Saturday 27 January 2018

Strangers in Between - Midsumma Festival review

There's nothing more important than family, let that be the family you are given or the family you make. In Tommy Murphy's Strangers In Between, a young man dealing with his sexuality escapes from his small city of Gouldburn to Sydney's Kings Cross in order to find himself, but in the process ends up finding a family to support and guide him. While this production was first staged in Sydney in 2005, and there are elements of it that are still relevant to today's society, its place in 2018 is difficult to pinpoint.

Murphy's script shoots out genuinely funny gags and witty one-liners like rapid-fire, but in return we rarely spend any time getting to know the supporting characters that are far more of interest than the protagonist. This might be Shane's story, a young, white male coming to terms with his homosexuality, but in 2018 his story is nothing we haven't heard before and so audience engagement wanes. Shane's naivety also begins to wear thin very quickly, particularly with the inconsistencies of his character where he is able to find a job and get his own one-bedroom apartment but then has no idea what his medicare number is or how to even get one.

Friday 26 January 2018

KillJoy - Destroy the Fantasy - Midsumma Festival review

A woman is out dancing with friends and having a good time. She walks home alone. Most people can guess what happens next. However KillJoy are here to change that narrative. Presented by a trio of feminist performers as part of Midsumma Festival, Destroy the Fantasy is a circus and live art exploration of what being a woman means and the issues still facing them.

With an array of eye-catching and colourful costumes, KillJoy (Mahla Bird, Cat Scobie and Amy Broomstick) present a variety of acts focusing on feminism, equality and the different forms of violence against women. Each act makes a strong statement with regards to what it is drawing attention to, where even as a male, I am able to empathise and understand what it must feel like for a woman to live in this society.

Oscar Wilde's De Profundis - Midsumma Festival review

When most people think of Oscar Wilde, the first thought that comes to mind is one of comedy and laughs, most notably due to his plays An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. However, in 1895, while incarcerated and forced into hard prison labour for gross indecency, Wilde spent two years virtually deprived of any comfort and affection, and perhaps most importantly for him, books and writing. It was during this time that he penned a love letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, who was his lover at the time of his conviction, and also his betrayer. Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, De Profundis (From the Depths) is a darker, more distressing side to Wilde that is rarely heard of, and is a poignant look at forgiveness and acceptance.

Sunday 21 January 2018

The Cocoa Butter Club - Midsumma Festival review

The Cocoa Butter Club has been showcasing the talents of Indigenous and/or Performers of Colour (IaoPoc) in London since its inception in 2016. In 2017, theatre maker and live artist Krishna Istha and drag king and community artist Dani Weber launched the Australian based group and for Midsumma Festival the duo have returned with a new curated evening of burlesque and performance at Arts Centre Melbourne.

Istha and Weber have brought together an accomplished list of performers that are not only thoroughly entertaining but who also use their art to leave an impact or mark on their audience and to raise awareness of the issues they're facing. Singer/songwriter Garret Lyon's three song performance was a highlight of the evening and I'm confused as to why a voice like that is not as well known as it should be. Similarly, Melbourne musician Mojo Juju had the Fairfax Theatre erupting in applause with her appearance.

Saturday 20 January 2018

Spice Up Your Life - Midsumma Festival review

Say what you will but the 90s were one of the best decades for music. After all, it was an era that included Britney Spears, Tina Arena, Backstreet Boys, S Club 7 and the Spice Girls. Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, Spice Up Your Life takes the audience back to a time where music was pure and fun and where neon windbreakers, bandannas and overalls with straps down were considered fashionable.

The six performers, Jacqueline Irvine, Rachel Bronca, Alexia Brinsley, Nik Murillo, James Terry and Finn Alexander, blast their way through a number of some well known 90s pop tracks with half the fun being guessing which one will be next. There was a wave of approval that seemed to flow through the audience with each new song, indicating that the cast had done their research well.

Spectrum - Midsumma Festival review

Uncovered Circus returns to Midsumma Festival with their new show, Spectrum. While last year's show, Uncovered, explored homosexuality and first time encounters, this time round, director and performer Dave Coombs has broadened the scope looking to highlight the experiences of the rainbow that creates the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Spectrum begins with an intriguing opening act with Liam Dunner on the aerial straps. It's an arresting routine with the rest of the cast standing either side of him, gradually placing a row of coloured bottles centre stage in recognition of the rainbow flag, thus firmly establishing the intent of this show.

The range of acts that follow showcase the skills these up and coming circus performers have worked hard on refining. Spectrum asks a lot from its cast and while there are a few mishaps here and there (this is circus after all), they deliver some exceptional moments. Adam Malone displays incredible control and speed with his acrobatic hula-hoop act, and his head-balancing act on the Washington trapeze to Tinashe's "Bated Breath" can easily be considered to be Spectrum's heart stopping moment.

The song selection is integral to a circus such as this in heightening the emotions and experience being presented. Zoƫ Marshall and Nicole Pienaar's aerial hoop act to Abra's "Thinking of U" is a great example of a song working alongside their intimate choreography and vulnerable body language and expressions to create a clear and affecting story. Regardless of where you sit under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, the stirring response to Marshall and Pienarr's act is a universal one.

Friday 19 January 2018

Lucky: Songs by Kylie - Midsumma Festival review

She's been an Aussie darling from the moment she graced our television screens in April 1986 as Charlene Robinson on Neighbours. Since then, Kylie Minogue has become an international icon with a string of pop songs, and Melbourne is now fortunate enough to celebrate her in a tribute performance with an intimate look at her life and career.

In Lucky: Songs by Kylie Michael Griffiths is Kylie and recalls her early beginnings, failed romances and moments that cause her to question her mortality. One of the most appealing aspects of the show is that Griffiths doesn't dress like Kylie or 'act' like Kylie, rather he just is Kylie and it's fascinating how quickly you can easily accept this. In his white fitted shirt and black trousers and shoes, there are no hot pants or big curly blonde wigs in sight. It adds depth to the show and the defining moments of Michael Hutchence's death and Kylie's cancer battle, become even stronger.

Sunday 7 January 2018

A Midsummer Night's Dream review

Nestled within the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Australian Shakespeare Company present William Shakepeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This outdoor performance is the perfect way to spend a Melbourne summer evening enjoying a picnic with friends, surrounded by nature and being thoroughly entertained by the hijinks these Athenian residents and fairies find themselves in. 

For those unaware, the plot follows the marriage between Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazon. However their marriage is put on hold when Egeus announces he want his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius, despite Hermia wanting to marry Lysander and Hermia's close friend Helen being desperately in love with Demetrius. Within the forest that these young lovers find themselves, Oberon, the King of the Fairies attempts to put Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, under a magic spell. Of course, things don't go quite according to plan and just who is supposed to be in love with who becomes one confusing and chaotic romantic comedy.

Saturday 6 January 2018

The Unbelievables review

Magic, circus, live music and dance come together this summer at Arts Centre Melbourne with The Unbelievables. The variety show presents world-class performers that will often leave audiences captivated by what they are seeing in this two-hour live extravaganza.

Roberto Carlos Aguilar's juggling is an absolute highlight of the show and to have had him on stage for even a few more minutes would have been amazing. At times juggling with his mouth - yes, his mouth - this was one of the most thrilling acts of the evening, with Aguilar reaching speeds and variations that you rarely - if ever - get to see.

Aleksandra Kiedrowicz is mesmerising with her aerial performance and the accompanying musical rendition of Des'ree's "Kissing You" by Emi Secrest is a breathtaking moment, as is any musical number with Secrest. Sos and Victoria Petrosyan's Guinness World Record breaking act of 16-costume change illusions in two minutes will leave you gobsmacked, trying to figure out exactly how it is done.

Friday 5 January 2018

A Simple Space review

Having seen circus troupe Gravity & Other Myths perform Backbone at Melbourne Festival last year, there was much anticipation about seeing their debut show, A Simple Space, during its return season to Melbourne. While both shows exhibiting incredible creativity and skill, it's the absence of any elaborate concept and design that were present in Backbone that allows A Simple Space to blow you away.

The show is stripped off most props, lighting effects and other elements with only a black mat roughly four metres wide and six metres deep set up on stage. With our attention ultimately glued towards the seven acrobats, they work with the only thing that's left: each other. They demonstrate surprising feats on what the human body is capable of, through a variety of acts. At one point, one performer jumps on bodies lying on the floor, the gap getting bigger and bigger with each successive jump. The highlight though, comes during the 'swinging' act with two people swinging another between them by their hands and feet. The speed and various ways in which this is executed is almost beyond comprehension.