Saturday 31 December 2016

On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience - Midsumma preview

There is not a household in Australia that is not familiar with Kylie or Dannii Minogue. Whether you love them or loathe them, they are two of Australia's biggest celebrities. But little is known about the other Minogue sister, Erin. The youngest sibling has often been overlooked and overshadowed when it comes to musical talent by her older sisters. Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience explores the life of the Minogue sister who never existed, based on an entirely untrue story.

Lizzie Moore has been performing as Erin Minogue since 2014 when the show premiered at Adelaide Cabaret Festival but she's been a fan of the singers for a lot longer. "The Minogues have been part of my life since I was little," she says. "I have strong memories of my older sister dressed up as Dannii on Young Talent Time (me as Courtney Compagnino), wearing a very cool oversized black jumper from Dannii's K-Mart range, driving around the streets of Melbourne singing to Kylie's Impossible Princess album, dreaming of being Simon Cowell's not so secret love affair (made that one up. What were you thinking, Dannii??!!)"

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Top 10 TV Shows of 2016

I spent a lot of 2016 watching a variety of TV shows from a broad range of genres and in my need to always finish what I start, I never "quit" a TV show until I finished its entire season - regardless of how bad it is or how much I hate it. But with the bad comes some utterly brilliant ones, so I decided to list my top ten TV shows of 2016, based purely on their most recent season.

If you're not up to date with the season, read with caution as some spoilers may be revealed.

1. American Crime - season 2

This anthology series drew me in from the very first episode. Felicity Huffman is in top form as the principal of an elite high school whose job becomes very difficult when a student on a scholarship accuses the basketball team star players of rape.
Connor Jessup is a phenomenal find, so much of the season rests on his shoulders and in being able to show the conflicting emotions of his character, Taylor, in dealing with the the ramifications of his accusation.
The story is told through various perspectives and therefore you're never quite sure as to what the truth actually is. While dealing with the alleged rape, American Crime is a nuanced look at race, class and privilege and what happens when the status quo is threatened.

While we live in the era of binge watching, the themes that are explored here are quite heavy and emotive, so a weekly episode was perfect with this (and also gets you excited about what happens next - none of this instant gratification stuff!)
The beauty of anthology series' is that you don't need to watch season one first, and while the first season is brilliant, there is so much more to admire about season two, and reflect on as well.

Sunday 25 December 2016

I Am My Own Wife - Midsumma preview

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was a German transvestite who survived the Nazis and the Communists and helped start the German gay liberation movement. Her story is so incredible that even while learning about it, you wouldn't be alone in thinking think that some of it has been made up, but you would be wrong. American playwright Doug Wright travelled to Berlin and after a series of interviews - totalling hundreds of hours  - with von Mahlsdorf talking about her extraordinary life, wrote I Am My Own Wife.

Since its premiere in 2003, the play has been performed around the world and throughout Australia, and during the 2017 Midsumma Festival, Melbourne audiences will have the opportunity to witness the fascinating story of Berlin's most notorious transgendered woman on stage.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Baby Got Back - Midsumma preview

If you're looking for some cheeky entertainment during Midsumma, then you really cannot go past Baby Got Back, a celebration of everything ass. That's right, those glutes are getting a show of their own. The all-female homage to the derrière is a 'psychosexual adventure of demented dancehall, projection mashups & remixed soundscapes, burlesque shakedowns and stripper mayhem'.

After sold out season at the 2015 and 2016 Fringe World in Perth, the show is finally making its way to Melbourne and the cast could not be more thrilled. "Basically, we came up with the show because we are a bunch of perverts," Frankie Valentine, one of the performers of Baby Got Back laughs. "We are so excited to finally be bringing this show to Melbourne though! The concept of the show has definitely changed and morphed as we continue to do it. Initially it was simply about a celebration of women's bodies and a mutual appreciation of ass. As we continue with the show we use it as a platform to highlight numerous issues we face as women in our society."

Monday 19 December 2016

The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar - Midsumma preview

As the end of 2016 approaches, there are a plethora of 2017 calendars being released, including the first all male redhead naked calendar, the University of Sydney student naked charity calendar and even a calendar featuring near naked 'hunks' helping animals in distress. Well now the Helendale Hornets are now getting in on the action. Written by Jake Stewart and presented as part of Midsumma Festival, The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar will look at the lengths a local football club will go to in order to secure itself a future.

However, this is not the only event to be told, as Stewart informs me there are a number of interesting stories to be told from within these small country towns. "The play is actually three independent stories told simultaneously, with Helendale being just one of them. While we tell the story of the Helendale Hornets photographing their nude calendar, we also delve into the Lynx-scented dynamic of an all-male classroom in Galshank, as well as the events surrounding a hunky celebrity arrival at a caravan park in Karandah Heads.
These three stories are all told with a young gay protagonist at the helm," he explains. "As we have been rehearsing, it's been exciting to watch the ways in which these stories illuminate each other. As is the sheer wonder of watching eleven brave, funny, talented guys work together to tell three complex, socially pertinent stories."

Saturday 17 December 2016

Top 10 Shows of 2016

What a year of theatre! Managed to squeeze in 172 performances in 2016 while working full-time and starting a Masters part-time. Not sure where I found the time or the energy but there's just so much great theatre and live performances happening in Melbourne constantly, that it's impossible to say no to things. Having said that, there are still shows I deeply regret missing out on seeing this year but unfortunately that is always going to be the case, it's impossible to see everything.

Seeing the 2017 programs for Dance Massive, Midsumma, Arts House, Malthouse Theatre, The Butterfly Club and Theatreworks (just to name a few), there is something in store for everyone no matter what your interests so get on it! 
I know it's going to be another busy year for me and I cannot wait, but back to 2016 and my top ten shows of the year. If I originally reviewed the show then a link to the original review is also provided.

So, without further ado, here is my list:

1. Picnic At Hanging Rock

Picnic At Hanging Rock Photo Credit: Pia Johnson
Having been a massive fan of the book and movie, I was initially skeptical as to how Matt Lutton's production would hold up, but I was utterly impressed by this that I decided to see it a second time.
Lutton perfectly captures the repressed sexuality of these private schoolgirls and the harsh landscape in which these people attempt to own and control.
The ensemble (Elizabeth Nabben, Amber McMahon, Arielle Gray, Harriet Gordon-Anderson and Nikki Shiels) are flawless in their various roles, constantly switching between characters - covering both genders and a range of ages - in the blink of an eye.

A thoughtful and inspiring set design by Zoë Atkinson - particularly the ominous 'tree' hanging over the rest of the set in the shadows - together with Paul Jackson's lighting design, Ash Gibson Greig's composition and J. David Franzk's sound design made Picnic At Hanging Rock an unforgettable example of creating horror in theatre.
Full subscription to Malthouse Theatre's incredible 2017 season has already been purchased and can't wait to see what's to come.

Animal - Midsumma preview

For three nights during Midsumma Festival, audiences will have the opportunity to unleash their inner animal with Mikey J White's new work, Animal. This multidisciplinary piece incorporates theatre, music, burlesque, multimedia and spoken word to explore what it means to be 'human' in relation to sexuality, relationships and society through the duality of man and beast.

Earlier this year, White presented SXIINS (TWELVE SKINS), another multidisciplinary piece, which looked at identity and how to 'be a man'. Animal grew from what was conceived in SXINNS (Twelve Skins), but this time, his focus has moved broader by looking at how to 'be a human'. "Both these shows are about self exploration and identity. I like to constantly question and challenge myself and conventional social norms on what is the correct way to 'be a man' or 'be a human' or just to be," White explains. "I think a lot of this comes from being a queer man in a straight world and it has forced me to look at my views not only on sexuality but on the world in general."

Thursday 15 December 2016

Briefs review

Having seen Briefs last year in an upstairs room of the Athenaeum, I was more than eager to see them again for their short return Melbourne season. The six talented performers covering (or uncovering) burlesque, circus, drag and everything else in between, were a highlight of last year and after seeing their show on Tuesday night, remains a highlight for this year as well. 

Led by the charismatic and engaging bearded lady Shivannah (alter ego of ringmaster Fez Fa’anana), the performances are nothing short of mesmerizing and laugh-out-loud hilarity with plenty of skin on display - it is called Briefs for a reason, after all.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

#Dragformation - Midsumma preview

Aaron Walker's latest exhibition, presented as part of Midsumma, looks into the world of drag and what it represents. #Dragformation aims to capture and document what 'drag' is, what it means, and who the people who engage with it are through before and after portrait photography of the performer.

Walker's conceptualisation for this project came through photographing the performers of a drag show backstage. "As I was shooting, what really struck me more than the show was the transformation process itself. After the show I knew I had to see if I could capture this on film in a way that needed to be a natural everyday look but also fabulous and spectacular. That’s when I chose to use a diptych to convey the effect of the drag artist’s look and persona from the street to the stage," Walker explains.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Convergent Pathologies - Midsumma preview

One of the more intriguing exhibitions being presented at Midsumma Festival is Premier Event, Convergent Pathologies. Curated by myriad collective's darcy t gunk, the work on display by trans and gender diverse (TGD) artists living with mental illness, is a representation of their experiences of making choices to resist or comply with being pathologised.

As co-founder of myriad collective - a group that seeks to create performance, exhibition and professional development opportunities for TGD artists in Melbourne - finding the talent for this exhibition was not an arduous one for darcy. "Almost all of the artists in this exhibition have worked with myriad collective before, which meant that they understood how we do things, and our ethics and values as a collective. We did an open call for submissions and the response we got was that they were really excited to be part of this exhibition. myriad collective is all about bringing together a broad diversity of trans and gender diverse experience, so I wanted to fit as many artists into the exhibition as possible, whilst still allowing them to present up to 3 works each," darcy says.

Monday 12 December 2016

The Sparrow Men - Midsumma preview

From humble beginnings in July 2014 to now being a Premier Event at the 2017 Midsumma Festival, The Sparrow Men - aka. Andy Balloch and Marcus Willis - have garnered a reputation as one of Melbourne's most esteemed improv acts. The two have been performing regularly with no script, no direction and no idea on what is going to come out of their mouths for 2 and a half years and could not be more excited to be returning to the festival where they debuted their first full-length performance in 2015.

"Improv is such an incredible art form, and the only one where the process is the actual product. Every night we get to write, direct and star in our own play. And like plays, they can be funny, sad, dramatic, absurd, linear, non-linear, thematic based, premise driven, tackle important issues, non-important issues, it can be meta, non-meta, interactive, non-interactive, in English or not in English. We can play humans, birds, or anything in-between, play 1 character each, or 20, maybe there’s a narrator, maybe not," Balloch tells me.

Cleave review

In 1908, conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were born in England. About 55 years later, Colleen Burke and her twin sister were born - five minutes apart separated by three years. Burke was born with two vaginas and her sister was born severely disabled with Cerebral Palsy. Presented as part of La Mama Theatre's Exploration season for work in various stages of development, and under the dramaturgy of Doug McLeod, Burke's Cleave explores the relationship that each set of twins has and - despite the decades between them - the similarities shared between their lives.

Having only completed the story very recently, Burke performs a scripted reading of Cleave while placing a select number of props on the stage. There is a toy train set, a sculpture of two fused humans embracing, a photo of the Hilton twins and a rolling pin. There are also a number of props revealed throughout the show, which - especially during a scripted reading - allow us to remain visually engaged with the performance.

Sunday 11 December 2016

The Happy Prince - Midsumma preview

Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince is a short story for children around friendship, love and compassion between a statue of The Happy Prince and a swallow flying to Egypt. However, the story is also a critique of a society insensible to the world around it. As part of Midsumma Festival, the proclaimed purveyors of high camp, Little Ones Theatre will be producing this tale but with their own queer interpretation. 

"It’s funny, because I only read this story as an adult, so I guess I’ve always seen it as a queer allegory. I never had the innocent response to it that those who read it as children had. It has always had a 'queer take' in my mind. That is why I was drawn to it," explains director Stephen Nicolazzo. "I always saw it as an opportunity to further explore my obsession with sexuality and gender, but in this case, what was unique was that it was a love story. I am a romantic as heart and I think what I have always been draw to about The Happy Prince is its unashamed romanticism. It is tragic and it is indicative of the experiences of queer people throughout history and it manages to do this in the space of ten pages."

Sunday 4 December 2016

F. review

It's probably rarer now for parents to need to sit down and speak to their children about the birds and the bees. Books such as "Where Did I Come From?" now seem obsolete, and by the time teenagers are learning anything to do with sex education in high school, they already seem to know it all. Presented by Riot Stage as part of the Poppy Seed Festival, F. attempts to explore how a group of teenagers come to terms with sex and sexuality as most people of the last decade have - through technology.

Unfortunately the execution is not always successful, as the production's central concern with how technology is used with sex is at times completely ignored, or does not explore issues raised to any great depths. Thus, one of the main story lines - where two friends enter into a sexual relationship - is surprisingly developed without the use of any social media or technology whatsoever apart from one scene where the male character refers to the three voicemails he left her. In contrast, a female character's revelation that an ex-partner has put a naked photo of her on the internet is initially met with mediocre disgust by her friends but is immediately dropped and never mentioned again, nor do we see any impact this has on the character.