Saturday, 20 July 2019

A Room of One's Own review

In her essay, Women and Fiction, Virginia Woolf discussed why women throughout history were so limited in achieving success in literature. The essay and the series of lectures it evolved into in 1928, remain a potent feminist examination on three areas: what women are like, women and the fiction they write, and women and the fiction written about them. 

In A Room of One's Own, Peta Hanrahan has taken Woolf's words and adapted them for the stage putting her 90-year-old thoughts under a compelling new light. First performed in 2016 at La Mama Theatre, Hanrahan's production returns for a second season at fortyfive downstairs with four actors expressing Woolf's thoughts and ideas as if they were an internal dialogue. Hanrahan eloquently interprets these to present an intelligent and articulate conversation on feminism while ensuring a relevance to the contemporary world we live in.

Monday, 15 July 2019

You Are The Blood review

A serial killer is caught and spends the rest of his life in jail. While the victims' families might feel like justice has been served, what happens to the family of the serial killer? In Ashley Rose Wellman's You Are The Blood, the spotlight turns to the wife and children of David Boden, a man convicted of murdering seven people.

Shelby (Jessica Stanley) works as an office manager at a comedy club whose life is quite a mess, both literally and figuratively. Her mother Linda and brother Ben (Vivienne Powell and James Cerché) seem to be doing somewhat better but things reach a tipping point when it is reported that their murderous family member (Andrew Blackman) has recently become engaged to performance artist Sylvia (Jem Nicholas). Unfortunately, the story does not go much deeper than that and after almost 2.5 hours, you are left scratching your head and wondering how this production ended up much like Shelby's life.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

AutoCannibal review

The world is ending. We are facing an intense heatwave, crops and animals are dying and people are starving to death. In Mitch Jones' solo physical theatre work AutoCannibal, we witness one of the last people on Earth spending his final days living with the same ignorance and self-destructive mode that led to civilisation's doom in the first place.

From a design point of view, the show is highly successful in creating a grim and desolate environment. The lighting design by Paul Lim and sound design by Bonnie Knight (with contributions from Marco Cher-Gibard) is a constant reminder of the bleak future that awaits our protagonist (and us). They work together incredibly well to create tension and unease right through to the final moments. Similarly, Michael Baxter's minimal scaffolding set design conveys a reality void of any human warmth.

Friday, 5 July 2019

The Intriguing Case of The Silent Forest review

A young girl has been murdered and a Detective and his team have only seven days to locate The Tongue-Cutter in the suspense filled production of The Thursday Groups' The Intriguing Case of The Silent Forest. With its use of a number of theatrical devices and actor training methods, the show is a powerful and confronting exploration of pain, sorrow and the ability to heal within a noir setting.

From its opening moments, the cast (Rodrigo Calderón, Matthew Crosby, Kathleen Doyle, Eidann Glover, Alana Hoggart, and Lorna McLeod) deliver committed and convincing performances that never wane or falter. It's an ensemble that is very much tuned in to each other, which is crucial given the physical nature of the show.

Twigs That Never Took review

It can be difficult to move forward when you can't let go of the past. Where you spend your time reminiscing about your younger years as you try to avoid the future that awaits. In Donna De Palma's Twigs That Never Took, a middle-aged woman grapples with her mortality and loneliness as she opens up to the audience about her two lost loves. 

There is so much potential for this to be a refreshing exploration on gender roles and ageism, however the show reveals few important or profound realisations. This is most noticeable in the first half that consists of our protagonist Bianca describing her two weddings as well as all the various things one must consider when planning a wedding. While there are humorous moments presented, very little of it leads to anything substantial.

Friday, 28 June 2019

I Really Don't Care - Melbourne Cabaret Festival review

Melania Trump. The First Lady of the United States of America. The wife of Donald Trump. A model. What else do we know about her though? Presented as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Ron Elisha’s I Really Don't Care is a confessional cabaret in which Melania shares her inner most thoughts, desires and dreams, without concern for any repercussions.

Performer Kate Yaxley puts in a strong effort in her portrayal, but you can’t help but notice how terribly miscast she is for this role. While I don’t know Yaxley’s age, she is far too young to be playing a woman nearing 50 years of age and her appearance – particularly her hair colour and style – does not match that of Melania’s. Yaxley’s Melania is animated and lively, something we don’t see from her in public and while it’s fine to do this, some explanation as to why she is like that needs to be clearer. If you’re going to create a piece of theatre on a living person, (unless it's explicitly stated why) there needs to be some resemblance to that person, and in this case both appearance and personality do not match what we have seen and come to know about the First Lady.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Any Moment - Melbourne Cabaret Festival review

It’s always exciting to witness new Australian musical theatre being staged, and it’s even more of an experience seeing a production build towards its debut. Presented as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Bradley McCaw’s concept performance of Any Moment was an opportunity for the creative team and cast to try out some of the songs from the musical and have a play with the musical arrangements. 

Any Moment is set to take place over 24 hours beginning at midnight on New Year’s Eve as we follow the stories of several individuals from a single town. As this is a concept performance focusing on the music, we don’t really meet any of the characters or explore any narrative thread, but the songs chosen do give a good insight into the lives that they lead.

There’s plenty of Aussie humour in the songs, with a nod to The Castle in the opening number "Twenty More Till", and a later one where a character expresses how much he loves a woman in “Top Shelf”. “The Door” duet is a touching moment and can see this being a winning number once we get to know the characters. While it’s not confirmed which songs will be in the production, it will be sorely disappointing if this is not included. With musical direction by Shanon Whitelock, there’s a variety to the style and genre of songs McCaw has penned, including “Coming in From The Suburbs” which allows for the different types of people that reside in this town to be shown.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Creatures of the Deep - Melbourne Cabaret Festival review

Our oceans are dying and no one seems to care, but Picked Last For Sport is here to change that. With an aim to create environmentally sustainable and educational theatre, the company brought their award-winning documentary style cabaret Creatures of the Deep back for a short run during the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. Through some delightfully charming original songs and marvellously designed props, our Jacques Cousteau-esque narrator and his four unpaid interns dive deep into the ocean to introduce us to the various sea life that exist down below.

The performers - Jake Edgar, Cat Sanzaro, Ryan Smith, Sean Sully and Sarah Wall - have strong voices and ensure the songs they take the lead on are ones that will bring maximum use of their vocal range. Wall is particularly impressive with her sultry pink meanie jellyfish number, as is Sully's acoustic rendition on what it's like being a pregnant male seahorse.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Wunderage review

In a stunning collaboration between Circus Oz and Company 2, contemporary circus is seen in an exhilarating new light with their show Wunderage. With a focus on balance, this immersive show has the performances leaping off the stage and heading straight into the audience. This fresh concept of no seats and no barriers elevates Wunderage to being a truly unique experience resulting in an awe-inspiring evening.

Being able to walk around and in some cases stand directly under the performers as they balance themselves on a tightrope might be novel for audiences, but one can only imagine what this is like for the performers who are able to clearly see every movement and hear every word from the wide-eye crowd. Even in such close proximity, the ensemble - Phoebe Armstrong, Jess McCrindle, Kane Peterson, Chelsea McGuffin, Dylan Singh, Lachy Shelley, David Trappes and Skip Walker-Milne - remain extremely focused on their routines but actively engage with the audience when roaming through the space.

Dispersion review

You don't have to look too hard to notice that Melbourne has people from diverse cultures and communities living in it. We each have a story to tell and when you think about it, those stories are not that different from one another. Dispersion is a new circus show presented by the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) that gives an opportunity to its second year cohort to showcase their skills while exploring the idea of belonging and togetherness through some highly entertaining acts.

There is an intelligent and reflective narrative in Dispersion that emphasises identity and acceptance. Directed by Zebastian Hunter and Meredith Kitchem, all the acts are seamlessly integrated into the story resulting in a gripping emotional response from the audience. One of the highlights of this is how the opening and closing acts complement and contrast with each other and provide a satisfying and earned conclusion.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

When The Light Leaves review

Imagine you’re a 34-year-old man with a job that while you might not love, it allows you to live the happy life you lead. What you do love however is your boyfriend and the house that you share. You have dreams of travelling the world together. Now imagine getting diagnosed with terminal cancer. What happens next? In Rory Godbold’s first play When The Light Leaves, this becomes a reality for one person who needs to make one of the most tragic – and controversial – choices of his life.

When The Light Leaves non-linear narrative consists of numerous shifts in time and perspective that allows for the story to be told with significant care and development. Fortunately, the cast that has been assembled is more than able to meet the challenges of this production, especially Tomas Parrish who plays Dan, the aforementioned 34-year-old. He displays great ability to equally highlight Dan’s resolve and fear and in switching from being broken and pained to carefree and hopeful. Leigh Scully elicits a touching sincerity as Liam, Dan’s boyfriend, as he finds himself in denial of the future that is facing the couple. Together with Parrish, the relationship they present on stage feels like it has a genuine history and with a deep felt connection between them.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Drive review

In 2007, NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, embarked on a 14-hour drive to confront her ex-partner's new girlfriend. When apprehended by police, they discovered a wig, a BB pistol and ammunition, pepper spray, an 8-inch knife and a hammer in her car. This was clearly not intended to be a friendly visit. Drive, a new Australian work by Rebecca Meston, looks to explore not only what causes a woman who seemingly has everything to have a complete breakdown and become enveloped by revenge, but also to contemplate the expectations that are placed on women by society to play certain roles.

Unfortunately, Drive is unable to live up to the excitement of its origin and spreads itself far too thin as it attempts to make a commentary about the various factors surrounding this event. The production is too cold and distant in allowing the audience to understand our protagonist's frame of mind, and this comes mainly from the writing and the direction. Considering that Nowak wore adult diapers during her drive to prevent any unnecessary stops, Meston's script has no sense of urgency and is void of any tension and suspense. Sasha Zahra's direction is too focused in theatricality and not from a connection or emotional response to the story.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

THEM review

Unless you've lived through a war, it would be near impossible to understand the thoughts and feelings of those who have survived one. However, in Samah Sabawi's THEM, the audience is presented with an intimate exploration of five people who are caught in a war zone in the Middle East and the decisions they must make to simply stay alive.

Leila and Omar (Priscilla Doueihy and Abdulrahman Hammoud) are a young married couple with a baby, facing the agonising struggle of either leaving their village to become refugees for potentially the rest of their lives or staying put and seeing what eventuates. Omar's friends, Mohamad and Majid (Reece Vella and Khishraw Jones-Shukoor), each have their own issues to deal with as they plan their own escapes. The arrival of Salma (Claudia Greenstone), Omar's sister, who had made some questionable choices during the war, provides hope and despair for these people, which could ultimately lead to her own undoing.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

LOVE review

We all love and we all want to be loved. It’s tough to live without it but in Patricia Cornelius’ compelling new play LOVE, the idea of the difficulties of loving and living is explored in its rawest form. The story centres on three disenfranchised youths (Carly Sheppard, Tahlee Fereday and Ben Nichols) all struggling to find a connection with one another, even if that means more heartache and pain in the long term.

Cornelius has crafted a simple story of people trying to determine who they are but with a tragic layered complexity to how everything unfolds, the production has the audience completely invested in Annie’s narrative and eager to see how things will end for her. It’s incredible witnessing Cornelius create poetry from such brutal and violent language and how the rest of the creative team brings this vision together.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

The Three Graces review

Climate change, gender equality and the role of women in society all come together in Laura Lethlean's The Three Graces. Manifesting as a water fountain that has been turned off, three goddesses come together to voice their distress and opinions of where the world is heading and whether or not it's too late to work towards change. 

Madelaine Nunn, Candace Miles and Anna Rodway play Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne, collectively known as The Three Graces who were regarded to possess the essence of beauty, charm and grace. The three actors are dressed in various black jumpsuit-like outfits that echo peploi that The Three Graces would have worn, but also suits the characters they play in the contemporary scenes. While the three are adept with the material, the performances sometimes feel too exaggerated with big, expressive movements and dialogue that is awkward and unnatural.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Happy-Go-Wrong review

The sparkle in Andi Snelling’s eyes is evident throughout Happy-Go-Wrong and I’m not referring to the glitter she is wearing. Snelling was born to be on the stage, so it’s disheartening that chronic illness has kept her from doing this for a number of years. However, this is all changing with her new show that has her opening up about how it feels to not be able to do the thing you love and what it has taught her about life.

In Happy-Go-Wrong, a French angel (because why not?) named Lucky has come from Cloud Nine to seek out Snelling and offer her some guidance and perspective. These scenes are interspersed with Snelling's skilful use of spoken word, physical theatre, clowning, and music to express how being diagnosed with a chronic illness has impacted her. Snelling finds a marvellous balance between humour and sadness that allows the audience to comprehend the seriousness of her illness but not to leave them all wallowing in misery.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Bitch On Heat review

Bitch on Heat is the story of Pandora, the first woman on Earth. It begins with an over-the-top electrifying opening as a figure fights to be unleashed to the world, paired with booming dramatic music and lightning visual effects. It sets the tone for Leah Shelton’s high camp performance art exploration of women, sexuality and gender through a series of interconnected vignettes that reinforces the creative genius that she possesses.

Shelton appears in a full body rubber sex doll costume that leaves you feeling disquieted at the images it stirs up. While the big open mouth and blonde wig allude to space adventurer Barbarella, your mind can’t stop from visualising the murderous Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. It’s a fitting reminder to the intention of the work in highlighting women's sexuality but also the violence they endure in its various forms. Shelton fleshes out these ideas through gloriously camp humour, including one moment where that of being a good woman is linked to being a good dog with some perfectly timed and highly expressive panting.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Daddy review

You are immediately drowned in a haze of pink light as you take a step inside the venue. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust and take in the dreamlike space you have walked into. It is then you spot a figure in skimpy, shiny briefs posed like Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam on a pink cloud of fairy floss and you wonder how you didn't see it earlier. The last in a trilogy of confessional works by dancer/performer Joel Bray, Daddy explores his relationship with his father and subsequently his culture, while also opening up about being a gay man and how he uses sex in an effort to fill an emptiness inside himself.

Bray brings to the surface the relationships, the history and the culture that he has lost due to colonisation. While there’s gravity to what he saying, the fluffy pink set pieces and props (sugar and sweets) are a stark contrast to his words. There’s a link between his childhood and adulthood and culture and identity that is unable to be separated. Not having the opportunity to learn how to speak Wiradjuri as a child from his father, Bray uses an app on an iPhone. This exploration of loss is further highlighted as he struggles to teach himself how to shake-a-leg, a traditional Indigenous dance.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Looking for Tiger Lily review

Looking for Tiger Lily begins with a scene from the 1960 TV version of Peter Pan in which blonde, blue-eyed Indian “princess” Tiger Lily - played by American actress Sondra Lee - performs “Ugg-a-Wugg” with her tribe. As this screens on a projection, Portland’s premier drag clown Carla Rossi, the “ghost of white privilege”, appears on stage and joins in on the dance. This entrance sets the scene for Anthony Hudson’s (and his alter ego Carla's) solo show on the intersectionality and difficulties of coming to terms with his racial, gender and sexual identity. Hudson is a gay American who is three-eighths Native American with his father being a Grande Ronde tribal member and a mother from Germany.

Hudson’s storytelling is engaging and entertaining as he shares stories of his family and childhood and opening up about his constantly shifting ideas of his own identity. While the space is perhaps too big for an intimate show such as this, he uses it well, giving himself plenty of room to express himself. Hudson is articulate and clear in what he is saying, and his physicality and movement demonstrate his enthusiasm and passion, allowing the audience to be further immersed into his world and gain a better understanding of the issues he is raising.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The Honouring review

In his solo work The Honouring, emerging performer Jack Sheppard (Kurtjar people, Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York) combines movement, dialogue and puppetry to explore how a person’s spirit or soul can be prevented from moving on when culture does not recognise it. With some impressive design elements, it is a performance that doesn’t shy away from exposing pain or grief while still retaining an air of hope and peace.

Sheppard shines when he uses his body to tell this story and he throws himself into the powerful choreography. Paired with the history of ritual, it is captivating to see how Sheppard chooses to express the emotions and issues that arise from suicide as a First Nations person.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

That'll Teach Me - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Max Atwood has been a primary school teacher for five years and is living, breathing proof that while you can take the teacher out of the classroom, you can't take the classroom out of the teacher. So, before we begin today's lesson with his comedy show That'll Teach Me, Atwood advises us what our learning objectives are and how we will achieve those.

While Atwood shares anecdotes from his career (life?) as a teacher, the focus with this show rests with an incident between a student at a summer camp. When Atwood unintentionally offended a student by calling him a certain word, he allows the student the rare opportunity to call his teacher any name he wants - just once - without any form of punishment or consequence. It's a child's dream come true to tell their teacher he's a dickhead or an asswipe and not get a detention.