Monday 28 November 2016

Reefer Madness review

Reefer Madness was originally a 1939 film intending to dissuade youth from smoking cannabis and highlighting the risks linked to this "pastime". In 1999, Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney opened their musical version of the show in Los Angeles and 17 years later it is presented by RL Productions, and the entire time watching, I kept wondering - why?

While I understand the tongue-in-cheek humour and the satirical nature of the cult show, I simply cannot find any laughs in rape or domestic violence. I will admit that I am not familiar with the film and unsure to what extent it makes these references but stating women will be raped if they are stoned and watching a female character being physically and verbally assaulted by a male - and played for laughs - is not on. Yes, you can argue that it was in the musical's book (from 1999), but these issues are so problematic for today's audience that I felt this production needs to consider and address this in some way.

What's Yours Is Mine review

"Give me a home among the gum trees, with lots of plum trees..." How the Australian dream has changed since 1974. But has it been for better of for worse? Presented as part of the Poppy Seed Festival, Hotel Now's What's Yours Is Mine explores Australian values and ownership of a land that was never ours to own, with an elaborate touch of campness.

The show begins at a reunion for Olympic Games volunteers where three friends - Milly, Ollie and Syd - reconnect and decide to go on a road trip together; Milly has just quit her job, Ollie has a car and Syd just wants to get away from everything. Cue road-trip montage and offbeat adventures as the three friends travel through the country.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Bijou: A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction review

We've all made choices in our lives or been in situations that we've lamented over. In Bijou: A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction, we are taken back to 1933, into Bar du Papillon where Bijou, shares her memories of secrets, sorrow and love through story-telling and song. 

Chrissie Shaw has selected a variety of songs and music authentic to the era and her voice perfectly encapsulates the emotions experienced with each song, from anger to sadness to joy. While I don't understand a word of French, when Shaw breaks into French vocals throughout the show, her body language, facial expressions and tone still allow the meaning behind the song to be conveyed. Accompanying Shaw on piano is the highly talented Alan Hicks, who plays - and sings - with aplomb and is very much at ease in his interactions with the audience.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Madame Nightshade's Poison Garden review

When Madame Nightshade appears in her garden and welcomes the audience in her own unique style, you quickly realise that all bets are off and anything can happen in this absurdist clowning show, and that no matter where you sit, you are not safe. Performed as part of La Mama's Explorations seasons for work in various stages of development, Madame Nightshade's Poison Garden is a show that will leave you stunned and flabbergasted with plenty of laughs.

Madame Nightshade's Poison Garden is like watching two shows. The first half has a twisted, macabre and imaginative whimsy to it. Vegetables are manipulated into hilarious firearms and grenades and while there is a scene with liquids and test tubes that could cause some anxiety in audience members, there is a sadness and a disturbing sweetness to Madame Nightshade's actions and behaviour. However, upon drinking her "poison" Madame Nightshade transforms into a creature that is difficult to describe, but one that closely resembles a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde situation.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

LadyCake review

When you hear the quote "let them eat cake", you can't help but think of Marie Antoinette. Interestingly enough, there is no official account of the lady ever having said this, and most facts point to it being almost impossible for it to have been coined by her. Performed as part of the Poppy Seed Festival, LadyCake looks at the life of Marie Antoinette through the eyes of three of her handmaidens and how there is much uncertainty on what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the last Queen of France. 

The three performers, Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway - who also created the story - seem to relish playing the three handmaidens, and to be having real fun in messing with history in such a macabre and ostentatious way. While set in the 18th century, the script includes references to modern innovations - such as the internet - darkly reminding us that despite the centuries, the roles women play in society have not changed that much. This is further highlighted in the scenes where they each play Marie's disapproving mother Maria Theresa, and of the general population who slowly began to turn against the Queen.

Monday 21 November 2016

Animal review

Watching Animal is a rare theatrical experience. It has such a visceral effect on you that you are left shaken and feeling extremely vulnerable and angry as you walk out. Created by Susie Dee, Kate Sherman and Nicci Wilks, it is an exploration of domestic violence and how women are meant to react in a world where violence against women and male brutishness is celebrated - and it is as gritty as physical theatre can be.

The stage design by Marg Horwell feels like a large shipping container; dark, cold and empty except for a number of small square cages. The two sisters climb and crawl over them, the whole time emoting that they are also caged, desperately looking for a way out. The tattered netting that covers the roof could be seen as protection from the outside but with the many holes in it, it is only a matter of time before it is destroyed. 

Sunday 20 November 2016

Hands Over Eyes review

There were times while watching Hands Over Eyes that I felt like I was watching a live episode of Black Mirror, a TV series that looks at how our over-reliance on technology can have far darker consequences than we could have imagined. Presented as part of La Mama Theatre Explorations season for work in various stages of development Peter Danastasio's Hands Over Eyes raises discussion on perceptions of truth and honesty and how the impact this can have on people.

Danny Carroll plays Paul Havour, a conversationalist who works for a company that conducts simulated experience sessions to assist patients with their past traumas or phobic treatments. Through the course of the week he begins to question his beliefs and work ethics while attempting to assist his patients with treatments he finds troubling.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Blessed review

The Poppy Seed Festival returns to Melbourne for its second year, opening with Fleur Kilpatrick's Blessed, a modern retelling of the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary informing her that she is to be the mother of Jesus. While her previous work, The City They Burned, successfully re-imagined the story of Lot and the fall of Sodom into contemporary times, in this production there is too much effort in pushing the religious undertones, whereupon I felt the authenticity of what Kilpatrick is attempting to create gets blurred.

The story follows Maggie and Grey (Olivia Monticciolo and Matt Hickey) who after years of no contact are reunited in Grey's grimy and shabby home. These are people who are from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, living in community housing who are struggling to make ends meet with low paying jobs.

Friday 11 November 2016

Shining City review

The effects of grief and guilt are hauntingly explored in Q44 Theatre's latest production of Conor McPherson's Shining City. Set in Dublin, the story revolves around a therapist and his patient, each with his own set of demons to face, and it's another example of the exemplary work on which this theatre company is building its reputation.

Anthony Scundi is exceptional as Ian, an ex-priest struggling with his loss of faith who has just opened up a therapy clinic. While initially coming across as someone who has his life in order, the ensuing scenes paint a picture of a man who is gradually unraveling. Scundi is well-paired with Sebastian Gunner as John, his new patient and the rapport they share feels genuine. Gunner nails a lengthy monologue that requires him to find the right balance of a range of emotions as he recount the events leading up to the death of his wife.

Friday 4 November 2016

Anicca review

In Buddhism, anicca (impermanence) is seen as the first of three marks of existence and the idea that existence is by nature, evanescent and inconstant. With his new show, Anicca, composer and performer Matthias Schack-Arnott manages to bring these beliefs into the thoughts of his audience as we reflect and ponder on the transient nature of not only moments in our lives, but of life itself.

While his previous show, Fluvial had its own impressive concept and visual design, Schack-Arnott has truly outdone himself with the design of the instrument for this performance. An array of bamboo sticks, pebbles, shells, felt and other tactile items are glued on to a flat round surface and with the use of a motor from an electric pottery wheel, Schack-Arnott gets the instrument spinning, where it begins to resemble a large roulette wheel. This variable-speed rotating instrument created with engineer Richard Allen, has no name and this adds to the mystery and wonder of the show.