Friday 23 February 2024

The Crying Room: Exhumed review

A crying room is a small, soundproof room in theatres and churches where a person can visit if they are feeling emotional but want to continue to be part of the experience via one-way glass and live audio feed without disturbing the rest of the audience. In The Crying Room: Exhumed, performer Marcus McKenzie brings this place to the forefront where he tempts us to spend time in our own private chambers, and to call on and welcome the tears. The show is an extension to the 2020 online zoom production of The Crying Room, conceived during lockdown and had McKenzie dealing with the death of his brother.

As we are ushered into the space, our attention falls on McKenzie writhing and contorting himself up a flight of stairs. Along the hall are closed doors leading to rooms that have been renamed the dying room, the wrying room and the purifying room, which has a red light and bubbling sound emanating from inside. Shortly after McKenzie has disappeared from sight, a blindfolded figure with a black robe and holding incense enters from a room and leads us the rest of the way. From here, McKenzie and his team of creatives put on a show with powerful imagery and highly effective design as he examines his own trauma and grief to losing his sibling.

RENT review

It's been almost 30 years since RENT had its world premiere. A critical success at the time, she show was also marred with its own tragedy when its creator Jonathan Larson died the night before opening night from an aortic dissection. It leaves a bittersweet taste as we watch a group of misfit friends in New York City's East Village in 1991, dealing with homelessness, addiction, sexuality, poverty and death.

Martha Berhnane as Mimi has a vivacious energy on stage and traverses the emotional journey of the drug addicted HIV positive exotic dancer with complete commitment. Nick Afoa gives an understated but highly effective performance as a gay, philosophy student with HIV particularly with the devastation that impacts him in the second act. Calista Nelmes and Thndo have an incredible chemistry on stage as lesbian couple Maureen and Joanne with some entertaining but hefty sparring that puts their relationship to the test.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

House of the Heart review

It’s inside the Dragon Gallery of the Chinese Museum where the heads of three processional Chinese Dragons that have been used during city parades over the last century reside. Symbolic of strength and generosity, and as we celebrate the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese New Year, it is fitting that Finucane & Smith should also have their cabaret House of the Heart staged here.

The evening is full of heartwarming and heart-wrenching storytelling and musical performances from artistes including First Nations jazz blues legend Lois Olney. Accompanied by guitarist Dave Johnson, Olney delivers loving tributes to her deceased family members and recounts anecdotes with Finucane about their lifelong friendship beginning when they were just twelve. Home comes in many ways and can easily change, but as Finucane tells us at the beginning of the show, it's heart and love that keeps us connected.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Heart to heart with Moira Finucane and Sophie Koh

Finucane & Smith are back and painting the town red with a return season of House of the Heart, a cabaret exploring the themes of home, belonging, journey and heart through song, opera, storytelling and dance. With a line up of 13 extraordinary artists from varied cultural backgrounds, ages and life experiences, it's fair to say that co-director, performer and recently declared a Melbourne Fringe Living Legend, Moira Finucane is more than a little excited to be presenting this show in Melbourne again,

One of the many impressive elements of a Finucane & Smith show is the spread of talent they bring to the stage. While there's certainly challenges in getting so many performers together, when you've had a long and varied career as Finucane, having performed around the world and in countries such as Chile, China and Colombia, it certainly becomes easier. "We find our performers through travelling, putting on shows, directing, talking, touring, listening to lesser heard voices, taking risks ... so many risks!" she tells me. "People have told me throughout my art making career (even when I worked for free in nightclubs!) "Oh Moira, that will never work!" but I listen and I am curious, I look and I marvel, I am always marveling at people's diversity, and capacity to make beautiful art."

Friday 16 February 2024

A Suffocating Choking Feeling review

A Suffocating Choking Feeling is a hybrid live and digital performance presented by the innovative duo of Simone French (performer and creator) and Tom Halls (director and technical) aka TomYumSim, that looks at how we use social media and how quickly the lines can blur between being authentic and being performative. French plays Simone Hamilton, a wannabe social media influencer who in her desire to have all the likes, follows and shares, gives herself a terminal illness that spirals out of control.

We see Simone livestream her days across various locations including her studio, a hotel room, and of course, at the hospital, but French lets us into the behind the scenes moments as Simone prepares her ring light, camera stand and applies finishing touches to her outfits before going live, leading us to doubt the legitimacy of what is being put out and who Simon actually is. This is a show where the use of our phones is not a gimmick, but integral to its success and it is used to great effect as it presents the rabbit hole that influencer and influencee can fall into.

Monday 12 February 2024

La Nonna's Saucy Sauce Day review (Midsumma Festival)

In 2019, Samuel Dariol presented a tender homage to his nonna with La Nonna, where he shared her life and choices that led her to moving to Australia and raising her family. In 2024, we once again meet nonna (and nonna) but this time it's all about sauce making day with La Nonna's Saucy Sauce Day. I may not be Italian but I am very aware of how significant sauce making day is for Italian families.

Dariol and Anna Cerreto are exceptional as the nonnas. It's testament to Dariol's strong performance from 2019 that the 2024 nonna feels so familiar and welcoming. The mannerisms of the nonnas are scarily accurate and they display effective commitment to these matriarchs. The inclusion of some contemporary dance breaks are highly entertaining and seeing how they attempt to make this day a success is a joy to watch unfold, despite their setbacks.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Love That For You review (Midsumma Festival)

Anyone who has followed Tash York's career will have witnessed her evolution from a life full of nuggets, wine and desperately seeking happiness to marking out a place for herself in the world and dealing with ageing. In her new show, Love That For You, York has moved on from adulting and on to seeking the values that are true and meaningful in an intrinsic nature. This is of course presented through York's trademark sassy and camp cabaret numbers.

Gracing the stage in gold coloured outfits full of sparkle and some very imposing shoulder pads, York shares anecdotes of life's crossroads where doing what you want to do is more important than what you ought to do, something York has a bounty of experience in. She's in her mid-30s and childless, she's bisexual but married to a man, and she straddles the line between drag and cabaret. So when she sings an amusing song about DINKWACs it serves as a reminder that labels and expectations have ultimately no bearing on securing our own personal happiness.

Friday 9 February 2024

Perpetual Stew review (Midsumma Festival)

Perpetual Stew is a sketch comedy of scenes that play out around food, and while some of these take place at the dinner table, there are many that give a very creative interpretation of what a "dinner table" may be, including two ants carrying food on their backs for their Queen and a Do It Yourself fruit salad table spread.

With all the sketches revolving around food, the writers (Milly Walker, Charlie Lawrence and Victoria Barlow) ensure that each of these scenes is unique and that there isn't repetition or monotony in what we see. Various pairings of the four cast members alters dynamics and everyone gets a chance to play different types. Highlights include the aforementioned ants and their pondering of purpose, a roast dinner for a visiting critical mother and an influencer family getting together to discuss some life changing news.

Saturday 3 February 2024

Groundhog Day review

It's been 30 years since the movie Groundhog Day was released, where a cynical weatherman wakes up to find that he's stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over and over again. The audience gets to watch his journey of personal growth before finally breaking this repetitive soul destroying cycle.

Fast forward to 2016, and the film becomes a London musical stage production with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and a book by Danny Rubin to rave reviews and audience responses. Fast-forward to 2024, and it is finally Melbourne's opportunity to see this award wining play, and the wait has definitely been worth it.

Friday 2 February 2024

Overflow review (Midsumma festival)

Rosie has locked herself in a nightclub bathroom after catching the eyes of some transphobic attackers. In Travis Alabanza's Overflow, Rosie uses this time to assert her place in this world while looking at past encounters and friendships and the impact they continue to have on her.

Janet Anderson carries the production with grace and prowess in her portrayal of Rosie. From the opening minutes of this 70 minute monologue, she provides a deeply understanding and confident representation of who this person is - having most likely gone through these experiences herself - with everything she says coming from a place of anger, fear, warmth and hope.