Monday 30 January 2017

Playing To Win review

Ash Flanders is confessedly one confused performer as he struggles to stay optimistic in a society and industry that like to chew people up before spitting them out in an instant. Presented as part of this year's Midsumma Festival, Playing To Win has Flanders - in a wonderful kitten leotard - holding his cabaret audience hostage as he recalls the lowlights and the lower-lights of being in said industry, resulting in an evening of great songs and engaging storytelling.

For the most part, Flanders draws on his own personal experiences with fame and success - including a tragically hilarious story involving Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy - but he also looks at the idolisation of reality TV star celebrities, particularly those who are famous for no discernible reasons. His send-up of Gina Liano's "Gina" perfume ad is a great touch in emphasising his frustrations of slipping down the black hole of failure.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Suburban Gothic review

Cabaret doesn't get more macabre and twisted than in Suburban Gothic. There is definitely "some spooky shit going down" in this show, but what makes it even more unnerving is that it is all apparently taking place just down the road from where you live - or even closer to home... 

What initially seem like charming and innocuous cabaret songs, soon turn grim and morbid at the masterful musical hands of writers Karlis Zaid, Mark Jones and Karin Muiznieks. The songs cleverly expose the darker underbelly of the suburbs in wry and witty ways, with no topic taboo.

Take A Seat review

When you die, will you be getting into heaven or will you be sent to hell? For a group of people this question will be answered sooner than they had hoped in Kieran Gould-Bowen's Take A Seat. Set in a waiting room for the lately deceased, these recently departed are given an opportunity to reflect on their lives before judgement is passed upon them.

The cast of seven consists of four actors making their stage debut, including Kotryna Gesait and Mursal Ahmadi who show distinct ability in understanding the characters and using their bodies and facial expressions to give authenticity to the depiction of what their lives were like.

The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar review

A local football club has run out of funds and is at a loss of what to do. "What is it that we have that people want?", laments one footballer shortly before taking off his top and showing off his toned body. And so The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar adventure begins. However, there are two other parallel stories occurring in two other country towns: at Karandah Heads, two locals encounter a celebrity staying at a caravan park, and at Galshank, a gay high school student tries to figure out what it is he wants. Presented as part of this year's Midsumma Festival, the three stories in The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar explore sexuality, relationships and love, and the different ways these can present themselves.

Helendale - the most fleshed out of the three stories (pun intended) - focuses on Angus (Chris Edwards) who secretly (and maybe not so secretly) swoons over footballer Mason (Guy Talon). Edwards is well cast as the shy, nervous and incredibly sarcastic Angus, with his body language and mannerisms bringing to the surface his anxieties and desires. The support cast does well with their characters and are given the opportunity to show multiple sides of their personalities. They're not just footballers but also friends, brothers, boyfriends, etc. etc., and Sam Nix as Angus' brother, Tom is a great example of embracing this chance for strong character development. There are scenes of bravado when Tom is with "the boys" talking football but there are sincere moments when speaking to his brother about life and reaching for the opportunities it has to offer.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Animal review

Performed as part of this year's Midsumma Festival, Animal explores what it means to be 'human' in relation to sexuality, relationships and society through the duality of man and beast. Created and performed by Mikey J. White, it is a multidisciplinary piece that incorporates theatre, music, burlesque, multimedia and spoken word that has us questioning how superior we actually are to animals.

White personifies a variety of animals throughout the show and there is an almost ritualistic process in becoming each animal through the wearing of a near-abstract, skeleton head-piece of the animal being portrayed. This results in a cleverly nuanced performance by White whereupon his physicality and mannerisms begin to be an extension of each animal. The hessian bag that is worn around his waist further highlights this duality that White is keen to explore. On the one hand, the bag is coarse and has a primal feeling to it and on the other, the makeshift trousers are a sign of respectability and civility.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

I Am My Own Wife review

The last song I expected to hear playing over the speakers as I entered the space for I Am My Own Wife, was "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer. But the purpose is later made clear as we learn about the extraordinary and intriguing life of German transgender woman, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who survived both the Nazi and the Communist regime. While that might be a valid reason to admire her, it is not a guarantee that she was also a hero.

American playwright Doug Wright, travelled to Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and after a series of interviews with von Mahlsdorf totalling hundreds of hours, wrote I Am My Own Wife. Thus, the show is not just about von Mahlsdorf's life but also Wright's own role in this tale and the impact that the experience of trying to get inside the head of this enigmatic person had upon him.

On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience review

There are not too many people in the world who do not know who Kylie Minogue is. And the same could be said for her sister Dannii Minogue. But what about Erin Minogue? That's right, the other, other Minogue sister who has also been seeking her own piece of the fame pie. Presented as part of this year's Midsumma Festival,  On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience focuses on the youngest Minogue sibling who is given her moment to shine in this well-crafted and stylish comedy cabaret about the true story of a fictitious person.

Written by Chris Gist and Paul Kooperman with Lizzie Moore (who also performs as Erin), we are taken through the decades of the Minogue sisters' lives and it revealed what Erin's role in each significant moment was or what the reason was for her absence. When it comes to the case of the Young Talent Time, while all three were originally booked to audition, Erin had a doctor's appointment she had to go to due to her mother's concern of her unusual growth spurt...

Kooza review

Trying to put into words what watching Cirque Du Soleil's Kooza (inspired by the Sanskrit words "koza", meaning "box" or "treasure") is like, is not the easiest thing when you spend the majority of the show absolutely speechless and stunned with the skills and performances of its hugely talented cast. Returning to Melbourne with this brand new show, Cirque Du Soleil dazzles once again as Kooza tells the story of The Innocent as he is transported into a world of surprises in a kingdom inhabited by strange and peculiar people.

The night is a non-stop run of entertainment and wonderment, which includes Mongolian contortionists Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan and Ninjin Altankhuyag twisting their bodies in ways and in speeds you've never seen before that would put The Exorcist to shame. Other performances include an intense double high wire act, a romantic unicycle duo and a chair balancing act that reaches some amazing heights.

However, the award for the most heart-stopping moment I have had in watching a live show would have to go to Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solisand with their 700kg Wheel of Death routine. Powered solely by the two Colombians, the huge wheel is rotated and counter-rotated at incredible speeds with leaps, jumps and skips that had everyone on the edge of the seats. A slight stumble from one of the performers sent fear rippling through the audience, reminding us that we are seeing high risk acts where precision timing is key with no room for even the slightest of errors.

Sunday 22 January 2017

The Happy Prince review

Oscar Wilde's short story, The Happy Prince, tells the tale of a golden statue of a prince that overlooks a city. Along with a flying swallow that he encounters, the Happy Prince sacrifices itself in vain in order to help the people who are suffering from poverty. As part of Midsumma Festival, queer theatre company, Little Ones Theatre, have taken to Wilde's story but adapted it through a queer lens. The contemporary homo-erotic story now explores the desperation and futility that two women experience in order to remain with the one they love.

Dressed in a gold sequinned dress with gold nail polish and a smear of gold face paint, Janine Watson wondrously captures the innocence (and ignorance) of the Happy Prince. As the sacrifices become bigger, her determination becomes more evident in bringing happiness and good to the people, regardless how fleeting or thankful the act might be.

Thursday 19 January 2017

A Night at the Musicals review

Who doesn't love the glitz, glamour and grandness of a musical showtune? Presented as part of this year's Midsumma Festival, A Night at the Musicals starring Le Gateau Chocolat and Jonny Woo showcases the vocal talents these two world famous artists have, as they take us through a select number of songs from some of the finest musicals that have existed - but with an added shake of camp and a shimmy of sass.

We are advised at the very beginning that this is a performance where musical theatre goes to die. The two have a highly energised presence and through tenuous links of somewhat aimless banter, introduce us to each song. Dressed in some shiny and often dazzling outfits, they take advantage of their differences in physical appearance and singing styles, and each is given the opportunity to shine (and outshine the other) through their chosen repertoire.