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