Sunday, 18 December 2011

Canine Delight : Dog in a park

My latest poem   

                               CANINE DELIGHT : DOG IN A PARK
                                DEC 2011

A small , white and speckled blurr of fur -
inkblot white against green
soft, silky fur against hard ground
rolls luxuriously on its back
all four paws in the air
scratch scratch
scratch scratch
ah! feel the grass!
scratch scratch
then suddenly upright again
a thorough overall exuberant wobble - shake
all put to rights
and back to daily routine business
tail wagging .

Griselda - Pinchgut Opera

fabulous singing
here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide  

Thursday, 8 December 2011

As You Like It - Belvoir St

This is glorious, a must see .Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide

This is a a joyous, warm and sunny romantic comedy that had the entranced audience in frequent fits of laughter .Director Eamon Flack has devised a tremendous production, the 'standard' text slightly adapted and abridged ,with a brilliant cast and production team. The themes of young love, love that transforms everything,self analysis and how Arden is a strange magical forest with the capacity to change people who enter it are wonderfully developed and exploited by Flack.

There is some doubling/tripling of roles and particularly in the Forest of Arden itself a dizzying confusion of cross dressing - men playing women and women playing men - even more tangled than in the actual script ( eg Gareth Davies as a terrific, chain smoking rather uncouth Phoebe and Shelly Lauman as the handsome ,glowing yet troubled shepherd Silvius in love with Phoebe ).

There is fine ensemble work from all and enormous fun with the cast as sheep - cud chewing , silly hats and costumes, frisking and with silly tics of movement, lying down or running away startled from the audience - wonderful

There is some fine singing of at one point a madrigal like song and some riotous miming by Touchstone and sheep to music from Verdi's ' Rigoletto' in an attempt to impress and woo Audrey. The strolling musicians also have a portable keyboard, violin and other music inserted where appropriate.

The early court scenes leading up to Rosalind and Celia's sudden banishment are galloped through and in this version Orlando and Jacques de Boys wrestling match is off-stage.

Alison Bell as Rosalind/Ganymede is tremendous.and has a whale of a time 'magically' putting things to right at the end. Whether in a floaty floral print dress or obvious in disguise as a very feminine 'boy' in shirt, trousers and tiny moustache she is excellent.  

As Orlando hunky Ashley Zuckerman is totally charming and believable as the neglected nobleman and aching lover.

Charlie Garber has the difficult role of the not so good fool Touchstone and is magnificent . His jokes - and some others - have at times been rewritten for modern audiences but most of the wordplay which now can seem obscure and fall flat has been kept but interwoven with asides and interplay that keep it fresh and relevant. ( 'But it was clever! ') When in Arden he wears a blanket like cloak around him and carries a wand. a sort of superhero or wizard in disguise perhaps?! Or just a courtier turned shepherd doing his job ?

As Rosalind's tomboyish cousin Celia,petite,elfin Yael Stone is terrific when in disguise with Dame Edna like glasses and headband in the Forest .

In the dual role of blustery, dominating and cruel Duke Frederick and melancholy Jacques ,Billie Brown was most impressive. As Jacques he didn't really seem that particularly melancholy - perhaps he kept it hidden - but there was always an aura of him being a rather aloof outsider who didn't quite fit in. His world weary 'seven ages of man' speech was beautifully done. His rushing off at the end to join the Duke in a religious house could come as somewhat of a surprise if you weren't familiar with the play but understandable .But why then the ending with the Narcissus like looking in the pool ?

As Oliver, Orlando's brother, dishy Hamish Michael is at first mean and taunting but his unexpected love for Celia changes that and he becomes quite charming.

Alistair Watt's set is deceptively sparse and simple, basically comprising a clear empty curtained space with some moveable pieces of scenery (representing a tree or a pool for instance) and assorted props like folding picnic chairs. The opening court scenes are played in the audience with the houselights up . 'Arden' is represented by green curtains - Orlando's poems are mostly post it notes ( a single solitary flower mid stage, rather Middummer Night's Dream like, with one of Orlando's poems attached is eaten by a sheep ). At the end, all is revealed, as a golden reflective mirror.

This is a shimmering totally delightful production that will have you leaving the theatre with a huge grin.   Highly recommended, Eamon Flack’s production of the Bard’s AS YOU LIKE IT opened upstairs at Belvoir Street on Wednesday 23rd November and plays until Saturday 24th December, 2011.

© Lynne Lancaster

2nd December, 2011

Tags: AS YOU LIKE IT, William Shakespeare, Belvoir Street theatre, Eamon Flack, Alison Bell, Billie Brown, Gareth Davies, Casey Donovan, Charlie Garber, Trevor Jamieson, Shelly Lauman, Hamish Michael, Dan Russell, Yael Stone, Tim Walter, Ashley Zukerman, Alistair Watts.

Coup D'Etat by Justin Fleming at the Parade Theatre

a fabulous show - here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide
This is a riveting political thriller that had the audience listening intensely on the edge of their seats. It is an explosively powerful play looking at recent events (1988) in Malaysia that still has resonance today. It is also an examination of cultural differences and divides and a portrait of the incredibly diverse nation that is Malaysia. With COUP D’ETAT, playwright Justin Fleming (THE COBRA, BURNT PIANO) was nominated for an AWGIE and short listed for the Patrick White award.

COUP D’ETAT is set in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, in 1988. After receiving a letter the young king of Malaysia accuses a Supreme Court judge of treason and overturns a key constitutional ruling. Twice! The judge is declared guilty and dismissed from office after sham trials: Malaysia’s judicial system is left in shreds. While grieving over her father’s murder American lawyer Juliet Elms Morton attempts to investigate and understand the circumstances surrounding this constitutionally violent act.

What she finds is a rich world of dazzling tropical beauty, opulent pageantry and sacred ritual. It also forces her to challenge and review her beliefs about faith, Islam, sexuality and justice. It is a plea for tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity. Malaysia is now predominantly inhabited by Muslims but was previously occupied by the British. The Malaysian constitution and legal system is mostly adapted and inherited from the British system -references are made to the Magna Carta for example- but the underlying Malaysian culture remains relatively traditional, and heavily influenced by Islam.

The show has a relatively small cast ( five actors plus a musician ), who under the scintillating direction of  Suzanne Millar, perform brilliantly. As Juliet Elms Morton, who is also the narrator of the play, Cat Martin is magnificent. Elegant in a severe pantsuit she reveals underneath an incisive mind with a warmth and understanding and longing to know more about Malaysia and its people. Her Australian counterpart Justice Nigel Prior is beautifully played by the very distinguished looking Donald Sword. Both he and Juliet struggle to survive in the alien world of Machiavellian Malaysian politics as they seek to fight massive injustices. Both his and Juliet’s audiences with the King are indeed like bullfights. Prior is forced to awkwardly acknowledge to the King that he is gay – but that he has come to Malaysia solo – and they have heated discussions about religion, human rights and other things.

Fellino Dolloso as Tun Salleh Abas, the Supreme Court judge in the middle of the crisis is excellent. We see him squashed and humiliated after his engineered dismissal, looking after his roses ( roses in this play are another symbol of Malaysia) . He is in some ways regarded as the Malaysian St.Thomas A Beckett and has strong , hidden undercurrents .We also see his struggle for justice, a proper functioning constitution and human rights. His symbolic un/dressing of his judge’s robes has echoes in a way of the similar scene with the Pope in Brecht’s LIFE OF GALILEO.

Shingo Usami gives a very fine performance as the Yang Di Pertuan Agong (King ) resplendent in black and gold. Headstrong, arrogant and implacable, only his way is right and he can be cruel! The character of Sofiah, (are we meant to pick up that her name is the Greek word for wisdom?), Juliet and Nigel’s official government guide and interpreter, as played by terrific Renee Lim, is used as a catalyst for discussion about Islam, feminism and broader social issues. Underneath the layers of Islam, culture and humility is a woman of hidden determination and strength.

Allin Vartan-Boghossian's set is sparse and simple, flexible and atmospheric, dominated by a large raised playing space on which we see the rose. There are a couple of chairs and various small hand-props with some large trees in tubs to one side (representing Tun’s garden). Rabih Antonios plays traditional instruments, giving an atmospheric backdrop and creating much tension during the confrontational moments.

This is a great chance to see this excellent extremely topical and thought provoking play. There are some unexpected twists in this gripping , enthralling work that forces us to question and examine the very fabric of contemporary society. The show runs for 2 hours and 20 minutes including one interval.

Bakehouse Theatre Company’s production, well directed by Suzanne Millar, of Justin Fleming’s COUP D’ETAT opened at the Parade Theatre, NIDA, on Tuesday November 15 and runs until Saturday November 19, 2011.

© Lynne Lancaster

17th November, 2011

Return to Sender- Carriageworks

Some very exciting work - here's what I said for artshub :
Under the umbrella title of Return to Sender, Carriageworks presented seven short dance works from Australian and international artists. In an extremely varied program, some of the pieces were challenging, confronting and exciting; others just didn't quite work.
The pieces examine the influence of international creative relationships upon the practice of Australian dance artists. Curators Paul Gazzola and Jeff Khan invited eight Australian dance makers to develop new works that recreate the choreography, score or essence of an international peer's work. The works we saw range from reconstructed solos, performed instructions and collaborative texts. We gained an insight into the creative collaborations that influence Australian artists’ work but which take place overseas and are often invisible to the audience because of expense, geography and distance.
The first work, utilising the current trend for international collaboration via Skype and video, was Nadia Cusimano’s The Runner. Linked to her collaborator Christiane Hommelsheim via a live Skype feed from Gemany, together they recreate a solo performance choreographed by Deborah Hay that both artists have previously performed. It was an invitation to experiment. The choreography sometimes had a classical Indian dance feel, especially in the arms, the overall sense of fluid angularity and the sculptural poses. There were also possibly allusions to Twyla Tharp's work. Fascinating.
Double Act, for me, was disappointing – a superficial, cynical analysis of theatre, performance and dance writing. A fictional dialogue between Jane McKernan and her long time mentor and collaborator Wendy Huston, the night I saw it it was performed by Elizabeth Ryan and Emma Saunders. As a humourous analysis of performance and dance it didn't really go anywhere. The duo just stood in front of large microphones and talked with ironic comments/phrases flashed on a screen behind them.
Atlanta Eke's Name to be Given by the Spectator is an extremely brave, very energetic piece. Eke reworks Emma Kim Hagdahl's work of the same name into a condensed ten-minute solo, exploring a multiplicity of references that examine the nude moving body. Ballet enchainments are mixed with ordinary everyday movements; we see a myriad ways of walking backwards and forwards in straight line. Here again the trend of linking and interacting with the audience was included as Eke invited people to interact via their mobile/MP3 player or similar. It was an extremely revealing, intimate and challenging piece – one of the highlights of the evening.
Next was Tony Yap and Yumi Umiumare’s strong, powerful and incredibly moving Zero Zero. Butoh influenced, it has been developed from Yap and Umiumare’s interest in striving for a 'zero state' of total emptiness. It's also influenced by their mutual interest in the shamanistic dance practices, ritual environments and ancient cultural heritage of their homelands: Japan and Malaysia. It seems to be divided into three sections – a mesmerising, sculptural solo for Yap, who is strong and powerful in it, but also off balance and sometimes like a darting bird; a solo for Umiumare, where she is like a hooked fish on a line, one minute happy, the next dissolving into tears; and a duet for them both. Strange, angular and puppet-like, they never touch. Amazing.
After interval came Alison Currie's Solo. Currie rethinks Pere Faura’s work of the same name, which she saw in New York six years ago. She attempts to recreate the work from memory (not notation), exploring its influence on her own dance practice. It’s interesting to see a woman recreate and access male choreography for a male body on a female form. There’s a range of dance styles, mostly angular, athletic and off balance. We see what the solo 'could have been' but wasn't. The final part sees Currie explores vulnerability (the audience's and hers, and yes there is other non-painful audience participation). It ended when she took her shoes off and left them on stage. An audience favourite, we wanted more.
Matthew Day’s Self Portrait was most disappointing, I’m afraid. Originally performed by Mathieu Gaffre in Amsterdam in 2010, it had a couple of fascinating visual ideas but didn't really go anywhere or do anything. Just standing there with a long wig covering your face and then revealing your beard and grimacing doesn't really add too much. There were lots of blackouts and loud music and a wonderful dramatic colourwash on the backcloth at one point. Was it meant to be an exploration of duality and sexuality?
The final work, Latai Taumoepeau’s Koumi Fonua was thrilling. Taumoepeau has worked with Tongan artist, academic and poet Hufanga Dr 'Okusitino Mahina to translate the Tongan Ta-Va (time-space) theory of reality into a visual and movement score, fusing the poetics and principles of Tongan cultural practice with Western contemporary dance. It was mesmerising, strong and powerful and had a rhythmic heartbeat or rain as a pulsating soundtrack. It begins with Taumoepeau doing lots of rippling, flowing-arm movements. Her arms are covered in oil. The set is a white box that Taumoepeau steps into and gets covered in the red paint – a sacrifice? A comment on the destruction of our environment? Enthralling.
Rating: 4 stars
Return To Sender
Curated by Paul Gazzola and Jeff Khan
Nadia Cusimano: The Runner
Jane Mckernan: Double Act
Atlanta Eke: Name to be Given by the Spectator
Tony Yap & Yumi Umiumare: Zero Zero
Alison Currie: Solo
Matthew Day: Self Portrait
Latai Taumeopeau: Kumi Fonua
November 23–26
Below: Yumi Umiumare in EN TRANCE

Warning : Explicit Material

an excellent play - here's what I wrote for artshub
In the 1960s–70s, when larrikin artist Barry Smith (William Zappa) was a member of the Sydney Push and the Libertarian movement, his biggest claim to fame – and one of the proudest moments of his life – was having an exhibition of his work raided and closed by the Vice Squad for alleged obscenity. Barry made the front page of the Sunday Mirror two weeks in a row. They were heady, exhilarating days when art and censorship were heavily in the news.
Now, many years later and regarded as a struggling, relatively obscure artist, Barry is unexpectedly visited by two women: his estranged daughter Alex (Michelle Doake), who he has not seen in more than 20 years; and young Daisy (Jessica Sullivan).
There’s a lot of discussion of the role of the government and arts funding, and artists struggling to survive in the cut-throat arts world. Playwright Geoffrey Atherden (Mother and Son asks: what is an artist's life for? What is the purpose of art? Can – or should – we separate the viewing of an art work from what we know of an artist's life? Should a great artist (such as Caravaggio or Polanski) be forgiven everything because of their oeuvre?
A lot of the show focuses also on the role of the artist in society: as agent provocateur, shocking and challenging us, making us think. But it also looks at how the role of the artist and professional and family life are interwoven. Can someone lead a happy, healthy family life and be a great artist as well? On these counts in particular, Barry has failed. Estranged from his wife and daughter, he is suffering from artist's block and black depression. With haunted, hypnotic eyes, Zappa is superb in the role – he is powerful, magnetic and passionate, with allusions to Picasso and Whiteley. Full of machismo and bravado (fancy calling an exhibition series My Big C**k!), his life and work was full of women and booze – or was it?
As Alex, Michelle Doake is great. Embittered, embarrassed, she has become something of a control freak. She is ruthless, yet underneath there is an overwhelming loneliness and a longing for reconciliation with her father. Her monologue is fabulous – a brief dash through art history from the Lascaux cave paintings through to minimalist, op, pop and abstract art. Brilliant.
Fresh and vibrant, with a fabulous eye and great talent, Daisy is a very pretty Norman Lindsay nymph in a short sundress, with blonde braided hair. An art student at Swinburne, she ends up being selected to hang in the Archibald Prize. And she inspires Barry in unexpected – and explosive – ways.
Director Mark Kilmurry and his cast have a fabulous time with Atherden's sometimes savage, sarcastic language (and there is a lot of strong language) in this exciting world premiere. Kilmurry's direction is excellent and the cast thrive under his guidance. Steven Butler brings his wonderful set – of a cluttered dirty, jam-packed studio – to life; you can smell the paints and turps.
A fabulous, questioning celebration of the meaning of art and life.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Warning: Explicit Material
By Geoffrey Atherden
An Ensemble Theatre production
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Cast: William Zappa, Michelle Doake, Jessica Sullivan
Designer: Steven Butler
Lighting Designer: Peter Neufeld
Wardrobe coordinator: Lisa Mimmocchi
Ensemble Theatre
October 27–December 10, 2011

IOU at IO Myers studio UNSW

another review for artshub
Some absolutely thrilling work featured in this programme of six short works by some of Sydney’s best independent dance makers, who have been connected to the school of English, Media and Performing Arts at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) for several years. Their skills, experience and various work processes have been shared with students and researchers in return for space and time at the Io Myers Studio to develop ideas into the new works which were presented at this performance.
First up was Anton in his powerful, hypnotic piece, Supermodern 2.1. Short, stocky with heavily muscled arms and clad in a black top and tracksuit pants, Anton gave a mesmerizing performance. He started with tiny, twitchy movements that grew and expanded. At times he seemed to be flying but was standing still, trapped in a square of light. Was he being tormented by insomnia or internal demons? Life in a boxing ring? I look forward eagerly to the full length work.
Next came Awaken Absence for Josh, by Craig Bary (almost unrecognisable from his Side to One earlier this year: here Bary was bearded, tall, gangly and all long legs). Tender and intimate, Bary used a chair almost as a lover, wrapping himself around it and enfolding it. The chair was balanced on, jumped on, tossed and caught. Slithery, spider-like movement combined with grounded floor work was contrasted with creamy, smooth movement and some fast, furious turns. Excellent.
This was followed by Martin del Amo’s Disorientation, developed from his earlier work, It’s A Jungle Out There. In blue jeans and top, del Amo used tiny movements, almost like a scared animal, to explore space while caged in a small corridor of light. This work demanded a very flexible, articulate back which del Amo exploited marvellously.
The last work before interval was Narelle Banjamin’s intense and dramatic No Body. Inspired by the Hindu goddess Kali – I also thought of the Biblical Salome and Judith (Caravaggio’s paintings as well) – this work was a mini-Peking Opera in a way. Acrobatics, flamenco and fencing combined with the Northern Kung Fu sword form. Headstands and rolling floorwork were also incorporated, and Benjamin has fabulous feet and a searing arrow of a pointed, thrust leg.
After interval came What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room, again by Del Amo, this time clad in a black dress and jazz boots. It was a tribute/deconstruction to Fosse and Cabaret in particular, especially with the angular arms and star hands. There were also allusions to Graeme Murphy’s choreography and Nijinsky’s L’Apres Midi Un Faune. The audience found this work very funny in parts.
Kristina Chan’s Lost and Found began with her trapped sadly in a corner of the room, staring into a wall. There was quite a lot of floorwork and Chan displayed incredible flexibility. A lot of this work was to do with the idea of ‘looking’ or ‘observing’ – a foot, a hand, looking away, looking at the audience (through hands held like glasses) – attempting to discover and comprehend our place in the world .
The final work, Timpothy Ohl’s Jack, was a great crowd pleaser and showcased Ohls’ terrific talent, but for me was a bit disappointing. ‘Jack’ is an entrant in one of those reality TV dance shows currently in vogue. Jack is desperate to win – he is indeed a ‘Jack of all trades’ (or in this instance dance styles). We see bits of ballet, tap, breakdancing, Michael Jackson-like dance, musical theatre. He even sings and plays the ukulele! Amazing, extraordinary stuff, but too disjointed and jumbled.
Collectively, iOU was a fabulous programme that gave us the chance to see some glorious, cutting edge, independent dance work. What was interesting to note as well was the gender balance in the programme, with the men predominating.
Rating: Four stars
Supermodern 2.1: choreographed and performed by Anton
(music: ‘Comfortable Expectations’ from Periphery by Christopher Bissonette)
Awaken Absence for Josh: choreographed and performed by Craig Bary
(music: ‘Velius’ by Helios)
Disorientation: choreographed and performed by Martin Del Amo
(music by Gail Priest)
NoBody...: choreographed and performed by Narelle Benjamin
(music: The Kama Sutra)
What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room: choreographed and performed by Martin Del Amo
(music by Gail Priest)
Lost and Found: choreographed and performed by Katrina Chan
(music: ‘Fluten’ from Resonance by Bilwa)
Jack: choreographed and performed by Timothy Ohl
(music: Hot Chip’s ‘Ready for the Floor’; Tugboat’s ‘8-bit’ hip hop medley; Bobby Calwell’s ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ (DZ remix))
Running time: 90 mins (approx) including interval
Io Myers Studio, UNSW, Kensington Campus
October 28 – 29

4 Tell at Parramatta

here's what I said about 4Tell on artshub
The latest show by youMove, under the direction of Kay Armstrong, featured some truly exciting and terrifically performed work presented under the umbrella of ‘Form’ – formerly known as Western Sydney Dance Action, the presenter of much marvellous dance at Parramatta Riverside Theatres since 2000.
The opening work, Boundaries, choreographed by Ian Colless, had an obvious Bangarra-like influence, and combined both traditional Aboriginal dance and modern/contemporary styles, performed by six dancers wearing black shorts with artistically rent tank tops. This short but glorious work included traditional women’s line movements as well as representations of kangaroos and other animals, blended with exciting sculptural choreography and lots of floor work.
By Looking, choreographed by Kevin Privett, began with a pyramid of light, the dancers entering on the apex. A lot of the choreography was circular and rippling .Were the dancers in their beautiful blue outfits mermaids? Darting, bubbling fish? This work had some most unusual lifts and tableaux and I would like to see it further developed and expanded.
3rd Time Over, choreographed and performed by Angela French, was an intense, very dramatic and disturbing solo. Based on the idea of subconscious recollection and dismissal of thought, it saw French descend into madness, Ophelia-like, with repeated phrases of frenzied movement. Much of the solo concentrated on French’s wonderful arm movements – rippling, folding, stretching, entwining, searching for something, and frantic beating of the chest.
Last Pace to Go, specially developed as a virtual residency with David Williams in Ingolstadt, was a wonderfully intimate and powerful pas de deux for Healey and Marcs. In some sections they appeared to be drastically quarrelling, in others luminously linked. Some of the lifts and partnering were exceptional, and the opening section, including mime, emphasised the distance between the two.
Multiplicity, choreographed by Anton, saw the dancers in pink, green and beige tops, and lit by very eerie, effective lighting. Most of the work was very strong ensemble work, as if the dancers were cogs in a machine or robots (shades of Metropolis and German Expressionism?) Rolling floorwork was contrasted with the ensemble repeating phrases of movement – e.g. some particular head movements and very effective blurry, almost Bollywood-like arm gestures evoking the movements of machines.
All of the above were interspersed with the dancers performing various movements and monologues about the rehearsal process and the making of 4Tell from their blogs. A highlight was Lauren McPhail’s monologue about the dancer’s use of space, which included a Hoberman minisphere and audience interaction. Some of the monologues were revealing and funny, and expanded the dancer’s use of voice – one, a musical theatre spoof which saw the performer hanging upside down with a huge umbrella, was very physically demanding. Another featured a fascinating look at a dancer’s muscle memory.
In all, 4Tell was a most exciting evening – an excellent chance to see some great new short works and some marvellous dance talent.
Rating: Four stars
By youMove Company
Curator/Artistic Director: Kay Armstrong
Lighting Design: Guy Harding
Dancers: Jay Bailey, Imogen Cranna, Angela French, Jayne McCann, Lauren McPhail, Melinda Tyquin and Anna Healey
2011 Mentee: Tracey Parker
Guest artist: Sean Marcs
Duration: 90 mins (approx) no interval
Parramatta Riverside Theatre
October 27 – 29

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Too Soon To Tell

TOO SOON TO TELL is the first production by the newly formed Austinmer Dance Theatre (ADT) led by Michelle Forte. This contemporary based company consists of ten classical ballet trained dancers (all female) and a musician all aged between 17-25. ADT gives serious young dancers an opportunity to pursue their love of dance at a professional level whilst continuing their secondary and tertiary education before embarking on a full-time dance career.

The four short works interspersed with song solos by Chloe Harrison make a very exciting Fringe performance. Each work has a cast of about five to seven dancers and are plotless, contemporary dance pieces, emphasizing mood rather than narrative and mostly performed barefoot. The tiny space of the Newtown Theatre stage was stretched to its limits. Technically the dancing was fabulous, strong and very centered with glorious feet.

DON’T LOOK BACK opened the show. The cast were in blue or dusty pink floral dresses with ruffled necklines. There was exuberant energy, a fluid sense of movement and a wonderful sense of sculptural line with also an unusual use of backbends. Forte seems to favour a very strong, centered pelvis and a magnificently long, held back combined with some great jumps. Were the cast meant to be sirens or mermaids ?

AGGRAVATED DISRUPTION with the cast all in black costumes had an angry, sci-fi futuristic feel about it . An explosive ticking time bomb the cast at times were like a mad robotic machine, with repeated and/or echoed phrases of movement to the relentless, pounding, hypnotic score. Here however I really noticed that Forte's choreography was sometimes repetitive ( was it meant to be?) and particularly in this work the dancers seemed squashed and restricted by the small stage space.

STOLEN MEMORIES also choreographed by Forte, starts off seemingly with the atmosphere of children in a playground but then becomes more eerie, lyrical and serious - swirling and yearning with the dancers in their soft floral dresses - yet there is also an ominous drifting away of the characters. Are they in an asylum? Is it the nightmare period of the 1930's - 40's and World War 11? Are they 'the disappeared’?'  At times I was reminded of MacMillan's LAS HERMANAS and THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS' with a dash of Meryl Tankard. An edgy twitchiness was combined with a deep Graham ply and some circular 'character' or folk dancing. A couple of tiny solos and fabulous pas de deux were included.

ARMY OF YOU - with the cast in green kilts, black shoes and white tops and socks, looked at groups of mad sports fans and team spirit. Aggressive and exuberant it demanded lots of fleet footwork and circular, angular, repeated phrases of movement. In one section speech is very important as the cast vociferously follow a maddeningly exciting football match with various repeated sounds and phrases.

A most impressive premiere program and I look forward to seeing more from this company.

Austinmer Dance Theatre's production of TOO SOON TO TELL, running at just under an hour, played the Newtown theatre corner King and Bray street, Newtown between the 23rd September and the 2nd October, 2011

(c) Lynne Lancaster

3rd October, 2011


a marvellous show here's what I wrote for Sydney Arts Guide
'His life in a plastic bag, his family in a chain around his neck'

Like Godot , Lucky never arrives , we never see him, but he is a major character in this play and dominates the show.

This amazing,lyrical show , a 'most unusual canary',is full of waiting and has dark undercurrents of violence .It is about luck - or the lack of it - changing your life.It is about being a refugee trying to escape to 'the lucky country' with virtually nothing but the clothes on your back. Lucky is also the name of the elder brother who has already escaped .

This is the Australian premiere of a captivating , visually ravishing 'physical theatre' piece that combines stylized mime , aerial work and 'straight ' drama. It is a story of illusion, hope and determination.We are taken on a mesmerizing journey that ebbs and flows between life and death, fears of the unknown and visions of a new land.For most of the show the cast are adrift on the boat in the middle of nowhere , trying to avoid the coastguards ...

The two main characters/narrators are Lucky's two brothers who put themselves in the hands of a people smuggler to escape.It is all done for the family, to help the family survive the poverty and terrible conditions they live in in the unnamed country. There is loss and homesickness as they worry about their parents.They flee together to protect each other and establish a new life. As well they are also trying to find their brother Lucky and clarify what happened to him ( has he survived ? where is he now ? )

Director and set designer Sama Ky Balson has created a dreamlike, lyrical set with bolts of cloth and hessian ( sails) , some ladders as rigging and a moveable small raised platform that acts as the 'boat' . A simple piece of string can be many things- a fishing line, a mask, a part of the rigging..

Lighting designer Ross Graham's work is fabulous- a marvellous sunrise, glorious reflective rippling water and most effective dance-like use of shadows and silhouettes with behind the screens use of arms as fish,birds etc.There is a wonderful section towards the end where the cast clamber and 'fly' from the rigging as if they are underwater. The musical score is haunting and atmospheric .Conrad Le Bron is not only the shadowy elusive 'bird' figure but involved in the singing There are communication problems as the human trafficker doesn't speak the language at all well .Eventually we learn that he lost his family in a similar way. Sometimes he seems to care for the two brothers (offering one his hat for example) but mostly all three just endure the seemingly endless days on the boat.Somnolent,dreamlike states are contrasted with flashes of explosive  action and violence .

In one section there is a ritualized , stylized fight when the human trafficker tosses both brothers overboard dismsissing them  as 'unprofitable' .And there is a major spat about the limited drinking water .

A powerful paean to family, love and loss this show is highly topical with the current refugee situation. What would you do ? As the questions on the noticeboards ask in the foyer -  How long would you stay in a place where you couldn't speak your mind? would your kids have a future if you haven't got one yourself?

"I’m following the water, afloat with the current. I’m almost there."

Thoroughly recommended .

LUCKY, running at just an hour, is playing the New Theatre, 403 King Street, Newtown until Saturday 22nd October, 2011

(C) Lynne Lancaster

October 8, 2011


A most interesting collaboration between Bangarra and the STC   

This groundbreaking show is a collaboration between actor and writer Wayne Blair and Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre, Stephen Page. Twelve actors and traditional Yolngu storytellers bring us a classic story of forbidden love (a ‘wrong skin’ story) in which divided clans come together in an Aboriginal community affected by social poison.
In Bloodland, we are in the land – a divided community, a community divided from the larger world. It also explores black on black conflict, family, kinship and division. Political themes – the current homelands campaign, mining rights, and health issues (smoking, substance abuse etc) are also featured.
The production is performed in a mix of Pidgin English and Yolngu (an Indigenous language from North East Arnhem Land), with no subtitles. It’s a rather unique mix of straight drama and a ‘dance’ piece. The second half especially has great emotional impact, but it attempts to blend both Indigenous and ‘white’ culture and doesn’t quite come off successfully as an integrated whole. While extremely impressive, it perhaps needs a little tightening and clarification. You can see what the creative team are striving for, and some sections are brilliant, but the work doesn’t quite know what it is, and is sometimes disjointed and repetitive.
There are some marvellous sections in the work. At one point, in the hushed, dulcet tones of David Attenborough, there is biting social and health commentary with the community being analyzed and commented on like animals; we hear various health facts about smoking, cancer etc as we see the people in the town smoking.
The integration of traditional Aboriginal dance and rituals into the show works extremely well and there are some visually stunning sections. We see the men teach the boys how to make bark canoes properly, we see the women with their baskets and making bread. We also see women quarreling over groceries while the young people share MP3’s. Traditional Aboriginal face painting and body makeup is also included.
Peter England’s set design – a jagged, torn and broken wire fence with some leafy strands and teetering, peeling telegraph poles – is fabulous and very ‘outback’. Damien Cooper’s lighting is gloriously atmospheric. At one point the stage is seemingly grooved, rutted and covered in frost – beautiful, yet cold and dangerous.
We see substance abuse (for example Kava, the highly potent alcoholic drink) handed out by David Page, who plays Donkey/Bapi – the local kava merchant, also a drug dealer, as a mysterious hooded Trickster figure – and how this ends tragically.
Another marvellous yet chilling set piece is the ‘Miss White’ section that opens with ‘Advance Australia Fair’, before we see how Miss White ritually kill all her class on Australia Day for speaking in their native Aboriginal language, questioning the dominance of the English language and trying to stand up to her.
The extended ending with the keening, wailing mourning rituals and the haunting songs and sound of clapping sticks, has enormous, gut wrenching impact .
Ursula Yovich, who plays Cherish, a disturbed young woman who obsessively carries her bag of old mobile phones (conjuring the spirits of the elders and other characters) is striking.
Mention must also be made of Rhimi Johnson Page, Meyne Wyatt and Hunter Page-Lochard, who play the community’s young men and in whom we see the stresses of the duality of contemporary life.
There are some extremely impressive performances and it is a major, striking production, but it needs a little tweaking before it has the impact it deserves.
Rating: Three and a half stars
Sydney Theatre Company, Adelaide Festival and Allens Arthur Robinson in association with Bangarra Dance Theatre present
Concept by Stephen Page
Story by Kathy Balnhayngu Marika Stephen Page and Wayne Blair
Written by Wayne Blair
Director: Stephen Page Set Designer: Peter England Costume Designer: Jennifer Irwin Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper Composer: Steve Francis Assistant Director: Kirk Page
Running time: 90 minutes (approx)
Cast: Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Elaine Crombie, Rarriwuy Hicks, Rhimi Johnson Page, Banula Marika, Nolene Marika, David Page, Hunter Page Lochard, Kelton Pell, Tessa Rose, Meyne Wyatt, Ursula Yovich
Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney
October 3 – November 13

And They Call Him Mr Glamour

here's what I wrote for artshub

Perhaps it’s a Sydney/Melbourne thing but I am afraid this show did nothing for me.
Melbourne anti-institution The Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm have never previously appeared on Sydney stages. Here, in a world premiere is the extraordinary And They Called Him Mr Glamour, a challenging and confronting solo show written and performed by Black Lung member Gareth Davies.
Davies’ performance in itself was amazing, but I’m afraid I didn’t like it. His unkempt, almost psychotic character in a blue Hawaiian shirt desperately wants love and attention – or indeed any sort of human interaction – but his behaviour was alienating and off-putting. In the opening section he smoked incessantly and had a David Helfgott-like twitch while delivering an extended monologue about life, death, the meaning of existence and communication (or the lack of it) in our society. The piece also examines theatre practice and the nature of theatrical reality. At one point in the show Davies goes into the audience and sits watching and waiting for something to happen.
A piece about human interaction, longing for love and querying if love is real, it is a clarion call for self respect and understanding. Davies’ performance is incredibly intimate and soul-baring. Apparently he wrote Mr Glamour during an oppressive bout of paranoia, sort of ‘falling through it’ to survive it. At the end Davies is stripped, with his pants down, revealing everything.
Relentless, intelligent yet moronic, impatient and very brave, this is Davies’ one man plea for self respect, heroism and conversely, the right to be regarded as an idiot if he wants to be. The angry, passionate script is sometimes rambling, incoherent and repetitive with lots of very strong language and passages that could offend.
I really liked the jaw-dropping set by Trott and Wright. As we enter there is an incredible ceiling sculpture of a flowing mass of light globes suspended from above, Chihuly-like, and a wonderful wall crammed with assorted bric-a-brac – a hand basin, a painting, a ceremonial mace, a footstool, among other things – and a partially dug up earth floor. All meant to represent our human psyche, perhaps, or Davies’ world of the imagination?
I didn’t find it particularly funny but a lot of the audience especially the under 35’s loved it and were hooting hysterically. Yet on the other hand there were walkouts.
A challenging, puzzling performance.
Rating: Three stars
And They Call Him Mr Glamour
Written and performed by Gareth Davies
Director: Thomas M. Wright
Set Designers: Peter Trott and Thomas M Wright
Lighting Designer: Govin Ruben
Running time: 70 minutes (approx), no interval
Belvoir Street
Sept 15 – October 9

Earth Angel

Another Fringe review for artshub
For those of us who are romantics at heart, this unusual and exciting combination of dance, music and circus/aerial work reminds us that yes, there really are angels who mysteriously enter our lives.
Part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, directed and devised by Maggie Kelly and choreographed by Marko Panzic, Wild Spirit’s Earth Angel takes as it basis the romantic ballet premise of an elusive angel sent to Earth who falls in love with a mortal. Can they really be together? Think La Sylphide, Giselle, La Bayedere – but there are also hints of Star Wars and Black Swan. I was also reminded of Ashton’s Dante Sonata and Murphy’s Some Rooms and Seven Deadly Sins.
Separated from her heavenly sisters, an angel, Tara (Natasha Marconi) is sent to Earth in a quest to save the planet from the ‘Dark Lights’ – (Melise Avion, William Keohavong and Mashum Liberta) – a sexy, evil ‘black queen’ like figure supported by two slithering sinister ‘toy boy’ tempters or dark angels in cut-black black costumes and rippling cloaks. On her journey, Tara falls in love with a mortal, Christopher (Chris Tsattallios).
Once on Earth, Tara has to awaken the blue water spirit (Lauren Howes on aerial lyre), the red Fire spirit (Ashley Thompson on aerial web) – some wonderful costumes and masks here – the Air spirit (a spectacular Simon Shields, entrancing and godlike in a revealing silver costume with a magnificent aerial trapeze solo) and a male, yellow-ochred Aboriginal Earth Spirit who does a marvellous acrobatic pole dance that also, Bangarra-like, incorporates some traditional Aboriginal dance. We also see how the Dark Lights interfere with mortal lives, through the troubled characters Mathew and Catherine (Philip Srhoj and Mari Evans).
Towards the end there is a Giselle-like section where Christopher, the mortal lover, can no longer see Tara but can still feel the touch of her invisible wings. Somehow they break down the barriers.
Allegory and symbolism again linked to ballet tradition are incorporated with the theme of the scarves that Tara is given by the various elements and her sisters. Texture is also important – the lace details and chiffon on the angels’ costumes, the silk and other materials used for the aerial work, the feathers and hard red masks for the fire creatures, and the leather look for the Air solo.
It is a visually spectacular piece, featuring some difficult acrobatic work and fine aerialist/trapeze work. There are allusions to liturgical dance, martial arts and Graeme Murphy’s choreography. The dancing itself is exceptional, demanding a very fluid supple line, a flexible back, high jumps, and a high extended and held develope, among other things, including the use of swan/angel wing-like rippling arms when appropriate.
The music is an integral part of the performance; a blend of Celtic, Cirque du Soliel style, Aboriginal (yes, including didgeridoo) and soft pop/rock ballads. The main singer, Angela Little, the High Priestess Angel who acts as a sort of watching goddess mostly high up in the balcony, is amazing.
The scene changes and blackouts were perhaps a bit clunky and a couple of times we thought the show had finished before it really had, but overall this was an excellent production – an exciting blend of myth, quests and Romantic ideals combining dance music and circus/aerial work. I look forward to the next Wild Spirit production
Rating: Four stars
Earth Angel
Director: Maggie Kelley
Choreographer: Marko Panzic
Cast: Natasha Marconi, Chris Tsattalios, Angela Little, Melise Avion, Keiynan Lonsdale, Mashum Liberta, William Keohavong, Lauren Howes, Paige Walker Carlton, Simon Shields, Matt Shields, Ashlee Thompson, Phillip Srhoj, Mari Evans, Angela Little and Larry Kelly
Running time: 75 minutes (no interval)
The Reginald, Seymour Centre
September 20 – 24
The Sydney Fringe
September 9 – October 2

The Book of Everything

A marvellous return season this time at the Seymour Centre
here's my artshub revuiew

Company B Belvoir and Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image’s 2010 smash hit has transferred most successfully to the York Theatre at the Seymour Centre, convincingly transforming the York’s thrust stage into Amsterdam, 1951.
While the remount features some slight modifications and a couple of cast changes from the original production, it is still as magical as ever. Sticking very closely to the novel, The Book of Everything has been adapted by Richard Tulloch from the book by Guus Kuijer. Directed by Neil Armfield, its main character is nine year old (almost ten) Thomas Klopper, a little boy who dreams big. When he grows up, Thomas wants to be happy. He sees things others cannot imagine and his inquisitiveness and delightful spirit win over those around him.
Thomas is writing a book. His father says all important books are about God. Even so, Thomas records all the unusual and interesting things he observes that everyone else appears to ignore or dismiss – tropical fish in the canal, a deluge of frogs, the Son of God materializing for a chat - and calls it ‘The Book of Everything’. Dark domestic violence and the pain of hidden family secrets are revealed, and the search for truth, courage and self-knowledge developed. (There are some painfully explosive emotional moments, especially in Act Two).
The leading role of imaginative, nervous Thomas is brilliantly played by Matthew Whittet. Very believable as a nine year old, he captures the innocence and awkwardness of that age superbly.
His stern, authoritarian, bombastic Bible-and-wife-beating father is excellently portrayed by Pip Miller. (At times we can sympathise, in a way, with his aloof loneliness, especially at the end of the play.) Thomas’s downtrodden, beautiful mother is brought to life by comely Claire Jones who radiates warmth and love and battles hidden domestic violence. Thomas’ older sister Margot is delightfully played by Rebecca Massey as an obsessive, maddening 16 year old.
Other colourful characters include the sunny, bicycle-riding feminist Aunty Pie (a delicious Deborah Kennedy), who hides dark secrets of her own; and Eliza (Lucia Mastrantome), a vibrant, confident older girl Thomas falls in love with – she is one of Margots’ friends and has a squeaky leather leg.
Another important character is the neighbourhood ‘witch’ who becomes Thomas’ friend – the wise, caring yet startling Mrs Van Amersfoort (Julie Forsyth ), who sparks Thomas’s journey of self-discovery by encouraging him to read and listen to music. The delightful scene where Thomas reads aloud to her and she becomes a little girl again is a theatrical tour de force.
The terrific Jesus, as portrayed by John Leary, looks straight out of traditional Sunday School illustrations – young, long haired and bearded, clad in a white robe – but He has subtly challenging and confrontational views.
There’s also the ‘Bumbiter’ (a vicious neighbourhood dog) also played, wonderfully, by Pip Miller.
For this production the acting style is ensemble, full of infectious enthusiasm, with various cast members at times acting as narrator or foley artist. The portrayal of the interminable, boring church services on a Sunday are great fun and I liked the ‘plague of frogs’ and the turning the water in the fishtank to ‘blood’ as well as the gale of leaves in Act One, and the set piece chase where Thomas attempts to retrieve his letter to Eliza. Stylized mime is used for the violence, lit by flashes of strobe lighting.
Audience participation is encouraged in a couple of parts – e.g. the ‘plague of frogs’ and the Read-Aloud Book Club meeting – and the children in the audience loved this.
Kim Carpenter’s bright, bold and colourful set design (typical of his Theatre of Image) is dominated by a giant book centre stage. Part fairytale, part pop-up book, the marvellous illustrations which adorn its gradually revealed pages serve as set designs. The glorious clutter that is Mrs Van Amersfoort’s house, and the plague of frogs particularly deserve special mention. Iain Grandage’s enchanting score – including organ and poignant cello – marvellously highlights, comments upon and frames the action.
An exciting, enchanting and thought provoking production, it showcases some top Australian talent. The audience roared and cheered its vociferous approval at the end. As I overheard upon leaving the auditorium, this show can now be regarded as an Australian theatrical classic.
Rating: Five stars
The Book Of Everything
A Company B Belvoir/Theatre of Image co-production
Director: Neil Armfield
Adaptor Richard Tulloch
Set and costume designer Kim Carpenter
Choreographer Julia Cotton
Assistant director Eamon Flack
Composer/musician Iain Grandage
Sound Designer Steve Francis
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes, including interval
Cast: Matthew Whittet, Claire Jones, Pip Miller, Julie Forsyth, Rebecca Massey, Lucia Mastrantone, John Leary and Deborah Kennedy
York Theatre, the Seymour Centre
September 20 – October 1

Laying Down Bone/Bringing Up Brain

Another Fringe review for artshub

We choose how we live in our bodies – a healthy body remains able to respond – responsible.” - Andrea Olsen, Body Stories
Meet ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ (an articulated male spine and pelvis) and ‘Priscilla’ (a skull). Enter the world of Laying Down Bone (Bringing Up Brain), an exciting one woman show by Angela Hill and a combination of anatomy lesson, dance and autobiography presented as part of the Sydney Fringe. Hill, an award winning choreographer and performer, has taught dance and created works for the past 17 years, performing in both Sydney and the USA.
Laying Down Bone (Bringing Up Brain) is based on events in Hill’s life and current research in the fields of neurobiology, attachment theory and the effects of trauma and loss on the human body. In the style of a TED talk it looks at the mind-body connection between trauma, loss and human development.
In a white top and red, three-quarter length, flared skirt-like pants, Hill probes both the terrible traumas within her family history and the very beginning of existence: bone and brain formation in the womb.
For one section, in which Hill strips down to her underwear, computer aided analysis of her movement is shown as she discusses it. There are also computer images of the forming of a fetus, and of giving birth – echoed in Hills’ choreography at that point of the show, where she depicts a baby exiting the womb, learning to crawl/walk etc.
Hill’s choreography at times includes runs (as echoed in the CGI) and a headstand. Her smooth, fluid movement seems heavily weighted, Graham-like (there is lots of floorwork) and grounded; and also features the wonderful use of a very flexible back.
The show is also very painfully autobiographical and revealing. We learn about the history of suicides and deaths in her family – at least partly caused by genes? Yet Hill has to remain clinically detached. This leads to the discussion of genetics and attachment theory. “An elephant never forgets” – and has roughly the same brain structure as we humans, we are informed.
There are Hamlet quotes, and Priscilla the skull is passed around the audience for inspection while Hill talks. Elsewhere, she performs an intimate, quite jaunty and jazzy pas de deux with Elvis, dangling him from her hand, draping him lovingly around her shoulder, cradling him like a baby, and explaining how we can tell he is male.
Andre Hayhter’s computer graphics, as for example in Chunky Move performances, are an extremely important part of the show. Speech is featured, including various quotes about the body, reinforcing the dance from a medical/health perspective as well as an analysis of how the body physically moves in space.
A fascinating, intimately revealing show that breaks down the barriers between dance and medicine.
Rating: Four stars
Laying Down Bone (Bringing Up Brain)
Created and performed by Angela Hill
Sound and visuals by Andre Hayter
Running time: 40 minutes (approx), no interval
The Newtown Theatre, Newtown
Sept 22 – 24
The Sydney Fringe
September 9 – October 2

RENT at the Zenith Chatswood

This was absolutely fabulous rave rave
here's my artshub review
Viva la vie Boheme!
Dig out the superlatives. This brilliant production should be snapped up and given an extended season at, say, the Lyric or Theatre Royal. Chatswood Musical Society in their 60th year have brought us an exceptional version of Jonathan Larson’s rebellious pop/rock operatic musical Rent.
This radical reworking of Puccini’s La Boheme for the MTV generation is set in New York City circa 1998 – 1999. It is Christmas time, but there isn’t really any Christmas spirit – our characters can’t afford it. (“Christmas bells are ringing… Christmas bells are ringing… somewhere else... out of town.”) The plight of the poor and homeless is emphasised and social satire is included via funny phone calls from relatives/friends/agents. There is a great sense of community amongst the struggling artists.
Lonely, outsider, avant-garde filmmaker Mark is terrifically played by Levi Gardner. He acts as narrator and chronicler of the year’s events. His friend and flatmate, musician Roger, is excellently played by Liam Whan. Through the eyes of Mark’s camera we see Roger unexpectedly meet and fall head over heels (‘Light My Candle’) for sex kitten stripper and pole dancer (‘Out Tonight’) Mimi (stupendously played by Lily Robertson).
There is an ominous, threatening undercurrent though as Mimi is ill with AIDS and we see her being pimped and exploited by her drug dealer. Roger (who also has AIDS) and Mimi are oblivious, have major quarrels yet make up, and still manage to make a life together.
Meanwhile, Mark’s other friend Collins (the fabulous bear-like Josif Jovanovski) meets and falls in love with drag queen Angel (superbly played by Hayden Barltrop – a stellar performance – watch out for him in future shows – his ‘Today 4 U’ stops the show). Joyous, funny and caring, Angel dances rings around Collins – and the audience’s – hearts. He is stunning as Mrs Claus in Act One and has wears some lovely outfits elsewhere in the show. But take a box of tissues for Act Two (‘I’ll cover you’).
As the cutting edge performance artist Maureen, Amy Toledano is marvelous (her ‘Over the Moon’ solo is great). Her girlfriend Joanne, another strong character, is terrifically played by Fiona Hamilton. The catfighting between Maureen and Joanne is brilliantly done. Both give strong yet edgy performances. Mark and Joanne have a commiserating song (the delightful biting ‘Tango Maureen’) where they discover that in their confused, rocky relationships with Maureen, both of them have been treated appallingly and embarrassingly by her.
Mark and Roger’s ex-flatmate, now their Scrooge-like landlord Benny, a self centered geeky computer nerd, is played by tall, blonde and handsome Isaac Reefman.
This energetic, sprawling epic will touch your heart and make you laugh and cry. The huge cast, under Matt Cater’s direction, give glorious performances all round. The voices are tremendous and the orchestra, under musical director Steven Kreamer, is terrific. Musically it is a pop/rock opera with some soft ballads and a soupcon of Christmas carols. And not forgetting the set piece anthem ‘Seasons of Love’ that opens the second half.
Neil Shotter’s set design is graffitied, colourful and fluorescent with some stairs and some tables and chairs.
And it’s beginning to snow…
Rating: Five stars
Chatswood Musical Society present
Jonathan's Larson's Rent Matt Cater – Director
Steven Kreamer – Musical Director
Mel Warwick – Choreographer
Hannah Maurice – Production Manager
Beth Pilley – Wardrobe Coordinator
Neil Shotter – Set Design
Cast: Levi Gardner, Lily Robertson, Liam Whan, Josif Jovanovski, Hayden Barltrop, Fiona Hamilton, Amy Toledano, Isaac Reefman 23 Sept-Oct 1
Running time: Two hours 40 mins (approx) including interval
Zenith Theatre, Chatswood
September 23 – October 1
Lynne Lancaster
Currently working for FRANS, Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for both Ticketek and Tickemaster. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.
E: editor@artshub

Unit 4

A most impressive show at The Reg .. here's what I said for artshub

News, analysis and comment - performing arts 

Unit 4

By Lynne Lancaster ArtsHub | Monday, October 03, 2011
Dislocate, regarded as one of Australia’s leading independent theatre ensembles, was founded by Kate Fryer and Geoff Dunstan as a vehicle to create risk-taking physical theatre works that break boundaries by combining highly skilled circus feats with contemporary narratives. The company’s latest work, Unit 4, is a physical theatre piece that’s by turns charming, disarming, and extremely moving.
Combining dance, aerial work, acrobatics, sight gags and slapstick, the work tells the various stories – happy, sad and otherwise – of the people who have lived in a particular unit in an apartment block that’s scheduled for demolition. We see the life of the unit over five generations of tenants, from about the 1950s to the 1990s, approximately. For one section we are definitely in 1977 – we hear the death of Elvis Presley announced on the radio.
There are three major pieces of scenery/props – the sofa/bed (with different layers of coverings and detachable arms), the red door (that is not only lockable but tilts and spins) and a large red table that also functions as a bed.
The amazing cast of three (Geoff Dunstan, Kate Fryer and Alexandra Harrison) are seemingly boneless; infinitely flexible and stretchable. Some of the time they act as removalists, carting in/out various tables, chairs and other items. Much fun is had with needing to use a ladder to change the wonky light globe in a large ceiling lampshade (the cord of which is mysteriously flexible and retractable in length). Sometimes there is the classic silent movie slapstick of getting thwacked (or just missing being hit) by the ladder or other items, and the performers take great fun, using circus tumbling/balancing, to reach the light globe. Hup!
The opening sequence becomes quite macabre. A loving husband is looking after his very sick wife. However his attentions are distracted by a visiting carpet deliverer who tries to kidnap the wife by rolling her in a carpet. Split-second timing for rolls and the double drinking of tea, wonderful balancing on/off the sofa, the carpet person going to cut off the wife’s feet with a huge cleaver... all ending with the sad passing of the wife and the grieving husband.
Later, there is another extraordinary section where a woman lies very ill in bed (we hear the ominous ticking and beeps of assorted medical equipment and an amplified heartbeat) as she recalls her happy life with her lover. This section ends sadly with the machines stopping and the lover closing the book of photos she was perusing.
There is a quasi-slapstick, desperate solo for Dunstan where he is trying to kill himself – overdosing on prescription drugs, trying to throw himself out the window - but nothing works, so he tries to hang himself using the electrical cord and then electrocute himself. Nothing works. It’s an amazing and showstopping routine.
Another absolutely delightful section, earlier in the piece, is the shaky elderly couple having afternoon tea who reveal their younger selves for a passionate, flying acrobatic pas de deux and some marvellous dancing.
All this is contrasted with the very 1970s, athletic pas de deux for an amorous couple – except that he never really looks at her and the flowers are not for her.
Incredibly fine-tuned performances in a wonderful, thoroughly enjoyable show that enchants the imagination. Memories within a building really do live on.
Rating: Four stars
Unit 4 by Dislocate
Directed by Kate Fryer
Performed by Geoff Dunstan, Kate Fryer and Alexandra Harrison
Music and sound: Chris Lewis
Set design: Michael Baxter
Lighting: Eduard Ingles
Costumes: Harriet Oxley
Dramaturgy: Vincet Crowley
Props: Michael Baxter and Matt Wilson
Running time: One hour (approx) no interval
The Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre
September 28 – October 15

Madame Tango

one of the Sydney Fringe events , here's what I said on artshub
This steamy and spicy work, presented by new Australian performance group Three2Tango as part of the Sydney Fringe, offers a great chance to see some fabulous tango dancing integrated with a pointe solo, an acrobatic aerialist solo, and a ‘burlesque’ style fan dance solo; a marvellous mix of slinky tangos mixed with elements of Evita, Chicago and Gypsy.
Created and choreographed by William Centurion, Madame TANGO fuses various performance forms with a striking soundtrack (including the ubiquitous Piazolla); rewriting the rules of tango using live theatre and tango’s passionate rhythm to stamp their mark on its accepted traditional style.
The plot of the show concerns a young girl who, Evita-like, seeks to escape her dreary monotonous life in the country by seeking a bright new life in Buenos Aires. On her journey she is introduced to the tango – a forbidden pleasure – and is consumed by its fiery passion. As her later life unfolds a series of events occur, Chicago-like, that spiral out of her control and she comes to realise that men are not what they seem.
The production design’s dominant colour is red: for blood, for passion. All the Madame Tangos wear slinky red costumes that are subtly different in cut. The three younger Madames have short or bobbed hair (continuing the Chicago link).The older Madame Tango (television star Tina Bursill) acts as narrator, and is tres chic and elegant in a long flowing red and black gown. She tells the story of her life with a heavy, and at times hard to understand Spanish accent.
All the male characters are played by tattooed Latin hunk William Centurion, whose various roles are delineated by a different hat, shirt or prop.
As in Chicago, Madame Tango’s first love is killed as he accidentally runs onto a knife she is holding (it really is self defense). There is a steamy, slithery tango pas de deux here, including some very acrobatic lifts, and a yearning, grieving solo in the style of ‘Pillar of Fire’ or ‘Las Hermanas’.
For Madame Tango’s next younger self, the aerialist (Paige Walker) there is a wonderful solo with a hoop where Madame Tango drapes herself over it/through it/hangs from it/curls inside it (excellent work by Walker).
Madame Tango is fortunate to find love again – a far more hesitant and wary hot tango here, that heats up drastically – however, she flees to keep him safe and when he receives her letter, kills himself.
As the final version of Madame Tango’s younger self, the burlesque artiste (Natalie Somerville) has a wonderful, short feathery Firebird-like costume and a huge white fan. A very sultry and exotic performance leads into more hot tango dancing. A steamy same-sex tango is also included, with one of the cast cross-dressing as a male for the scene.
An exciting evening with some luscious, slithery tango, fabulously danced.
Rating: Four stars
Madame TANGO
Director: Grace Barnes
Choreographer: Will Centurion
Writers: Will Centurion and Grace Barnes
Additional Choreography: Mariana Baltodano, Paige Walker and Natalie Somerville
Lighting Design: Tom Davies
Costumes: Adriana Demichelis
Cast: Tina Bursill, Mariana Baltodano, Paige Walker, Natalie Somerville and William Centurion
Running Time: 50 minutes (approx) no interval
New Theatre, Newtown
September 26 – 30

No Cold Feet

here's what I said on artshub

A dazzled, puzzled audience braved the cold (fortunately it was not raining) for this outdoor, site specific performance that draws not only on the trademark ‘Body Weather’/Butoh De Quincey Company style, but also modern dance and Italian street theatre.
For about half of the performance we were seated directly opposite the beautiful St Mary’s Cathedral, which became an elegant backdrop to this fascinating performance (with the sun going down the backdrop was truly stunning – almost a Manet painting). Heavy duty portable stage lights were manipulated by the unobtrusive stage crew. The cast entered in procession out into the cobblestoned courtyard, wearing what appeared to be liturgical robes with a Ballets Russes influence and holding long flexible orange poles. All wore exaggerated white plastic breast plates and mismatched shoes (one a heavy boot, the other a sandal).
They clambered up and down the steps in various formations, the poles held in kabuki-like poses, wiggled, waved, wobbled...
The sound of the poles in the wind, thwacked against the ground, or whirled above the head like a bullroarer (or sword?) created a great sense of presence. For the final part of this section the dancers performed behind us on the steps where most of the audience was sitting, forcing us to turn around and watch. They stalked, posed, performed strange, repeated, isolated phrases of movement and interacted almost threateningly with the audience.
Squawking cockatoos and sacred ibises flew and stalked around us, and unsuspecting and unaware members of the general public also become performers as the dancers echoed, emphasised, and became part of the environment.
Next the audience followed the cast to the water pool, where – with excellent timing as the church bells rang – the cast formed a strange procession: sometimes like catwalk models posing, at other times viciously fighting, later collapsing laughing (at us? at themselves? at the world?). Here were saw individual phrases of repeated movements, echoed by the water of the fountain as it was turned on and off. The water was almost a performer in itself, impeccably timed, and the reflections were fabulous. The long orange poles were tossed into the water – allegorically spearing fish? Then came an odd solo for one of the female dancers, as if she was going slightly mad. The whole section of the work at this point has a slightly sci-fi, Dr Frank-n-Furter feel about it.
The final, elegiac section of the work was performed on the steps near the bike rack and then at the back of the building with the cast vanishing into the trees at the end. For some of this section they were frozen, Butoh-like tableaux: at one point they held their costumes high, waving them, before slipping them on, at which point the costumes became 18th century dresses and the dancers the ghosts of Rococo nymphs to the strains of the ‘Songs of the Auvergne’.
A strange, haunting, challenging and exciting event well worth braving the elements for.
Rating: Four stars
No Cold Feet
De Quincy Co
Choreography: Tess de Quincey
Dancers: Peter Fraser, Linda Luke, Vicki Van Hoot, Kathryn Pie, Katina Olsen, Mark Hill, Kristy Kilo and Gideon Paten-Griffiths
Sound Composition: Barbara Clare and Steve Tooling
Costume Design: Albert Baldwin
Lighting Design: Rachel Smith
Flag Installation: John Gillis
Running time: One hour (approx)
St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney
A dazzled, puzzled audience braved the cold (fortunately it was not raining) for this outdoor, site specific performance that draws not only on the trademark ‘Body Weather’/Butoh De Quincey Company style, but also modern dance and Italian street theatre.
For about half of the performance we were seated directly opposite the beautiful St Mary’s Cathedral, which became an elegant backdrop to this fascinating performance (with the sun going down the backdrop was truly stunning – almost a Manet painting). Heavy duty portable stage lights were manipulated by the unobtrusive stage crew. The cast entered in procession out into the cobblestoned courtyard, wearing what appeared to be liturgical robes with a Ballets Russes influence and holding long flexible orange poles. All wore exaggerated white plastic breast plates and mismatched shoes (one a heavy boot, the other a sandal).
They clambered up and down the steps in various formations, the poles held in kabuki-like poses, wiggled, waved, wobbled...
The sound of the poles in the wind, thwacked against the ground, or whirled above the head like a bullroarer (or sword?) created a great sense of presence. For the final part of this section the dancers performed behind us on the steps where most of the audience was sitting, forcing us to turn around and watch. They stalked, posed, performed strange, repeated, isolated phrases of movement and interacted almost threateningly with the audience.
Squawking cockatoos and sacred ibises flew and stalked around us, and unsuspecting and unaware members of the general public also become performers as the dancers echoed, emphasised, and became part of the environment.
Next the audience followed the cast to the water pool, where – with excellent timing as the church bells rang – the cast formed a strange procession: sometimes like catwalk models posing, at other times viciously fighting, later collapsing laughing (at us? at themselves? at the world?). Here were saw individual phrases of repeated movements, echoed by the water of the fountain as it was turned on and off. The water was almost a performer in itself, impeccably timed, and the reflections were fabulous. The long orange poles were tossed into the water – allegorically spearing fish? Then came an odd solo for one of the female dancers, as if she was going slightly mad. The whole section of the work at this point has a slightly sci-fi, Dr Frank-n-Furter feel about it.
The final, elegiac section of the work was performed on the steps near the bike rack and then at the back of the building with the cast vanishing into the trees at the end. For some of this section they were frozen, Butoh-like tableaux: at one point they held their costumes high, waving them, before slipping them on, at which point the costumes became 18th century dresses and the dancers the ghosts of Rococo nymphs to the strains of the ‘Songs of the Auvergne’.
A strange, haunting, challenging and exciting event well worth braving the elements for.
Rating: Four stars
No Cold Feet
De Quincy Co
Choreography: Tess de Quincey
Dancers: Peter Fraser, Linda Luke, Vicki Van Hoot, Kathryn Pie, Katina Olsen, Mark Hill, Kristy Kilo and Gideon Paten-Griffiths
Sound Composition: Barbara Clare and Steve Tooling
Costume Design: Albert Baldwin
Lighting Design: Rachel Smith
Flag Installation: John Gillis
Running time: One hour (approx)
St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mountains Never Meet

Here's what I said for artshub

Mountains Never Meet

By Lynne Lancaster ArtsHub | Friday, August 26, 2011
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Photo: James Brown  
Given that this production created by German-born, Sydney-based choreographer Martin del Amo was met by cheers and stamping feet at its conclusion, it’s clear the majority of the audience (and some of my colleagues) very much liked what they saw. Despite some terrific ideas informing the work – an exploration of the boundaries between dance and sport utilizing untrained community members, a la Lucy Guerin Inc’s Untrained – it left me disappointed and totally unengaged.
The opening duet, Duel, danced by footballer turned performer, Ahilan Ratnamohan and Connor van Vuuren and co-choreographed by them in collaboration with del Amo, was much more interesting and enjoyable. It was all done in slow motion – posed, frozen tableaux; the two guys interacting but not touching. In some ways it was reminiscent of the Australian Dance Theatre’s Held and Collision Course, featuring the wonderful visual effects of held sculptural frozen poses (slide, leap, jump, lunge, kick etc. and other football poses, and also some references to Olympic sports like shotput and discus). The line of the choreography was all curves and circles and there was some fancy, fleet footwork.
For the main work, del Amo worked with eight non-dancers ranging from 15 years of age to their mid-20s, all with diverse sporting and/or physical backgrounds – from hip hop crew members to engineers – and all of whom have a shared interest in choreography and performing, as typified by Ratnamohan.
The basis of the work was a series of simplified, everyday movements, e.g. walking – lots of walking – marching, running, skipping, jumping on the spot. Sometimes the walk was more like a harsh, cold march; at others it rippled in wave-like patterns up and down just one side of or across the stage.
It was as if each performer was in their own computer game world, on their separate distinct paths yet intersecting.
There was a Cunningham-like sense of rhythm and space, and I also detected possible allusions to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with the ensemble pack movement and the attention to very difficult counts and rhythms. All the dancers were dressed in layers of very casual street clothes. At one stage they removed their top layer T-shirts which became a sweaty bandanna. This was followed by some ‘cool’ ensemble work.
A squeaky shoe, one dancer going against the rhythm of everyone else, sudden fragmentary explosions of a repeated phrase of movement against the rest of the ensemble – there were some very interesting tiny fragments, but I am afraid it didn’t grab me.
It started very slowly and eerily with a single solitary walker emerging from the sidelit gloom. Gradually, all the other performers were added. The opening section went on way too long with an irritating whistle as a soundtrack, though I liked one short section towards the end, where the entire ensemble were on the floor, with very expressive arms.
As an idea involving the community and non-dancers this was terrific, but walking does not a dance make. Perhaps it’s a guy thing?
Rating: Two a half stars
Mountains Never Meet
Parramatta Riverside Theatre
August 17 – 20
Part of Western Sydney Dance Action & Riverside Theatre’s 2011 Dance Bites Program
Concept and Direction: Martin del Amo
Choreography: Martin del Amo in collaboration with the performers
Performed by Ahilan Ratnamohan and Connor van Vuuren
Mountains Never Meet
Concept, direction and choreography: Martin del Amo
Artistic collaborator: Ahilan Ratnamohan
Rehearsal assistant: Julie-Anne Long
Performers: Ravin Lotomau, Frank Mainoo, Benny Ngo, Kevin Ngo, Ahilan Ratnamohan, Mahesh Sharma, Nikki-Tala Tuiala Talaoloa, Carlo Velayo, Dani Zaradosh
Sound design: Cat Hope Lighting: Clytie Smith Costume consultant: Clare Britton Producers: Viv Rosman and Hannah Saunders for Performing Lines

The Libertine


This fabulous show was at the Darlinghurst Theatre a knockout

again a review for artshub

The Libertine

By Lynne Lancaster ArtsHub | Friday, August 26, 2011
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This is an extremely powerful production that is at times bawdy, lewd and rude, very funny yet also extremely sad and moving in parts.
Readers might have seen the 2004 movie version of Stephen Jeffrey’s play starring Johnny Depp; if not, it concerns the extraordinary life and times of John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester and his life at the court of Charles II. Rochester wasted his many gifts, was a very heavy drinker, a philanderer, a playwright, poet and a pornographer among other things and died at the age of 33. Although he had money and status he was self destructive, because of his inner vulnerability, insecurity and self loathing.
Jeffrey’s play presents him sympathetically, but from his opening monologue Rochester (Anthony Gooley) warns us not to like him. Gooley is brilliant in the role. A dashing, handsome actor in top form, he is mesmerizing as the Restoration rake. No wonder his wife, Elizabeth (terrifically played by Susan Prior) falls for him. However, Rochester can be rude, self centred, sarcastic and brutal. Elizabeth is treated horrendously – no wonder the marriage falters.
This play is not only a narrative biography of Rochester’s life but raises such issues as the position of women in society at the time. We see events from Elizabeth’s point of view and also from that of actress Lizzy Barry (Danielle King ). Both women struggle to define their place in society, to find independence, freedom and their own voice. We also meet Jane, a whore, and Molly, the equivalent of what would now be called stage manager at the playhouse Rochester frequents.
The play also explores the issue of authority, the ‘divine right’ of kings, and also King Charles’ and Rochester’s very different attitudes to their various responsibilities (to their wives, their mistresses, the running of the estate and/or the country). The political becomes the personal. We see how Charles (brilliantly played by Sean O’Shea) is deeply disappointed in Rochester’s frittering away his life, but also how Rochester (and others) have lost hope in the king.
A lot of the show is hot and steamy, featuring brothel scenes, sex scenes and some nudity. Act Two opens with a rehearsal of Rochester’s play Sodom, a metaphorical attack on Charles II, which while seemingly silly is also quite powerful as there’s a grain of truth behind it (as well as lots of dildos!).
When in disguise as the quack doctor, apparently pleasuring both himself and his female patients – but ripping them off financially – Rochester wears a black cloak, hood and cap and a protective grey plague mask, again a reminder of the times and also possibly shades of Moliere’s plays The Doctor In Spite of Himself and The Imaginary Invalid.
Religion is also important in the text – Rochester is shown as a scandalous, heretical atheist; or is he?
Fittingly, as Rochester was passionate about the theatre – he saw the theatre as a way of analysing the truth about life – The Libertine also features numerous playhouse sequences. We see both backstage scenes and ‘plays within a play’. There are references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and to Dryden’s work, among others, plus Rochester’s own work and that of one of his friends, George Etheridge.
There is some excellent doubling of roles (as Charles Sackville and Mr Harris, James Lugton is excellent; there’s also a terrific performance by Felix Jozeps as Billy Downs and the artist Huysmans). As gruff Alcock, Rochester’s servant, Sam Haft is delightful.
Lucilla Smith’s set design is marvellous – sort of a Miss Haversham-ish Versailles, all dusty smeared mirrors and drapes over the furniture. The production also features metaphorical use of mirrors (how society sees us, how we see ourselves), for example in the use of mirrors backstage at the playhouse.
Mary Rapp’s onstage cello playing is tremendous and the soundscape is just right. Smith’s costumes are superb and extraordinarily detailed, featuring the corsets and masses of layers the women wore, and the hot, itchy wigs, breeches, shirts and jackets worn by men of fashion in the era.
A totally absorbing, enthralling cautionary tale of the downfall and dissolution of a gifted rake.
Rating: Four and a half stars
The Libertine
By Stephen Jeffreys
Directors: Damien Ryan & Terry Karabelas
Designer: Lucilla Smith
Lighting Designer: Matt Cox
Sound Designer: John Karabelas
Original music: Drew Livingston and Sean van Doornum
Featuring: Matt Edgerton, Anthony Gooley, Sam Haft, Felix Jozeps, Danielle King, Naomi Livingston, Alice Livingstone, James Lugton, Sean O’Shea and Susan Prior. Running time: Three hours 15 mins (approx) including interval
Darlinghurst Theatre
August 24 – September 11
Lynne Lancaster
Currently working for FRANS, Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for both Ticketek and Tickemaster. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.