Friday, October 31, 2014

Theatre: Gasp!

Black Swan State Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company
by Ben Elton
Directed by Wesley Enoch
Designed by Christina Smith
With Damon Lockwood, Caroline Brazier, Lucy Goleby, Greg McNeill and Steven Rooke
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until November 9

Nothing to get steamed up about: Damon Lockwood (r), Greg McNeill and Steven Rooke (pic: Gary Marsh)
Black Swan wraps up its 2014 season with revivals of two all but contemporaneous comedies; the first was Neil Simon’s 1993 Laughter on the 23rd Floor; now we have Ben Elton’s Gasp!, an update of his Gasping from 1990.
The Neil Simon was a delight; genuinely funny, and a platform for some bravura performances. The Ben Elton? Meh.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Theatre: Metalhead

Tiffany Barton
Creative Collaborations and The Fremantle Festival
Written by Tiffany Barton
Directed by Monica Main
Featuring Della-Rae Morrison, Maitland Schnaars, Caitlin Jane Hampson, Amri Mrisho, Maja Liwszyc and Rubeun Yorkshire
Victoria Hall
23 – 30 October 2014

We’ve seen two plays from and about the Pilbara town of Roebourne here in the last month. Both are the result of long collaborations with the local community, and both spring from the tragedies that have beset that hardscrabble, blighted place. 
The first, Big hART’s Hipbone Sticking Out, has triumphantly reached its potential; it’s as exciting and creatively successful a piece of theatre as I’ve seen.
Tiffany Barton’s Metalhead (at Victoria Hall, directed by Monica Main for the Fremantle Festival) still has some distance to travel.
Metalhead lacks accuracy and development in parts, and some of its characters are hard to grasp. There is, though, undoubted power, unflinching conviction and theatre craft in much of Barton’s writing. She’s shown in work like Diva and Polly’s Waffle that she has no fear of sex or violence, either separately or in combination, in her work, and there are some savage lessons to be learned from it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Performance: Proximity festival 2014

Fremantle Arts Centre 
until November 2

It’s the third year of Proximity, the interactive/ one-on-one/ site-specific micro-festival of performance intensive care.
The curators, Sarah Rowbottam and Kelli Mccluskey (taking over from James Berlyn, who is an advisor to, and performer in, the festival) are really getting the hang of the thing, the only one of its kind in the country.
It’s also likely that Proximity’s audience – the 324 performances over nine days are sold out – knows better what to expect and how to handle its mechanics.
What’s indisputable is that Proximity has found its venue; the Fremantle Arts Centre’s maze of rooms, courtyards, corridors and stairs has a patina built over 150 years of use, and the echoes of its sometimes tragic history whisper in your mind’s ear as you move through it.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Plague notes: Lily goes bowling

My daughter is rewarding herself for three hard years working in the Japanese education system with an extended trip around the Great Capitals. Since Paris, her guide has been Randy Newman's "Great Nations of Europe" (she's a well-brought-up and dutiful daughter, our Lily).
A few days ago she went to a little bowling alley in Brooklyn which has now gained a certain notoriety.
Which makes the last verse of the song (from 3:00) eerily prescient...

Not that Randy is the only, or the first, with that gift:  

Gare du Midi   
A nondescript express in from the South,
Crowds round the ticket barrier, a face

To welcome which the mayor has not contrived

Bugles or braid: something about the mouth

Distracts the stray look with  
alarm and pity.

Snow is falling, 
Clutching a little case,

He walks out briskly to infect a city

Whose terrible future may have just arrived.

                                         W.H. Auden (1938)

Note: While Auden and Newman's apocalyptic tone is attractively horrifying, the inefficiencies of the present contagion suggest it's unlikely it will be our terrible future (this despite the Australian government's strange reluctance to join in the effort to nip it in its West African bud). 
The fingerpointing and scapegoating of Fox News and its ilk—at times almost implying that the brave and unfortunate Dr Spencer is some sort of bio-terrorist, and accusing the US president of being personally culpable for the panic they themselves are inciting—is particularly disgusting, even by their disgraceful standards.    

Friday, October 17, 2014

Theatre: Welcome to Slaughter

11.47 Productions
Devised and performed by Michelle Robin Anderson, Jo Morris and Emily Rose Brennan
Devised and text by Jeffrey Jay Fowler
Directed by Michelle Robin Anderson and Joe Lui
Set design Shaye Preston
Lighting design Joe Lui
Sound design Brett Smith
Blue Room Theatre
Until 25 October

Welcome to Slaughter is a rom-horredy.
It’s certainly not a rom-com (no happiness ever after to be had here), but it’s not slasher, snuff or any of the other forms of horror either.
You could say it’s “a treatment of the disintegration of a romantic relationship by means of the allegorical personification of destructive thoughts, with strong elements of horror and comedy”, but that’s a bit old school, and too long to fit on a poster. So rom-horredy it is. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Comedy: Rhys Darby Live

Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley
October 13 & 14

New Zullind’s favourite band manager, Rhys Darby, returns to Perth after a four-year absence, this time for a couple of nights at the Astor.
On the back of his memorable stint as Murray Hewitt in Flight of the Conchords, he was hot property back then. The house full signs up at the Astor confirm he hasn’t cooled off in the interval.
“Rhys Darby Live” is a distillation of stand-up segments from his more skit and character-driven shows, although we meet one of his aliases, the park ranger-cum-personal bodyguard Bill Napier, in a quick routine to warm the crowd up and introduce a clever support by Jamie Bowen.
After interval, the main course is an autobiography, or something resembling one. From it we learn that Darby spent some time in the New Zealand army, met his wife of ten years, Rosie, in a nightclub, and honeymooned at one of those beach-and-jungle resorts in Thailand.
From there, it’s pretty much mayhem.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Cabaret: Exactly Like You

Exactly Like You: The Magic of Dorothy Fields
book by Nick Maclaine and Izaak Lim
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Music by Cy Coleman, Jerome Kern and Jimmy McHugh
Directed by Michael Loney
Musical director Lochlan Brown
Performed by Ali Bodycoat, Ian Cross and Izaak Lim
Downstairs at the Maj
9 – 11 October, 2014

Three years ago the young writers and producers Nick Maclaine and Izaac Lim teamed with director Michael Loney in the snazzy Cole Porter biographical pastiche, You’ve Got That Thing.
They top it with Exactly Like You: The Magic of Dorothy Fields, a vivid memoir of one of the most durable and influential musical artists of the past century.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Theatre: Echolalia

Kallo Collective
Written and performed by Jen McArthur
Awesome Festival
Until October 13
(Recommended for 7+ year-olds)

One of the goals of this year’s Awesome Festival is to be welcoming for children on the autism spectrum. Awesome contains a number of events by autistic people and about autism, among them Echolalia, by the New Zealander Jen McArthur.
Echolalia is a behaviour involving the imitation of words, phrases and, sometimes, whole passages by autistic people, often in language they would not normally use and don’t fully understand.
From the outside looking in, autism is bewildering and often frightening. The great gift of Echolalia is to help us see it from the inside looking out. The result is a work that has the intent and appearance of children’s theatre, but lacks nothing for adult audiences.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Theatre: Fluff - A Story of Lost Toys

Fluff: A Story of Lost Toys
Cre8ion, for the Awesome Festival

Devised and performed by Christine Johnston, Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson
Heath Ledger Theatre
Until October 11
(Recommended for 3+ year-olds)

You know those vox pops in movie ads where audience members rave about the life-changing experience they’ve just had watching, say, a Judd Apatow bromance?
There’s an equivalent in children’s theatre, but it’s more immediate and genuine.
It happens in the auditorium, and sounds something like this: “What’s he doing?” “That’s not funny.” “It IS funny!” “He’s a silly man.” “How does he do that?” (Squeal. Laughter. More laughter.) “Are they robots?” “Why are they doing that?” (Adult laughter. Baby gurgles.) “How did he get out?”, “YEAH!” “Magic!”
And the clincher (from, I’m guessing, a three-year-old): “This movie is SO funny!”
And that, in a nutshell, is the terrific Fluff: A Story of Lost Toys.

Theatre: Moominpappa at Sea

by Tove Jansson
Adapted and directed by Michael Barlow

Creative consultant Noriko Nishimoto
Designed by Leon Hendroff
Composer Lee Buddle
Performed by Michael Barlow and Bruno Michel
Awesome Festival
Until October 13
(Recommended for 5+ year-olds)

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Finnish writer Tove Jansson, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre has adapted her Moominpappa at Sea for the Awesome Festival.
Jansson’s odd, whimsical tales of the Moomin family – Moominpappa, his wife Moominmamma and their son Moomintroll – occupy an imaginative territory also inhabited by the Babar herd and the Wild Things, with a little Nordic peculiarity thrown into the mix.
The Moomins are pale, round, irresistible critters with hippo-like snouts, recreated here with impressive accuracy as 50cm puppets. As manipulated by Michael Barlow (who also adapted and directs the story) they are intrepid, resourceful, optimistic – and a little bit formal.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Theatre: Lily Can't Sleep

By Bridget Boyle and Liz Skitch with David Megarrity
Debase Productions, for the Awesome Festival

Director: Scott Witt

Composer: Brett Collery

Performed by Bridget Boyle and Liz Skitch
Seagull Tent, Perth Cultural Centre
Until October 10
(Recommended for 3 – 8 year-olds)

What do our kids get up to at night?
Little Lily (Liz Skitch) is living in a new house. She starts at a new school in the morning and, unsurprisingly, she’s a little daunted and more than a bit sleepless.
Mum (Bridget Boyle) patiently lets Lily run through the usual stalling manoeuvres – drink, toilet, story, find my favourite cuddly toy – but, eventually, the voice of authority has to prevail: “It’s Go To Sleep Time Now, Lily; Why Don’t You Count Some Sheep?”
So Lily learns of the time-honoured technique imposed by exasperated parents on fidgety children. Mum fetches Lily’s toy sheep from a box, she snuggles up and, despite distractions, gets counting.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Theatre: Hipbone Sticking Out

Big hART
Writer and director Scott Rankin
Musical director Nate Gilkes
Choreographers Adelina Larsson and Yumi Umiumare
Set designer Genevieve Dugard
Costume designer Tess Schofield
Lighting designer Matt Cox
Sound designer Jed Silver
Vision designer Benjamin Ducroz
Cast: Shareena Clanton, Trevor Jamieson, Lex Marinos, Martin Crewes, Sheridan Harbridge, Yumi Umiumare, Michael Walley, Cho Cleary and people from the Roebourne community, including Patrick Churnside and Nelson Coppin.
Musicians: Maria Lurighi, David Hewitt, Dudley Billing, and John Bennett

Heath Ledger Theatre
Until October 4

Brueghel's Orpheus in the Underworld is a stunning introduction to Hipbone Sticking Out
A while back, in a review of The TEAM’s thrilling Mission Drift at a Perth Festival, I said, “it has everything I think theatre should have, and does everything I believe theatre should do”.
So here goes; to paraphrase the title of one of the songs adapted for Big hARTS extraordinary Hipbone Sticking Out; Oops, I’m saying it again.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: the Ballad of Pondlife McGurk

By Andy Manley and Rob Evans
Barking Gecko and Windmill Theatre
By arrangement with Catherine Wheels Theatre Company
Directed by Gill Robertson
Performed by Marko Jovanovic
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
Until October 4

No one said school was meant to be easy, and for Simon and Martin, two young boys newly arrived at a primary school in Grade 6, it’s going to be tough.
They’re outsiders in a small world run by an in crowd, the smart, vicious, Sharon McGuiness, her acolyte Anushka, and the jocks-in-training Colin and Stuart.
Still, two loners are better than one, and the boys bond over their shared sense of adventure and their love of comics.
Their estrangement, and the cruelties and betrayals that brought it about, are the story of the play.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian