Thursday, 30 June 2022

Here We Are Amongst You review

I have not felt such sense of warmth and being cared for while watching a show than I have in the world premiere of Rawcus' Here We Are Amongst You. The Rawcus Ensemble began creating this in December 2019, looking into ideas around belonging, togetherness and being present in the moment, which is of particular significance now after the last few years, which for Melbournians has included a few hundred days of lockdown.

After a genuinely caring welcome by one of the cast, they begin walking through the space. Performed in the round, they enter and exit behind the audience, which makes you feel like not only part of the performance, but also part of this group. The smiles on their faces and the joy that they express as they walk and then begin to jog, run and skip with each other and around the audience is incredibly infectious.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

She Wrote the Letter review

In 1979, two teenagers from opposites sides of the world began writing to each other as pen pals. That friendship would see Ute from East Germany and Tania from New Zealand sharing their dreams and aspirations, their joy and grief, and their families and lives for over four decades. She Wrote The Letter brings this real life correspondence to the stage, gently dissecting how friendship fosters strength and hope when we need it most, and the profound impact that such people can have on us.

Playwright Kieran Carroll, presents the information and events covered as letters being read aloud (although this takes a conversational style at times), as monologues to express thoughts and feelings or through more traditional theatre with the two people speaking on the phone or face-to-face encounters. It would not be the easiest of tasks to squeeze forty years of friendship into an 85 minute production but what Carroll includes captures everything the audience requires to understand how deep this relationship runs between Ute and Tania. Most interestingly, Carroll uses historical happenings like the fall of the Berlin Wall and Princess Diana's death, as not only timestamps but also as ways of reminding us how external factors influence these two women and the bond they share.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

ICONIC review

After an enforced break from the stage and a live audience, the glamorous superstars of YUMMY return for a new drag and burlesque show, ICONIC. It’s an evening with lots of colour, sparkle, and skin on display as we are presented with a range of fun and sexy acts that celebrate queerness in all its forms.

The show begins with a bang with the performers lip syncing to Madison Rose’s aptly titled song “Iconic!” They all know how to command the audience’s attention in their unique way and allow their individual personalities to shine through while ensuring that they are still working as an ensemble. Special shout out to drag artist Hollywould Star who despite being a last-minute addition to the cast, more than held their own and I wish the stars had aligned better so that we could see them have a solo.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Eclipse review

After roughly three years since their last live performance, the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) has brought together 12 of its students for its new show, Eclipse. Conceived by Sally Richardson, it is an exploration on how the pandemic has changed the world and how the world will continue to change because of it.

Richardson was inspired by Indian author Arundhati Roy's piece The Pandemic is a Portal, where she discusses the various ways COVID-19 has impacted India and what we need to remember and learn from as we attempt to move forward. It's quite fitting then, that the opening moments have hints of a Mad Max-esque dystopian future with a bedraggled tent cover and people living in imagined squalor milling around and endlessly passing time.
It is always exciting to see up-and-coming circus artists on stage and witnessing the beginnings of their careers.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes review

Originally staged in 2019, Back to Back Theatre's The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes returned for a two night season in which we witness a group of people with disabilities setting up for a public meeting in a town hall. While we are not quite sure what the meeting is about, it eventually shines a light on all of us with regards to the society we want to be part of.

With over 15 years of experience with Back to Back and having co-authored the work, Sarah Mainwaring and Scott Price are joined on stage by fellow performer Chris Hansen. The three share a natural and organic energy flowing between them. Their engagement with the audience constantly changes from humorous and light-hearted to authoritative and knowing, making it difficult to prepare ourselves for what's to come and generating an air of uncertainty for everyone present.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Hearth review

The 7th of February 2009 will always be known as The Black Saturday bushfires, where a series of fires burned across Victoria, resulting in over 2000 homes destroyed and 173 people dying. But in Fleur Murphy's new play Hearth, this also happens to be the 18th birthday of Tom Robinson. Before the fires hit though, there is plenty of drama to keep him and his parents busy, particularly with the arrival of his brother Matthew and his partner Abbey. 

Murphy has crafted an intriguing story even with the familiar family arguments and secrets being unearthed. In this instance, flashback scenes and monologues to the audience are delivered so that we are cleverly drip-fed pieces of information surrounding the Robinson family. Murphy presents fleshed out characters who are not simply there to serve the story but rather to tell the story. Through the dialogue and interactions Murphy has them have with each other, these characters feel authentic and so it's almost effortless for the audience to become invested in their lives.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Pieces of Shit review

In Pieces of Shit, two complete strangers recall an individual memory that forces them to confront issues around morality, respect and their sense of importance. Phil (Bronte Charlotte) works in events, and occasionally plans weddings, because that's where the big bucks lie. She may hate it, but she's very good at it; she's like the Olivia Pope of wedding planners. She gets the job done. At one wedding, she meets a man whom she ends up dating for numerous years.

Dylan (Leigh Scully) on other hand has been unemployed for 18 months but has some money stashed away while he discovers himself playing video games. It also helps that he is living back home with his wealthy parents. Dylan's brother is the golden child of the family, so moving back home brings with it some anxieties. Through a series of shocking and tragic events, Phil and Dylan's lives become entwined as they deal with the fallout of toxic masculinity and processing their own trauma.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Buried TeaBowl - Okuni review

I've seen Yumi Umiumare perform numerous times over the years but always as part of the ensemble in someone else's show. Buried TeaBowl - Okuni is the first time I have attended one of her full solo works and I am very disappointed I waited so long to have had this incredible experience. Incorporating dance, spoken word, song and a tea ceremony, this performance installation is an intimate and stirring passage through time, ritual, the past and the present.

These four themes are clear in Umiumare's inspiration for her show: a 17th century Japanese dancer, Okuni, who is credited as being the founder of kabuki theatre. Literally translated to "the art of song and dance", Okuni began performing kabuki around Kyoto in the early 1600s and formed an all-female troupe that portrayed both male and female characters. Kabuki eventually became equated with prostitution and immorality and in 1629 this outrage led to a Government ban on women performing kabuki that was not lifted until the late 19th century.

Friday, 6 May 2022

Kill Climate Deniers review

Back in 2016, I was given a copy of David Finnigan's play Kill Climate Deniers. In it, a group of armed eco-terrorists storm Parliament House and threaten to execute everyone inside including the Environment Minister unless the Prime Minister puts a stop to climate change. All this happens while Fleetwood Mac is set to perform in said building. Provocatively written with hilarious dialogue and challenging themes, it wasn't long until the play captured the attention of Australian far-right social and political commentator Andrew Bolt. 

Bolt criticised the ACT Government for granting $19,000 towards the play due to its terrorist plot and "killing" of people. Former Australian politician Brendan Smyth argued that if you were to insert killing any other group into the title, it would be deemed offensive and jokes about killing any people should not be accepted. Media scrutiny intensified with the play making international news before it had even been staged. Fortunately, Finnigan persevered, later winning the Griffin Theatre Award in Sydney with a full-scale production presented in 2018.

Monday, 2 May 2022

Diapsalmata: P o r t r a i t o f a s e l f review

Founded in 2009, Forest Collective prides itself in presenting contemporary classical music to new audiences through innovative and distinctive performances. I am constantly amazed at how uniquely its productions are conceived and delivered. Its recent concert, Diapsalmata: P o r t r a i t o f a s e l f, is another flawless example of this, with two works highlighting mental health, identity, discovery and growth through the experience of a transgender person.

Kym Dillon has composed the music for both pieces, Sonata for Flute and Piano and Diapsalmata. In the former, Dillon accompanies flutist Brighid Mantelli in a composition of three movements. Linking emotions with nature and the environment, Dillon draws inspiration from three flowers found in the Surfcoast region of Victoria, to not only name the movements - (carpobrotus rossii ("Australian pig face"), eucopogon parviflorus ("coastal beard-heath") and leptospermum laevigatum ("coastal tea-tree") - but using the characteristics of the flowers to guide the music.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

The Disappearing Act review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

The audience waits excitedly for the magician to appear. You can feel the anticipation in the room as we face the stage, where a large chest sits. Where could our magician be? And then magically she is here! But this is not the magician, but the magician's assistant, and so begins Maria Angelico's Melbourne International Comedy Festival show The Disappearing Act. Neither Angelico nor her tech assistant knows where the magician is, and frantic calls are made to his various girlfriends to locate him. But as the saying goes, the show must go on and Angelico takes the to the stage!

Naturally there are laughs to be had as this is being presented as part of the Comedy Festival, but the show's inspiration comes from the true story of Angelico's father, a well-known magician, who was absent for much of her life and instilled a household with domestic violence and abuse. You notice these anxieties and vulnerabilities manifesting throughout her performance; that there is something else simmering in her attempt to put on this magic show.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Dyslexic Cowboy review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Who is the Dyslexic Cowboy? In Lachie Ross' Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Dyslexic Cowboy, it really doesn't matter. In 50 minutes, Ross performs a variety of sketches, stand-up and all that’s in between in his absurdist leaning solo comedy debut.

 

Ross is on the ball from the moment the show begins. His enthusiasm and dedication to his characters and each sketch is refreshing, particularly given the short duration of each skit. His ability to switch between “performing” and being himself because something has gone wrong, when it’s all part of the show, is well executed and entertaining to watch.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

To Schapelle and Back review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Alex Hines is having a pretty crappy birthday. Her dad is missing and Blockbuster is closed. What's a private schoolgirl on a swimming scholarship meant to do? Well not much, because the ancient doppelgänger curse is about to strike and Alex's life is about to become inextricably linked to that of Aussie icon, Schapelle Corby. Alex will need to go To Schapelle and Back in order to see the light on the other side in this incredibly twisted and outlandish Melbourne International Comedy Festival offering. 

While having some background knowledge about who Schapelle is would help with some of the show's subtle (and overt) humour and observations, its look at Australian culture and sense of identity is broad enough for everyone's entertainment. This isn't a show exclusively about Schapelle Corby. Hines' ability to take pop culture references, such as Mr. Squiggle, Big Brother and Chris Crocker, and mould them into something that can slide seamlessly into the Corbyverse is very impressive and reinforces the confidence that Hines has as a performer.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

I Hope My Keyboard Doesn't Break review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Gabbi Bolt's I Hope My Keyboard Doesn't Break may be her first solo show but Bolt is no stranger to musical theatre (Ratatouille the TikTok Musical and Schapelle! Schapelle! The Musical) or to comedy (The Chaser). Bringing these two together for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Bolt sings her way through various worries and concerns she has about the world around her, like climate change, as well as issues that are of a more intimate nature, like whether she chooses to have children or not.

Bolt is extremely personable and relatable with her commentary. It never feels like she is simply going through a list of issues and ticking them off, but that each one actually means something to her, regardless of how important or impactful on the world it might be. She is one of those performers who can pack out a venue but is engaged with every single person there and gives the impression that she is speaking (and singing) to each individual in the room.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Dazza and Keif Reenact the Titanic Movie Playing All the Roles review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

They've gone viral, and they've gone into space...where to next for local superstars Dazza and Keif? The movies of course. After spending lockdown together at Dazza's mum's house and watching the masterpiece Titanic on repeat, the two besties (#NoHomo) have decided to reenact the film by playing all the characters. But we are assured this will be fun as they have cut out all the boring chick dialogue and added some fully sick dance moves. Welcome to Dazza and Keif Reenact the Titanic Movie Playing All the Roles.

Having seen the digital delivery of Dazza and Keif Reenact... at Melbourne Fringe last year, I did debate going as I had essentially seen the show. However, this experience was a reminder that nothing can top live theatre and being in the same room as this rapturous audience giving huge applause and cheers made this a completely brand new show with non-stop laughs.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Poncho: Keep it Up! review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

It's been five years since Dani Cabs' alter ego Poncho graced Melbourne stages and in that time, while he has definitely matured, his humour has fortunately not waned. In Poncho: Keep it Up!, our charming, orange, good-times seeker brings a mix of physical comedy, clowning and storytelling discussing ideas on who we are and what we should strive to be, that are equally entertaining and honest.

Armed with just a rack consisting of a variety of orange clothing on the stage, all eyes are on Poncho, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Poncho feeds off audience interaction and welcomes the occasional impromptu comment or laughter from the audience. Cabs is so comfortable in his Poncho skin that he is never thrown by audience suggestions or responses and remains and responds in character to whatever happens.

Cabs possesses great comedic timing and shares genuine engagement with his audience. During his storytelling/spoken word moments, even behind the facade of this Latin clown, there are interesting observations and statements made about identity and society that are even more potent given the comedic lens they are told through.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Bunny review (Melbourne International Comedy Fetival)

New Zealand performer Barnie Duncan returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with a show that is quite unlike what he has done in the past. His trademark absurdity is still evident in Bunny, but Duncan's dissection of whether dancing at a nightclub at 3am was a way of dealing with his grief or avoiding it after his mother passed away last year, adds a level of intimacy and vulnerability that is often difficult to convey on stage.

While a few jokes don't land that well, or have been tacked on for a cheap laugh (Will Smith's Oscars behaviour is already such a tired punchline), Duncan shows strong control of the audience and meeting the expectations we have upon entering this surreal show about clubbing and death. The unique way in which Duncan sees and understands the world is clearly presented, and with an open heart he shares the complexities of dealing with grief and mourning the death of a loved one, particularly during a pandemic.

So Brave review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

As Madeleine Stewart says, it's not easy being a one-handed person in a two-handed world. Performed as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, So Brave is a witty look at life through the lens of a disabled woman searching for love. No stone is left unturned as Stewart gets political, philosophical and sexual in a show that has plenty of laughs but is also a critical commentary on our society.

Stewart has a wonderful presence on stage and her storytelling immediately warms the audience. While she begins with one liners and zingers about her disability, including a resemblance she has to a certain American actor, she sets the scene well about being a woman trying to find love (and lust) in a society that is determined to keep reminding her she is different.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Fabio Motta is off the leash with his Melbourne Comedy Festival show "Spot".

You can't help but see Spot, a fictional puppy from the 80s, as this cute animal always finding himself in all sorts of adventures due to his curiosity and eagerness. But then you probably haven't seen Fabio Motta's Spot. Returning for a second season as part of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, this adorable pup becomes the antagonist in Motta's story that explores just how much of a multicultural haven Australia is. Inspired by true events, Spot is a contemporary immigrant tale of Mario, a young migrant to the country working towards his dream of becoming a “very good English actor!”

A performer for a number of years, the inspiration for Spot came at a surprising moment for Motta. "I was doing a vocal warm-up and out of the blue, found myself unconsciously saying “Why did you take me away?” which ended up with me having a big cry as I recollected, as a small child, never having had a say when my family migrated to Australia from Italy," he recalls.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

It's clocks, drugs and dopplegängers in Alex Hines' Melbourne Comedy Festival show "To Schapelle And Back"

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction but in her upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Alex Hines brings truth and fiction together to create a twisted and outlandish production based on a true story and inspired by her real life friendship with Schapelle Corby. Hines, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Corby brings her uniquely outrageous humour to this show which last year won her Best Feminist Work and Best Work by an Emerging Artist at the Melbourne Fringe Festival for Juniper Wilde: Wilde Night In.

You would be pretty hard pressed to find someone in Australia unaware of who Corby is, having spent almost the last twenty years hounded by media and facing intense public scrutiny. In 2004, a then 27 year old Corby was on her way to Bali when she was arrested and later convicted of smuggling cannabis into Indonesia. She was released from prison nine years later in 2014 and returned to Australia in 2017. To this day, she maintains she did not know about the drugs in her bodyboard bag and that they were planted there.

This story has been something Hines has always been fascinated by and after years of obsessing over it, she's finally getting to perform this to Melbourne audiences. "Years ago, my friend and I were talking about creating a solo show about Schapelle. We were inspired by spooky doppelgänger stories and wanted to make an Australian Gothic extravaganza about a fairytale gone wrong, and it’s been bubbling away ever since then," she says. "Then in 2018 I made a show with Emily Carr and Kaitlyn Rogers called Queenz (nominated for Best Comedy at Melbourne Fringe) about Schapelle as a feminist icon, which was chaos and hilarious, but I still wasn’t done."

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Flux Job review

The world premiere of Lucy Guerin Inc.'s Flux Job is an enthralling piece where four dancers navigate the personal and the shared experience of going through a traumatic event. Created during the Melbourne lockdowns as a response to the pandemic, while not explicitly referring to it, the piece provides an opportunity for the audience to consider how we have changed and how we can come together in this strange new world we are living in.

The collaboration with Flux Job is evident with its design team consisting of Paul Lim's lighting, Andrew Treloar's vibrantly flowing sheer fabric costumes and Jethro Woodward's sound completely supporting each other. Along with Adena Jacobs' dramaturgy in the scripted word portion, and the choreography, the purpose of the show and the thoughts raised in it are fully fleshed out, giving us plenty to think about.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

The Destroyer review

You can feel the anticipation and excitement in the foyer the second that director Moira Finucane comes out to greet us and let us into the venue at Arts Projects Australia Gallery. Presented by the powerhouse duo of Finucane and Smith, The Destroyer has been reworked and reimagined by writer Jackie Smith various times throughout the numerous lockdowns Melbourne experienced over the last two years. And the wait is definitely worth it.

The Destroyer
consists of three monologues from three mythic sisters that explore contrasting thoughts around the end of the world. From fury to hope, vice to virtue and isolation to extinction. Maude Davey opens up the show with "The Destroyer" and she sets the bar for three strong and powerful performances. Davey has a knack of simultaneously being in the moment with her character while connecting with the audience as if she is speaking directly to each individual in the room.