Saturday, 18 March 2023

Triptych review

Anyone who has witnessed a Phillip Adams dance work knows to expect the unexpected. Adams has a knack for creating daring and disruptive pieces that explore themes around sexuality in its rawest form. His newest work Triptych, takes inspiration from Francis Bacon’s 1970 triptych painting, Triptych, in which Bacon used distortion and fragmentation to call attention to his own ideas around love, sex and religion.

In the first of three parts, four dancers (Harrison Hall, Samuel Harnett-Welk, Benjamin Hurley and Oliver Savariego) dressed in simple yet stunning Toni Maticevski designs, spend forty minutes writhing and convulsing on a circular pink carpet to a highly piercing and penetrating score by David Chisholm and Duane Morrison. While one pair appears to have more intimate and vulnerable interactions, the other pair is more aggressive and brutal. The two pairs circle each other, and at times make physical contact with each other, indicating how civility and animal instincts can easily be interchanged, something that Bacon depicted with his art. There are times where you wonder if Adams has choreographed this or if the dancers have completely given themselves over to these urges and being spellbound by the stirring composition. It's a rare experience to watch a performance and feel such intensity permeate throughout the room and be utterly transfixed by what is unfolding.

Monday, 13 February 2023

Burgerz review (Midsumma Festival)

In April 2016, Kikki Temple had a burger thrown at them at Flinders Street Station. The person who threw it called out a transphobic slur. There were over 100 people around at the time, and no one did anything to help. Written by Travis Alabanza - whom this actually happened to - Burgerz uses the humble burger to discuss gender identity and violence against trans people through an interactive cooking show and confessional storytelling.

Kikki Temple dazzles in this production. She establishes brilliant rapport with the audience and her interactions with us are sincere. Engaging in conversation with us means there is a level of uncertainty and spontaneity with what could happen, but Temple remains in control and her razor-sharp responses and reactions never stop coming. She's gentle with us at the beginning and gradually the anger, hurt and fear begin to come through and the implicit responsibility we must all take for the burger assault become clearer. 

Sunday, 12 February 2023

Songs of the Flesh review (Midsumma Festival)

Based on a text by Chris Beckey, Songs of the Flesh is coming-of-age fairy tale cum punk-tragedy that follows a young man and his exhaustive pursuit for the name of his love. With its inspiration taken from the bible, the Song of Solomon and Kate Bush, this queer love story is something that will stay with you for some time with performances, text and direction that draws in its audience to take them on a wild, passionate and raging journey.

Using two people to tell the one story brings an element of excitement to the show as each actor brings different energy and interpretation to the single character. Steven Mitchell Wright's remarkable direction ensures that while there is a differentiation in their performances, the two remain linked and the audience sees one protagonist on the stage. Josh Blake and Scott Middleton give fierce and powerful performances as the protagonist, both capturing the fear, anxiety, exhilaration and anger of discovering and pursuing new love and what it unleashes from within themselves.

Friday, 10 February 2023

Code of Conduct review (Midsumma Festival)

In his first play, When The Light Leaves, Rory Godbold explored the issues of voluntary assisted dying stemming from his father's diagnosis of cancer and subsequent ending of his life. Code of Conduct, Godbold's new show, is once more based on his own experiences, this time while working as a high school teacher and having to sign a Code of Conduct that disapproved of diverse genders and sexualities.

In this production, Paul (Matthew Connell) has already been teaching for a few years, but a new job at a Christian College brings with it some new challenges, specifically when it comes to teachers and students being required to separate their faith from their identity. Paul's employment here and his private life, gradually impacts the daily running of the college and the lives of a number of students and staff including teachers Sarah and David (Molly Holohan and Charles Purcell) and principal Clare (Sarah Sutherland). As the narrative unfolds and develops, the relationships between the four staff are stretched and put to the test.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Trophy Boys review (Midsumma Festival)

The boys of prestigious private school St. Imperium College are all hyped up and ready to win the Year 12 Inter-school Debating Tournament Grand Final. There is a lot riding on this for all four of them but when they learn the topic up for debate is "That Feminism has Failed Women", an extraordinary can of worms is smashed open. Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, Trophy Boys is a biting social commentary as we witness these students grapple with what feminism is, what women want and sometimes saying that you love women does not make you an ally.

Emmanuelle Mattana has written an impressive story that highlights a number of matters pertaining to feminism, equality and the patriarchy. There are plenty of laughs and absurdity as the boys begin discussing and arguing that feminism has indeed failed women, which includes a few dance interludes and many sweeping statements about loving and believing women. As the story progresses, Mattana's script gradually but suddenly gets quite dark when an accusation of sexual assault is made. Comments made earlier that are now repeated are met with less laughter and more unease as we are confronted with far-reaching revelations.

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Fountain review (Midsumma Festival)

Returning for its first show in 2023, Forest Collective present Fountain, an orchestral arrangement of pop singer-songwriter Max Lawrence’s music, exploring the fluidity and transient nature in our interactions with our environment and ourselves. Known for bringing together classical chamber music into contemporary settings, Fountain takes us on a strikingly stirring journey on the many forms of love and the emotions that it can elicit.

Lawrence enters the stage wearing a ruched gown-like art piece that as gorgeous as it is to see, feels like a protective barrier for releasing / realising their true self and opening themselves up. This idea is reinforced in the second half, where they wear a two-piece outfit that is more revealing and hugs their body as the music becomes more uplifting and hopeful.

CULT review (Midsumma Festival)

Alex is a gay man in his 20s, so naturally he is obsessed with his body and his appearance. In a new Australian work by Ryan Henry, and presented as part of Midsumma Festival, CULT looks at the levels we will go to for the ultimate body and what the true cost of achieving this perfection is.

Henry delivers a highly committed performance full of energy, which is essential given the physical exertion required in the exercise routines. He races through dialogue matching the fast-paced environment of HIIT training centres and at times he thrashes out his speed of speech that would make Hollywood actor Jessie Eisenberg seem like a tortoise. The way he moves his body during the transitions from confessionals to rewinding to the past and returning to the present and his personal training sessions with his trainer Jason, heightens the urgency and the desperation Alex has in reaching peak physical fitness.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

The Last Brunch review (Midsumma Festival)

Darwent & Gray makes its return to Midsumma Festival with a brand new musical theatre production The Last Brunch. With an all-queer cast, the story follows Bea, who is invited to Brandon's home, her ex-boyfriend, who announces he is getting married to his new partner.

What ensues is a comedic but considered look at love, marriage and relationships within this group of queer and trans friends, lovers and in between. Caleb Darwent's script is full of interesting insights about how the queer community views marriage, from both sides of the spectrum. Rather than imposing their own opinion on the issue, Darwent uses the first half of the show to have an open discourse on these ideas, whereas the second half is more a look at the impact relationships - both romantic and platonic - can have on people within the trans and queer community.

Sunday, 29 January 2023

The MILF and the Mistress review (Midsumma Festival)

Meet Ali Anderson. She is an intelligent, middle-aged woman living the lesbian dream. Or is she? Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, The MILF and the Mistress is a one-woman show examining what happens when happily ever after occurs and why it has to begin in the first place. Why can't the excitement and discovery of life continue? And why must not only middle-aged women, and to be more specific, middle-aged lesbian women, disappear as they become older?

Jane Montgomery Griffiths' script brings an evocative description of Ali's life with humour and sincerity. The audience is given great insight into the mind of this woman and her unique circumstances, but at the same time, Griffiths writes such a relatable story where anyone who has ever felt like life was passing them by or searching for that spark in life, can absolutely connect with and put themselves in Ali's shoes.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Transcendence review (Midsumma Festival)

Taking place over the course of an evening, Transcendence tells the story of 15-year-old William, as he tries to understand who he is and who he wants to be. Written and directed by Wayne Stelini, it offers a humourous yet sincere look at gender identity and the challenges that a teenager has when faced with these choices. Through William’s daggy father (Michael Robins), his acid-tongued friends Ricky and Felicia (Kyle Cuthbert and Ivan Koetsveld) and some brilliant lip-syncing numbers, we follow William (Anthony Pontonio) on this journey of self-discovery.

Stelini has us spend a good half hour focusing on the dynamics of these four people and helping us to see things from their perspectives. However, it isn’t until the final half of the show where we learn that William’s parents are sending him away to a conversion camp and the reasons for this become clear. As such, we don’t get to explore this part of the story which results in an ending that is slightly rushed.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

The Danger Ensemble discuss going beyond skin-deep with its new Midsumma Festival show Songs of the Flesh

The Danger Ensemble have garnered a reputation for creating boundary pushing contemporary and experimental theatre. Since the company's relocation to Melbourne roughly five years ago, we have been fortunate to see such work as The Hamlet Aopcalypse and most recently, Day After Terrible Day. For Midsumma Festival, the company present what could possibly be their most innovative work yet, Songs of the Flesh. Based on a text by Chris Beckey, this coming-of-age fairy tale cum punk-tragedy follows a young man and his exhaustive pursuit for the name of his love. Searching through the pages of fables, history and literature, he finally finds it in The Bible and then deep within his own flesh.

"Songs of the Flesh actually started with my desire to experience solo performance back in the early 2000s. I’d been working professionally in theatre for a few years and I’d been interested in solo performance for a while," Beckey tells me. "I had heard Kate Bush's "The Song of Solomon" from her 1993 album The Red Shoes, and it is a beautiful song where Kate interpolates passages from the book of the Bible of the same name. I’d gotten a bit obsessed with the beauty of the poetry within those passages, so I gave it a read and I found that there were passages there that resonated with an 
experience I’d had in Brisbane in the mid-90s. So my idea was to arrange and edit the text of "The Song of Solomon" to tell the story of my experience."

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Getting the inside scoop on being an outsider with Amelia O’Leary's new dance work A Certain Mumble

In 2023, Darebin Arts Speakeasy will celebrate a decade of ground-breaking and award-winning performing arts productions, with Amelia O'Leary's contemporary dance work A Certain Mumble making up part of its 2023 season. O'Leary, a First Nations Gamilaroi dancer and choreographer, will be working with Chinese Malaysian artist Janelle Tan Yung Huey as they explore what it feels like to be an outsider in Australia.

"Being an outsider in Australia means feeling different or like you don't belong," O'Leary says. "We particularly felt like outsiders by encountering indirect and direct acts and attitudes of racism. I also struggled with not belonging in certain institutions and social spaces. I can feel the eeriness and unsettling energies of so-called Australia. In a way, being an outsider helps broadens your perspective and makes you a more interesting and understanding person, but it can make you feel unseen, unheard and misunderstood."

Sunday, 8 January 2023

Kikki Temple on how a mere burger is lifting the lid off gender and race politics with Burgerz

In 2016, a burger was thrown at performance artist Travis Alabanza as they walked along Waterloo Bridge. No one did anything to help or assist. To understand this act of violence, they created a piece based around the burger into a confessional storytelling show with live cooking, and audience interaction to share and highlight the lived experiences of a trans person of colour.

For Midsumma Festival this year, Burgerz is making its way to Theatre Works with Kikki Temple taking the audience through the unique experience that mashes together trans culture and the burger. Through some serendipitous circumstances, Temple, already aware of Alabanza and Burgerz, was put in touch with director Kitan Petkovski about starring in the production.