head back to 'Melbourne'.

Host/MC, David Cotter did pleasantly well with his Dean Martin impersonation but that's all there was to it. Cotter's Martin did not possess enough dynamic stage presence or charisma to keep the audience strongly entertained and generate excitement about the upcoming acts, although perhaps in a more intimate setting as opposed to the expansive space of The Palms, he might have had more of an effect.

Uncovered - Midsumma Festival preview

Uncovered is a circus show with a twist. A young man enters a bar, he is a stranger here and the rules are that anything goes in this place. With a variety of contemporary circus acts, Uncovered explores the concept of first time encounters and sensual moments with others. Presented as part of the Midsumma Festival, it's bound to leave audiences feeling a little more than hot under the collar. 

The director and choreographer of Uncovered, Dave Coombs, has brought together recent graduates and current students of the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA), the only training institution of its kind in the country. Coombs has been more than impressed with the display of talent he has witnessed and can't wait to unleash them onto his audiences. "You can expect high energy performances and skill levels far beyond what you'd expect from people that are still studying or have only just completed their studies. In rehearsals their attitudes have been so enthusiastic and eager to make sure the audiences have a good time first and foremost so you can expect just that."

Monday 18 January 2016

Fraternal - Midsumma Festival preview

Everyone is on the hunt for their soulmate, the one person who completely understands you, who you can be utterly open to and who manages to steal your heart. It may be romanticism to the extreme yet we all seek it. In Fraternal, Darcy and Kent have found that with each other, despite the fact they are brothers. Presented as part of the Midsumma Festival, Fraternal looks at a topic considered taboo and asks us to regard this love as a legitimate love.

"Incest is one of those taboos that no one really seems intent to discuss or explore. It’s one of
those topics that we’ve all kind of relegated to the shadows, intent to leave it there for good. This just makes any subject matter vastly more attractive to write about," explains playwright Jake Stewart. "A more pertinent reason that the play’s been written, is the fact that there are people out there living this way. Consenting, responsible adults are out there living in relationships like this, and their experiences are unique, and their struggles are legitimate, and the stage is a perfect place for stories like theirs. The theatre is a place to incite conversations that are trickier and more complex and harder to stomach than the ones you may have over coffee."

Sunday 17 January 2016

Identity art exhibition - Midsumma Festival preview

Cultural theorist Stuart Hall once asked, "how much do we retain, and how much do we give up of our cultural identity in order to be ourselves?" In Susan Maco Forrester's latest art exhibition, Identity - and presented as part of the Midsumma Festival - she explores these ideas and looks at how we go about forming our identity and the importance of knowing who we are and where we came from.

While someone's personal identity can often be difficult to define in its most simplest terms, in Forrester's case it is understandable. Forrester is a GLBTIQ woman of Somali/Scottish heritage with her family coming to Australia as '20 pound poms' in 1974. Furthermore, Forrester's mother was also the first Somali woman to settle in Australia. "I have been reflecting whilst installing my show, about how much of my identity has developed from myself and how much has been put on me, so to speak," she explains. "Growing up I had often felt like I lived on the fringe, not really wholly belonging to Western or African cultures. What I have found interesting, is that in my experience, identity is not something that Anglo Australians think about in describing themselves."

"Identity is a concept that is thought of for others, so for someone like me, of mixed Celtic and African heritage, who lives in Western society, often it is only my African heritage that  is seen as my identity. However, already being used to being a fringe dweller really helped me when i 'came out', so I guess my idea of my identity has been formed by and strengthened by living on the edge of, and having one foot in a few camps." 

Saturday 16 January 2016

Bette & Joan: BITCH. SLUT. LIAR. WHORE. - Midsumma Festival preview

It was the golden era of Hollywood, where stars truly existed and there was a sense of mystique surrounding them. Stars like the indomitable Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who despite their circumstances, never quite managed to see eye to eye with each other. Their feud, which continued even after Crawford passed away, is one that has captivated people for decades. Performed as part of the Midsumma Festival, Bette & Joan: BITCH. SLUT. LIAR. WHORE resurrects these two dead women and pits the Hollywood legends head to head in one final battle; winner takes all. 

"Bette and Joan are the epitome of the Old-Hollywood ‘star-system’. They worked their way up through the Hollywood Studio system, and carved out an image and brand for themselves," explain co-creators David Morris and Tom Halls. "They poured their entire being into being a Hollywood star, to being worthy of the big screen. They worked tirelessly at their craft, at executing their characters; that was awe inspiring. I guess what captures us creatively is the incredible sadness they both had in their personal lives. They both were desperate for the love of a partner and their children and friends, but somehow managed to push away every person whom they ever really got close too."

Friday 15 January 2016

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story - Midsumma Festival preview

When someone hears "musical theatre", they think fun times and happiness - usually. Throw in the word "gay", and you assume you are going to be in a world of high camp fun. But not with one offering at this year's Midsumma Festival. In Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story is a dark and deadly musical that retraces the exploits of the notorious 1920’s Chicago ‘thrill killers’.

"It's a fast moving, very atmospheric contemporary musical," explains its director, Terence O'Connell. "The songs are incorporated into the show in a really unusual way, there are no applause spaces so the story keeps rocketing along," he says. "And it has two really hot performances from Vincent Hooper & Stephen Madsen and Daniele Buatti’s driven piano playing, melded with a great production design."

Nathan Leopold (Hooper) and Richard Loeb (Madsen) as well as being wealthy young law students, were lovers and killers. The two kidnapped and murdered a 14 year-old boy in their efforts to prove their intelligence and get away with the perfect crime. It is their relationship and their actions that inspired Alfred Hitchcoks's acclaimed film Rope. "Their story is iconic in popular culture and their rather twisted relationship and the crime it produced has inspired plays, films, books, documentaries and now this musical," says O'Connell. "The show is a sequin and mirror ball free zone (ha!) and we're hoping that it will be the thinking man and woman's musical for Midsumma!"

Thursday 14 January 2016

The Ultimate Lesbian Double Feature - Midsumma Festival preview

There are not many people who can say they've never sexted before, the fine art of texting and being sexual at the same time. It's a practise that has only been around a few decades, but had it been available 200 years ago or even 100 years ago, how would relationships have been different? This is just one story being performed as part of The Ultimate Lesbian Double Feature during the Midsumma Festival.

In Love in the Time of Sexting, playwright Zoe Brinnand imagines a world where Emily Dickinson didn't write letters to Susan Gilbert and Virginia Wolf's letters to Vita Sackville-West never existed. Instead, Brinnand explores how this intimacy would have been created and maintained through the use of mobile phones and sexting. "I hope that this play encourages more lesbians to loosen up about sex," Brinnand laughs. "And to sext more! Sexting can be funny, and should be fun."

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Exposed art exhibition - Midsumma Festival preview

MrPeeDee by Ross Spirou
While there are many theatre and stage productions on during the Midsumma Festival, there are also a large number of art exhibitions happening around Melbourne. One of these, Exposed, has two artists, Ross Spirou and Steve Edwards, presenting works in different art styles but with similar themes and ideas. Both were winners of last year's Men On Men Art Competition with Spirou winning the Grand Prize and Edwards winning the People's Choice Awards, and as part of that, they have the opportunity to display their work in a joint exhibition at The Laird Hotel during the festival.

I love to share my art and passion with the world and this exhibition is allowing me to do just that and of course, it is also nice to be part of MidSumma!" Spirou explains. "
We enter competitions and hold exhibitions to let the world know that we are here and this is what we do and Exposed is another step taken towards reaching a greater audience. The name of our exhibition is very appropriate as we will be exposing our art and who we are as artists to the community and hopefully beyond."

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Elegy - Midsumma Festival preview

Based on interviews with gay refugees, Elegy is an emotionally powerful story of a young gay Iraqi man fleeing from persecution in search of a better life. Presented by independent theatre company Lab Kelpie, Elegy is a Midusmma Festival premiere event that should be on everyone's 'must see' list. The play, inspired by first-person accounts by photo-journalist Bradley Secker is paired with an exhibition by Secker of said photos, which allows the audience to build on what we are seeing on stage and create a greater sense of authenticity and honesty. 

"There was such an immense sense of emotion I felt after reading the story. I still have difficulty reading the script at times," co-producer Adam Fawcett says. "This story grabs you by the heartstrings with its capacity to explore love against the harsh reality of life in the Middle East for LGBTI people. The fact that it is based on real people made it all the more powerful for me. As soon as we both finished reading it, we knew we wanted to produce it."

Monday 11 January 2016

Intoxication - Midsumma Festival preview

Despite living in a society where we are more connected with each other around the world more than ever before, it is ironic that many of us are also feeling a disconnect with those physically around us. While we spend our time taking the perfect selfie, instagramming that delicious dinner and finding entertainment on dating apps, we seem to be getting lonelier and lonelier.

Presented as part of the 2016
Midsumma Festival, Intoxication shows just how deeply affecting one person's loneliness can be to everyone around them. "We live in a world of fast-food connection: quick, junky, and not particularly nourishing. It’s a bizarre thing, to be so connected, but still so unable to connect, when it should be easier to connect with the people around you, but in actual fact, it’s harder," writer of Intoxication, Christopher Bryant explains. "The play is about the ways we pursue happiness, myself included. If I’m lonely, horny, bored or drunk I can just download an app and meet someone in half an hour flat. It's about social anxiety and the fear of being alone that rules modern society, but in particular modern gay society." 

"It’s a difficult but necessary discussion, especially since in the homosexual community, we’re not afforded the social freedom, perhaps of heterosexuals. By that I mean, aside from the usual set of open desires and shared interests, everyone you meet can’t necessarily be a viable romantic option by virtue of presumed sexual preference. In this regards, the play is about learning to be alone, and that being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it can be better than a lot of negative relationships."

Sunday 10 January 2016

Boyz - Midsumma Festival preview

For most people, your 20s can be life changing and an opportunity to grow and discover new things about yourself. It is a time to define who you are and what it is you want from life. Presented by Transit Dance, as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival, Boyz is a dance piece that explores this passage into male adulthood, full of addictive behaviours, sexual habits and testosterone-fuelled tendencies.

"Boyz is a reflection on the beautiful and often frenzied existence of a young man's life in their early 20's. The constant self exploration, experimental interaction and uncontrollable urges that guide you through everyday life," director and choreographer of the work, Paul Malek says. "It's physical, which isn't surprising considering it is explored through contemporary dance and it is a celebration, and appreciation of the male form, and the exquisite capabilities and possibilities that can be created when it is thrust together with such subject matter."