Tuesday 28 February 2017

The Play That Goes Wrong review

Before The Murder at Haversham Manor begins, the newly elected president of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, Chris Bean, appears on stage to welcome the audience. Bean is also the director of the play and ensures us that this will be the most impressive performance ever put on by this thespian group. However, when this 1920's themed whodunnit is a play within a play called The Play That Goes Wrong, well...it's fair to say that nothing goes according to plan, but the show must go on. And so it does, with many laughs along the way.

While The Murder at Haversham Manor plays out like an Agatha Christie-like plot, The Play That Goes Wrong reveals what happens on the Drama Society stage's as the actors contend with missing items, breaking props, forgotten lines and unconscious colleagues. While comparisons to the classic Noises Off are undeniable, there is still a freshness to the performance with the fun and laughs remaining constant, even if there are a handful of times when they get become slightly repetitive or milked too much.

Monday 27 February 2017

BLISS! - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

These days, you can't ask someone how their weekend was without learning about the new fitness class they discovered. A new, obscure class that involves beating yourself to a pulp, but all worth it for that perfect summer body. Presenting her show BLISS! as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Isabel Angus looks deeper into this cultural phenomenon where merely riding exercise bikes or lifting weights are no longer acceptable while also exploring what the "ideal" actually is in terms of able-bodied youth, beauty, whiteness, wealth and heteronormativity.

"BLISS! is a satirical character comedy, exploring the absurdity of extreme fitness and wellness culture," Angus tells me. "Prepare to be ‘fit-spired’ by twenty-something Penny Parsins, a #fitspo fanatic wellness guru who’s body is a temple and truly believes yours can be too. Except to see inspirational workouts performed by Penny and prepare to feel like a toxic bag of flesh who needs a Fit-tervention from Penny. As a self-appointed life guru, she has got what it takes to show you how you can live your #BestLife. And don’t forget to follow her on Instagram while you’re at it to get a glimpse into Penny's perfect life."

Sunday 26 February 2017

P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Neal Portenza is a name that anyone who has an interest in comedy should know. The creation of comedian Joshua Ladgrove, Neal Portenza is about as absurdly bizarre and hilarious as they get. The character returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with a new show simply called P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A. As with previous shows, you may read the show description and be entertained but utterly baffled by what it is actually about or you can try read between the lines...and then let Ladgrove know.

"The show is in a pre-embryonic state as of right now (20 February 2017) and so I can’t tell you what it's about with any degree of certainty," he says. "What I can say though, is that I want this show to be different from my previous outings, but to still retain all the elements of live comedy that I love. Chiefly, visceral, whole body laughter, stupidity, cleverness, characters, chaos, danger and fun. So, I suppose, going on past shows, the audience can expect a show that is very live and alive, and a bit different from night to night. I love involving the audience in a way that’s particular to that evening, but not in a hacky sort of way."

Saturday 25 February 2017

The Birds & The Beats - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

When you're growing up, sex can be a curious and foreign concept. You may have a lot of questions but where do you go to source reliable and honest answers? Returning to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, with The Birds & The Beats, Grant Busé has you covered. While his previous show, The Late Night Sexy Show looked at the joys of sex, this show goes right back to the beginning with Busé's hilarious, educational and cheeky night of a sing-a-long sex ed. class.

"With The Birds & The Beats, I'm aiming to get a little bit deeper - pun intended - than The Late Night Sexy Show which was a celebration of feeling sexy and being comfortable in your own skin," Bus
é explains. "The more and more I did The Late Night Sexy Show, the more I saw a huge disparity between audiences with sexual openness, awareness and education. Some nights people had no idea about some of the terms I was talking about and the show transformed into an educational sex seminar. I also had a surprising amount of parents come up to me after the show checking if it was ok to bring their teenage kids along because of the positive body image themes. That kind of prompted me to look into the topic of sex education. In a way, The Birds & The Beats can be seen as a sequel to The Late Night Sexy Show."

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Kagerou - Study of Translating Performance review

In 2011, Japan was hit by its most powerful earthquake ever recorded. With a magnitude of 9.0 - 9.1, it triggered a huge tsunami and resulted in the deaths of over 16,000 people and left thousands more injured. Referred to as "The Great East Japan earthquake" it was a devastating blow for Japan, with sympathies and aide coming from around the world.

In Kagerou - Study of Translating Performance, director Shun Hamanaka uses the story of Kyoko Takagi - a woman in her 70s who lost her husband in the tsunami - and attempts to explore how sympathy and connection between strangers can be born from a tragedy such as this. Hamanaka has opted for a minimal set design, having just three chairs on stage with video footage being projected onto a screen with some effective shadow work by lighting designer Hiroshi Isaka, emphasising the documentary-style of the performance.

Lifetime Guarantee review

Written by Ross Mueller, Lifetime Guarantee is a story shared by five characters whose lives intertwine as they seek love and connection in the modern world. Julian Dibley-Hall and Charles Purcell play Charles and Daniel, a couple living together who don't seem to actually want to be with each other despite their protestations. Charlie's new assistant Jodie has some interesting sexual predilections and Daniel's ex-wife Chloe is trying to move on with her life. And then there's Francis, whose interactions with each character seems to put them in situations they'd rather not be.

Unfortunately Mueller's script feels under-developed with some questionable character motivations throughout. The cast themselves do well with their characters' limited development, and with direction that seems surprisingly over-the-top, awkward and unnatural. Candace Miles manages to breathe some life into the aggrieved Chloe, bringing pleasing nuance to her portrayal. Izabella Yena as Jodie is initially full of spark and creates interest in her character, but once the assistant's "secret" is revealed, Jodie immediately becomes one-note and repetitive where even Yena's energy and effort is unable to make her relevant again.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Little Emperors review

In was in 1979 when - in order to control its population - China implemented a One Child Policy per family. While there were a number of ways that families could still have a second child, there were strict rules and regulations that had to be adhered to. In a society were males were more favourable, this law resulted in the murders of many female babies or families having to keep the existence of a second child a secret. In 2016, the Chinese government formally ended its One Child Policy.

Presented as part of Asia TOPA, Lachlan Philpott's Little Emperors is a look at one such family - while being representative of many - and the impact this law had on their lives and continues to do so. Alice Qin - making her Australian stage debut - is the standout as Huishan, who is in her 30s, single and still living with her mother in Beijing. Qin finds a delicate balance of guilt, frustration and resentment at the pressure of being the eldest child and the expectations placed upon her: that she marry and produce a grandchild for her mother, played by Diana (Xiaojie) Lin.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

The Intimate 8 by Moira Finucane

There is a sense of excitement and anticipation shared between twenty strangers as they stand around the National Gallery of Victoria's information desk. We are about to embark on Moira Finucane's The Intimate 8 tour of the gallery, and anyone who knows Moira Finucane knows that expectations should be left at the door and to openly accept the adventure that awaits.

 I'm not quite sure when or where Finucane appears from, but suddenly she stands before us, wearing a black flowing dress with Swarovski crystals. "This is the gallery ladies and gentlemen, The National Gallery of Victoria, and it belongs, belongs, belongs to you, to the people", she proclaims as we are guided through a number of artworks housed in the NGV. 

The tour requires we all wear headphones so that when we hear Finucane speak, it feels like she is a thought in your mind, as if your subconscious has suddenly come to life to enlighten you. Her constant elaborate movements, physical contact with the audience and steady, impassioned eye contact as she relays the history of the various paintings, sculptures and other works vividly bring these items to life as humanly possible.

Saturday 11 February 2017

The Bombay Talkies exhibition

Peter Dietze opening The Bombay Talkies
There is much to experience during the inaugural Asia TOPA Festival, a festival which celebrates the artistic and creative talent of our neighbouring Asian countries and Australia's connection with these countries. One such event is The Bombay Talkies exhibition that is currently on at ACMI, which offers a glimpse into a movie studio that changed the film industry in India.

Founded in 1934 by Himanshu Rai - a pioneer of Indian cinema - and Devika Rani - an actress who has been widely acknowledged as the first lady of Indian cinema, The Bombay Talkies produced 40 films in 20 years and lifted Indian films to that of international standards. 

This free exhibition consists of over 3,000 cultural artefacts once owned by Rai and highlights the impact that the studio had on the country during this time. The multitude of newspaper clippings, letters, invitations, stills and photographs all show the fascination (and even obsession) that audiences had for its films and actors, including Ashok Kumar, who became the star of the studio and an icon of Indian cinema.

Time's Journey Through a Room review

The inaugural Melbourne festival Asia TOPA is the opportunity for Australia to celebrate the contemporary arts with its neighbouring Asian countries. Time's Journey Through a Room comes to Melbourne from Japanese theatre company chelfitsch, and is a meditative and meaningful exploration of life, death, the in-between and the hereafter. Written and directed by Toshiki Okada, the performance is set a few days after the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, but if you think the performance is going to be about those events think again. Okada instead focuses on the relationships a young man has with his deceased wife and his new girlfriend.

The cast of three - Izumi Aoyagi, Mari Ando, Yo Yoshida - deliver deeply nuanced performances in roles that on the surface do not seem to demand much, but the subtleties of their characters and the delicate spoken nuances are where the complexities of hope and hopelessness are explored. There is a significant emotional detachment present by the performers throughout the show that is well-balanced and effectively manifested.

Thursday 9 February 2017

Baby Got Back review

It's time to honour the ass with this year's Midsumma Festival show, Baby Got Back. This one hour burlesque-circus-performance art all-female homage to the derrière is an uninhibited celebration of woman. Slut shaming or any degradation of women - whether by males or females - is not permitted here, where women are able to take pride in and control of their own bodies. Burlesque performers and producers of Baby Got Back, Vesper White and Frankie Valentine, ensure their show empowers women while entertaining the audience with some creative and ingenious performances.

The show begins strongly with a montage of scenes from various cartoons, movies and social media clips of asses, which is a great reminder of how the human posterior has been used and perceived by society. The opening performance has three performers appear wearing elaborate monstrous "pussy" cat costumes, wearing large heart-shaped collars branded with "dyke" on one, "slut" on another and "whore" on the third. By the end of the performance, these collars are ripped of and from there, it's a no-holds-barred booty-focused revelry.

Joining Vesper and Frankie on the stage are fellow burlesque performers Miss Jane Doe and 2016 Miss Burlesque Australia Bella de Jac. Rolling out the cast is the mischievous MC, Sydney’s Queen of Crude, Memphis Mae, who ensures that the performers and the audience behave themselves - to an extent. Through her hilarious powers of persuasion, she is even able to work up the entire crowd to get them to participate in "The Great Mooning".

Sunday 5 February 2017

Panti: High Heels in Low Places review

Drag artist Panti Bliss rose to prominence in 2014 after her speech about homophobia went viral, where even the Pet Shop Boy remixed her impassioned words into a song. As part of this year's Midsumma Festival, Panti's High Heels in Low Places is the opportunity for Melbourne audiences to be personaly regaled by The Queen of Ireland's stories, experiences and thoughts.

Panti has an innate ability in creating a welcoming, open and safe atmosphere in the room as she walks into the audience, introducing herself to various people, and on the evening I attended, actually meeting one of her cousins for the first time!

Saturday 4 February 2017

Free Admission review

It's been eight years since I first saw Ursula Martinez performing in London and was introduced to her hilarious tongue-in-cheek humour. Presented as part of the Midsumma Festival, Martinez returns to the stage with Free Admission, a show full of her unique comedy stylings which has us questioning how our thoughts and choices can easily prevent us from leading the life we desire, while also wittily providing a literal lesson in construction for us.

Martinez's delivery is well paced with an intentional air of awkwardness as she initially speaks in a slow speech, as if what she is sharing about life is taboo and shouldn't be spoken about. As the show progresses the confidence in her voice begins to pick up and finds her a new rhythm. While a small portion of the dialogue is quite jarring (and perhaps that is her intention), the majority gives Martinez the opportunity to open up amusingly but affectingly about her insecurities, hopes, fears and disappointments.