Thursday 28 November 2019

You & I - Midsumma Festival preview

Formed in Brisbane, circus troupe Casus has always been proud of the diversity of its company and the performances they created. It is this vision that has led them to become internationally recognised as leaders in contemporary circus. With five works unders their belt, this summer two of its performers hit the Midsumma Festival with You & I, a touching and intimate exploration of a relationship between two men in love.

"You & I is a glimpse into these mens' lives," performer and co-founder of Casus, Jesse Scott says. "They are in a yurt in a subtropical rainforest of northern NSW. As they spend their time together, they perform a number of circus and dance acts, from trapeze to chair balances, from tango to hula hooping, and from acrobatics to a bit of silly magic but it all expresses the love, affection and joy felt by these people."

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Adam - Midsumma Festival preview

Adam Kashmiry risked being killed in order to live his life. The Egyptian born transgender man left his home and country at the age of 19 to seek asylum in Scotland for the opportunity to be himself. This extraordinary journey of resilience and strength was first performed at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is now making its Australian premiere this Midsumma Festival.

It took director Jacob Thomas less than a second after they read the script to know they had to put this on. “Adam’s story is an experience you can easily disregard through one’s privilege, which is exactly why it's vital for our communities to hear this story, particularly as seeking asylum is still incredibly difficult for LGBTIQA+ people," they explain. "White, Western queers - myself included - can forget, perhaps conveniently, how our communities abroad are surviving. They’re getting by without pride parades, support systems and events such as Midsumma. That’s not to say we’re without struggle here in Australia, but more that we can’t ignore the realities of our global queer families. We can hold both our struggles and the struggle of others at the same time."

Monday 25 November 2019

Queen Bette - Midsumma Festival preview

Visit Bette Davis’ grave and you’ll see the inscription on her tombstone reads: “she did it the hard way”, and indeed she did. During a Hollywood career that spanned 60 years, Davis made a name for herself as being a fiercely outspoken and independent woman at a time when Hollywood preferred their female stars to be demure and complaisant. Davis was quoted as saying “I survived because I was tougher than anyone else” and in Queen Bette, Jeanette Cronin retraces the life of the Hollywood icon and screen legend in a tribute performance to the woman who was regarded as the biggest bitch in Hollywood.

Apart from an uncanny resemblance to Davis, Cronin’s channeling of the Hollywood star in the 2015 premiere of Queen Bette was met with critical acclaim in her inimitable portrayal of Davis. However, before she felt comfortable becoming Davis, Cronin spent a substantial amount of time understanding her by reading books, interviews, stories and film viewings, to get as much insight as possible into Davis. “I suppose we had a mini Bette Festival in preparing for this show. The first volume of her autobiography, The Lonely Life, played a huge part in its creation, as did the many interviews she gave over her entire career,” Cronin tells me. “There is a wealth of material in the public domain and she was a great raconteur, very entertaining and articulate. A very bright lady. A lot of the dialogue is verbatim but there are also original speeches inspired by true events which I have penned.”

Trapped Inside a Fat Old Lady review

Forming the artistic portion of her PhD, Pauline Sherlock's Trapped Inside a Fat Old Lady is the auto-ethnographic ruminations of a middle-aged woman ranging on topics such as body image, mental health, intimacy and menopause. Through storytelling, stand-up and singing, Sherlock opens up on these and the impact they have had towards her journey of self-acceptance and self-love.

The show plays like a TED talk with Sherlock hooked up to a mic, pacing around the stage with small gesticulations and pausing between sentences as she smiles and looks out to the audience. This cool and calm demeanour puts her in a position of authority, which is particularly fitting as this is the story of her life, so we are swiftly drawn in and eager to hear all that she has to say.

Saturday 23 November 2019

People Suck review

How often do we complain about someone and describe them as the worst person ever? They might be rude, aggressive or obnoxious towards us, ignorant of the world around them or perhaps we simply don’t like the way they breathe. Written by Canadian duo Megan Phillips and Peter Cavell and presented by Melbourne theatre company, Salty Theatre, People Suck is a musical comedy that highlights these terrible human behaviours, and if you think this is only about them, then you’re in for quite an awakening as you begin to identify with the various examples.

The quintet (Belinda Jenkin, Tim Lancaster, Georgie Potter, Ashley Taylor and Ashley Weidner) go through a range of scenarios where people can excel at sucking. The workplace brings out a number of relatable gems, namely not liking a colleague for no particular reason and having your lunch eaten by the resident office thief. We delve into #MeToo territory with a sexist and lecherous boss but what People Suck does well in is taking something serious and giving us permission to laugh. The absurdity of religion and the reasoning as to why one God is better than the other is hilariously juvenile in "My God" and the joys of being surrounded by frenemies is brilliantly executed by Jenkin, Taylor and Potter in "When I See You Smile (I Want To Kill You)".

Monday 18 November 2019

The Audition review

Working with emerging artists who were also asylum seekers and immigrants, Outer Urban Projects have brought together a mix of writers and actors to explore the process of auditioning through two different lenses. One of these being for performance roles and investigating the power plays that are present between an actor, director and audience, and the other being asylum seekers auditioning to be permitted to live in this country. 

The Audition includes work from seven theatre writers (Christos Tsiolkas, Melissa Reeves, Milad Norouzi, Patricia Cornelius, Sahra Davoudi, Tes Lyssiotis and Wahibe Moussa) that examine the commonalities of these auditions. While not all of these are as powerful or engrossing as they could be due to writing and/or performances, each story highlights various issues pertaining to asylum seekers and immigrants. In one, an Iranian woman (Sahra Davoudi) is reading for the role of Hecuba from Euripides’ The Trojan Women only to have the Australian director (Peter Paltos) force his western interpretation of what a victim should look and act like. Later, these two actors meet again as an immigration officer and an asylum seeker, where Davoudi must once more pass an audition, this time to prove herself to be in need of asylum.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Exit Strategies review

In Exit Strategies, Mish Grigor explores not only various ways of leaving but also the thinking and process behind this, such as when to leave and how to walk away from a situation. This world premiere, a collaboration with APHIDS co-directors Lara Thoms and Eugenia Lim, is an intimate performance that brings the audience into its absurd environment as we question our own philosophies and decisions around exiting.

These exits are comical in description and execution, such as Grigor’s reenactments of sneaking out of a yoga class, but they are often acknowledging a greater social or cultural observation. She has a natural charisma on stage, and it is entertaining to see how she will depart next. She finds the subtleties for each scenario and simultaneously plays it naturally and plays it big. There are some thought-provoking points raised but unfortunately there is not enough substance to sustain it and you wish the show would go further in what it is trying to say. The exits never amount to anything substantial and as it nears its own end, Grigor’s words fail to carry adequate weight or urgency to generate a lasting impact on the issues that are introduced.