Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Performance: Proximity Festival

Curated by James Berlyn and Sarah Rowbottam
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts

Until November 2

I've never run the Trans-Sahara Marathon or tried the Swim Around Tassie, but I did attempt all three programs at the Proximity Festival at PICA in one night - and that really was a feat of human endurance.
A dozen solo acts, each performing to an audience of one, is an intriguing concept. It's immaculately organised by curators James Berlyn and Sarah Rowbottam, stage manager Mary Wolfla and their team of wranglers who move us from act to act.
It goes without saying that you're in for a range of encounters and you're going to be captivated and challenged by some acts more than others.
But if, as I was, you're going to be immersed in something for more than four hours, there needs to be an overarching sensation that drives you deeper and deeper into the experience. In that, I'm afraid, Proximity fell well short.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed (1942 - 2013)

I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you're home

I find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty that you are
But if you don't let me be your eyes
A hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid

When you think the night has seen your mind

That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you

I'll be your mirror

I'll be your mirror
I'll be your mirror  

Theatre: The Cake Man

By Robert J Merritt
Yirra Yaakin and Belvoir
Directed Kyle J Morrison
Designed by Stephen Curtis
Performed by Luke Carroll, Oscar Redding, George Shevtsov, James Slee, Tim Solly and Irma Woods
State Theatre Centre Studio
Until November 9

Irma Woods
It's tempting to think of The Cake Man primarily as a political milestone rather than art but that would be doing it an injustice.
Written by Robert J. Merritt in Bathurst Prison in 1974 and smuggled out of jail to the newly formed Black Theatre in Redfern, it was the first professional, full-length drama to arise from the growing Aboriginal performing arts community in inner-city Sydney.
The following year, Merritt was taken to its opening night by prison guards and the cast refused to perform until his handcuffs were removed. In the shadowy half-world between paternalism and oppression, and (admittedly far from complete) acceptance and reconciliation, life has strange ways of imitating art.
For Yirra Yaakin, this co-production with Sydney's Belvoir is an important step for an important company and the result is an impressive revival of an equally important landmark in this country's theatrical history.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Theatre: The Tribe

Written and directed by Joe Lui
Designed by India Caitlin Mehta
Performed by Ella Hetherington, Paul Grabovac and Mikala Westall
The Blue Room Theatre
Until November 2

I play a little game with the writer, director, musician and lighting and sound designer Joe Lui. It comprises using more and more extravagant superlatives to describe the polymathematical Lui (whoops! I’ve done it again) who sometimes seems the mortar without which the entire edifice of alternative theatre in Perth would collapse.
It’s hard, though, to imagine an adjective that would do Lui’s epic, The Tribe, justice. “Ambitious” hardly suffices to describe a play that re-jigs Paradise Lost before interval, before moving on to six million years of evolutionary theory after drinks.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Theatre: Trampoline

By Shane Adamczak
Directed by Damon Lockwood
Performed by Shane Adamczak, Amanda Woodhams and Ben Russell
The Blue Room Theatre
Until October 26

Matt (Shane Adamczak) is a young man with a problem - he dreams too much. His therapist, Dr Vangillies, explains that he spends 85 per cent of his slumber in REM sleep, the time of dreams. It dominates his nights, and waking dreams wreck his days.
A girl - with trampoline - moves in across the street. Kelly (Amanda Woodhams, who also plays Vangillies) is also troubled, but the reasons for her distress are much more obvious. She's lost her mother to cancer and her father's grief has turned to violent anger.
It's not unusual to have sympathy for a play's characters but Adamczak makes us really feel these damaged kids are entitled to a happy ending. 
In the end, Kelly cures Matt as he frees her. But Adamczak sows a last seed of doubt when, in the play's final line, Kelly tells Matt: "I'm your dream come true, baby."
And maybe she is. Or maybe that's all she is.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: The Empty City

Produced by: METRO ARTS and The Human Company

Director: David Fenton

Writer/Composer: David Megarrity  

Performed by: Tom Oliver and Bridget Boyle

Illustrator/Designer: Jonathon Oxlade

Animation/Film Maker: Luke Monsour

Sound Production & Additional Music: Bret Collery
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until October 12


Mercifully, the times when you watch children’s theatre and feel you are intruding into someone else’s world are few and far between. At its best (and the Awesome Festival is full of examples), it’s as exciting and stimulating for overgrown-ups like me as it is for kids.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Theatre: Kep Kaatijin

By David Milroy with Derek Nannup
Yirra Yaakin for the Awesome Festival
Directed by Derek Nannup
Performed by Shakara Walley, Ian Wilkes and Amy Smith
Until October 14

The Noongar word kaatijin means "learning", or "knowledge", and there's no doubt Yirra Yaakin, WA's indigenous theatre company, believes teaching its audiences is a critical part of its purpose. Just as impressive is how adept the company is at learning from those audiences.
You see it in the growing impact and enjoyment of their series of Aboriginal stories for adults at the Blue Room. And much the same development is evident in the origin stories they tell for children at the Awesome Festival.
This year's, Kep Kaatijin, has much to recommend it, and promises even more for Indigenous theatre for children in the future.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, October 7, 2013

Theatre: Boats

By Finegan Kruckemeyer
Terrapin Puppet Theatre, for the Awesome Festival
Director: Frank Newman
: Matthew Fargher
Set and Puppet Design
: Greg Methé
Costume Design
: Roz Wren
Performed by Quinn Griggs and Brett Rogers
Perth Cultural Centre
Until October 9

Quinn Griggs and Brett Rogers
It’s exciting to be back at Awesome, the arts festival for children (or, as its disarming director, Jenny Simpson, aptly brands them, “bright young things”) that runs through the October school holidays and into the spring term in and around the Perth Cultural Centre.
For me, it began with a real highlight: Boats, a rollicking sailors’ yarn by Tasmania’s Terrapin Puppet Theatre. The show was inadvertently involved in controversy at last year’s Helpmann Awards when our own Barking Gecko’s The Red Tree was mistakenly announced as the winner of the children’s theatre gong at the ceremony instead of it, but there’s no doubt that Boats was a more than worthy winner.
The awesomely prolific children’s playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer’s story is a complete adventure for kids, with shipwrecks and circuses, loves lost and found, mateship, and, above all, the irresistible siren song of the sea.
The telling of the tale, directed by Frank Newman, is just as impressive. The performers, Quinn Griggs and Brett Rogers, create sound effects like cinema’s Foley artists (the twisting of a leather belt become the creaking of a ship in a gale; air escaping from a balloon becomes the cry of sea birds). Its visual effects take shape from things seemingly lying about the stage: a knotted length of rope becomes the gull of good omen that flies over the sailor Jof (Griggs); two china cups become the kindly old fisherman, Okinawa Yukio (“age was a wave washing him overboard”), who leaves his boat to the young seafarer. It’s all wondrously inventive, with the deep humour of sudden imaginative discovery that is the greatest gift of theatre for children.
Rogers is an adept narrator of the play’s aquatic occurrences, as well as playing Jof’s offsider, Nic, his sweetheart, Eliza Turk, and other characters, and Griggs is an absolute marvel. His long, twinkling face (you’ve got to be reminded of the Welsh comic Rob Bryden), expressive voice and tough-as-teak body make him any kid’s first mate.
The bright young things with me were rising four (I cheated – the program advises five and up) and 10. The youngster laughed out loud, opened her eyes wide and got fidgety only towards the end of the show’s 50 minutes; her big brother took it all in shrewdly, leaning over to get me to write “very clever” in my notes.
So it was, and much more besides.   

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian 7.10.13

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Theatre: Tales From Outer Suburbia

by Shaun Tan
Adapted by Michael Barlow
Directed by Philip Mitchell
Designed by Sohan Ariel Hayes
Composer Lee Buddle
Performed by Humphrey Bower, Bec Bradley, Imanuel Dado and Chloe Flockhart
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle
Sept 28 – Oct 12, 2013

We've been fortunate in WA to have artists with a particular feel for our suburbs, though perhaps it's hardly surprising. Perth dominates the entire State and its own constantly renewing newness dominates the city itself.

Our best writers have often been products of places that were, at the time, on the growing city's frontiers. Tom Hungerford's South Perth and Dave Warner's Bicton, Tim Winton's Karrinyup and Shaun Tan's Hillarys were all, once, outer suburbs. No doubt their creative successors are growing up now in Ellenbrook and Success.
The Spare Parts team, led by its artistic director Philip Mitchell and adapter Michael Barlow, are more than capable of doing the necessary tweaking to make Tales From Outer Suburbia a favourite in their repertoire.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian