23 April 2017

Review: Joan

Joan
The Rabble
22 April 2017
Theatre Works
to 30 April
theatreworks.org.au

Dana Miltins. Joan. Photo by David Paterson

Damn you, The Rabble. Just when I think I can’t love you any more, you go and make Joan.

I felt burnt alive and risen from the ashes.

Joan. Joan D’Arc. Saint Joan.

A young woman. Whispered to by saints. Virgin. Sinner. God’s holy soldier.

She became a hero, a saint, an aspiration for young women that they too can be strong and be destroyed. She’s a great audition pieces in the play by a man written three years after she was canonised.

She was burnt alive. She was 19.

Starting with a darkness that only Emma Valente’s lighting and Kate Davis’s design can find, shapes – women? a woman? young women? – move into light or are found in the darkness. It could be the holy light above or a light to run from. With projections in front of and behind the stage, it hints of a black and white movie but is nothing like a black and white movie as the sound of breath and bodies falling to their knees asks if their kneeling is choice.

After light, they move through explorations of body, fire and voice. And to make such mesmerising imagery sound so clinical, intelligent and “artistic” is unfair.

Founded by Valente and Davis, The Rabble’s process starts with design and develops through improvisation. Text and texts are vital to their process but is one of the last things on the stage. We watch more than we hear, and when the women are finally given voices, their words are fiercer, brighter and more blistering that the fire – that fire! –  that came before.

It’s hard to think when watching this work. It’s seems so clear but every moment is filled with ideas and discussions that are too complex to be reduced to words.

Luisa Hastings Edge, Emily Milledge, Dana Miltins and Nikki Sheils are Joan. Each is extraordinary and together they confront the expectations of Joan and her story, and question why pain, strength and faith are considered virtues for a woman, let alone a child.

At times, it’s like getting into Joan's soul and feeling with her. But it’s more confrontational when we’re distanced and see ourselves judging her as a Saint or Sinner and putting both on a pedestal that burns with the bundles of wooden faggots stacked around her.

The Rabble create astonishing independent theatre with an independent budget. I'm thrilled to be able to see them in small rooms, but it's beyond my understanding why festivals around the world aren't begging for work like this to be in their programs.

22 April 2017

Review: Richard III

Richard 3
Bell Shakespeare
21 April 2017
Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
to 7 May
bellshakespeare.com.au

Richard 3. Kate Mulvany & Meredith Penman. Photo by Prudence Upton.

Being in the depths of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I was calling Richard 3, by Bell Shakespeare, Chick Dick 3 because Kate Mulvany plays Richard. But no more throw away jokes about having seen a lot of Dicks because this production’s found so much that’s new, relevant and fascinating.

Yes it’s ANOTHER work about white men and power and what they do attain and keep power. But Peter Evans direction and Mulvany’s dramaturgy have shaped it to give the women a presence that’s rare in this story. Having the cast always on the stage, the constant gaze of the women ­– who are often no more than wife, mother, womb or irrelevant – is always felt.

And they know they live in a world where Richard knows that his power over them is unquestioned.

Anna Cordingley’s design of too-shiny golds with brown and orange brocades could be a Toorak mansion or an inner city restricted-entry club, but left me feeling like we were in London in the 1930s and Edward VIII was about to abdicate and change the power dynamic in his society because the woman he loved was considered scum.

It’s a production that explores gender, but Mulvany’s gender is irrelevant from the moment she turns around on the stage and we see Richard. In a black suit with short hair and dark eyebrows, he’s small and looks younger than he is. His scoliosis (and hers) is a constant source of pain that he tries to dismiss as irrelevant but he can’t sit or move without being forced to feel his difference.

With his soliloquies, Richard brings the audience into his confidence and makes us complicit in his choices. He keeps us in his gaze when no one else on stage is aware they are being watched. He needs us to know that he chose to be the villain, but every interaction shows us that his villainy comes from far more than his conscious choice.

It’s impossible to stop watching him and Mulvany’s remarkable and powerful performance keeps us with Richard so we see the world through his pain and anger. She makes us care about this man whose behaviour is abhorrent.

So yeah, see Kate’s Dick.


This review is on AussieTheatre.com.

20 April 2017

Review: Nanette

MICF
Nanette
Hannah Gadsby
5 April 2017 
Melbourne Town Hall
to 23 April
comedyfestival.com.au


Hannah Gadsby

It's been strange not writing a lot this festival. Working is good, sleeping is good and not getting festival flu is a bonus. But even though tweets are terrific and Age reviews are cool for sharing the love and getting some thoughts into the world, there are so many shows that deserve more than a star rating or a quotable.

So I've been having more in-person conversations this year. Remember when IRL was a thing? I've been giving it a go. Sure, it stops me sitting at my computer in my undies eating toast and telling the cat that she's beautiful, but maybe there's a plus side to that.

For one thing, it takes away the sarcasm and anger filter of the internet and lets me have conversations with people I like.

The show I've heard talked about, and talked about, the most – every day – this comedy festival is Hannah Gadsby's Nanette.

I have said stuff about about Hannah before but this year she's making us talk to each other – about things that matter.

The word "genius" is being thrown around a lot. But fuck that. Genius implies that it's somehow easy to create and perform; that it doesn't take countless hours to get one minute right; that it doesn't hurt to create work like this.

Nanette broke me.

Broke me in ways that make me want it to tour for years so that the world can see it, but more in ways that make me want it to never have to be performed again.

As a piece of writing, it pulls stand-up comedy to shreds.

Hannah does stand-up. She understands the power of laughter and how it can connect and liberate us.

And how it can hurt and break us.

Think of a time when someone made fun of you and laughed at you. Does it still hurt?

She exposes the innate creepiness about being in a room laughing at people or letting people laugh at you – and the comfort we find in that laughter.

By discussing how to create and break tension, she's steps ahead of her audience. The build from the gently annoying powdered-coffee barista Nanette to Hannah's mum's story coming full circle to tension that can't be broken is so structurally powerful that the only thing that stopped my writer brain from orgasming was every emotion trying to cope.

With her 'trademark' self-deprecating humour (writers, don't use those words), Hannah invites people to laugh at her, and Nanette questions the nature of doing this. Laughter can be so connecting and loving, but what's the cost?

She talks about understanding the power of shame, especially childhood shame. How it can be stronger than our own understanding and how it fights love without us noticing.

Her bigger story is about living in a society that lets people tells us that the Safe Schools program is indoctrination; how we are surrounded by grown up humans who support the shaming of children.

And how women are still shamed for thinking and speaking and simply being, let alone for being their authentic selves. She tells a short story about her being perceived as a straight white man and the change in attitude when that perception changed. The payoff was a perfect observational joke, but it comes from truth that sucks.

No wonder we filter our connections to the world with sarcasm and anger.

Hannah's story is so personal that it's not my place to share it, but by being so personal she lets everyone find the personal connection that's usually lost when a story is made safe for everyone.

Reviewers are often dismissed for being personal. I've heard that I'm an ignorant cunt for writing about something as bland as looking for a female point of view on the stage. (I don't read comments after a "she had her period" was LIKED by people who had asked me to write about them.) Last year, a festival artist told her audience how she didn't like my 4.5 star review because I mentioned how old I was. "It's all about the reviewer," she said. And still used my quotable.

And I'll be told that I'm wrong for not being distanced and objective about Nanette.

Fuck that.

This show made me feel – some feelings that I didn't want to have and some that are brilliant. It made me see my world through different eyes. It made me see myself differently.

That's everything.

That's art.


Another new show has been announced for 29 April at the Comedy Theatre. Tickets go on sale on Monday at Ticketmaster.


12 April 2017

Review: P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A

MICF
Dr Professor Neal Portenza
P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A
7 April 2017
Melbourne Town Hall, Backstage Room
to 23 April
comedyfestival.com.au

Dr Professor Neal Portenza

I was far too scared to tell Gary Portenza that I like fruit and nut chocolate.

My review is on The Age.

Review: Cake in the Rain

MICF
Laura Davis
Cake in the Rain
8 April 2017
Fort Delta
to 22 April
comedyfestival.com.au


Laura Davis. Cake in the Rain

Stand-up comedy can and should be this personal and powerful.

My review is in The Age.

08 April 2017

Review: The Lucky Ones

MICF
Rama Nicholas
The Lucky Ones
5 April 2017
Malthouse, The Tower
to 23 April
comedyfestival.com.au

Rama Nicholas

My review is on The Age/SMH.

Review: How to be a Middle Aged Woman

MICF
Jenny Eclair

How to be Middle Aged Woman (Without Going Insane)
31 March 2017
Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
to 16 April
comedyfestival.com.au

Jenny Eclair


 My review is on The Age/SMH.

Review: Clittery Glittery

MICF
Fringe Wives Club
Clittery Glittery
31 March 2017
Greek Centre, Parthenon
to 22 April
comedyfestival.com.au

Fringe Wives Club. Clittery Glittery


Loved this so much that I'm knitting them a #pussyhat each.

My review is on The Age/SMH.