Saturday 29 February 2020

In A Cage That Looks Like Freedom - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Last year, comedian Isabella Valette told us just how far she'll go to get the job done in How Far I'll Go. Now, with her upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, In A Cage That Looks Like Freedom, Valette not only shows us how far she'll go but also how far she's come as she unpacks all of the mistaken ways we try to bring meaning in our lives.

"I wanted to create a show that encapsulates my fascination with what I like to refer to as ‘the glorious sea of the crowd'; events where people come together and fuse into one energy. What happens when we celebrate as a collective?" Valette asks. “I’m also interested in people who think of life as a game with different hacks to make yourself and your life better and be happy. My own ideas of happiness changed in the past twelve months, which was the impetus to write this show and it forced me to clarify what happiness is, but if you want to know the answer, then you’ll have to see the show," she laughs.

Grass review

We're all guilty of thinking the grass is always greener but we don't often get to find out for certain if this is true. In Yvonne Martin's new play, Grass, over a bottle of wine, two friends who haven't spent time together in over a year, finally put this to the test as they open up about children, family, careers and the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want.

This catch-up is interspersed with flashbacks showing the gradual deterioration of their friendship and while this gives performers Stephanie Daniel and Sarah Oldmeadow more to do with their characters, they don't add anything to the narrative as Lil and Aimee already express this in the present. We know why they drifted apart and how they blame the other for the rift in their friendship so seeing it act out provides no extra insights. Martin also allows an opportunity for the women to break out of the scene and share their inner thoughts with the audience. Her direction here is a little awkward as we wait for the other woman to leave the stage and would have been more effective if she had remained in the background as the monologue occurred.

Friday 28 February 2020

Are You Ready To Take The Law Into Your Own Hands review

It was seven years ago when I saw Kids Killing Kids but I remember it so vividly. The show reflected on a previous collaboration between four Australian theatre makers (David Finnigan, Georgie McAuley, Jordan Prosser and Sam Burns-Warr) and a Filipino theatre group, Sipat Lawin Ensemble, on their season of Battalia Royale. This was based on Japanese writer Koushun Takami's novel Battle Royale, in which high school students are pitted against each other in ways that would give the tributes in The Hunger Games nightmares. It proved to be extremely popular with thousands of people eagerly flocking to see it but also extremely controversial with its immersive depiction of violence. Fast forward to 2020 and the ensemble has brought its newest show to Melbourne, Are You Ready To Take The Law Into Your Own Hands. 

This time round the controversy surrounds the kidnapping of the biggest star of the Philippines, and it is up to three women to rescue her: Selina (Ji-ann Lachica) a social media influencer, her older sister Sanya (Claudia Enriquez) and police officer Sophia (Adrienne Vergara). There is action aplenty as they face-off in rap battles, dance challenges, underwater fighting and encounter corruption at every corner in order to free Gracielle V. Their personalities and circumstances might be outlandish but committed performances by the actors allow for honest and authentic characterisations to develop.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

The Great Australian Play review

Winner of the Patrick White Playwrights' Award, Kim Ho brings the great Australian play, aptly titled The Great Australian Play, to Theatre Works. This new satire begins with the Great Depression as Harold Bell Lasseter sets off on an expedition to find riches and salvation. We then fast forward 90 years to 2020 where Ho has persuaded Theatre Works that he can create the next great Aussie play around Lasseter's legend. He creates five characters to retrace the footsteps of the original journey, and it is here where things begin to escalate to horrific proportions.

There is enthusiasm in Ho's writing and he has clearly put in plenty of time and effort in creating this play, especially evident with the endless industry, pop culture and literary references. This results in instances of humorous scenes and laughter from the audience, but unfortunately it never goes beyond that. The frustration continues to increase during the two hour performance as we patiently wait for a satisfying narrative or a theme to form so we can justify its duration.

Thursday 13 February 2020

What Every Girl Should Know review

Four young girls living in a Catholic reformatory in 1914 experience an awakening when they come across Margaret Sanger’s Family Limitation, one of the first guides on birth control to be published in the United States. Monica Byrne’s What Every Girl Should Know has the girls questioning and challenging the faith and beliefs they’ve held as they start to explore their desires and fantasies from their new-found enlightenment that offers them power and liberation. 

The ensemble - Ravenna Bouckaert, Rachel Kamath, Vivian Nguyen and Shirong Wu – do a great job of bringing these girls to life and while they have distinct personalities, they don’t let them become stereotypes as they create a depth and authenticity to them. Nguyen is a highlight of the production, providing some comedic relief to the otherwise bleak (yet hopeful) narrative and she displays a carefully considered depiction of Lucy’s apprehension, fear and struggles.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

The Johnston Collection presents "An Interior Life" exhibition

William Robert Johnston was a Melbourne based antique dealer and a collector of beautiful things from the age of eight, when his grandmother gave him a little teacup. As his collection grew, Johnston wanted to share these unusual and visually arresting items with the wider community. Upon his death in 1986, the not-for-profit museum, The Johnston Collection was established which comprises of 1,400 objects of mostly 17th century English furniture, paintings, ceramics and objet d’art.

Part of the charm of the Johnston Collection stems from its revolving door of guest curators over the years, which has included The Australian Ballet's Artistic Director David McAllister, milliner Richard Nylon, interior design studio Hecker Guthrie, and Barking Spider Visual Theatre company. These curators are offered the freedom to express their personal connection and response to what they display and how it is set up, giving people the chance to view these objects from different perspectives and ensures a great rotation of the collection.

Thursday 6 February 2020

Big Glittery Sh!tshow - Midsumma Festival review

When you call your show Big Glittery Sh!tshow, you’re giving the impression that things will get very loose and very messy, and oh how they do with this one. After winning the 2019 Gasworks Circus Showdown, Jack Wilde, Shona Cona and Laney Mejias return with their full-length spectacle of wackiness, absurdity and the cheekiest of humour. Audiences should leave their expectations at the door and simply enjoy this bumpy but hugely entertaining ride. 

There is a lot of excitability and liveliness from this emerging group of circus artists. Of note is Cona, who not only performs her routines with a brazen attitude but actively draws us into them from the (relative) safety of our own seats. Wilde has an incredible charm to him and the way he interacts with the audience lets our inhibitions down, willing to go along with whatever he has planned. Mejias sings several songs that provide moments to gather ourselves with enough pizzazz to simultaneously keep us hyped up. 

The acts themselves might not be mind blowing but the way they are executed makes them feel more evolved. We’ve seen juggling before but Wilde’s choice of juggling items, the lead up to their reveal and what he does with them creates something quite unique. Similarly, Cona’s hula hopping brings with it amazing visual effects that are completely mesmerising and you're almost disappointed when it's over.

Adam - Midsumma Festival review

Adam Kashmiry left Egypt, his home and country, at the age of 19. He travelled to Scotland to seek asylum in order so that he could live. Adam is a transgender man, and his journey of determination and hope is presented as part of the Midsumma Festival in France Poet's critically acclaimed Adam.

Juan Gomez and Ollie Ayres both star as Adam, showing the complementary and contrasting nature of his personality, which links back to the contronyms (
words that have two opposing meanings) that they discuss throughout the play. The opposite yet same "parts" of Adam struggle as they try to find a sense of wholeness. This fight becomes evident particularly when Adam begins taking his testosterone injections, and it is acted out powerfully and honestly.

Saturday 1 February 2020

Summer of the 17th Doll - Midsumma Festival review

Po Po Mo Co and friends
Ray Lawler's Summer of the 17th Doll premiered in Melbourne in 1955 and its public appeal stemmed from its distinctive Australian characters in a distinctive Australian setting. It resonated with Australians so much, that people travelled hundreds of kilometres to see it when it toured the country. A subsequent UK tour also saw it receive almost universal critical acclaim. Its impact has been long standing due to the discourse it created on the Australia way of life. Fast forward 65 years, and its recent production for Midsumma Festival will no doubt be sparking even more conversation.

Queer collective Po Po Mo Co bring together an assortment of performing arts makers who have been allocated a scene from the play. They are provided the freedom to explore, dissect and tear it up in any way they like, so while there is a queerness running through the scenes, the final product allows this to be presented with a variety of engaging styles.