Tuesday 31 May 2016

The Consort of Melbourne: Playing with Fire

In November last year, I attended the National Gallery's Friday Nights event during its Masterpieces from the Hermitage exhibition. As I wandered through the gallery, I came across a choral performance that had me transfixed and extremely eager to hear more. The group was the Consort of Melbourne, a professional vocal ensemble who champion historic and contemporary chamber vocal repertoire. Since that experience, I have eagerly awaited the opportunity to see (and hear) them perform again, and this month they return to the Melbourne Recital Centre with their Local Heroes season.

"We have presented a regular concert series in the Melbourne Recital Centre for many years and we're always excited to return," Artistic Director of the Consort of Melbourne, Steven Hodgson tells me. "Our Local Heroes season has a 'Fire and Water' theme with the first concert, Flames within being a very exciting and dynamic program centred on explosive vocal music by composers Claudio Monteverdi, Carlo Gesualdo and Luca Marenzio."

Sunday 29 May 2016

Songs and Sexcapades review

Based on her online sex blog, Fifi La Boom! has come to Melbourne to beguile audiences with her show, Songs and Sexcapades. The cabaret/burlesque performer recalls various sexual (mis)adventures she has had while singing some of her favourite songs.

Despite the initial allure of this premise, sadly, that’s all that Songs and Sexcapades seems to be; Fifi telling us stories and singing, with not much else. The songs felt lacking in originality and zest with Fifi simply singing over the track and throwing in a quick line here or there to link back to her story. There is no engagement with the song itself and apart from the final number, it never feels like Fifi carries the tune, nor does she project her voice out to the audience.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

If These Walls Could Talk...? review

When you move into a house, you can’t help but be filled with the excitement of new beginnings as you begin to unpack boxes and find new places for your belongings, but what about the people who lived there before us? Not only the ones that have just left, but the ones that lived there ten years ago and twenty years ago? What memories have they left behind? Presented by Dislocate, If These Walls Could Talk…? shows the stories of these past inhabitants over six decades, through circus, performance and imagination.

The four performers – Geoff Dunstan, Kate Fryer, DJ Garner and Luke Taylor – have the difficult task of not only performing circus acts that will entertain the audience but also convincingly remaining in character and showing their emotional journey in short periods of time. The first story, set in the 60s, show a loving elderly couple (Fryer and Dunstan) who decide together to take their own lives. As they reminisce over their younger years together, the acrobatics they perform are seen as visual representation of the emotions they are feeling. The closing moment is beautifully executed as the stage fades to black on the couple for one last time. And so the stories continue, showing the various inhabitants’ dealings with life, death and moving on.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Sugarland review

Sugarland, the latest production by the Australian Theatre for Young People, is a play that revolves around the experiences of a group of teenagers living in Katherine, Northern Territory. With an upcoming singing competition as its focus, it’s a gritty and honest look at the challenges and difficulties teenagers in rural Australia often face, including homelessness, domestic violence, drugs and suicide.

The young cast played by Narek Arman, Xanthe Paige, Calen Tassone, Jonas Thomson and Dubs Yunupingu, have a deep understanding of the characters and their motivations, and develop them carefully into complex human beings. Under the watchful direction of Fraser Corfield and David Page, the five actors explore who these people are as the characters figure out where they belong in this mixed-up world. The choreography of the boxing fight between Jimmy and Aaron (Tassone and Arman) in particular is impressively directed, with both actors clearly in the moment and allowing their characters to take control of the situation.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Straight White Men review

Upon entering Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre Melbourne, you can’t help but notice Candy Bowers as the Stagehand-in-Charge sitting up in her booth, playing some hip hop music, including Khia’s racy “My Neck, My Back”. As the music plays, she regularly glances over the audience while flicking through a newspaper, the back page emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter”. Considering we are about to see Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, a play about a family of the four eponymous men getting together for Christmas celebrations, the ruthless satire is punching us in the face, especially as she makes her way down to the stage and introduces us to the make-believe world.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

The Horse review

Every now and again, there is a production that pushes the boundaries of what can be done. Dylan Sheridan’s The Horse is one of these shows, in that it uses a variety of tools to create an immersive musical space travel experience for its audience. As director, composer and performer (electronics), Sheridan vividly creates an intergalactic world with a saxophone, violin, cello, electronics and automated instruments.

The Horse takes its title from the Horsehead Nebula, a cloud of gas and dust in outer space, 1,500 light years from Earth. So named due to the shape of its swirling gases, it is visible in the night sky as a dark silhouette against other luminous matter, though above the Horsehead is a bright pink gas which contrasts with the dark gas found below.

For his composition inspired by this phemonemon, Sheridan translates actual interstellar data into the music of The Horse. For the most part this metamorphosis of information into art creates interesting results, but at times – perhaps deliberately – it feels like not much is happening to keep us engaged musically.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Tempest in a Teacup review

Aerial Manx is one of those performers who has probably never said no to a challenge: someone who is always up for anything and testing new things and the limits of how far he can push himself and his body. Along with his wife Little Miss Bones, Manx and this new and intimate show showcases just that, and with acts such as his signature sword-swallowing backflip, Tempest in a Teacup makes it clear why he is a cut above the rest. Yes, this is not a show for the easily queasy.

It seems the older I get the more faint-hearted I become, and the tricks performed in Tempest in a Teacup reinforced this fact for me. The sword-swallowing I could actually watch, but when Manx lifted three bowling balls chained to his ears, seeing that lobe get stretched was incredibly intense. The only comfort to me was knowing that Manx and Little Miss Bones were obviously experienced professionals who had most likely performed these tricks countless times and nothing should go wrong, and thankfully nothing did, except for the technical mishaps.

How I Met My Son

A parent's love for a child should forever be unconditional, and that's exactly what Yolanda Bogert has displayed to her son Kai his entire life.Her new book How I Met My Son: A Story of Love that Transcends Gender looks at the moment when Bogert made worldwide news, when in December 2014, placed a birth notice in the Courier Mail.

It read: ‘A Retraction: In 1995 we announced the arrival of our sprogget, Elizabeth Anne, as a daughter. He informs us that we were mistaken. Oops! Our bad. We would now like to present, our wonderful son – Kai Bogert. Loving you is the easiest thing in the world. Tidy your room.’

How I Met My Son looks at that moment of accepting her transgender son and the impact the story had on their lives, ‘the sky didn’t fall, and our family didn’t fall apart. We just started using different pronouns. Oh, I had to change the name stored in my phone with his number. That was a bit of a pain,’ Bogert says.

Despite the positive awareness of transgender issues it raised, it is something that Bogert now regrets doing. One quick Google search of ‘Kai Bogert’ will quickly alert any potential employer of Kai’s transition, which means Kai will never ‘pass’ as being born male.

The launch of her first book coincides with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and to celebrate, Bogert and her son Kai, will lead a panel discussion with a focus on parenting trans kids at Hares and Hyenas. The event will include parents and transgender people including head of Transgender Victoria, and winner of 2015's GLBTI Person of the Year award Sally Goldner and writer Fury.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Sedih//Sunno review

There is so much I want to write down right now but I am unsure if it’s a critical review of the show I just saw or a visceral personal response. Such is the effect that Rani Pramesti has on you when you walk out of Sedih//Sunno. “Sedih” is Bahasa Indonesia for ‘sadness’ and “sunno” is ‘to listen’ in Fijian Hindi, so the show is an invitation to listen to our sadness. Or as one of the performers advised us, it is a meditation on such sadness. 

Sedih//Sunno is a collaborative performance installation piece by Pramesti, Ria Soemardjo, Kei Murakami and Shivanjani Lal, all sharing stories with us in this multi-sensory and multi-cultural show. As we take our seat in a room surrounded by gorgeous Indonesian batik fabrics, we hear the four women speaking over the top of each other in their various languages as if they are conversing at home with their family. I don’t understand any of it (except some snippets of Japanese), but it feels lively, fun and inviting.

Monday 9 May 2016

Dogfight review

Dogfight, based on the 1991 River Phoenix film, revolves around the actions of three marines on their final night in a small town in 1963, just before they are to be deployed to Okinawa, and then on to Vietnam. While the trio come from seemingly similar backgrounds, they are friends bound by circumstances of war. Over the course of this night, these bonds are tested, especially when Eddie meets the naive and innocent Rose.

The original production of Dogfight, with book by Peter Duchan, premiered in New York in 2012 and won the Lucille Lortel Outstanding Music Award as well as being nominated for a number of others. However, so much of the show feels outdated, and unfortunately there is nothing new or especially engaging being offered by this story – whereupon even those who are not familiar with the film itself can see exactly how things are going to pan out.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Under My Skin review

Presented as part of the 2016 Next Wave Festival, Under My Skin is a new dance/performance piece that explores how we choose to present ourselves to the world and to consider the things we prefer not to reveal. However, what makes Under My Skin stand out from any other show is that the company behind this, The Delta Project, use both deaf and hearing dancers in its productions. 

With that in mind, there are visual and lighting cues for the four dancers (Anna Seymour, Amanda Lever, Luigi Vescio and Elvin Lam) to follow, but there were no discernible moments where I was able to notice these occurring, as all the dancers seemed to be intensely in tune with the movements of each other and of their own bodies. There was a definite sense of trust among them, which allowed the emotive choreography by Jo Dunbar and Lina Limosani to work so well among the dancers and make their performances all the more powerful.

The Orchid and the Crow review

Our twenties are generally spent figuring out who we are and what we want to get out of life. At 29, Daniel Tobias just wanted to live. Diagnosed with stage-four testicular cancer, with stage five being death, Tobias faced a long and scary battle, and despite the cancer having spread to his abdomen, lungs and neck at one point, it has been a battle he has been winning for the last twelve years. In The Orchid and the Crow, Tobias retells significant moments from this experience through a variety of songs, music and performance.

From the instant he appears on stage, it would be hard not to like Tobias. He is very affable and while there is a cheeky grin to him, there is also a vulnerability that he displays to the audience. Moreover, the show’s constant dynamic style and story switching – from a rock song about his parents falling in love to a retelling of how he was diagnosed to even an ode to his fallen testicle in Italian – keeps his audience engaged the whole time.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

The River review

A Man, a Woman, a cabin and a lot of fish. This is the set up for Red Stitch’s latest production and the Australian premiere of Jez Butterworth’s The River. The story is quite straightforward, with The Man bringing The Woman to his cabin to go fishing, but the performances and technical aspects present allow for a deeper understanding of what it means to be loved and to be deceived.

It’s been over a year since I saw Dion Mills in another fantastic Red Stitch production, Wet House, and with The River, Mills again shows his powerful ability not only to get inside his characters’ heads but to be able to so with apparent ease. Apart from his skill in masterfully gutting a fish, Mills’ The Man is a fine balance of masculinity, fragility and mystery and his naturalistic portrayal of him makes this character seem all the more tragic.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

A Lady's Guide to the Art of Being a Wingman

A wingman is a mate you bring along with you to parties or bars in the hope of "picking up" women. While the responsibility of a wingman can vary, the ultimate goal is to make the male look like he is a great catch and that the woman in question would be crazy to not fall for his charm. Despite so many hints and tips on being a wingman and scoring with the women, there is very little advice on what it means to be a good wingwoman, but The Desperettes are here to fix that.

Adorned with their large pink beehives hairstyles, The Desperettes (Natasha York, Belinda Hanne Reid and Lisa Woodbrook ) are coming together for A Lady's Guide to the Art of Being a Wingman, where they highlight the double standards that women face when it comes to dating. "We started writing it because we found the idea of women using "pick-up artist" techniques hilarious, but we quickly realised that hearing women using cheesy pickup lines and talking about how they're going out with the sole purpose of getting laid is still shocking for a lot of people, and it shouldn't be. It's about empowering women, regardless of age, appearance, sexual preference etc, to embrace their sexual side and have fun," Reid tells me. "With this show, we combine masculine mannerisms and suits with the hyper-femininity of bright pink beehives and girl-group choreography to try to subvert the gender norms."

Sunday 1 May 2016

All We Cannot Say - A Voiceless Party

In December, The Boon Companions created the immersive experience of The Clinic of Regrets. Set around the world’s first allergy tested, dermatologist-driven laboratory designed to help people process any regrets they may have and then to move on with their life. The event was met with strong, positive responses from attendees and this month, the anonymous art collective return with another event that is sure to get people talking with All We Cannot Say.

Except, there is a catch with this event, as talking is strictly prohibited. That's right, no commenting on how great someone's dress looks, how good the music is or introducing yourself to someone who caught your eye. But it's not all doom and gloom, as The Boon Companions assure me that there will still be liquor, dance, music, performance, art, story and immersive theatre, just without any talking. "We love the idea of having a party and taking away one element of how we communicate with others. Our hope for All We Cannot Say is that people still have a great time - drinking, dancing, interacting - but trust themselves to do so without using their voices. It's going to be a challenge, but we're trying to make it as safe and comfortable experience for attendees as possible."