25 February 2016

Mini review: Coranderrk at Coranderrk

Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country
La Mama
at Coranderrk
21 February 2016

The sun setting at Coranderrk at Coranderrk

Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country was developed by La Mama and Ilbijerri and first seen at La Mama in 2010. It's a verbatim-theatre collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations and artists about the 1881 Victorian Parliamentary Coranderrk Inquiry into the management of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve, near Healsville in the Yarra Valley.

The production has toured – I saw it in 2011 – and on Sunday 21 February, it was presented for the first time on country at Coranderrk.

This isn't a show that needs another review – there are plenty.

It was an honour to be there among descendants and families and to hear the voices of the past come to life at the same place they were spoken 135 years ago.

From the Welcome to Country that didn't need a smoking ceremony because everyone who was there had stomped away any bad spirits to looking at photos and realising they were taken at the house I could see from where I was sitting, this production continues to ensure that that Coranderrk's story won't be lost and now belongs to everyone who sees it.

24 February 2016

Mini review: Triumph

New Working Group, supported by fortyfive downstairs
19 February 2016
fortyfive downstairs
to 28 February

Triumph. Photo by Sarah Walker

I became a  Louris van de Geer fan when MKA presented her Tuesday in 2012. Her writing lets her audience continually question and re-evaluate what they are seeing as they are drawn deeper, and more personally, into her stories.

Inspired by true stories, Triumph's three parts are set in a survivor support group following a 911-type horror, a hospital where doctors can't diagnose a teenager, and a forest where two men are almost cheerfully digging two graves. The veracity of their stories change as new perspectives to the situation are revealed, but the truth at the heart of the characters stays the same. Is it harder or easier to be on someone's side when you realise their lie but know the lie comes from a wound that's far deeper and more painful?

Her writing also lets creatives bring themselves to the work to create a richness to the characters and worlds that expands on the text without taking anything away from it.

Director Mark Pritchard and design team Romanie Harper (set and costume), Amelia Lever-Davidson (lighting) and Chris Wenn (sound) use the vast fortyfive downstairs space to move from the uncomfortable light of a community hall to the darkness of a forest. And the cast (Aljin Abella, Syd Brisbane, Anouk Gleeson-Mead, Emma Hall, Leone White) ensure that there's always more to question, and that what we think we see is never what's really motivating the characters.

The result is a theatre that's engaging and fascinating and so complex that it's impossible to consciously take all of it in.

Don't forget that van de Greer's latest work, The Son is part of the MTC's Cybec Electric Reading program on March 4 and 5. And what a cast!

20 February 2016

Mini review: POINT8SIX

La Mama
17 February 2016
La Mama
to 21 February

Adam Cass. Photo by Jason Cavanagh

Tim Wotherspoon writes mind-twisting, hilarious sci-fi that makes his audience continually re-think everything they've seen.

POINT8SIX starts as a time-travel story that breaks the rules about time travel, the future and the past – I think. With East Berlin, human robots, 1970s albums, David Bowie, hints of bright orange, and time that loops like a spirograph, trying to keep up with the plot is a trip in itself – just don't forget to sit back and enjoy the Absurd comedy.

Directed by Kirsten Von Bibra, the pace matches the rhythm of the script and the cast (Wotherpoon, Adam Cass, Brianagh Curran, Matt Furlaini, Amy Jones and Yvette de Ravin Turner) understand the sci-fi and mystery, but leave it up to the audience to find the truth.

It finishes this weekend at La Mama, but I'm sure we'll see it again.

19 February 2016

Review: Voyage to the Moon

Voyage to the Moon
Victorian Opera, Musica Viva
16 February 2016
Melbourne Recital Centre
Melb to 19 February, but touring to Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Adelaide

Voyage to the Moon. Sally-Anne Russell & Emma Matthews. Photo by Jeff Busby
Tuesday’s audience at Melbourne’s Recital Centre were noisy, but with mumblings of “wonderful” and interjections of “brava”, there’s nothing to complain about. They were cheering Voyage to the Moon, a Victorian Opera and Musica Viva collaboration.

With a new text by director Michael Gow that’s based on a sixteenth century poem, the score includes known and lesser-known Baroque composers including Telemann, Vivaldi, Gluck Orlandini, Handel and de Majo. Musical Director Phoebe Briggs worked with the late Alan Curtis (who died in 2015) and Calvin Bowman to make a score that celebrates Baroque while sounding like it was written for this work.

From the seven-piece chamber orchestra opening notes, it was like hearing something new and was as close to what it must have been like to be in a concert hall listening to a new Vivaldi.
With the magnificent acoustics of the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall making it easy to remember why the sound of unaltered human voices and acoustic instruments make our hearts beat in time, it was an absolute joy to hear Emma Matthews, Sally-Anne Russell and emerging artist Jeremy Kleeman in a venue that adores voices.

While more a performed concert, the design by Christina Smith (set and costume) and Matt Scott (lighting) consistently surprises with the likes of ornate late-Renaissance designs complementing a disco ball.

Tonight is the last chance to see this exquisite work in Melbourne, but it’s touring around Australia and is being recorded by ABC Classic FM.

This was on  AussieTheatre.com.

14 February 2016

Review: Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever: The Musical
13 February 2016
Chapel off Chapel
to 28 February

 Sheridan Anderson & Mike Snell. Photo by Belinda Strodder
My review is at TheAge/SMH.

Of all the recent film-to-musicals, this one wins the gold cup at the end of the night.

12 February 2016

Review: Lungs

11 February 2016
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 19 March

MTC. Lungs. Bert LaBonte & Kate Atkinson

Duncan Macmillan’s 2011 Lungs opens with a young woman–man couple in Ikea talking about having a baby, and a feeling of safe, well-made-play-for-those-who-live in Windsor/Yarraville/Northcote predictability settles. Settles for a few breaths! This new MTC production brings a life, tension and emotional rhythm to the text that’s like breathing in the first warm air of a beachside spring and ignoring the hint of rotting fish.

There’s little unexpected in the story. The “Shall we have a baby?” not-talking-about-it talk continues for 80 minutes, but covers years without a break or change of costume or place. Once Clare Watson’s super-tight direction brings the couple out of the box into the empty space, they can be anywhere. And with Kate Davis’s neutral costumes, which say everything and suit bath sex to polite coffee in Starbucks, it’s so easy to see the world and the people though our own experiences.

Kate Atkinson and Bert La Bonte bring an honesty and warmth to their character’s imperfections. Despite their inevitable trajectory and heard-before conversations about carbon footprints versus the capacity to love, they take their performances beyond the words into the empty space of what’s hiding in the words. Under Watson’s lead, Lungs finds its truth in the subtext, which let’s us want them to work it out and live in impossible Ikea-nice world where everything fits.

And all of this happens as the set dictates the tension and rhythm of the text, without the actors ever acknowledging what’s going on behind them.

Andrew Bailey’s design (with Richard Vabre’s lighting and Russell Goldsmith’s sound) is a literal metaphor for the emotional upheaval of the characters and for the structure of the text. It seems so obvious that there had to be a moment of genius in its inspiration. Beginning in a showroom-perfect apartment that looks like every other white-box apartment loudly appearing in Melbourne’s suburbs – like the one I live in – its square and surrounding circle hints at the dimensions of Michelangelo’s too-perfect Vitruvian Man, but its perfection is brief.

At first, you notice that it’s not really square. Then books begin to lean on their shelves. With imperceptible movement, the tension of wondering how far it can rotate before it’s too far underscores the tension of a relationship where there has to be a too-far moment and going back is impossible.

With inseparable design, performance and direction, Lungs is a reminder that a well-made middle class play can be far from safe.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.