Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2019

REVIEW: Apocalypse Meow – Crisis Is Born

Meow Meow is trying to find somewhere to birth her new Christmas show. There’s no room at the Royal Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House, so the old brick building on the Southbank in Melbourne will have to do. Apocalypse Meow: Crisis Is Born is Meow Meow’s holiday show that was original commissioned by the Southbank Centre in London in 2014. Now it has finally found its way to Melbourne and it’s not even Christmas. It is an early Christmas present, though.
Meow Meow is such a singular presence on stage, she will outshine everyone when appearing in shows not of her own making, but when it is her own show and you’ve seen her before, you know what you’re getting yourself into. A self-described gargantuan performance artist, her singing is sultry and smooth – she will have you laughing one moment and moved to tears soon after.
If you think this all sounds a bit heavy for a Christmas show, you’re right, but you’re probably forgetting you’ve been disappointed by Christmas before. Sometim…

REVIEW: The End of Eddy – Melbourne Festival

The End of Eddy by Pamela Carter is based on the book En finir avec Eddy Belleguele, a memoir by Edouard Louis about growing up gay and poor in a small French village.
Normally I would describe the world of a play before I get to the credits and give a sense of the kind of story you’re going to see. But this production is as much about adapting the book into theatre as it is about Eddy himself.
Two performers, Oseloka Obi and James Russell-Morley, play Eddy and all the other characters – sometimes on stage and sometimes on one of four video screens. There were four televisions in Eddy’s house when he grew you, you see. It’s that kind of production, too.
The actors also take their time to explain the differences between the book and the play: you can’t fit everything from a book into ninety minutes on stage, and theatre has different responsibilities than books, too, apparently. The show makes statements like this and never really explores them. They fundamentally change one of the fin…

REVIEW: The Nico Project – Melbourne Festival

“It costs me nothing to show you everything. It might hurt, though. It does hurt.”
Nico was a German singer, songwriter, musician and actress. She recorded vocals for The Velvet Underground’s debut album and appeared in films directed by Andy Warhol and Federico Fellini.
In September 1968, Nico recorded The Marble Index, an avante-garde album full of songs memorable for her somber lyrics and the strains of her playing the harmonium. This work and the femme fatale persona she created at this time has been cited as inspiration for Siouxsie Sioux, Dead Can Dance and Bjork.
It’s also the key stimulus for The Nico Project, created by actor Maxine Peake and director Sarah Frankcom, a co-commission of the Royal Court, the Manchester Festival and the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Peake and Frankcom haven’t simply created a biographical work about the singer, but a performance art piece that’s as surreal as Nico’s music. The title itself suggests that this is a project inspired by Ni…

REVIEW: The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes – Melbourne Festival

We are welcomed into a public meeting and after some confusion over which Aboriginal nation they are acknowledging, the five performers begin a long, complicated discussion about being heard, being listened to and being understood.
Geelong’s Back-to-Back Theatre works with performers both with and without disability but for their latest work, five members with intellectual impairments take centre stage. Sometimes they are difficult to understand, so there are surtitles to help the audience, text – it is suggested – that is being created live by Siri.
After the company’s previous show Lady Eats Apple at the 2017 Melbourne Festival, a show that took over Hamer Hall, The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes is stripped back and sparse. There’s a lot going on at its core, though; perhaps too much.
The ensemble, who helped to create this piece, want desperately to be understood but hate being patronised by the illuminated translation hanging above their heads. They see this as just anothe…

REVIEW: Control by Keziah Warner – Red Stitch

The crew of a space ship, dressed in bold primary colours, rock from left to right in front of us, as they try to keep control of their craft. The group is racially diverse but it’s the white guy, a larrakin Aussie from Melbourne, who boldly steps forward to save the day. “It’s something I have to do.”

Keziah Warner’s Control, a science fiction triptych, begins with a scene of broad comedy, a nod to Star Trek and then jumps back in time to see how this crew ended up in such a dramatic situation. Starting a story in media res can be a pretty tired trope, but here Keziah uses it as a dramaturgical sleight-of-hand; this story is much more complicated than it first appears to be.
A pregnant woman, a puppeteer, a singer and a detective have been hand-picked to be on this space ship, leave Earth and strive to survive in “Fifteen Minutes on Mars” – a Big Brother-type reality show that is manoeuvring this ensemble toward interstellar cabin fever.
Twenty years later, in a library that promises…

REVIEW: Anthem – Melbourne Festival

"The train moves forward and he is still, he allows the machine and its engines to carry him. He is listening without hearing, watching the world without seeing it." - Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas
The train network in Melbourne is a web. It circles the inner city and spreads out like tendrils into the suburbs, creeping further and further away from the affluent centre. But as a public transport system, it is a great equalizer, bringing people from all points of the sprawling metropolis together. Sometimes too close for comfort. Interaction leads to reaction. A catalyst for drama. A spark for the fire next time.
Twenty-one years ago, four playwrights and a composer collaborated on a seminal piece of Australian theatre, Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? It was written for the tenth anniversary of the Melbourne Workers Theatre, a company now defunct but never expected to last much past its origin point, putting on plays in the Jolimont railyards.
Christos Tsiolkas, Andrew Bove…

REVIEW: What Girls Are Made Of – Melbourne Festival

It’s 1992. Grunge is taking over the music world. But in Scotland, Cora Bissett’s inspirations are rock’n’roll women like PJ Harvey, Linda Ronstadt and Patti fucking Smith.
When Cora sees an ad in the local paper “Band Seeks Singer”, it throws her into the music world just after she’s left school. She’s not even 18 yet. Her drummer bandmate is still studying.
After only a few gigs and their song played on a local radio station, her band Darlingheart are signed to a five-album deal by Phonogram’s sister label, Fontana, and that’s when things start to go wrong. What Girls Are Made Of is writer/performer Cora Bissett’s on-stage memoir of that time she was in a band. It premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 and now the production has been flown across the world to be part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
It’s part-monologue, part-rock show, with three bandmates to support her, on drums, bass and as various characters in her life – her mum and dad and manager, mostly. Occa…

REVIEW: Just Us Girls (What’s a girl?) – Melbourne Fringe

A woman walks up to a door marked PULL and she pushes. A man tells her that she needs to PULL instead of PUSH. “I know that. I’ve been reading since I was four. It’s a joke,” she says. Can’t he take a joke? The man mansplains how doors work and how much happier she’d be if she’d just PULL. So, the woman pulls off her skin, revealing new layers – she’s an alien – and she destroys the door with her tentacles.
Welcome to Just Us Girls by Ellen Grimshaw, an absurdist avalanche of observations about women and the patriarchy and its changing rules and shifting sands.
Ellen plays an alien, it seems, who meets a man (Dick Shit, played by Alice Stewart), an amalgam of all the worst white cis men Ellen has talked to in real life. Early on, Ellen’s alien repeats everything she says because she’s so used to not being listened to, she thinks she has to say everything twice.
“I’m surprised people are listening now, so it’s a hard habit to break,” she tells The Man, who explains there is really onl…

REVIEW: Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland! – Melbourne Fringe

A group of unnamed people, uniformly dressed in red and pink like a cult, greet each other with “Hail Satan!” – the same way you might say hello or good morning to a stranger when you pass them on your morning walk.
But are they a cult or are they a generation with similar needs and concerns, trying to find connection in an increasingly bizarre world? And what is the best way to form a connection these days? Recount your dreams? Talk about Gilmore Girls? Offer them an Allen’s Snake to eat, even if it’s unethical?
Kirby Medway’s play is a comedic dreamscape that bounces from person to person to Satan, playing out vignettes that are odd and sweet and strange and hilarious. Directors Jean Tong & Lou Wall keep things tight and flowing smoothly, though the transitions between scenes felt a little repetitive as the show went on.
The pineal gland is a part of the brain that regulates sleep, so taking it away would produce restlessness or sleeplessness and increasingly bizarre visions an…

REVIEW: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For – Melbourne Fringe

Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meals are an effort to get people cooking healthy food even when they think they don’t have the time, with the demands of working a forty-hour week, looking after kids or indulging in extra-curricular activities.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For is a concentrated, pressure-cooker of an experience for a different Fringe performer each night. Produced by Stage Mom, it’s like Masterchef, but as the contestant tries to make one of Oliver’s 30-minute, three-course meals, they are interrogated on their personal beliefs and the state of the world they live in.
The night I saw the show it was Lou Walls in the spotlight and she was the perfect first-night contestant. She had to cook a risotto, prepare a salad and serve up four individual cheese cakes. And there was a timer on the wall, counting down every second.
Co-creator Alberto Di Troia (writer of Truly Madly Britney) read the recipe step-by-step and co-creator Hannah Fallowfield fired questions at Lou a…

REVIEW: Happy-Go-Wrong – Melbourne Fringe

Darkness. Pitch black.
Torch light cuts through, swinging wildly into the space.
Out glides Lucky, an angel, who always finds the silver lining because she lives on Cloud Nine. Lucky is a guardian angel, it turns out. Helps human beings while they are being human. And she’s had her eye on one particular human being, Andi Snelling.
Andi plays Lucky and later we hear about all the tiring platitudes she’s heard over the last three years, since her previous Melbourne Fringe show, Déjà vu (and other forms of knowing). “Lucky you don’t have cancer” was a particularly unhelpful bit of wisdom.
Andi suffers from Lyme disease, which has brought on many food intolerances, and bouts of weight loss and weight gain. This has led to an inability to perform, which is her passion and her life. If she can’t eat and is always exhausted, getting onto the stage has been impossible, until now.
Happy-Go-Wrong is the story of her struggle with her invisible disease, with people’s unhelpful suggestions, and w…

REVIEW: Off Off Off Broadway Karaoke – Melbourne Fringe

Come on, admit it. You sing Broadway showtunes in the shower. Or in the car. Or when you’re cleaning the house. You aren’t worried about what the neighbours or the people in the next car think. You are Simba and Javert and Frank’n’Furter and Sandra Dee.
Sometimes you even get drunk and play SingStar or get super drunk and go to karaoke bars. But you have your turn and then you have to listen to all your friends have a go.
Jess McGuire and Emma Smith have curated two weeks of karaoke craziness at the Melbourne Fringe hub starring… the audience. This gives everyone their chance to let their inner diva out, while helping to recreate such Broadway classics as Les Miserables or Jesus Christ Superstar.
Last night, it was The Lion King’s turn. Everyone had a chance to sign up to get involved before the show and there’s opportunities to join in as the show progresses. If you’re shy, you can stay seated and sing your heart out, too. I did the latter.
Jess and Emma keep things moving, with a p…

REVIEW: Boys Taste Better with Nutella – Melbourne Fringe

You’ve probably got a friend like this. She’s young and desperate to fall in love but she hates herself a little so she clings to any guy who will give her attention, when all she really wants is to go home and binge-eat a jar of Nutella. But you’ve never seen that story on stage with dance, musical interludes and actors smeared with the aforementioned Hazelnut spread. Good news, now you can!
Aggy and Frederick are best friends who met in the supermarket. They’ve seen each other fall in and out of bad relationships, Aggy with boys whose traits she takes on, and Frederick with guys online who post shit like “no fats, no femmes”. There’s a lot of flashbacks to flesh out their history of bad habits and you never really forget where you are – past or present – until the audience is put on the spot to answer a question or two.
Aggy tries hard to be loved, but it’s hard when she’s smeared in Nutella. Frederick seems like the life of the party, except he’s really just in his room making Muk…

REVIEW: Disinhibition by Christopher Bryant

Flick, known on Instagram as Flick.Eats, and George, known on Tumblr as Boyance, are social media influencers. Flick.Eats posts FODMAP recipes and Boyance is living his best gay life online, but both are lies – constructions of the kind of personalities that get likes and shares and re-blogs. When Microsoft releases a new artificial intelligence bot onto Twitter – Tay, whose followers are #TaysTeam – the world of fake online personas gets trickier to navigate.
Who are Flick and George, really? Do they even know anymore?
Disinhibition plunges the audience right into the internet, the opening scene a perfect recreation of a Twitter interaction: someone posts a photo of their cute dog, lots of other users retweet it and someone @s the original poster, telling them their dog is prettier than they are. All social niceties are gone; people will say anything to each other online.
Presented by Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) and directed with a sure hand and clear intent by Artistic …

REVIEW: Australian Realness by Zoey Dawson

North Fitzroy, Melbourne. Christmas. 1997.

Mum is carrying a load of groceries and a box filled with Christmas presents, while dad plays around with his latest creation – the puppet of a baby. Daughter is heavily pregnant and asleep on the couch, while her parents reminisce about the lives they had before children and a mortgage. Soon, their Daughter’s partner arrives – a woman and a dock worker. Then their Son strides in, all suited up, wheeling and dealing on his brick of a mobile phone.
A suburban family home at Christmas is a ripe location for drama, even in the hands of a nascent writer; everyone has been there and we all know what tensions lie beneath. Mum wants everything to be perfect. Dad wants to help out, but has a project of his own that needs attending to. And the kids, well, they have their own lives now and they can’t always see or know what’s going on with Mum and Dad now.
Playwright Zoey Dawson has made her name on the independent stages of Melbourne as a writer who g…

REVIEW: A Midnight Visit

You are welcomed into a funeral home. This feels right. It feels real. There’s a tension in the air, though. Mourners don’t know each other and don’t know what awaits them. Who has died? How did we all know deceased?

Everyone grieves in their own way and each audience member who attends A Midnight Visit will experience this dreamscape - inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe - uniquely. Three groups are ushered into the labyrinthine space through different entrances. And then we are left to our own devices to find our way through the maze.
The first room we came across was a bedroom, dimly lit, dark green walls, rich dark furniture and a four-poster bed. A woman stood at the end of the bed, singing mournfully. We briefly witnessed this performance and then, as the woman hurried away, we explored the bedroom.
A Midnight Visit is as much about the detail in the sets as it is in the experience of performance. You are immersed into this world and every photograph or painting can be s…

REVIEW: ‘night, Mother by Marsha Norman

While her mother Thelma is looking through the kitchen for a particular sweet to eat, Jessie is in the attic looking for her father’s gun. Thelma wonders what Jessie needs a gun for, living out in the country and hardly ever leaving home. Jessie explains, calmly, that she is going to kill herself.
Jessie is living at home with her mother because she has epilepsy and is unemployable because of her seizures. Jessie’s marriage has broken down and her son is a criminal. She also, as far as I could tell, has depression – but the play never makes this explicit.
Marsha Norman’s 1982 work won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The same year, Sam Shepard’s True West, was shortlisted for the prize. Shepard’s play gets produced all the time, but this was the first chance I’ve had to see ‘night, Mother.
In many ways the play feels like a time capsule, and Iron Lung Theatre’s production drives that home with a detailed period set by Juliette Whitney. The rotary dial phone. The step stool. The furnitur…

REVIEW: My Dearworthy Darling by Alison Croggon & The Rabble

A woman lies on a rock, writhing. She is in a state of ecstasy; part bliss and part religious fervour. She is listening and waiting for God. A man enters. He berates the woman for losing something of his. The tableau has turned from the epic to the domestic, a space that The Rabble have played with before, particularly in Joan, their deeply affecting exploration of Joan d’Arc and her lack of voice.
My Dearworthy Darling is a collaboration between The Rabble (Emma Valente, Kate Davis) and writer Alison Croggon, poet, novelist, librettist, critic and author of other texts for theatre. And it feels like the perfect fit.
The Rabble’s work is often inspired by well-known texts, though what they produce may simply echo, rhyme with or retaliate against stories we have heard or told ourselves. Frankenstein. Story of O. Orlando. Cain and Abel. All these works were as much about our histories with these texts as about the stories themselves.
Their work is created in collaboration with actors, d…

REVIEW: Pomona by Alistair McDowall

“Moss and lichen carpet the corners of cracked paving along the periphery of the site, and all around Pomona is a defiant hive of life that has thrived on the urban decay that came before.” -Pomona: The lost island of Manchester, The Guardian,7th August, 2014
In the space where Salford, Trafford and Manchester meet, there’s an island that was once home to thriving docks; it now sits overgrown, graffitied and abandoned.
In Alistair McDowall’s 2014 play, Pomona, after the island, itself named for the Roman goddess of fruit trees, it is owned by a man named Zeppo and guarded by a man named Charlie. And that urban decay attracts a variety of other characters from the fringes of Manchester society.
Ollie comes to the city looking for her sister, but the truth of what has happened to her becomes more and more unclear the closer Ollie gets to the centre of the story. And the audience is kept off balance by the shifting narrative focus and slippery characters, all of whom are trying to cover t…

REVIEW: Come from Away by Irene Sankoff & David Hein

Where we you on September 11th, 2001? What were you doing when you heard the news? What do you remember of that day? Of the next day and the week that followed?
After the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, the United States closed its airspace for the first time ever – and many planes headed for America were diverted to a small town with a large airport on the island of Newfoundland in Canada. On a normal day, the airport in Gander would welcome half a dozen planes. On September 11, 38 planes with nearly 7000 passengers landed there. Welcome to The Rock.
I had read about the town of Gander at the time – about the people of the town who pitched in to help these “come from aways” and of those people who were landed there for several days, stuck between where they boarded and where they were headed. And Gander airport itself has a fascinating history, once being a mandatory stop between North America and Europe in the days before planes could fly that distan…