Sunday, 26 January 2014

I, Malvolio

This was a fantastic show Here's my thoughts for Artshub Sydney Festival’s I,Malvolio, Tim Crouch gives an hypnotically powerful performance. Crouch is a major UK theatre artist, based in Brighton, who possesses a tremendous vocal range. After working as an actor, Crouch started to producing theatre in 2003. I,Malvolio is the fourth show based on Shakespearean characters he has developed. In a bravura performance, Crouch retells the rather complicated plot of Twelfth Night from Malvolio’s point of view, including the embarrassing revelation of his secret love for Lady Olivia. He is not mad, rather he has been tricked and tormented. Its dark humour is mocking, sarcastic and confronting. We, the audience, are chivvied and abused as if by a sergeant major. We become complicit in the tricking and abuse of Malvolio.We ask ourselves: are we as bad as Sir Toby Belch, Maria, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the others? Malvolio’s position is presented sympathetically, and we feel for the assaulted dignity of the vengeful steward. In a peevish rant, Malvolio criticizes the state of the modern world, as well as the ghastly Illyrian nobles who try him.The wickedness of society - and the raison d’etre of theatre- is questioned. What is reality? What is illusion? Where actually are we? The language is a mix of Shakespearean and contemporary discourses, intensifying at times of Malvolio’s anger. Sometimes Crouch dazzles with words and the speed of his lines leaves us eager to catch up and process what he is saying. The show is dynamic. Repeated refrains are juxtaposed with a funny sight gag about leopard-print underpants. There is audience participation (helping Malvolio with his shoes and socks, for instance, reading what he has pinned to his back – and also a Beckett-like near- suicide). Time is fluid, in some ways going backwards. For most of the show Malvolio wears torn, stained and dirty long-johns with a turkey neck (complete with spider!) strapped under his chin, a strange tree-like goat horn helmet and the famous ‘cross gartered' yellow stockings. By the end of the show, Malvolio has regained his dignity and control and is in elegant black full-court regalia, in white face with a small penciled moustache, black shoes and wig. Throughout the play, Malvolio reiterates that he will have his revenge on the pack of us - the audience - and he does so magnificently. Running time – just over an hour (approx) no interval Rating: 4 and ½ stars out of five. I, Malvolio Writer and performer: Tim Crouch Directors: Andy Smith and Karl James Designer: John Gilmour Carriageworks Sydney Festival 16-19 January

Chi Udaka Sydney Festival 2014

Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide One of the major highlights of the 2014 Sydney Festival CHI UDAKA is an explosively energetic blending of colour, rhythm, dance and music. Inspired by the forces of nature, ,’Chi ‘ is Earth ( the Taikoz musicians) and ‘Udaka ‘ is water , ( the dancers ) the traditional elements of fluidity, solidness and separation that shape and form the world in constant movement. A world premiere, the show fuses several worlds – Western classical music ( cello by wonderful John Napier) , Japanese music ( Shakuhachi and shinobue by maestro Riley Lee) , the rhythm and power of extraordinary Taikoz and the Indian world of the Lingalayam dancers with singer Aruna Partiban. Directors Anandavalli and Ian Clenworth sought to develop a sense of surprise and exploration through dialogue between the at first seemingly mismatched groups, with glimpses of parallels, symbiosis and apparently discordant clashes that actually work magnificently . There is basically just the bare thrust stage of the York theatre with the drums set for Taikoz with some glorious red drapes overhead. Sometimes some of the cast stand on raised platforms. Napier and Lee are, at one point, featured up on a balcony for their solos/duet. (Depending on where you seated there could possibly have been a problem with the sightlines for that). Each separate group (Taikoz, the dancers from Lingalayam, the featured musicians) has a solo showcasing their massive talent but the work is also a dialogue between disparate elements blending fierce drumming, complicated Indian rhythms and delicate shakuhachi deliciously. Musically it ranged from explosively joyous and powerful , blending very complicated rhythms, at times atonal , others lyrical with Napier’s cello , to the soft , haunting ‘new age ‘ finale. The audience was blown away by the sheer, infectious energy of the Taikoz group who not only did amazing , tightly choreographed routines with their drums and sticks , defining light and shade in the percussion and complicated beats – sometimes the sticks moved so fast they blurred – but also used other instruments such as bell rattles and cymbals. And they jumped and danced in their white tabi! Partiban was dramatic in her black and gold, and sang hauntingly, sweeping away diva like when she had finished. Napier wore orchestral black, Lee a black kimono suit. The six dancers from Lingalayam were extraordinary. At times their henna-ed feet beat percussive rhythm in the Bharatha Natyam dance .They had smoky, very expressive eyes accented by their makeup and a particular way of holding their torso rather rigidly yet with sinuous arms and a distinctive epaulement of the shoulders. There was an extended elegant solo by one of the lead dancers in blue. A mesmerizing duet was performed where two of the dancers were like darting fish with rippling arms and wonderful dappled lighting. Every mudras or step meant something and was finely controlled. Sometimes they fell into soft, sculptural poses, but this was contrasted with vibrant Bollywood like exuberance at certain points. The audience was wildly enthusiastic with a rapturous cheering standing ovation at the end. Running time- roughly 70 mins no interval. A Sydney Festival event, CHI UDKA played the Seymour Centre between the 16th and 18th January, 2014.

Forklift - part of the 2014 Sydney Festival

Strange and captivating here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide An absorbing blend of dance, physical theatre and the warehouse/industrial environment Forklift is brought to us by KAGE from Melbourne as part of the 2014 Sydney Festival. Directed by Kate Denborough, there are three female performers in the show (four if you count the forklift itself. And the forklift does get bows at the curtain calls!). The cast are Amy Macpherson, Nicci Wilks and Henna Kaikula all of whom have had circus and dance training and special contortionist training as well. The whole huge area of Bay 17 of Carriageworks is used, opened right up to the back walls. The show begins with one of the cast starting a late night shift in a warehouse. We see her arriving for work, playing cards with a friend, making coffee, grabbing a snack from the machine … Meanwhile, eerie unusual events begin to happen.The other two performers emerge in skin coloured bra and pants. At first they seem like dazed shop mannequins, or at least something boxed and strange, as they hang, crawl ,creep and manoeuver on and around the forklift . At one point they are shifted like container cartons to fill an empty space. They dance on the shifting, tilting palette, the top of the forklift and other unusual spaces. Are they friend or foe? Are they real or figments of the jittery driver’s imagination? Jethro Woodward’s electronic soundscape, which incorporates the noises of the forklift, pulsates, beeps and hums. For the last part of the show UV lighting is used and the cast change into luminous short Mondrian-like dresses and continue to play on and around the forklift. The 2.5 tonne forklift has a mind of its own.(Two of the cast by the way have forklift licences ).Sometimes it is well behaved and sedate , at other times it is madly speeding around and around , reversing or wheeling in circles , with and or without the performers hanging on/off it . The choreography is fresh and contemporary .We are treated to a wonderful display of a cross between dance, acrobatics, gymnastics and mime, seamlessly blended together. Some of the work is very dangerous to perform. This could possibly be seen as an Australian feminist take on Priasso’s ‘ Transport Excepetionnels‘ , using a forklift not an earth mover .It is a thought provoking, inspiring, questioning work showcasing KAGE’s fascinating combined talents. Running time – just under an hour (approx) no interval FORKLIFT by KAGE played at Carriageworks as part of the Sydney Festival between the 16th and 19th January, 2014. Amy MacphersonCarriageworksfeaturedFORKLIFTHenne KaikulaJethro WoodwardJulie RentonKAGEKate DenboroughNicci WiksSydney Festival


This is amazing ... here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide Book now if you haven’t already for this amazing, enthralling Experience. The wonderful people of Architects of Air from Nottingham UK have brought EXXOPOLIS to Sydney at the Sydney Opera House. You might remember that they brought their astonishing ‘Mirazozo’ to the Sydney Opera House forecourt in 2010. Here in Sydney EXXOPOLIS is based at the front of the Opera House and is the size of half a football field and rises to the height of a three storey building .3,000m2 of plastic is used with 9,000 individual pieces and has 6 km of seams . Allow plenty of time for queues etc ( pre booking is recommended although yes you can buy tickets at the entrance ) .It is a salute to their first inflatable sculpture EGGOPOLIS, that toured the UK in 1992 .It uses an almost unique ,fragile delicate type of plastic and was carefully hand made by a team of forty over six months . Since 1992, over 2 million visitors in 55 countries across five continents have immersed themselves in the spectacular, luminous world of Architects of Air. There are lots of excellent staff around, all casually dressed in distinctive tshirts suiting the current boiling hot summer weather. It is a timed booking system and after collecting your ticket at the box office you queue first to access the entrance area, to take off your shoes, leave backpacks etc. Yes, there is an area for strollers too . It is very family friendly – young children love it, although they can also become over excited We go through one side of the airlock and are given a short briefing . Parents are strongly advised to firmly supervise their children at all times. No running, sliding down walls, jumping is allowed as it could damage the fragile surface . Then through the other side of the lock to actually experience the Luminarium. It is air conditioned and soft meditation –like music is piped through. A small, handy, reusable laminated map is provided and staff patrol both the airlock and the areas inside. It can actually be a rather forcefully overpowering experience as it can somewhat overwhelm the senses. Once officially inside visitors can wander freely around the inflatable, psychedelic maze, dazzled by the shapes and colours, or just gently lie back in one of the alcoves and enjoy the ambience of the structure.( And take photos. Many people take masses of photos).The first reaction is often one of awed enchantment at the somewhat unexpected beauty of the light. (On a hot sunny day like the day I attended, the bright, strong , colours sang and dazzled . But on cloudy, overcast days far more gentler , muted colours appear.) The coloured pvc of the luminarium is dazzling in its luminosity. Through arched, curved tunnels and soaring fragile domes, visitors move gently in a medium of saturated and subtle hues. Visitors are able to explore how various colours can clash, blend or resonate; how they might transform faces and clothing. (Great if you are an art teacher trying to explain colour theory!)The design of the kaleidoscopic coloured light distorts, changes or enhances the experience of these liquid spaces that span fifty-three metres in length by nearly nine metres in height Some visitors compare the luminarium to a cathedral , the human body , or possibly a fragile futuristic space station. The main dome of Exxopolis, which definitely has a church like feel, is called the ‘Cuppola’ featuring perpendicular style windows that have been made by different community groups in Nottingham and designed to create a ‘stained glass’ effect. The design is based on Penrose tiling, similar in some ways to Islamic tiling. Is it art? is it inflatable sculpture ? Is it architecture ? All of the above? See it for yourself and decide. EXXOPOLIS by Architects of air is at the Sydney Opera House entrance January 3- 27.

Flying Fruit Flies Circus -Circus under my bed

This was great here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide Book now if you haven’t already – some performances have extremely limited availability or in fact are already sold out. Excellent summer entertainment for families and young people aged 4 years and over , the performance I attended delighted and enthralled both young children and adults and showcased some extraordinary Australian talent . The energetic, daredevil students of Australia’s only full-time youth circus school , combining circus, dance and physical theatre ,flaunt their thrilling stuff in this world premiere of their new show that draws its audience into the imagination of a young girl ,Celeste ,spending the final night in her bedroom before her family moves home. Has she packed everything? Can she find her favourite book? As the lights go out, she conjures up a circus of whimsical characters – imaginary friends (or are they ?) who come out to play, perform and amaze in a mix of circus and cabaret .It is quite an encouraging moral narrative with a story – ‘The tale of the sad clown’ – as an interesting finale but with minimal script . There is also ‘Mr Rainbow of the Imagination ‘in purple suit, bowler hat and with his umbrella who sort of acts as Celeste’s confidante and ringmaster, and organizes everyone in the cast to help Celeste with her last minute final packing. Another character is Matilda in turquoise and white who is an aerialist among other things. The children in the audience can really relate to Celeste who in some ways is like an ‘everychild’.The troupe ranges in age from nine up to 19 years old and brings this rather surreal vaudeville vision to life through clowning, trapeze and everything in between .There is frenetic plate juggling , dazzling lyrical slithery aerialist dangling , ( plus hoop work) , some amazing chair balancing and ….All is bright , bold and colourful . There were aaahhs of excitement when the starfish like lamps were carried in at one point. There was some great fun had when packing some of her stuffed toys – one of the dolls sort of becomes alive and there are some silly , funny ,very bouncy and energetic sheep ( yes, including a black one ) who do some magnificent tumbling while being rounded up by the black and white sheepdog. We are advised not to be afraid of the dark, and some magical luminous balloons appear. There’s stilt walking (well , sort of – balancing precariously very high up on a ladder ) .The collapsible ‘bed’ Celeste has is also a giant book and is in fact the mattress used for the tumbling etc. It also becomes the huge painted ‘cake’ at one point (and yes the harrassed ,frenzied chef still falls for the pie in the face trick ) . Other sight gags are also included. You will also be amazed by the double balancing act of the two cast members dressed as books, with books fluttering from their elbows and knees – both a terrific costume design and a breathtaking act! The lighting by Sian James-Holland is tremendous, extremely effective. As is the music which combines traditional circus favourites and contemporary .The Opera House’s Studio has been reconfigured somewhat for the show and there is a huge ‘ring’ in the middle. Ordinary kids doing extraordinary things indeed! Go on, quick, book and treat the whole family. Running time – just under an hour (approx) no interval The Flying Fruit Flies Circus in ‘Circus Under My Bed’ runs at the Sydney Opera House January 14- 25

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Yoko On - War is Over ! ( if you want it ) at the MCA

Yoko Ono War is Over ! ( If you want it ) MCA Sydney Nov 2013 – Feb 2014 Allow plenty of time to see and plan for repeated visits to this engrossing , enthralling exhibition at the MCA. The exhibition has invaded the whole third floor of the Museum and also has a section on the fourth floor .There are large crowds and prebooking is recommended . Even the MCA entrance stairs are emblazoned with the name of the exhibition. The title of the exhibition comes from massive billboard posters that Ono and her husband, Beatle John Lennon, placed across the world’s cities in Christmas 1969 as a message and gesture of peace. War Is Over! (If You Want It) covers fifty years of Ono’s work as an avant-garde conceptual artist and was a four year project for curator Rachel Kent. Yoko Ono’s works range from tiny delicate objects ( eg the cricket installation ) , with a joyful ,optimistic , fragile lightness, to large heavy works such as ‘Corner Painting’ and the ‘Morning Beams and Cleaning Piece – Riverbed ‘. The astonishing breadth and depth of her creativity - drawing , painting , writing ,music , sculpture and film for instance - from the early 1960’s to now , is showcased .Some of the works are a cry for peace and preservation of the fragile environment of this delicate planet , others are eerie , some are autobiographical .A few of the works specifically encourage audience participation ( eg ‘Play It By Trust ‘,’ Windows’, ‘My Mommy is Beautiful’ ,’ Imagined Map Space’ and the Wishing Tree ). Highlights include the delicate atmosphere of ‘Doors and Sky Puddles’ .It is as if the weathered doors have been knocked over / exploded in a possible parallel universe (?) and brought puddles of fragile sky dripping onto the floor with them. And the beautiful ‘Windows’ encouraging us to write our dreams and wished for destination(s) and place the note in the giant suitcase. Cold , clinical lines define ‘Balance Piece’ ( 1998) where a giant magnet is used to ‘attract’ assorted everyday steel objects like frying pans etc to encourage us to use our right brain more. This is contrasted with the various textures , singing straight lines and effective use of shadows in ‘Morning Beams and Cleaning Piece , Riverbed’( 1996) . Play It By Trust at the start of the exhibition is a series of white chess tables and white chairs (redesigned for this MCA exhibition to link in with the Opera House aesthetic) with chessboards set up with all-white chess pieces.When I attended there were lots of people playing and chatting. The message Yoko Ono is sending about non-competitiveness and self analysis is fairly easy to decipher . ‘Touch me 111 ‘( 2008),addressing the violence perpetrated against women , is extremely unsettling .Individual parts of a woman’s body in silicone are in small wooden boxes on a raised platform. A bowl of water is placed at the end of the work and the viewers if they wish can wet their fingers and ‘touch’ the body . Strangely absorbing , at times chilling , ‘Cut piece’ , considered one of Yoko Ono’s most significant artworks today, is represented by screenings from 1965 and 2003. It invites audience members to cut pieces of her clothing away while she sits impassively on stage. We see the 1965 performance at Carnegie Hall and the 2003 version in Paris Another rather unnerving piece is ‘Family Album’ where individual items like a needle and thread , a hairbrush , shoes , are in bronze which has been painted with red blood like pigment . .One of the items is a pair of round rimmed glasses with red finger marks on the glass , immediately triggering thoughts of John Lennon ‘s tragic assassination. ‘My Mommy is Beautiful’ is a huge wall covered in post-it notes , drawings etc in which viewers are invited to place private messages of love hope forgiveness and reconciliation to their mothers. A huge spectrum of emotions from love and thanks to anger and sadness develops . ‘Telephone in Maze ‘is a clear Perspex participatory installation where people can walk carefully and gently into a small, strange maze .‘We’re all water’ is a huge line of bottles filled with water against a wall. Map Peace, 2003/2013 is two large walls of maps, on which visitors can stamp if they are inclined , in assorted languages, “Imagine Peace”. ‘Helmets – Pieces of Sky ‘ ( 2001 /2013) is another participatory work ,: in a large room WW11 military helmets are suspended upside down , each filled with small pieces of blue sky jigsaw puzzle. Visitors are encouraged to take one small piece away with them in the hope that perhaps one day in the future they will eventually return to build a new sky together. This is linked in with Sky TV ( 1966/ 2013) a TV in the first gallery space that shows the sky above ( relayed from a video camera on the roof) . ‘Endangered Species ‘ is a fascinating room , in some ways like an excavation of Pompeii, a plea for peace and preservation of the environment. A family with a dog is shown seated on a bench , presented as if unearthed and preserved .There are also broken bits of pottery. Ono’s films ( ‘Bottoms ‘, etc ) are shown in a separate room one could spend hours and hours watching .There is also a large room with chairs, headsets etc , heavily decorated in early 1960’s style ( record and magazine covers etc ) which has some of Ono’s interviews etc screening and also a playlist of her music to listen to . Ono’s quest to use art to make the world a better place, here at least momentarily , has succeeded I think in this astonishing , vibrant exhibition. War Is Over (if you want it): Yoko Ono is at Museum of Contemporary Art until 23 February 2014. Tickets are available at

Monday, 6 January 2014

My Other Closet

My Othe Closet is part of the Mardi Gras festival.Go see it! Most LGBTQI relationships are based on love and respect, some are based on abuse. ‘My Other Closet, the cabaret’ is the first-hand account of Russ Vickery’s real life experience of violence in a same-sex relationship and his path to recovery. Follow Russ as he finds the courage to proclaim “this is not what love looks like” in a moving process of healing, with the help of his first love; MUSIC! This powerful story is woven with relics from Russ’s life and a sprinkling of piano and crooner re-workings of classic pop songs from performers such as The Platters, Silver Convention, Tammy Wynette, Suzzane Vega, Billy Holliday, Queen and Whitney Houston. This unexpected but brilliant alliance of cabaret and domestic violence awareness campaign helps to dispel myths surrounding LGBTQI domestic violence, whilst beautifully telling Russ’s intimate story. Uncompromising in its honesty and courage, sometimes light-hearted, sometimes heart-wrenching, this layered performance will leave you with lasting impressions and keep you thinking and talking about it for days. The performance is followed by a dynamic Q&A panel of LGBTQI community members, the production team and domestic violence workers. Production: MAROPA Productions and ACON’s Anti-Violence Project Performer: Russell Vickery Music: Daryl Wallis Script: Regrette Etcetera Funding: City of Sydney and the Aurora Group Nightly shows at 7pm February 11-14th 2014 The Seymour Centre More info: Tickets:

Falsettos at Darlinghurst

This should be brilliant ... can't wait! Darlinghurst Theatre Company kick off their 2014 season with the hilarious and touching, Tony Award-winning musical drama Falsettos, presented in association with the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The show will preview from 7 February and open on 11 February at the Eternity Playhouse . Falsettos is a quirky yet tender tale about a family, growing up and what it means to be a man. Marvin has left his wife and son for a male lover. Meanwhile, his wife Trina ends up with the family psychiatrist. Amongst this there’s a Bar Mitzvah to organise. Wickedly funny lyrics accompany a live piano score in this touching musical about the original modern family. This Tony-award winning musical is directed by Stephen Colyer (Torch Song Trilogy, The Paris Letter). Tamlyn Henderson (We Will Rock You, Les Misérables) leads a stellar cast including Katrina Retallick (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Addams Family), Stephen Anderson (Swan Lake, Dead Man Walking), Ben Hall (Xanadu, Les Misérables), Margi de Ferranti (Carrie, Mamma Mia!), Elise McCann (South Pacific, Doctor Zhivago), Anthony Garcia (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Addams Family) and Isaac Shaw. Kooky and playful one moment and achingly beautiful the next, Falsettos continues to be one of the most original musicals in the history of Broadway. SEASON DETAILS Previews 7 - 9 February Season 12 February – 16 March 2014 Performance Times Tues - Sat 7pm, Sun 5pm Ticket Price Adult $43/ Conc & Groups $38/ Under 30 (Tue-Thu) & Previews $30 A $2 booking fee applies per ticket for online and phone bookings Bookings or 02 8356 9987 (9.30am-5.30pm weekdays) *Please note, there will be no evening performance on Saturday 1 March, due to the Mardi Gras